Sonia Gandhi in legal fight to ban ‘fictionalised biography’
Sunday 09 September 2012
Sonia Gandhi, the Italian head of India’s ruling Congress Party, has launched a legal campaign to stop the publication of a damaging “fictionalised biography” based on her life.
Dean Nelson in New Delhi
5:12PM BST 03 Jun 2010
Mrs Gandhi, the widow of former prime minister Rajiv, is regarded as one of the world’s most private leaders.
She has taken strong exception to her portrayal in Spanish writer Javier Moro’s ‘The Red Sari’ as a snob who wanted to leave India following her husband’s 1991 assassination. The book also portrays her as a central figure in Indira Gandhi’s 1975 imposition of emergency rule.
Several authors and film-makers have been drawn to the romance and tragedy of Mrs Gandhi’s life. She married Indira Gandhi’s son Rajiv after meeting him at Cambridge in the mid-1960s and was living with his family in New Delhi when his brother Sanjay died in a plane crash and Indira was killed by her Sikh guards. In 1991 Rajiv was assassinated by a Tamil suicide bomber.
Javier Moro’s book, which has been successful in Italy and Spain where more than 200,000 copies have been sold, is now expected to be published in India later this year.
Lawyers action for Mrs Gandhi described the book as “full of untruths, half-truths, falsehoods, defamatory statements, completely imaginary and invented conversations” and warned she would “take all steps to protect and defend herself and her family.”
She appears to have been most wounded by its claim that she had wanted to leave India, describing it as “this country that devours its children” and had complained about having to learn to speak Hindi. In the book, Moro writes that “Sonia did not understand why she had to learn a language only spoken by the servants.”
Both are potentially damaging for Mrs Gandhi whose Italian nationality is used against her by opponents, and whose supporters are overwhelmingly poor Hindi-speaking voters. “She is sensitive to the claim that she is not committed to India and she legitimately takes offence if anyone says she wanted to run away after Rajiv’s death. A defamation case is in order,” said leading Indian commentator M.J Akbar.
Javier Moro defended his claim that she had wanted to leave India.
“There were articles in the Italian papers. After her husband died, her mother called, and it’s logical that she asked ‘when are you coming home’. It’s not far-fetched it’s a literary licence,” he said.