Groups cancel Mahatma Gandhi event after gay links

Boston: Two Massachusetts groups have cancelled a jointly sponsored appearance by the author of a Mahatma Gandhi biography that`s been banned in part of India, the second cancellation this month for the author.

Joseph Lelyveld`s "Great Soul," about Gandhi`s struggle for social justice and the evolution of his social values, was banned in Gujarat in March after reviews hinted the father of the nation`s independence had a homosexual relationship.

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Lelyveld, a Pulitzer Prize winner, said the book never alleges Gandhi was gay or bisexual.

The chairman of the Indian Americans of Lexington, which was co-sponsoring a planned April 29 visit by Lelyveld to the Lexington Historical Society, said he hasn`t read the book and "the author may be 100 percent correct."

But Puran Dang said his group wanted to avoid any controversy for the historical society and decided to cancel the event in a decision relayed Thursday to Lelyveld`s publisher, Alfred A Knopf.

"To avoid any controversy, with all respect to the author…it was a decision which was jointly taken in the interest of everything being in a peaceful status," Dang said.

In a statement, Knopf said the decision to cancel the event was "based on misinformation, not facts."

"Mr Lelyveld is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and it is their organisation`s great loss that their members will be denied an opportunity to hear him," the statement read.

Telephone calls to the historical society on Saturday weren`t immediately returned.

Early this month, an educational organisation in Santa Clara, California, the Foundation for Excellence, cancelled an appearance by Lelyveld, also citing a desire to avoid controversy. The foundation provides scholarships for students in India.

Lelyveld, a former executive editor of The New York Times who won a general nonfiction Pulitzer for "Move Your Shadow: South Africa, Black and White" in 1986, has made several appearances related to his Gandhi book this month without incident, including in New York, Boston and Seattle.

"It`s not a universal reaction," he said. "I just think it created a small tempest and those who want to stay away can stay away."