Hartosh, I'm one of the authors on the list you provide — a list you judge as not to your reading taste even though you have evidently not bothered to read a page of the work of any. I thank you at least for citing your friend's "strong recommendation" of my book Arzee the Dwarf, but despite having got off lighter than the others — for which gesture I am ever in your debt, for we novelists are calculating creatures — I think there may be a few things I want to say in response.
You begin with the banning of Rushdie's Satanic Verses two decades ago and declare: "Today you would be hard put to find Indian fiction in English that anybody would want banned." The banning of Satanic Verses was, it is generally agreed today, a foolish and knee-jerk action by the Indian government, and India remains one of the few countries where it is still illegal to sell the book. Despite the hysteria and controversy surrounding the book upon its publication, no western government thought it fit to ban it.
So it surprises me that an act of such randomness on the part of a government (and whatever the debate about what governments can or can't do, it's generally agreed they're not very good when it comes to judging fiction) should for you become the litmus test for judging the ambition of contemporary fiction. Had the Indian government not banned Satanic Verses (and this could easily have been the case), the book would still have been as good or bad as it is. Only you would then have had to actually read it to have anything to say about it, while now you at least know it was banned, and therefore is good.
Indeed, you don't seem that interested in quality issues, as if this is irrelevant in a work of fiction, even though you then quickly pass judgment on two "ambitious" Indian novels as not being good, because inauthentic. That is, you perversely insist that the ambitious Indian novels being published today are not well-written enough, while the "quiet, well-written books" — well, you won't even read them.
By your logic, were some mediocre novel critical of Hindu society were to be banned, say, by the Gujarat government, that would immediately become an ambitious novel that everyone should read. But only a PR agent would want to think this way about books. Frankly, such a stance is an insult to the entire endeavour of artistic creation. Our powers as writers are limited to realizing our imagined worlds as best as we can. We are not out to write bannable books so that you may read us, although I certainly agree it's a pleasant feeling to be banned and it helps sales in the long run (as your own argument proves).
Your standards for judging fiction seem peculiarly journalistic, as if all that fiction writers do is report true stories while changing the names here and there and adding bits of dialogue and chapter numbers. "As someone who has reported out of Bhopal for two years," you declare," I know that the person excised out of Indra Sinha’s book is the one who has done much of the work on the ground...." Was Animal's People a fact-finding commission? Is everyone who did "work on the ground" in a real-world scenario supposed to be given a starring role in a work of fiction?
You don't argue at any point, citing a specific passage or interpretative point of view in the book, that Sinha's depiction of Bhopal gas tragedy is flawed or manipulative. Your status as "someone who reported out of Bhopal for two years" is supposed to be enough to support your judgment. To judge a work of non-fiction, perhaps (though I would contest even this). But for a work of fiction? Is that all you need? Your problems with the book are actually a direct consequence of the problematic assumptions with which you begin -- assumptions I am surprised you hold, considering you've published a novel yourself (the subtitle of which was, if I recall right, A Mathematical Novel).
Also, may I point out that it is not just us fiction writers, but you non-fiction writers and reporters too who need to pull up your socks? It will not have escaped your notice that Jaswant Singh's book Jinnah, Partition and Independence was recently banned by the Gujarat government. In one swift and satanic leap, Jaswant Singh, despite his wooden prose style, has become the leading Indian non-fiction writer of his day. When can we novelists expect to see a ban-worthy work of comparable ambition and consequence by a journalist or professional non-fiction writer? We're tired of reading the "quiet, well-written" reports you guys are churning out by the dozen -- that's really not what journalism is about.
Lastly, I'm sorry to hear that you won't be reading Arzee the Dwarf (your smirking comment about "dwarves and eunuchs" suggests that you think group identity is the primary identity any individual or fictional character has). But please make sure then that you pre-book my forthcoming novel Love In The Time of Naxalism, which should be more to your taste. In fact, if you have reported on the Naxal movement, may I consult you on it? I promise I won't leave you out of the book (although I may be mischievous and compose a scene where you are shown actually reading a novel, page by page, pencil in hand).