Even as the internet spares no words to criticise, and in some case applauded, Penguin India's move to recall Wendy Doniger's book ' The Hindus: An Alternative History', writers and thought leaders, some even from Penguin's own clique, expressed their views on what many perceived to be an attack on freedoms of expression.
But few articles went beyond the rhetoric, some more than others, to convey mass anguish or simply narrate stories of solidarity. If you have been following this story with as much intent, here's a list of article that you should be reading:
Doniger's book in question has been actually been in print and circulation since 2009, and so has the right-wing protest against it. Hindu groups in America expressed their displeasure over the publication of the book as early as 2010, when co-founder of Hindu American Foundation Aseem Shukla debated various elements from the book on a Washington Post-sponsored blog.
The article titled 'Whose History is it anyway?' accused Doniger of sexualising and defaming some of the holiest passages in the Hindu scriptures. Doniger retaliated by asking her critics to point out exactly where her interpretations of the text were wrong.
For those of you who want to read through the list of errors that the petition talks about, visit here.
Others wrote about the Indian temperament towards disagreement, a threat to liberalism in the country. “India is a democracy, but its reputation as a bastion of liberal values is dimming by the day,” writes Pratap Bhanu Mehta on Indian Express. In his article titled 'Silencing of liberal India' he points how the argumentative Indian is being replaced by the offended Indian.
Salil Tripathi, on the other hand, viewed this move as a surrender. In his article on Live mint titled 'Penguin’s disappointing surrender' says, “As freedom of expression itself is under threat, and India undergoes its own period of darkness and chaos.”
Taking a slightly alternate point of view is Samar Halarnkar, who sees the petitioners as those who are attempting to restrict the diversity of Hinduism. In his Hindustan Times article 'Tree of Hinduism under threat from concerted effort to prune it' he writes, "Hinduism is too ancient and varied a faith to be forced down a single road to salvation."
Mridula Chari at Scroll.in tells a different tale of solidarity, the likes of which frequently emerge from social media these days. A certain Anmol Vellani, founder of Indian Foundation for Arts, kick started a small but powerful movement on Facebook, urging readers to mail their favourite Penguin book back to the publishers.
books-back-to-publisher?id=656315" target="_blank">Read the complete story, here.
Our very own Kunal Majumder, wonders what went wrong. He analyses the chain of events and identifies issues in his article 'Wendy Doniger's 'The Hindus': Did the Penguin chicken out?', " I find the key contention is basically on two grounds: sex in Hinduism, and politics."
On the other hand, Meeta Sengupta, compares this incident to recent events including Nido Taniam's death. "They are all victims of India's inability to deal with differences," she says in her article titled 'India’s problem is the need for conformity'.