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Wendy Doniger responds to Penguin India's withdrawal of 'The Hindus' on Facebook

Wednesday, 12 February 2014 - 9:56am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna webdesk

On Tuesday, people from all around the world were outraged at Penguin India's decision to withdraw all copies of 'The Hindus: An Alternative History' citing the book to contain alleged inaccuracies and biases as well as various sexual connotations.

More than 10,000 people had also signed a petition online, claiming the text was filled with factual inaccuracies.

On Wednesday, February 12, Wendy Doniger wrote a response to expressing her reaction to the situation via Facebook group India's First Crowd Sourced Library.

She explains that she had a lot of news agencies and media persons trying to get her statement and an interview about the whole situation. She says she will write a longer article but at this point it's not possible to speak to everyone and so she hopes this will be enough for now.

About the withdrawl of her book she says, "I was thrilled and moved by the great number of messages of support that I received, not merely from friends and colleagues but from people in India that I have never met, who had read and loved The Hindus, and by news and media people, all of whom expressed their outrage and sadness and their wish to help me in any way they could. I was, of course, angry and disappointed to see this happen, and I am deeply troubled by what it foretells for free speech in India in the present, and steadily worsening, political climate. And as a publisher’s daughter, I particularly wince at the knowledge that the existing books (unless they are bought out quickly by people intrigued by all the brouhaha) will be pulped. But I do not blame Penguin Books, India. Other publishers have just quietly withdrawn other books without making the effort that Penguin made to save this book. Penguin, India, took this book on knowing that it would stir anger in the Hindutva ranks, and they defended it in the courts for four years, both as a civil and as a criminal suit.

They were finally defeated by the true villain of this piece—the Indian law that makes it a criminal rather than civil offense to publish a book that offends any Hindu, a law that jeopardizes the physical safety of any publisher, no matter how ludicrous the accusation brought against a book. An example at random, from the lawsuit in question:

‘That YOU NOTICED has hurt the religious feelings of millions of Hindus by declaring that Ramayana is a fiction. “Placing the Ramayan in its historical contexts demonstrates that it is a work of fiction, created by human authors, who lived at various times..........” (P.662) This breaches section 295A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Finally, I am glad that, in the age of the Internet, it is no longer possible to suppress a book. The Hindus is available on Kindle; and if legal means of publication fail, the Internet has other ways of keeping books in circulation. People in India will always be able to read books of all sorts, including some that may offend some Hindus."

In a statement issued to dna, author and indologist Wendy Doniger has expressed “anger and disappointment” at the withdrawal of her book The Hindus. Stating that the episode augurs badly for free speech in India, Doniger said the true villain in the story is the Indian law that makes it a criminal rather than civil offense to publish a book that offends any Hindu.

(With inputs from Manisha Pande/@MnshaP)

To read the original Facebook post, click here.

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