The recall of US author Wendy Doniger's book on Hinduism by publisher Penguin Books has been received with much outrage. And although the official decision to withdraw the book tilted 'The Hindus: An Alternative History' was made on February 4, Twitter has been overflowing with strong criticism, thus making the book title a trending topic on the micro-blogging website.
The reaction from critics resulted in publishing house Penguin Books recalling the book and discontinuing the sale of more copies. The reason given for this is that the book, which focuses on different aspects of Hinduism, is filled with alleged inaccuracies and bias es as well as various sexual connotations.
The Hindus was a No 1 best-seller in the non-fiction category in India in 2009. In January 2010, the National Book Critics Circle named The Hindus as a finalist for its 2009 book awards.
Doniger's book was published in 2009, and from early on, there was a lot of criticism and opposition , especially from the American Hindu community. Doniger, during the time, agreed that Indians have ample grounds to reject post-colonial domination, but she also says that her works are her own perspective which does not diminish the fact that Indians are allowed to have their own self-identity.
In March 2010, Hindu American Foundation co-founder Aseem Shukla debated various elements from the book with Doniger herself on a Washington Post-sponsored blog. They discussed at length on faith and religion, and he accused her of sexualising and defaming some of the holiest passages in the Hindu scriptures. Doniger retaliated by pointing out that her book has sold well in India, a country populated by Hindus and also asked her critics to point out exactly where her interpretations of the text were wrong.
The backlash from the announcement of the ban has been quite evident on Facebook. The hashtag #TheHindus is trending, where people are showcasing their outrage. However the book has not been banned, it has been recalled. This means that Wendy Doniger can seek out another publishing house and sell the book through them.
Wendy Doniger's 'The Hindus' is another victim of GOI's crappy law 4 protecting religious sentiment.When wil India get Freedom of Expression
— Anti-ChorCongress (@Soumyajit_Dutta) February 11, 2014
Since free speech works both ways, here are a bunch of reviews of Doniger's book, some of which raise valid concerns. http://t.co/m3EOIE3Iyy
— Suprateek Chatterjee (@SupraMario) February 11, 2014
Relax people, "The Hindus" was "withdrawn" following a court order, no one asked for Wendy Doniger's head, and govt didn't ban it.. chill...
— Abhiroop Patel (@abhitwit) February 11, 2014
Just ordered "The Hindus" from Amazon. Feeling smug about forcing @PenguinIndia to take my money for a book I might not've read otherwise
— Alok Prasanna Kumar (@alokpi) February 11, 2014
@Bookwiser The Hindus by Wendy Doniger. Seems to be an old book. Not sure what triggered this off suddenly
— Anamika (@NameFieldmt) February 11, 2014
THE HINDUS ISN'T BANNED! Its just been withdrawn by its publisher. It can find another publisher.
— Sathya Anand (@AgentSaffron) February 11, 2014
Penguin India caves to right-wing bullies & agrees to pulp, at their own cost, Wendy Doniger's book on the Hindus. Shocking & disgraceful!
— Kranti Saran (@KrantiSaran) February 11, 2014
The book is so pious that only the print edition of The Hindus is being taken down so that no one can touch it. Read Online.
— Fakalogy (@Fakalogic) February 11, 2014
Several Twitter users pointed out that the move is unnecessary and that the book can be purchased online as well, leaving the recall ultimately unsuccessful.
A little less than a month ago, another publishing house Bloomsbury recalled 'The Descent Of Air India' written by Jitender Bhargava. The book chronicles the decline of Air India and Praful Patel’s contribution to the descent. The withdrawal of Bhargava’s book by Bloomsbury was the outcome of an out-of-court settlement between Patel and the publishing firm.
Here is a video of Wendy Doniger, who is widely acknowledged as one of the foremost authorities on Hinduism, speaking about her second book 'On Hinduism' which she says she wrote with an Indian audiance in mind.