Hindus force withdrawal of a Penguin book

Hindus force withdrawal of a Penguin book

PENGUIN Books India, part of Penguin Random House, has agreed to withdraw and destroy all copies of a 2009 book on Hinduism by an American scholar to settle a lawsuit by a Hindu nationalist group that had objected to the book’s portrayal of the religion.

In a copy of the out-of-court settlement dated Feb. 4, which has been widely circulating online, Penguin Books India said it would complete the withdrawal of  The Hindus: An Alternative History, by Wendy Doniger, a University of Chicago religion professor, within six months.

In a leaked legal document, Penguin stated that:

It respects all religions worldwide.

Cabinet minister Jairam Ramesh, above, described the decision as “atrocious”, and Vikram Sampath, an author and the organiser of the Bangalore Literary Festival said:

The answer to a book you don’t agree with is another one –not a ban or withdrawal. If this trend continues, we will be left with chick lit books only, unfortunately.

The lawsuit had been filed by Dina Nath Batra, the head of Shiksha Bacho Andolan, a Hindu educational organization in New Delhi, in 2011.

Prior to the lawsuit, he filed a notice to Doniger and Penguin Group USA, then the parent of Penguin Books India, in 2010, saying that Doniger’s book “has hurt the religious feelings of millions of Hindus” and therefore breached  section 295A of the Indian Penal Code.

The book, which was released in the United States and India in 2009, offended Hindus because of its “tendency to over-eroticize” the religion, said Ashok Malik, a journalist who reviewed The Hindus when it first came out.

I thought it was overdone.

However, he did not support Penguin Books India’s decision to withdraw the book.

Why did Penguin go for an out-of-court settlement? They could have waited for a judgment. This is part of a larger trend where publishers keep away from controversial topics.

Batra said in an interview that Shiksha Bachao Andolan would continue to battle books that hurt religious sentiment, and Madan Mohan Sharma, a member of Bharatiya Shiksha, a sister organisation, said the group felt vindicated by Penguin Books India’s decision.

In an email to India Ink, Doniger said that she was:

Angry and disappointed, and deeply concerned for freedom of speech in India.

The book is not banned in India, and it is still available as an e-book on Amazon.

Said Nilanjana S Roy, an author who is also a New York Times op-ed contributor:

If a smaller publisher wants to get the rights transferred and publish it, they could. But most publishers would not want this. Going to the courts is not what a publisher wants to do.

Roy said Penguin Books India’s settlement sets a bad example.

There will be more people who would put pressure on the publishers, and they would not have the resources or the time to stand up for each of their books.

Doniger’s scholarly work has drawn opposition from Hindu groups in India and overseas. During a lecture in London in 2003, she was almost hit by an egg thrown by a Hindu nationalist who was angry at the “sexual thrust” of her interpretation of the “sacred” Ramayana.

Hat tip: Adam Tjaavk and BarrieJohn

17 responses to “Hindus force withdrawal of a Penguin book”

  1. AgentCormac says:

    The nazis famously burned books in public, muscle-flexing displays of dominance and brutality which were designed to intimidate opponents and show the world their unquestionable ability to eradicate anything that did not conform to their ghastly dogma. It seems that these days the publishers of books are doing the nazis’ job for them. They should be ashamed. It is indeed ‘atrocious’.

  2. oldmanjenkins says:

    I am going to buy 50 copies and mail them to my friends, family, and 25 copies directly to Shiksha Bacho Andolan.

  3. Daz says:

    “For having published this book, Penguin Books were prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act, 1959 at the Old Bailey in London from 20 October to 2 November 1960. This edition is therefore dedicated to the twelve jurors, three women and nine men, who returned a verdict of ‘Not Guilty’ and thus made D. H. Lawrence’s last novel available for the first time to the public in the United Kingdom.”
    —Publisher’s dedication, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, 2nd edition, 1961

    Oh, how times have changed.

  4. Dan Klang says:

    This is the root of he problem…..

    ….”respects all religions worldwide.”

    Religions do not deserve respect except for the right of people to follow them quietly in their own time without inflicting it on anyone else. I reserve the right to offend if the truth is offensive. I reserve the right to be disrespectful to things that do not deserve respect. It’s up to religions to change or be ridiculed. It’s their choice. Best change if they cannot take criticism.

    Scream, wail, whinge, whine, bleat, bitch…’s what religions are doing more than ever now to get their way. Well I say its time to push back. Push back very hard indeed.

    And since when did educational bodies ban books. And the fucking Indian penal code needs changing.

    What is wrong with sex anyway…. I should think that a religion that celebrates sex should be onto a good thing. Be a Hindu and have a bloody good shag every night…..much better than the sexual prohibitions that make muslims and catholics so boorishly guilt ridden, repressed and dysfunctional.

  5. 1859 says:

    Heinrich Heine, a German poet, wrote in the first half of the 19th Century:

    ‘When they begin by burning books, they will end with burning people.’

    – almost 100 years before the Nazis did exactly that.

    You confront ideas you don’t agree with – not with repression, but with debate. Repression is the tool of those who can’t or won’t think.

  6. barriejohn says:

    Daz: That was my immediate thought.

    Dan Klang: And that! Is there ANY religious group in the world that is capable of having its beliefs scrutinised in any way without immediately screaming about “hurt feelings”?

  7. charlie says:

    This sets a very, very dangerous precedent. Very frightening if ALL religions must be “respected”. Why do I have to respect any religion? What about MY freedom, freedom of speech, and better yet, my freedom to think as I wish? Screw this crapola to hell and gone. ENOUGH!.
    Excellent comments above. Glad to be a part of this group of freethinkers. Excellent company. You folks keep me going.

  8. L.Long says:

    Its too bad that the religious are so numerous that they affect every ones bottom line to the point that they can force most any business to bend to their will.

  9. Maggie says:

    I am greatly disappointed in that I find all religions offensive yet have no one to sue over the matter.

  10. barriejohn says:

    What about the tender feelings of atheists, which are hurt all the time by the pronouncements of the religious? They keep assuring us that atheism and evolutionary theory require “faith”, so they must desist from attacking us, and give us “respect” for our “sincerely held beliefs” (to say nothing of homosexuals, whom they slander without remorse). Fucking hypocrites, one and all.

  11. Paul Cook says:

    For a nation that gave us the first university, some of the oldest writings, and civilisation it always amazes me they believe in gods that are elephants and one that’s a monkey.

  12. Paul Cook says:

    here is part of a comment on the book from UK amazon website. By someone named SM.

    Says it all.

    ” This author is one in a long line of Westerners that have denigrated Hinduism and we’ve had enough. Here’s a new phrase for you “Hinduphobia” it’s worked for the Muslims “

  13. Broga says:

    They ban books because they can. Does anyone doubt that the RCs would ban books like The God Delusion, and other works, if they could get away with it? When religious beliefs are so incredible that they cannot bear analysis and challenge they have to censor, threaten and kill those who question them. They have no alternative but to suffocate free thought.

  14. gedediah says:

    @ Paul Cook
    I don’t see how believing in monkey and elephant gods is any more outlandish than believing in one that did party tricks, is claimed to have been his own dad and to have come back to life after being dead thee days.

  15. barriejohn says:

    Gedediah: That wasn’t his point. It would appear that things went downhill in the subcontinent with the arrival of the Aryans!