Penguin agreed to destroy all the hard copies

This again – Hindu nationalists going after the scholar of mythology Wendy Doniger. They’ve been doing it for years. I did an article/resource stash on Hinduists attacking scholarship and scholars such as Doniger more than ten years ago.

Ill-founded claims are the ones that get backed up with sticks, car antennas, guns, threats, petitions, calls for silencing, fatwas. There is a lot of that sort of thing around. The anger at the American scholar of mythology James Laine and his book about the Hindu king Shivaji is one example. A mob attacked and vandalized the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in January, destroying books and irreplaceable manuscripts. Scholars sat in tears among the wreckage afterward. In March the state of Maharashtra where the BORI is located sought the help of Interpol in arresting and extraditing James Laine. Other scholars of mythology such as Wendy Doniger and Paul Courtright are the object of threats and worse. ‘Vedic’ science and mathematics are introduced into the public school curriculum and history textbooks are altered without the consent of their authors, as the articles by Meera Nanda and Latha Menon for Butterflies and Wheels tell us. The war against research, inquiry, secularism, independent thought, scholarship and rationality goes on and indeed intensifies. It is a trend that needs watching.

Shikha Dalmia writes about the new instantiation:

The Indian blogosphere is up in arms today against Penguin’s decision to withdraw University of Chicago Divinity School Professor Wendy Doniger’s 2009 The Hindus: An Alternative History. The 700-page-plus tome offended Hindu nationalists, a scourge on humanity not quite as bad as the Ebola virus, who took exception to its description of the Shiv Lingam, a representation of God Shiva that Hindus worship, as a phallic symbol, among other things.

Folks at the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti — the self-appointed guardians of Indian knowledge — filed a suit in 2011 demanding a ban. They charge that the book had “factual inaccuracies” and was written with “a Christian missionary’s zeal” to denigrate Hinduism and show it in a poor light.” Never mind that Doniger is not a Christian and is actually a great admirer of Hinduism, which she regards as a far more existentially profound faith than monotheistic religions. In fact, her aim in writing the book was to save Hinduism from misinterpretations of both hostile alien interlocutors and nativist Hindutva boosters.

But before the Indian courts could rule (and it is bad enough that they allow such suits to even go forward), Penguin not only agreed to pull the book from India but destroy all hard copies within six months.

Yet another outrage; yet another cowardly collapse.


  1. Nepenthe says

    I’ve had the pleasure of traveling with Dr. Doniger in Hindu-majority places. There are many words I could use to describe her; she’s a rather colorful person. But to say that she is anything but enthusiastically fascinated with Hinduism in its myriad forms is ridiculous.

    Also, anyone arguing that Shiva lingams are not phallic symbols is a moron. Lingam literally means “penis” in Sanskrit. If anything, they’re too literally penis-like to be considered merely symbolic.

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