Wendy Doniger’s statement

Via Salil Tripathi, who shared it via PEN Delhi, Wendy Doniger’s statement on Penguin’s decision.

Statement from Wendy Doniger:

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 Other publishers have just quietly withdrawn other books without making the effort that Penguin made to save this book.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 NOTICEE 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.


  1. Al Dente says

    the Indian law that makes it a criminal rather than civil offense to publish a book that offends any Hindu

    Any Hindu? Someone says “I’m a Hindu and I’m offended by X” and it becomes a criminal offense to do or say X.

  2. Claire Ramsey says

    Sickening. A sickening law. It is stupid and silly to think that the world can protect any one of any religion-ish bent from being offended. Stooo-pid. And sickening.

  3. miraxpath says

    Section 295A in The Indian Penal Code, 1860
    295A. 5[ Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.– Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of 6[ citizens of India], 7[ by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise] insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 8[ three years], or with fine, or with both.]

    Here’s the law in question. It does not affford specific protection to only Hindus but panders to all religious nuts. If you are familiar with events in India, you’d know that Christians, Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus frequently make use of the offence card (and this law) on the most spurious grounds to shut down anything they don’t like and the Indian government, law courts and indeed, the corporate world, just spinelessly bend down to any idiot or ”community” who is protesting. Ask Taslima.

    I think that Doniger’s book may well be a crappy one and I am not rushing to buy a copy but Penguin India’s decision is very wrong. Sadly it is an entirely typical indian response.

  4. Robert B. says

    Does a criminal citation literally for hurting people’s feelings strike anyone else as intensely and overtly childish? Was that legal document originally written in English, or was it a translation? Theocrats don’t often state themselves so nakedly, I’m wondering if the original was worded to sound less petty.

  5. John Phillips, FCD says

    Isn’t this the same law that was used by the RC in Mumbai to attack the Indian sceptic, Sanal Edamaruku, when he proved that a ‘bleeding’ xian statue was actually rusty water from a leaking pipe.


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