Single-digit heaven

Wendy Doniger reports that Penguin’s failure to continue defending her book has caused it to…become much more popular than it was.

What is new, and heartening, this time is that the best are suddenly full of passionate intensity. The dormant liberal conscience of India was awakened by the stunning blow to freedom of speech that had been dealt by my publisher in giving in to the demands of the claimants, agreeing to take the book out of circulation and pulp all remaining copies. [Read more…]

Her intention is bad

For more insight into the horrible mind of Dinanath Batra, president of Shiksha Bachao Andola and the plaintiff in the ridiculous yet successful lawsuit against Penguin and Wendy Doniger, there’s a little interview he did for Time.

TIME: What are your objections to Wendy Doniger’s book, The Hindus?

Batra: Her intention is bad, the content is anti-national and the language is abusive. Her agenda is to malign Hinduism and hurt the feelings of Hindus. [Read more…]


So about that lawsuit – check it out.

It starts with “Yo, my client is an educationist, and he happened on your book, and he knows you’ve written other books, yo.”

4.       That my client has read the book authored by you namely the Hindus: An Alternative History. That after reading the book my client found it to be a shallow, distorted and non serious presentation of Hinduism. That it is a haphazard presentation riddled with heresies and factual inaccuracies.


5.       That after reading the said book my client is of the opinion my client states that the aforesaid book is written with a Christian Missionary Zeal and hidden agenda to denigrate Hindus and show their religion in poor light.

6.       That the entire list of the books authored by YOU NOTICEE shows that YOU NOTICEE concentrate, focus and write on the negative aspects and evil practices prevalent in Hinduism. That the words used by YOU NOTICEE for referring to various Hindu Gods are highly objectionable. [Read more…]

Collecting reactions

A fabulously useful resource from South Asia Citizens Web: a list of responses to Penguin’s withdrawal of Wendy Doniger’s book in India, with many quoted in full.

The Indian Express February 12

Prominent sections of the establishment in India have long abdicated their commitment to a defence of the written word, forsaking the liberal strategy of allowing a text to be contested legally — and legally alone — on whatever grouse, and instead even abetting intimidation as a tool for bringing censorship. It is to India’s shame that it was the first country to ban Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. Since then, through the vandalisation that hounded a scholarly biography of Shivaji out of circulation, the message has been clear.

The recent withdrawal by Oxford University Press and Delhi University of an essay by A.K. Ramanujan was a capitulation to expressions of intolerance by rightwing Hindutva groups similar to those aflutter about Doniger’s analysis. [Read more…]

Are they all “westernized”?

Statement by PEN Delhi:

From members of the PEN All-India Centre in Mumbai and the PEN Delhi Centre:

PEN’s India Centres in Delhi and Mumbai are deeply concerned about the reported decision by Penguin India to withdraw Wendy Doniger’s scholarly book, The Hindus: An Alternative History. Choosing to settle the matter out of court, instead of challenging an adverse judgment, narrows India’s intellectual discourse and significantly undermines freedom of expression.

We do not know why Penguin took the decision and expect the publisher to be transparent about the circumstances in which it made the decision, which comes at a time when Indian publishers have faced waves of threats from litigants, vigilante groups, and politicians. Siddharth Deb’s “The Beautiful and The Damned” was published without its first chapter because of a lawsuit. Bloomsbury India withdrew from circulation Jitender Bhargava’s book, The Descent of Air India. Sahara Group is suing Tamal Bandyopadhyay, author of Sahara: The Untold Story. Foreign publishers have not distributed an English translation of The Red Saree, a book loosely based on Sonia Gandhi’s life.

PEN Delhi, which is under formation, and the PEN All-India Centre in Mumbai, are committed to free speech and expression. The removal of books from our bookshops, bookshelves, and libraries, whether through state-sanctioned censorship, private vigilante action, or publisher capitulation are all egregious violations of free speech that we shall oppose in all forms at all times.


Drowning in the waters of tradition

One thing that’s incredibly, tragically ironic about Penguin’s (forced) submission in the case of Doniger’s book is that it was Penguin that fought back when David Irving tried to force it to withdraw and pulp Deborah Lipstadt’s book. The title of the case is David Irving v Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt. Penguin fought, Penguin spent a fortune, and Penguin won.

Vijay Prashad gives some background on Doniger’s work. [Read more…]

And a little child shall lead them

Nilanjana Bhowmick at the Time website explains why Dinanath Batra has bullied Penguin into recalling and destroying Doniger’s book.

First of all, she makes a factual claim that I hadn’t seen before.

Penguin Books India has agreed to recall and pulp all copies in India of The Hindus: An Alternative History by U.S. scholar Wendy Doniger, raising concerns over freedom of expression in the world’s largest democracy.

Only in India? I thought it was all copies, period.

The move by one of India’s major book publishers is a settlement with members of the Hindu group Shiksha Bachao Andolan, which has filed civil and criminal cases over the work.

In a conversation with TIME, Shiksha Bachao Andolan president Dinanath Batra explains why he thinks Doniger’s book hurts Hindu sentiments and is propagating lies about Hindu deities and national icons. [Read more…]

Otherwise it is another country

Salil Tripathi gives his view.

Last night I asked Doniger what she thought about her publisher’s decision. Deeply concerned, she told me: “Penguin has indeed given up the lawsuit, and will no longer publish the book. Of course, anyone with a computer can get the Kindle edition from Penguin, NY, and it’s probably cheaper, too. It is simply no longer possible to ban books in the age of the Internet. For that, and for all the people who have expressed outrage over this, I am deeply grateful.” [Read more…]