Professor Wendy Doniger's statement regarding withdrawing of her book by Penguin India

Charles V.  Reed's picture

[cross-post from] H-ASIA
February 12, 2014
Professor Wendy Doniger's statement regarding withdrawing of her book by Penguin India (x-post Indology) 

[Context: "Penguin Books India has said this week that it will destroy all available copies of the 2009 book by the Indologist Wendy Doniger, The Hindus: An Alternative History, as part of a court settlement. Following the book's publication, Dinanath Batra of the Hindu group Shiksha Bachao Andolan (Save Education Campaign) filed a suit against the author and publisher for denigration of Hinduism. In the notice sent by his lawyer in 2010, Batra accused Doniger of 'a shallow, distorted and non-serious presentation of Hinduism" which was "riddled with heresies and factual inaccuracies.'"

From: "Watson, Alex"


Dear friends,

I have had literally hundreds of requests for interviews, in various media, and I can't do them all. So here is a statement that you may use. I hope it's enough; it's the best I can do right now. I intend to write a longer article for publication in a couple of weeks. Yours with gratitude for your courage and compassion, Wendy "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 Other publishers have just quietly withdrawn other books without making the effort that Penguin made to save this book.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." -----------------------------------------------------------------

[H-Idology] Ed. note; While the 'hurt feelings' in the present case were among some Hindus, in point of fact that law applies to any religious community. 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, hall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 8[ three years], or with fine, or with both.]

FFC Suresh Kolichala on RISA-L offers a link to the copy of the original legal notice sent by Dina Nath Batra to Wendy Doniger: