New Delhi: All copies of American scholar Wendy Doniger’s “The Hindus: An Alternative History”, published by Penguin, will be recalled and destroyed as part of a court-backed settlement with a group that called the book “insulting to Hindus.”
Penguin India reportedly agreed to “pulp” all remaining copies of the book in a pact signed in a Delhi court with the “Shiksha Bachao Andolan.” The contents of that agreement, reportedly signed earlier this month, have been leaked on social media and have drawn a flood of outrage.
The publisher has reportedly agreed to withdraw all copies of “The Hindus…” from India within six months and also stop selling, publishing or distributing the book, described in various reviews as a “vivid reinterpretation of Hinduism” by a keen indologist.
Though Penguin has not confirmed that it signed the agreement, many describe the publishing company’s reported retreat as disturbing, questioning why it gave in instead of fighting legally. Penguin reportedly accepted the terms saying it “respects all religions worldwide”.
( communist ) Historian Ramachandra Guha tweeted, “This is deeply disappointing. Penguin should have appealed in a higher court.”
Political commentator Swapan Dasgupta shared that the decision made him “very uneasy”, that “ideas & academic studies, however contentious, cannot be handled by censorship.” The Shiksha Bachao Andolan moved court in 2011, arguing that Ms Doniger’s book insults Indians, especially Hindus, and is full of factual errors.
In their legal notice to Ms Doniger and Penguin, the group slammed the book as a “shallow, distorted, non-serious presentation of Hinduism” that is filled with “heresies” and has been written with a “Christian missionary zeal”. The author was accused of making faulty assumptions and “demonising the Hindu religion” by other pro-Hindu groups who have been demanding a ban on the book.
The 800-page book, which was priced at over Rs. 700, is already out of stock in popular online shops but downloadable copies are being circulated on Twitter.