Home / Industry / Wendy Doniger says law, not Penguin, to blame for book withdrawal

New Delhi: Wendy Doniger, the American author of the book on Hinduism, The Hindus: An Alternative History, that has been withdrawn from bookstores by publishers Penguin Book India Pvt. Ltd said she is “deeply troubled" by the move’s implications for free speech in what she called India’s “steadily worsening political climate."

“As a publisher’s daughter, I particularly wince at the knowledge that the existing books will be pulped," said Doniger. But she refused to blame Penguin Books for its decision to withdraw and pulp copies of The Hindus... after protests by right-wing groups.

Instead, she said in a statement released on Wednesday, it is Indian law that is to blame.

“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."

But, she added, “Penguin India took this book on knowing that it would stir anger in the Hindutva ranks, and they defended it in 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 offence 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 the book," Doniger said.

An example of such accusations, she said, was the allegation by her critics that her book “has hurt the religious feelings of millions of Hindus by declaring that Ramayana is a fiction."

The book breaches section 295A of the Indian Penal Code by contending that “placing the Ramayana in its historical contexts demonstrates that it is a work of fiction, created by human authors, who lived at various times."

However, the author said she was “glad" that it was no longer possible to suppress books in the age of the Internet. “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," she added.

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