American scholar Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History’ published by Penguin will be recalled and destroyed ensuing a legal battle.
Shiksha Bachao Andolan, a Delhi based voluntary group,had objected to the contents of the book terming them as inaccurate and biased. The group had moved court in 2011 arguing that the book derogates Hindus.
The group accused the book to be ‘shallow, distorted, non-serious presentation of Hinduism’ and that has been written with a ‘Christian missionary zeal’. The author has been accused of ‘demonising the Hindu religion’ and other such groups have started to demand a ban as well.
The groups claims that the book is: “Clumsily written, each chapter is a shocking and appalling series of anecdotes which denigrate, distort and misrepresent Hinduism and the history of India and Hindus. Doniger uses selective quotations from obscure and non-original, peripheral and ignorant references with a bizarre emphasis on sexuality and eroticism. Cited below are only a handful of quotes along with our understanding and interpretation, with references from Hindu scripture.”
Following this legal wrangle, Penguin India has reportedly agreed to withdraw all its unsold stock and pulp them within six months. Though the publishing house has not confirmed reports as of yet.
Twitter has been abuzz after a document of settlement between Penguin India and Shiksha Bachao Andolan was leaked on scribd.com. Many links to the ebooks and pdfs are being circulated as well.
Sharp reactions were detected in many comments against such a decision taken by the publishing house while many individuals supported the ban as well.
The petition that demands withdrawal of all copies of the book and an apology for publication of the same lists a few factual errors that reside in the book as well.
Union Minister Jairam Ramesh termed the decision to be ‘atrocious’ as he believes that the book is ‘not blasphemous by any means’.
Ramesh said, “The organisation that demanded Penguin take such action is clearly some Taliban-type outfit. It is distorting and destroying our liberal traditions. I hope Penguin reconsiders its decision and musters up courage to tell this outfit off”.
Historian Ramachandra Guha expressed his opinions thorugh Twitter stating that Penguin should have appealed to a higher court.
Salil Tripathi tweeted , “This is not a ban; this is surrender.”
A tweet by @tajinderbagga who supported the ban read: “Wendy Doniger Writer of The Hindus called Bhagavad Gita a “dishonest book” that “justifies war.” Should I Support Her. No, Never.”
The settlement adds the book along with “The Satanic Verses” by Salman Rushdie to the list of banned books in India, the latter being considered to be blasphemous by Muslims.
In March 2010,Hindus in New York denounced Doniger’s book by organizing a peaceful protest.
Narain Kataria, President of the Indian American Intellectuals Forum (IAIF), one of the organizers of the protest commented that most learned scholars of Hinduism and Sanskrit do not think highly of Doniger and even remarked that some of the scholars have stated that her understanding of the religion is higly superficial.
While a petition to ban a book because of its contents is outright outrageous, research and verification about the facts mentioned in the book need to be carried out. Black listing a book is equivalent to taking away the ‘Freedom of Speech’ which is a Constitutional right in India.
India can make progress only when people are concerned about self development and pay less heed to perks of following a religion blindly. Besides the negative sides of the Hindu religion cannot be ignored completely.