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Penguin to withdraw Wendy Doniger's controversial book, The Hindus

According to reports, Penguin Books India has agreed to withdraw all published copies of Wendy Doniger's The Hindus. They have reportedly also decided to destroy all remaining copies of the book they have. A copy of the agreement signed by Penguin has gotten leaked on Twitter and Scribd.

Firstpost reached out to Penguin India who said in an email that they will not be commenting on the issue. However, Wendy Doniger has confirmed in an email to Firstpost that the book is being taken out of publication in India. Our readers will be updated in case the publishers issue a statement to the press.

The copy of the agreement, which has been put up on Scribd, says that Penguin India shall, "with immediate effect recall and withdraw all copies of the book, Wendy Doniger's The Hindus: An Alternative History, from Bharat (Indian territory.)". It also goes on to note that Penguin will no longer go on to sell, distribute, the book and that all recalled/withdrawn/unsold copies of the book shall be 'pulped' by Penguin at its own cost.

The cover of the book.

The cover of the book.

According to the agreement, the book has to be withdrawn from all territories of 'Bharat' starting at the earliest and latest within six months of the agreement being signed. The agreement also states that Penguin 'submits that it respects all religions worldwide'.

The agreement has been drawn with a group called Shiksha Bachao Andolan based in Naraina Vihar in New Delhi, which had filed a civil suit against the company over the book in the 2011. In addition to this, there were two criminal complaints filed as well in this matter in Hauz Khaz. One complaint was filed in 2010, and another in 2013.

This is not the only controversy that Wendy Doniger's book The Hindus has faced. In 2010, a petition was signed online and submitted to the Penguin USA. The petition was backed by the Sarasvati Research Trust and demanded that the book be withdrawn. It was addressed to the President of Penguin USA Susan Peterson Kennedy and Mike Bryan, CEO and President of Penguin India.

That petition, which had over 10,000 signatures, said that the book was riddled with factual errors and mis-translations. It read: "Doniger analyses revered Hindu Gods and Goddess using her widely discredited psychosexual Freudian theories that modern, humanistic psychology has deemed limiting. These interpretations are presented as hard facts and not as speculations. Doniger makes various faulty assumptions about the tradition in order to arrive at her particular spin. In the process, the beliefs, traditions and interpretations of practicing Hindus are simply ignored or bypassed without the unsuspecting reader knowing this to be the case. This kind of Western scholarship has been criticized as Orientalism and Eurocentrism. The non Judeo-Christian faith gets used to dish out voyeurism and the tradition gets eroticised"

The petition then went on to list the factual errors in the book, which includes incorrect dates associated with the lives of Kabir, Mirabai etc. Another point of contention seems to be that the book states, "Emperor Akbar moved his capital from Fatehpur Sikri to Delhi in 1586." According to the petitioners, "Emperor Akbar moved his capital to Lahore in 1587, and thereafter to Agra."

Doniger's work has also come under severe criticism from Rajiv Malhotra, author of the book, Being Different, who said that the book was aimed to shame Indian youth and to demonise Hindu religion. What has irked Hindu groups in particular in Doniger's use of psycho-analysis to look at Hindu history and gods.

According to Aseem Shukla of the Hindu American Foundation, who criticised her work online, "Parallelisms in her book conjure up obsolete anecdotes comparing the sacred stone linga representing Lord Shiva to a leather strap-on sex toy, and Lord Rama, one of the most widely worshiped deities, is psychoanalyzed to have acted out of fear that he was becoming a sex-addict like his father."   

Doniger had responded to him as saying, "It highlights a narrative alternative to the one constituted by the most famous texts in Sanskrit (the literary language of ancient India) and represented in most surveys in English. It tells a story that incorporates the narratives of and about alternative people–people who, from the standpoint of most high-caste Hindu males, are alternative in the sense of otherness, people of other religions, or cultures, or castes, or species (animals), or gender (women)."