Indian law is the true villain: Doniger reacts to pulping of 'The Hindus'

Earlier this week, Penguin India appears to have agreed to “recall and withdraw” Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History. News of this decision entered the public domain last night. Today, The Hindus is trending on Twitter. The agreement gives Penguin six months to remove The Hindus from Indian shelves, but sites like Flipkart are already claiming the title is out of stock. Here's the full text of Wendy Doniger's statement in response to the recent developments in India regarding her book.

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.

 Indian law is the true villain: Doniger reacts to pulping of The Hindus

Wendy Doniger. Scfeengrab from YouTube vido uploaded by Aleph Book Company.

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 Other publishers have just quietly withdrawn other books without making the effort that Penguin made to save this book.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."

Updated Date: Feb 12, 2014 07:23:22 IST