After a controversy broke out over the withdrawal of American Indologist Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative History, novelist Vikram Seth has backed her “scholarly” work and cautioned against yielding to extremism of any kind.
“The idiotic group, by the name of Shiksha Bachao Andolan, is saying this is only one battle. It wants to win a war. We must not put up with extremism of any kind. We are one country, and we must not allow that to happen. We are free-minded. We must not allow ourselves to be crushed,” Mr. Seth said at a session of the Patna Literature Festival, which opened on Friday.
“Obscurantist groups” were harming “the basic scientific temper India was so proud of, the mathematical and natural sciences.”
“It is an analytical book by one of the great scholars of Hinduism.” The opposition to the book “because of the fact that she is a foreigner is ridiculous.” “Translations of the Ashoka Pillars were not done by us. We should take knowledge from wherever it comes. We have no right to consider ourselves superior by virtue of where we are born,” Mr. Seth said.
“Wendy is a great Sanskrit scholar. She wrote a very well-researched book. And one of the aspects of the book was that in old Hindu culture, men and women enjoyed sex and sexuality. She has proved it through [research]. And what do Mr. Batra [Dinanth Batra, one of the petitioners in the case] and others say? That this is against the idea of ‘Bhartiya nari’ [Indian woman] and our culture. What nonsense! Not only this book, but any other book, that talks about our religion, culture and country in a scholarly manner [should be welcomed]. Indian culture is not about superiority and inferiority,” he said.