This narrows India’s intellectual discourse, says PEN International

Penguin India’s decision to withdraw from the Indian market and pulp the remaining copies of American-Indologist Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative History has brought the spotlight on other books which met with a similar fate because of lawsuits.

According to the Indian chapter of PEN International, a global community of writers across 100 countries, at least four books have gone the same route in recent years: Siddharth Deb’s The Beautiful and The Damned, Jitender Bhargava’s The Descent of Air India, Tamal Bandyopadhyay’s Sahara: The Untold Story and the English translation of The Red Saree, a book on Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the Nehru-Gandhi parivar.

Written originally in Spanish by Javier Moro, the English translation of The Red Saree was slapped with a defamation suit by the Congress in 2009.

Deb’s book was published without its first chapter on management guru Arindam Chaudhuri because of a defamation case filed by the Indian Institute of Planning and Management.

Bloomsbury India withdrew Bhargava’s book after Union Minister Praful Patel “obstructed its distribution” and served a legal notice, alleging the contents were defamatory. And, in the case of Bandyopadhyay’s book, the Sahara Group got a stay on its publication from the Calcutta High Court, and the case is still pending.

Mr. Bhargava told The Hindu that Bloomsbury, on which also the notice was served, decided not to pursue the case and instead agreed to offer an apology to Mr. Patel. “This decision of Bloomsbury was unilateral, and without discussing with me, as an author.” He said he would get his book published either on his own or through a new publisher.

Expressing concern at Penguin’s decision, Pen India said: “Choosing to settle the matter out of court, instead of challenging an adverse judgement, narrows India’s intellectual discourse and significantly undermines freedom of expression.”

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