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Updated: February 15, 2014 16:30 IST

Authors, writers’ groups denounce withdrawal of Doniger book

PTI
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American author Wendy Doniger
The Hindu American author Wendy Doniger

Journalist and author Siddharth Varadarajan, along with academic and author Jyotirmaya Sharma, ask Penguin to pulp their books and revert copyright.

Denouncing Penguin’s decision to withdraw US scholar Wendy Doniger’s book, authors and activists on Saturday said it is a campaign to drown all questioning voices and prepare the ground for a chauvinistic and communal presentation of history and culture.

In a statement on Saturday, the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT) said the “surrender” of the publisher in an out-of-court settlement, which involves the withdrawal of Prof. Doniger’s book ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’ and the pulping of its copies, has rightly “aroused much disquiet.”

The statement has been signed by Irfan Habib, C P Chandrasekhar, Mridula Mukherjee, M K Raina, Ram Rahman, Jayati Ghosh, Zoya Hasan among others.

“The event has, however, a still more sinister aspect. It is, clearly an early salvo in the renewed campaign to drown all questioning voices and prepare the ground for a full-fledged chauvinistic and communal presentation of our history and culture with no quarter allowed to dissenting voices,” the SAHMAT statement said.

“The next step, as some newspaper reports already suggest, is to extend the net of censorship and use government machinery, wherever available, to extend to school and college textbooks the same kind of misinformation, chauvinistic claims and denigration of other religions and cultures that we had seen during the past BJP-led regime at the centre,” it said.

“It is, therefore, necessary not only to condemn what has happened in regard to the ‘Hindus, an Alternative History’, especially the pusillanimity of the publisher, but also to redouble our vigilance in regard to what is still to come,” Sahmat said.

Meanwhile, author and journalist Siddharth Varadarajan tweeted that he along with Jyotirmaya Sharma “have asked Penguin to pulp our books and revert copyright so we can deal with any would-be bullies on our own terms.”

In his letter to Penguin, Mr. Varadarajan said he found “most unconvincing”, the statement released by the publisher that said it was taking the decision to withdraw the book as it has a moral responsibility to protect its “employees against threats and harassment“.

“As an author I no longer have the confidence that Penguin will stand by my book ‘Gujarat: The Making of a Tragedy’ published by you in 2002 — in the event that some group or individual should decide to demand that it be withdrawn because they feel it violates (Section) 295,” Mr. Varadarajan said.

He asked the publisher to cancel the contract and pulp all remaining copies of his book and revert copyright for the book “so that I may freely distribute it electronically without the fear of any future arbitrary withdrawal by Penguin in the face of pressure from the sort of intellectual bullies who have managed to have their way with Prof Doniger’s book.”

Previously this week, Booker Prize winning author Arundhati Roy had written an open letter to Penguin asking it to explain “what is it that scared you so? Have you forgotten who you are? You are part of one of the oldest, grandest publishing houses in the world.”

Members of the Indian chapter of PEN international, a writers group, have also released a statement.

“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,” said members of the PEN All-India Centre in Mumbai and the PEN Delhi Centre.

“We do not know why Penguin took the decision and expect the publisher to be transparent about the circumstances in which it made the decision, which comes at a time when Indian publishers have faced waves of threats from litigants, vigilante groups, and politicians,” it said.

It pointed out that previously author Siddharth Deb’s book “The Beautiful and The Damned” was published without its first chapter because of a lawsuit and Bloomsbury India had withdrawn from circulation Jitender Bhargava’s book, “The Descent of Air India“.

“Sahara Group is suing Tamal Bandyopadhyay, author of ’Sahara: The Untold Story.’ Foreign publishers have not distributed an English translation of ‘The Red Saree,’ a book loosely based on Sonia Gandhi’s life,” the statement said.

Stressing that they are committed to free speech and expression it said, “The removal of books from our bookshops, bookshelves, and libraries, whether through state-sanctioned censorship, private vigilante action, or publisher capitulation are all egregious violations of free speech that we shall oppose in all forms at all times.”

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I dare Ms.Doniger to write or publish any material like the one whe
has written about Islam or the Prophet.
Hinduism has respected even Atheists, but will not tolerate those
whose aim is to ridicule some of the high tenets of our Dharma.
This trash need not have been banned as banning increases piracy
and greater circulation.Let people read it and throw it into the
nearest sewer.

from:  subbanarasu Divakaran
Posted on: Feb 17, 2014 at 00:34 IST

I see the Hindu Taliban has come out of the woodwork. Hi guys!
One, The Hindu should not worry about its readership. The quality of
writing one gets here is much better than that in other garish and
flippant publications. My nation has evolved enough to generate a
reasonably wide reader base to sustain your publication.
Two, Ms Doniger has not studied Christianity or Islam or even her own
Judaism. She has written a book based on her studies and the matter
ends there. She is not interested on half-baked claptrap as is on
display here.
Three, the only serious point of contention has been totally reversed
here. That a work that may be perceived to portray any other religion
(Christianity or Islam)(or even state enterprises or politicians) in a
poor light is easily banned - that is what must be protested against.
Not individual books on Hinduism.
Four, Dr Habib is an INDIAN doyen of history. That he has protested
against Penguin's decision should be enough for the "Evil West"
brigade.

from:  Ari G
Posted on: Feb 15, 2014 at 22:52 IST

A copy of letter sent to Prof. Doniger:
02/14/14

Dear Prof. Doniger:

When your controversial Book on “Hinduism” came out few years ago, we were in touch—I wrote to you and you have promptly sent me a response.
Now, your Book is withdrawn in India—I did not read your Book, but based on the article (below which I copied from another article in today’s NYT), I know you and the rest of the People (including most in India) missed the boat or should we say ‘goofed’.
So, I think it is a good idea that your Book is withdrawn—in fact, all such Books, including the Bible, Koran, and Marx red-book etc… must be withdrawn. And, I know they will be sooner or later as we approach the End of Time.
In that context, may I draw your attention to the attached cover page of a Book: god-Isvar? If you like to read this simple Book written to the benefit of a 7th grader to a confused-scientist, please go to Amazon.com Kindle store. You will find an eBook (free pages) to get the gist.

from:  Mikki
Posted on: Feb 15, 2014 at 18:37 IST

When I graduated from College and then went to Law studies and MBA
from US, I thought I was all "modern" and all-knowing. All those
desis, especially villagers and those practicing pooja were backward
and I was modern because I looked down upon them. After almost 50
years in US, going to church for 30 years and spending almost 50 years
with great American "successful"friends almost all my free time and
continuously getting unsolicited advice from all that Hinduism is
great but its essential part of multi-dimensional worshipping should
be changed - to Western way of religion. It should like "what we do in
the west". That is the secular belief. People who read a lot and
comprehend little have lost any influence on me. I believe Ms. Doniger
has continued to carry the same song. Translating scriptures is not
the same as understanding it. Be an expert by living before starting
to advice. I am tired of listening to this old song that Desi is not
as good as "what I say" displays nothingness.

from:  niranjan
Posted on: Feb 15, 2014 at 17:39 IST

When I graduated from College and then went to Law studies and MBA
from US, I thought I was all "modern" and all-knowing. All those
desis, especially villagers and those practicing pooja were backward
and I was modern because I looked down upon them. After almost 50
years in US, going to church for 30 years and spending almost 50 years
with great American "successful"friends almost all my free time and
continuously getting unsolicited advice from all that Hinduism is
great but its essential part of multi-dimensional worshipping should
be changed - to Western way of religion. It should like "what we do in
the west". That is the secular belief. People who read a lot and
comprehend little have lost any influence on me. I believe Ms. Doniger
has continued to carry the same song. Translating scriptures is not
the same as understanding it. Be an expert by living before starting
to advice. I am tired of listening to this old song that Desi is not
as good as "what I say" displays nothingness.

from:  niranjan
Posted on: Feb 15, 2014 at 17:32 IST
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