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Updated: February 16, 2014 11:07 IST

Streisand effect on Doniger’s book

S. R. Praveen
Comment (10)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
The Hindus: An Alternative History
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The Hindus: An Alternative History

It was just about a decade ago that American pop singer Barbra Streisand sued a photographer for publishing a picture of her new villa by the California coastline. The move, aimed at suppressing the picture, backfired, and lakhs of people ended up seeing it as copies were widely circulated on the Internet. Since then, the phrase ‘Streisand effect’ has come to denote any action that sets off consequences opposite to what is intended.

Civil suit

This lesson seems to have been lost on those who get offended by books, films, and other works of art, and try to take them out of circulation.

The latest group to set off the ‘Streisand effect’ is the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samithi, a right-wing fringe group, which filed a civil suit and two criminal complaints against Wendy Doniger’s ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History,’ which led to the publisher Penguin agreeing to recall pending copies of the book and pulp it.

The decision to pulp has set off a mad rush for the book, with book stores and libraries in the city receiving several enquiries.

“When news first spread online on Tuesday about the publisher recalling the book, we started receiving calls from customers. The few remaining copies were sold off in a few hours. In the past two days, we have received more than 50 enquiries. We have sourced 20 copies of the book from some other sources, and sold them. More will be sold in the coming days,” says the owner of a city book shop on condition of anonymity.

The individual books are neatly packed in brown covers, and customers are specifically asked not to open them inside the shop. It is also not ‘officially’ billed.

The controversy has also generated demand for other books by Doniger, with ‘On Hinduism’ published by Aleph also being sold off.

“I have reserved a physical copy of ‘The Hindus’ at a bookstore. From what I have read of ‘On Hinduism,’ I don’t understand why anyone would have a problem with her open-minded and non-offensive approach,” says G. Rahul, employee of a public sector bank.

“The publisher had recalled the book a few days before the decision was made public. If only we had known of this, we would have stocked some more,” says another book shop owner.

The Public Library, though, is yet to witness a rush for reservations. All the three copies of the book are out on circulation.


e-books and pdf versions of the book are being shared widely on social networks and online forums.

“I have downloaded the e-book version from a link which was shared on Facebook. The link has now become inactive, so I have circulated the e-book among my friends,” says Joseph Antony, a postgraduate student.

More than the fringe groups and their supporters (who will always be there, and need to be heard in a democracy), my concern is with our judiciary and its lack of common sense.

from:  Krishna V V
Posted on: Feb 17, 2014 at 22:55 IST

It is scary the way the phrase "right-wing fringe group" is thrown around without any evidence of it. It is scare tactic utilized by left wingers to advance their cause much like McCarthyism label of "communist" or communist regime label of "bourgeois" .
This group utilized legal means to achieve their objective. what is wrong with this?

Would these same people forward copies of book and videos on Islam and Christianity that have banned in India?

from:  Meg
Posted on: Feb 17, 2014 at 19:03 IST

This author follows the Americans and so called liberals in calling the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samithi a "right wing fringe group". Any evidence for that? Or is it that these authors do not have to provide evidence for whatever they say?
If selling an additional 50 - 100 copies is an achievement, they are welcome to it.
The publishers decided to withdraw the book. The case was settled out of court. Why the fuss?
I suggest that this author and others of his ilk take up this issue and take the case further. Let the courts decide.
I have not read the book and do not propose to do so. The noise being created on this issue is too much.
Is it too much to expect a paper like The Hindu to stop wasting space on this non-issue?

from:  venkatasubramani
Posted on: Feb 17, 2014 at 16:51 IST

I am starting a "Hamae Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samithi Se Bachao Samithi"

from:  Sharath
Posted on: Feb 17, 2014 at 12:08 IST

I feel the Streisand effect will not manifest here. Because, although the book has become a subject of intense discussion, it remains unviable and unsold, leaving Penguin and Doniger at only a loss and nothing to benefit from. Secondly, the subject matter of the text being narrowly confined to criticism of one particular religion, is not really of public interest to Indian society at large.

But will this incident have a salutary side effect of bringing a more intense focus on India's laws on free speech ? From the discussions in the media, that doesn't seem to be happening either. The fact that Doniger misrepresents these provisions as 'Indian laws protecting Hinduism from criticism' (while the law itself protects all religions equally) brings out a certain bias in Doniger and doesn't help.

Criminalization of speech when no crime has been exhorted or persuaded or induced, is bad law. That needs to be corrected. Clearly, this book will not be the last test case.

from:  Kumar
Posted on: Feb 17, 2014 at 07:30 IST

"The individual books are neatly packed in brown covers, and customers are
specifically asked not to open them inside the shop. It is also not ‘officially’ billed."

Sounds like the way revolutionary literature proscribed by the Raj was circulated in
the early-mid 20th century!! Not sure why my jaw dropped!
I love you wingnuts for raising the flag atop mount infamy, unless it is a secret
conspiracy to recycle paper!!
Saffron brigade tries to greenwash white paper leaving people going blue: Couldn't
find a better summary!!

from:  Harish
Posted on: Feb 17, 2014 at 01:18 IST

Nice marketing gimmic to sell more books!

from:  P.S.Haridas
Posted on: Feb 16, 2014 at 20:44 IST

Those who are supporting Doniger are either anti-Hindu or have never read those books, which are vulgar to say the least. Of course these are designed to insult Hinduism and the Hindus by a Catholic-Jew.

from:  D.Bose
Posted on: Feb 16, 2014 at 19:57 IST

O, reporter--you made a good point "controversy generates interest". But, you missed a point--the readers, unless already brain-washed like this guy ["I don’t understand why anyone would have a problem with her open-minded and non-offensive approach,” says G. Rahul], hopefully read that Book more critically and able to find out what Doniger likes, the soldiers of the Jew, are up to--make Hindu feel inferior and destroy. They could destroy almost everyone on the earth, and have been trying to do the same with this Hindu for over 10,000 years--what is the matter with the Hindu we are not able to destroy, totally?
That is the issue, here--stupid?

from:  Mikki
Posted on: Feb 16, 2014 at 18:24 IST

May also interest a few readers- Scattered Fates, a novel on the second partition of
India, which is making waves online because it is a free digital download. Do search
google for the title.

from:  C D Singh
Posted on: Feb 16, 2014 at 15:59 IST
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