Amid reports from Bangalore that Aleph Book Company had pulled out American Indologist Wendy Doniger’s book On Hinduism from book shops in the city, the publishing house on Wednesday denied knowledge of any such instruction being issued.
In a statement, Aleph Book Company and partner Rupa Publications said: “We are not aware of any such thing except that we are looking forward to the right resolution of the situation.” The statement is the first and only official word that has come out of the publishing house after Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti (SBAS) on Saturday gave Aleph Book Company time till March 10, 2014 to withdraw the book from India and pulp all copies.
In a statement following the news reports from Bangalore, SBAS said it would not abandon its planned course of action unless the publishing house gave a written undertaking that the book would be withdrawn from the Indian market and all copies pulped.
Though the statement in the afternoon cleared the air for now, bookshops in Delhi said they anticipated a fate similar to Ms. Doniger's Penguin publication The Hindus: An Alternative History awaited On Hinduism.
In the first fortnight of February, Penguin had agreed to withdraw all copies of The Hindus from the Indian market and pulp them in an out-of-court settlement with SBAS which had moved the court against the book on grounds of “distortion” aimed at “denigrating Hindu traditions”.
Ever since the controversy over the Penguin book, On Hinduism has occupied pride of place in the show windows of book stores. And, there has been an upswing in takers for the book as its withdrawal appears imminent. Ms. Doniger is an Indologist with The University of Chicago Divinity School and has penned several books on Hinduism including Siva: The Erotic Ascetic, and Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India.
Though Penguin withdrew her book, Ms. Doniger was full of praise for the publishing house for defending the book in court for four years, both as a civil and a criminal suit. “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 Other publishers have just quietly withdrawn other books without making the effort that Penguin made to save this book.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...” she had said in her statement.
On the latest row over her book brought out by Aleph Book Company in 2013 and whether there were similar threats to her other two books on Hinduism with Penguin, Ms. Doniger’s reply to queries from The Hindus was: “Penguin and Aleph are considering what to do next. No decisions so far.”