The surrender of a major publishing firm (Penguin India) over Professor Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: an Alternative History, in a recent out-of-court settlement that involves the withdrawal of the book and the pulping of its copies, has rightly aroused much disquiet among all circles committed to freedom of speech and respect for scholarly disagreements. 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 misuse of judiciary to browbeat the author or publisher of a book that the bigots do not like is characteristic of the usual Hindutva campaign. 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 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.
D.N. Jha, Archana Prasad, Kesavan Veluthat, K.M. Shrimali, Shireen Moosvi, Utsa Patnaik, Irfan Habib, C.P. Chandrasekhar, Indira Chandrasekhar, Rajiv Gupta, Mihir Bhattacharya, Iqdar Alam Khan, Mridula Mukherjee, Badri Raina, Ramesh Rawat, Prabhat Patnaik, Amar Farooqui, Saira I. Habib, Arjun Dev, Anil Bhatti, Sashi Kumar, Indira Dev, Shakti Kak, M.K. Raina, Atluri Murli, Zoya Hasan, J.M. Parakh, Anil Sadgopal, Ram Rahman Madhu Prasad, Jayati Ghosh, Sohail Hashmi, Ranbir Chakraborty, Dr. P.K. Shukla Girish, Mishra Madan, Gopal Singh, Dr. Vishva Mohan Jha, Ashok Rao, Dr. Lata Singh, Mukul Dubey, Parthiv Shah, Vivan Sundaram, Dr. Biswamoy Pati, R.C. Thakaran, R. Mahalakshmi, Dr. Rakesh Batabyal