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.
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.
Penguin’s decision to recall the book has triggered a mad rush for it