Penguin to withdraw, destroy controversial book on Hinduism

Penguin to withdraw, destroy controversial book on Hinduism

All copies of "The Hindus: An Alternative History", authored by noted American scholar and indologist Wendy Doniger, will be recalled from India by publisher Penguin within six months and destroyed.

Although there was no official confirmation, there were reports that the publisher agreed to withdraw all unsold copies of the book from India and pulp them, arriving at a settlement with Shiksha Bachao Andolan (SBA) at a Delhi court earlier this month.

In 2011, SBA objected to the contents of the book and filed a civil lawsuit against the publisher, alleging that it had a lot of "inaccuracies and biases" and was full of sexual connotations. It described the book as a "shallow, distorted, non-serious presentation of Hinduism filled with heresies”. Besides the civil suit, two criminal complaints were also filed against the publisher.

According to a copy of the court-backed settlement, leaked on the internet, Penguin agreed to stop publishing or distributing the book, which was described in some reviews as a "vivid reinterpretation of Hinduism."The publisher would ensure withdrawal of all books from the Indian territory within the period specified. It will not sell, distribute or publish it hereafter. In lieu of the undertaking given by Penguin, SBA reportedly agreed to withdraw all civil and criminal cases against the publisher and the writer.

The settlement drew sharp reactions from several quarters. Union Minister Jairam Ramesh described it as an "atrocious decision", holding that the book was "not blasphemous by any means".

"The organisation that demanded Penguin take such action is clearly some Taliban-type outfit. It is distorting and destroying our liberal traditions. I hope Penguin reconsiders its decision and musters courage to tell this outfit off," agencies quoted the minister as saying.

Since the copy of the settlement was leaked online, social media also went viral.
Historian Ramachandra Guha tweeted: "This is deeply disappointing. Penguin should have appealed in a higher court." Political commentator Swapan Dasgupta said the decision made him "very uneasy".

"Ideas and academic studies, however contentious, cannot be handled by censorship," he added. The 800-page book, which was priced at over Rs 700, is already out of stock in popular online shops, but downloadable copies are being circulated on Twitter.

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