Penguin India’s Betrayal of its Authors and Readers
I was shocked to read that Penguin India has capitulated to a lawsuit charging that University of Chicago scholar Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus; An Alternative History should be withdrawn from print (see the New York Times coverage here). Doniger is a prominent and sympathetic scholar of Hinduism whose works include the best (partial) translation of the Rig Veda published in the last century.
After four years of litigation pushed by Hindu fundamentalists, Penguin India voluntarily agreed to cease publication, and will most likely destroy unsold copies of Doniger’s book.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Doniger’s book was targeted under a section of the Indian penal code that prohibits “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs,” (Tribune article here). That the courts should entertain for these long years the premise that Doniger’s scholarship constitutes a “malicious act” that is “intended to outrage” speaks extremely poorly of their interest in allowing competing but well-intentioned versions of history to be told.
Today I stand with Wendy Doniger, as should all people everywhere who love free expression and the pursuit of truth, and call on Penguin India to reverse their disgraceful decision. For shame, Penguin India.