Pulping Doniger Can Put Penguin in Peril

It was with great anger and sadness that many readers in India heard yesterday of Penguin Books India’s decision to enter into an out-of-court settlement with a group of busy-bodies led by one Dina Nath Batra of the so called ‘Shiksha Bachao Andolan’ (Save Education Movement) – one of the many poisonous heads of the RSS hydra – to recall and pulp all extant copies of Wendy Doniger’s “The Hindus: An Alternative History” (Penguin India, 2009).

Dina Nath Batra (infamous for leading the campaign that led to the withdrawal of A.K. Ramanujan’s essay on the Ramayana from the Delhi University syllabus) and others, through their advocate, one Monika Arora, had filed a suit in a Saket, New Delhi against Wendy Doniger (whom they address, as ‘You, Noticee’) and Penguin Books on the grounds that Doniger’s book offends their religious sentiments.

As of now, the court has neither pronounced a verdict in the matter, nor has the trial been widely reported in the media. We do not even know whether the judge district court has made any pronouncements during the course of the trial. If he or she has indeed passed a prohibitory order, then the thing to do would be to immediately challenge such an order in a higher court. The book has neither been banned, nor censored, nor proscribed by any authority in this country. (And were it to be banned, proscribed or censored, in any manner, it would also amount to a serious blow to the freedom of expression and enquiry, that would need to be rigorously challenged on its own terms, but that, in fact, is not yet the case.)

What we do know is that Dina Nath Batra, represented by advocate Monika Arora, had sent Wendy Doniger, Penguin Books USA and Penguin Books India a legal notice on the 3rd of February, 2010. This legal notice is available on the website of the Shiksha Bachao Andolan and contains the following gems :

That the entire list of the books authored by YOU NOTICEE shows that YOU NOTICEE   concentrate, focus and write on the negative aspects and evil practices prevalent in Hinduism. That the words used by YOU NOTICEE for referring to various Hindu Gods are highly objectionable.

…the approach of YOU NOTICEE has been jaundiced, your approach is that of a woman hungry of sex.

…That YOU NOTICEE at page 667 have denigrated Ramayana too and have stated  that political use of Ramayana is to make India free of Muslims and Christians and any Others. That YOU NOTICEE have further written that:

“Repressive telling of the myth use the mythological moment of Ram-raj [Rama’s reign] as an imagined India that is free of Muslims and Christians and any others, in the hope of restoring India to the Edenic moment of the Ramayana.”

That YOU NOTICEE has hurt the religious feelings of millions of Hindus by declaring that Ramayana is a fiction.

“Placing the Ramayan in its historical contexts demonstrates that it is a work of fiction, created by human authors, who lived at various times……….” (P.662)

This breaches section 295A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

That YOU NOTICEE- the author, the University and the Publisher (Penguin, USA and Penguin, India) should be concerned that they are creating and spreading pornographic and hate literature while defaming the Hindus and Hinduism.

That the University of Chicago should be aware and cautions in allowing an author to spread pornography and hate literature in the University. The author, University and the Publisher alike are accountable to the law as well as to the Society. This book is a disgrace on the academic reputation of the University of Chicago.

That YOU NOTICEEs by the aforesaid book have intended to cause fear and alarm among the Hindus that their religion and religious beliefs are not safe any more and can be trampled with and denigrated, distorted & insulted and hence  you have intended to induce and incite them to commit offences against the State and against Public Tranquility.

The legal notice cherry picks fragments and passages from the book, (all of which are backed by authoritative textual citation by Wendy Doniger) to try and foist as valid its own simple minded and puritanical interpretation of the Hindu canon on those who have read or might yet want to read the book. As someone who has deeply enjoyed reading this book, it does not bother me at all that some imbeciles might have one or several bones to pick with it. What bothers me is that they are using a language of threat to prevent other readers who might want to read the book from accessing it.

Even a cursory reading of the language of this legal notice would demonstrate that it is neither backed by scholarly understanding, nor by common sense, and that all that it stands on is the implicit threat contained in the last extract – that if the author and the publishers do not give in to their disgusting demands, the people that  Shiksha Bachao Andolan defines as ‘Hindus’ will “commit offences against the State and against Public Tranquility”.

In other words, Dina Nath Batra is saying to Doniger and Penguin something that simply amounts to “Withdraw the Book, or else face the consequences of OUR criminal misconduct.” Which definition of the rule of law would ever take such a low threat seriously ?

And yet, Penguin Books has found it fit to (surreptitiously) crawl and obey the purely fascist and criminal diktat of the so called Shiksha Bachao Andolan. Whatever compulsions Penguin Books may offer in defense of its disgusting behavior, there can be no denying the fact that their action is an affront and insult to their readers and constitutes, in itself, a serious assault on the freedom of expression, scholarship and enquiry in this country.

Readers also have sentiments, and our sentiments can also be hurt, and we too can mobilize on the basis of the injury we perceive to our consciousness and intelligence. We can do so without threatening to commit crimes. Perhaps it is time we did this with as much passion as our adversaries, who generally tend to be men of faith (of all faiths, as is evident from the fact that the animus of Hindu fundamentalists against Wendy Doniger is no different from the prejudice by Muslim fundamentalists against Salman Rushdie or Taslima Nasreen). But what publishers who kow tow to the demands of fundamentalist goons forget is that for us readers too, there are some things that are sacred. One of the things that is sacred to me, for instance, is the right to read a book, any book, undisturbed by busybodies, particularly those infected by the halitosis of religious zeal. If you do not like a book, or an author, by all means write and publish your own tract against it, and shout as loud as you like from your pulpit, but do not dare to take away from me my right to read what I want to.

I particularly like reading books about religion and sacred traditions. All religions, all traditions. Because, despite being an unbeliever, I find a great deal to recommend in taking religion, religious behavior, religious texts and myth seriously as a source of understanding the nature of our histories, cultures and the fabric of our social life. One of my favorite authors when it comes to books about religion and myth , particularly about the religion and beliefs of some of my ancestors, is the Mircea Eliade Professor of Religion at Chicago University, Wendy Doniger. I have a steadily growing collection of her writing, within which, her magisterial book ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’ is in some ways the centre-piece. I turn to its more than seven hundred pages often in my effort to understand the world in which I live, and the traditions that I usually resist, sometimes admire for their poetic grandeur and visionary majesty, and that often try to lay claim on me.

I have recently been trying, for instance, to spend some time in trying to understand what appears to be the sudden upsurge of racism in our society. First a racist Minister in Delhi’s AAP government leads an attack on African women, and then we witness what seems to be a cascading series of assaults on young people from the North East in Delhi. Is this a new phenomenon, or does it point to the persistence of something far more disturbing?

In this case, reading Doniger’s “The Hindus: An Alternative History” has been helpful to me in thinking about some of the sources of racial prejudice in our society. (Just as it has been helpful to me in thinking, in completely different ways  and in other contexts, about how the relationship between say, human beings and nature, especially animals, or between the rigor-mortis of rules and the life-breath of contingencies, has been expressed by some of the many Hindu traditions that Doniger cites and encounters with abundant attention and affection.)

But let us return, momentarily to the question of racism, the color line, and aspects of the broad Hindu canon and see whether a book that is rich in detail about things written and thought of hundreds of years ago can still be of contemporary relevance.  Here is an extended quotation (pgs. 286-287) from ‘Dharma in the Mahabharata’ – the 11th Chapter in the roughly 780 page long manuscript of ‘The Hindus” An Alternative History’. Here are Doniger’s own words, which I offer for your consideration as an example of her scholarship, and her method.

The Mahabharata both challenges and justifies the entire class structure. The word for “class” (varna) here begins to draw upon the meaning of “color”. In the course of one of the long discussions of dharma, one sage says to another, “Brahmins are fair (white), Kshatriyas ruddy (red), Vaishyas sallow (yellow) and Shudras dark (black).” The adjectives can denote either skin color or the four primary colours that are symbolically associated with the four classes as well as with the tree qualities of matter plus yellow (saffron? ocher?) for the transcendent fourth of spirit. IN one passage, someone asks a series of questions that show us something of the perceived need, at this time, newly to justify the (mis) treatment of the lower classes:

The Origin of Class Colors

“If different cools distinguish classes among the four classes, how is it that there is a mixture of colors in all classes? Desire, anger, fear, greed, sorrow, worry, hunger and exhaustion affect all of us. How then are the classes distinguished? Sweat, urine, feces, phlegm, mucus and blood flow out of all out bodies. How then are the classes distinguished? And how can you tell one class  from another among all the species (sati) of the countless creatures, moving and still, that have such various colors?” The sage replied: “Actually, there is no difference between the classes; the whole universe is made of brahman. But when the creator emitted it long ago, action/karmas divided it into classes. Those Brahmins who were fond of enjoying pleasures, quick to anger and impetuous in their affections abandoned their own dharmas and became Kshatriyas, with red bodies. Those who took up herding cattle and engaged in plowing, and did not follow their own dharmas, became yellow Vaishyas. And those who were greedy and fond of violence (hinsa) and lies, living on all sorts of activities, fallen from purity, became black Shudras. And that’s how these actions/karmas split off the Brahmans into a different class, for there were never any interruption of their dharma and their sacrificial rituals (12.181.5-14).

The implication is that in the beginning, everyone had not only the same general makeup (the Shylock argument: Cut us and we bleed) and the same general dharma of good behavior, but the same sva-dharma, “one’s own dharma,” the particular dharma of each class (and later, each caste), and tha the primeval sva-dharma was the sva-dharma of the Brahmins: maintaining dharma and sacrificial rituals. But then each of the other classes voluntarily took up other activities – the Kshatriyas indulged in pleasure and anger (a contradiction of the earlier statement that we all share these emotions), the Vaishyas in commerce and the Shudras in violent and unclean professions – leaving the Brahmins alone in possession of their original dharma that had been meant for everyone, that had been intended as, in effect, the common (sadharana) dharma.

Krishan’s declaration to Arjuna in the Gita that “it is better to do your own duty poorly than another’s well”, ( echoed in Manu [10.97] ) ignored the fact that Arjuna’s own duty as a warrior would forever doom him to relative inferiority vis-a-vis Brahmins whose sva-dharma just happened to conform with the universal dharma that dictated non-violence. Here is the catch-22 that Manu perpetuates: the hierarchically superior prototype is also the generalizable archetype. Although, in reality, power was largely in the hands of the rulers, the Brahmin imaginary relegated the violent ruler to a place inferior to that of the nonviolent prototype – the Brahmin.

The conversation about the colors thus brings the argument about equality into the open – where it must have been at this time, when various social barriers were being challenged – but the old argument from creation comes to the rescue, and thus the class differences are affirmed in new ways. Now the class system is not created ab initio, by the gods, as in the Vedic “Poem of the Primeveal Man” ; now it results from bad karmic choices of the classes themselves. Its their own damn fault. This is a major transition from authoritative decree to apologia.

The NISHADS

The four classes were the central concern of a broader social agenda that included (by excluding) both Pariahs (even lower than the Shudras) and tribal people, epitomized by the Nishads. A typically cold-blooded disregard for the Nishads is evident in a story told early in the Mahabharata.

The House of Lac

When the Pandavas were still young, and living with their mother, Kunti, their enemies tricked them into staying in a highly combustible house made of lac (a kind of natural resin ) which they intended to burn. Yudhishthira decided that they should put six people in the house, set fire to it, and escape. Kunti held a feast to which she invited a hungry Nishad woman and her five sons. The Nishadas got drunk and remained after the other guests had left; the Pandavas set fire to the house and escaped, and when the townspeople found the charred remains of the innocent Nishada woman and her five sons, they assumed that the Pandavas were dead (1.134-37)

Only the single word “innocent” (“without wrongdoing” [1.137.7] )suggests the slightest sympathy for the murdered Nishadas. They are sacrificial substitutes, whom the author of the text treats as expendable because he regards them as subhuman beings. Perhaps their drunkenness (one of the four addictive vices of lust) is meant to justify their deaths.

I offer this lengthy quotation to the reader’s consideration in order to demonstrate how vital it is to undertake serious critical readings of traditional and faith inspired textual material. While contemporary racism in Indian society may have many reasons and causal factors, it cannot be denied that it ties into traditions that underpin caste, which in turn has a direct relationship with a reading of people’s bodies, of skin color and physiognomies in a ritualized setting. This is why, reading Doniger, and other scholars like her strikes me as a vital necessity. And it is this vital necessity, crucial for healthy discussion and debate in our society that Penguin India has just undermined with its totally unforgivable decision to pulp Doniger’s book.

Perhaps Penguin India believes that by acting as it has done, it has saved its property (material and intellectual) from damage by fascist thugs.  The people who man the legal and corporate benches in large publishing houses are usually idiots. Their decisions are rarely based on actual market research. They do not know the pulse of readers. They only pretend to do so, and they most certainly never read the books that they promote or suppress with their decisions. I know for a fact that they also habitually intimidate the smart people who actually commission books and do the hard work of real publishing.

I am sure the scenario in Penguin is not very different from what I have sketched out here. Some jackass on the legal and/or marketing/finance team that Penguin relies on has probably brokered an out of court settlement (which has no basis in law)  with a sleazy Hindu fundamentalist extortion racket. Consequently, an impeccably wise editorial decision (to publish Doniger in the first place) has had to take a beating. In all probability this has been done in the name of protecting the company’s best interests.

But what if, in effect, by doing this, Penguin India has just effectively made itself vulnerable to the possibility of a really damaging readers rebellion? Would that be in the company’s best interests?

What if I, and the countless others like me who love books, (especially Penguin books) and buy Penguin books, simply decide to no longer offer it our business?

What if, disgusted by Penguin’s decision to patronize mediocre chick-lit, inane self-help books and other banalities, and its disturbing willingness to crawl in front of fascist thugs when it comes to the matter of un-publishing the kind of titles that many of us have hitherto been loyal Penguin readers for, we simply refuse to buy any more Penguin titles, or buy far fewer than we would otherwise?

What if we, readers, persuade first class authors, new writers and scholars to simply no longer take their manuscripts to Penguin and its ancillaries?

What if an effective consumer boycott of Penguin India titles (that spreads virally through social media platforms) makes its business model falter, and ultimately crash ?

What if, instead of gate-crashing Penguin book launches, eager and really passionate readers simply desert and stop attending events organized by Penguin altogether ? What if reviewers began ignoring Penguin titles ? What if they began falling off best seller charts, and began being stocked on bottom shelves, and in the back of book stores ?

All of this could happen just as easily, and over a much longer period, (if even a few highly motivated readers with wide-spread social media influence got really angry) as the imagined harm that would occur if a few thugs were to gather in front of the Penguin India office and shout a few cheap slogans, and maybe smash a couple of windows before they were whisked off by a few police constables for tea and a few hours of detention (for breach of peace) to the Hauz Khas police station. And believe me, the consequences of prolonged (and exponentially scalable) reader and consumer apathy is far more damaging, fiscally speaking, than the possible cost of a few smashed windows.

If those who run Penguin India have not yet lost all their marbles, they can still argue their case against Dina Nath Batra in court, and prevail on the law to act against any attempt to intimidate all those who stand by the freedom of expression, scholarship and enquiry. Actually, it is really easy. All Penguin India needs to do straight away is to cancel their out of court settlement (which, as I have said already, has no legal basis, and is indefensible) and order an immediate reprint of Wendy Doniger’s ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’. If my estimate is correct, (and judging  by the increasing number of attempts to  download the book’s pdf’s) under the present circumstances, it would be an immediate best seller, and the smart people in editorial might still show the idiots in legal and marketing that they actually know what the business end of publishing really means.

Were this to happen, then Penguin India will have rightfully won their place in ‘Publishing: An Alternative History’. if on the other hand, good sense does not ultimately prevail, Penguin India may lose their market share and their claim to history. The choice is theirs. Dina Nath Batra will continue to peddle his hate and idiocy anyway, it is up to Penguin India to decide what it has on offer.

123 thoughts on “Pulping Doniger Can Put Penguin in Peril”

  1. Why not you write a blog on lazza of taslima nasreen and worship of false god they are also banned. The book which written on hate platform against Hindus religious are real way of freedom of expression and those books in which any body write about any other religion is communal what thought like of you writers answer me

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    1. Vishal Sharma, actually, I have written earlier on Kafila about Taslima Nasreen, and the then CPI(M) led West Bengal Government’s absolutely shameless capitulation before Muslim Fundamentalists – see.

      The Sword and the Monk’s Cowl: Curfew in Kolkata
      http://kafila.org/2007/11/21/the-sword-and-the-monk-s-cowl-curfew-in-kolkata/

      I see, that like most angry Hindus who want to ban books, you too, are low on the kind of research you do before shooting off your mouth.

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          1. I fail to see the parallel. El Sari Rojo exists in Spanish and Portugese editions, and has not been pulped in response to any letter by Abhishek Manu Singhvi. You can buy the book from amazon and flipkart sitting in India. No one has so far published the book either in English or in any Indian language in India. Were the book to be published in India, and were the publishers to pulp the book in response to a legal notice sent by Abhishek Manu Singhvi, (as happened for instance, recently with another book on Air India) then it would be a different matter. That would be definitely worthy of condemnation. Anyone (including book haters like Dina Nath Batra or Abhishek Manu Singhvi) is free to send anyone(including Penguin) a legal notice on any matter(including the contents of Wendy Doniger’s book/s). It is whether or not you act on the legal notice that makes it an issue that is worthy or otherwise of condemnation. I hope I have made myself clear.

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    2. Mr Vishal Sharma, this is not a anti Hindu or anti Muslim issue, but if you wish to protest against banning of Lajja go ahead and do it.
      Why ask this writer to prove his credentials this way.?

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  2. Thank you, Shuddhabrata Sengupta.

    “All Penguin India needs to do straight away is to cancel their out of court settlement (which, as I have said already, has no legal basis, and is indefensible)…”

    Can a third party, namely a hapless ordinary reader appeal for relief in this matter? While publishers are well within their rights to withdraw books they have put out, surely, in this particular case in which it has been done through an agreement that is now near universal knowledge, some sort of intervention is possible?

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    1. This is an interesting proposition; so, let me hazard an answer, although, I must admit that this may not be the definitive position in law.

      Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution guarantees the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression as a Fundamental Right. This right not only guarantees freedom to disseminate information but also the right to receive them.

      However, Law as a system functions within a matrix called the Jural Correlatives. One of them, is the Right → Duty correlative. It essentially means that for every Right granted to one person there is a concomitant and corresponding Duty entrusted upon another to acknowledge and safeguard that Right.

      In the case of Fundamental Rights the corresponding duty of safeguarding them as per Article 12 lies with the State. So, if there is any violation of Fundamental Rights by the acts of a body not considered to be State, then sadly as per existing law, there is no provision for approaching any High Court or the Supreme Court. It would have been, though, a different story had the Government imposed a Prior Restraint (Ban) upon the circulation of the Book.

      That being said, the prospective readers may file an Application before the concerned Civil Court where the matter is pending urging the Court to implead them as a party. The Civil Procedure Code does provide the Court the authority under Order 1 Rule10( 2) to implead any party, if it deems it necessary in order to effectually and completely adjudicate upon and settle all the questions involved in the suit. Of course, it shall be entirely upon the discretion of the Court to allow or dismiss any such plea.

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      1. Many thanks, “BOROWED NAME”, for this detailed and informative reply.
        Much appreciated.

        I’d posted a similar query on the facebook wall of the brilliant lawyer, Karuna Nundy and a Mr Sanjeev Prakash said, inter alia “… I am not a lawyer but I am sure the legal brains are considering it. In principle if human rights such as Article 19/21 of the Constitution are being violated any citizen can approach a court with a PIL. But I am not sure in the present SC one can safely predict the fate of such a petition. They are proving to be somewhat conservative on certain issues. And once such a case is lost, much else might be lost on count of principle.
        “…”

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  3. Muslims cried over satanic verses which defamed islam and portrayed Prophet Muhammad (PB UH)in bad light and the book was banned and the the author Rushdie is running for his life. Similarly the book by Wendy Doniger defames Hinduism and it is full of wrong interpretations. We Hindus have also sentiments. We have also rights to demand a ban on such books which portray our religion in bad light. We are kind enough to demand only banning of this books. We are not issuing fatwas to kill the author .If you have so much concern about freedom of speech and expression then you should also demand the lifting of ban against the satanic verses and let Mr Rushdie move to the places where he wants to visit . You only raise the bogey of right to freedom of speech and expression against Hindus, as speaking against Hindus makes you a secular where as if someone is in favor of the satanic verses, he is termed as communal. I know my comment will not be published as it is communal!!!

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    1. Dear Piyush Kumar Paswan, firstly, your comment, despite its crassly communal tone, has been published, primarily because we want to always expose how stupid communal sentiment is. Secondly, a little bit of google searching on your part would have shown you that I have written with equal anger about Muslim Fundamentalists and especially about how they gag freedom of expression, especially in the case of Salman Rushdie and the Satanic Verses. I have done so even on Kafila. see, for instance.

      Satanic Versus Moronic: How Salman Rushdie Lost the UP Election
      http://kafila.org/2012/01/18/satanic-versus-moronic-how-salman-rushdie-lost-the-up-election/

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      1. Do we ever pause and ask the most pertinent question as to why Wendy Doniger’s book is causing interminable discussions, debates and diatribes? The reason is obvious. It has a religion in its core. In other words, it’s based on a religion (read Hinduism). We, irrespective of our respective faiths, are all morbidly obsessed with religion which should have been an anachronism long long ago. It’s the bane of religion that we’re wasting our intelligence on the perceived insult to fabricated gods, deities and a man-made hoary-old religion. It’s not just applicable to Hinduism but to all man-made faiths, viz, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, among others. Mankind must rise above its own concoctions and silly creations. Banish all religions, cults, gods and all that jazz and live peacefully. So long as we remain glued to all bogus religions and gods, we’ll continue to argue and kill others. Humankind needs to grow up. Why can’t we all live as plain human beings sans all religious or ideological labels? What does Mr Sengupta have to say? I’m curious to hear from his end.
        -SUMIT PAUL, Poona

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    2. ohh ..thanks for enlightening me. I believed that you also toed in line with our so called pseudo secular politicians and academicians

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      1. okay..so whoever doesn’t agree with your beliefs has to be delegated by a “so-called” addition,right?And what do you mean by the pseudo-…? Secular alone is not enough.?
        While everyone is entitled to their opinion of a book,(equally hence) no one can rob others from forming their opinions by calling for a book’s ban,however objectionable it may seem to a person at the moment.
        And the added irony of the issue is that due to a few fanatics,the book which
        supposedly shows Hinduism in a poor light will indeed project us so.

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    3. Re: “defames Hinduism” : Actually not. Hinduism is not a natural person nor a legal person. India has no blasphemy laws (correct me if I am wrong).

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  4. You do understand, when books like these come out of academia of “repute”. Some or most of it makes it to school books .Why not read this book to your kids aloud and ask what do they think of it.

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  5. //What if an effective consumer boycott of Penguin India titles (that spreads virally through social media platforms) makes its business model falter, and ultimately crash ?//

    Ofcourse, majority of the Hindus also can boycott the Penguin India titles too. If that call was done by any RSS guy then that too would be called as act against the freedom of speech by the the people right?

    There is no threat of violence neither to the publisher or author. If you can’t stand the court case or answer the questions raised in democratic manner, dont cry a river

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    1. Rajasankar, clearly, like most Internet Hindutva goons, you have not had the patience to read what I have written –

      “Even a cursory reading of the language of this legal notice would demonstrate that it is neither backed by scholarly understanding, nor by common sense, and that all that it stands on is the implicit threat contained in the last extract – that if the author and the publishers do not give in to their disgusting demands, the people that Shiksha Bachao Andolan defines as ‘Hindus’ will “commit offences against the State and against Public Tranquility”.

      In which language does the threat to ‘commit offences against the state and against public tranquility’ which the Shiksha Bachao Andolan is implicitly holding out not constitute a threat of violence. Can one act against ‘public tranquility’ in a non-violent manner?

      If you can mobilize what you call ‘the majority of Hindus’ to boycott Penguin and not buy Penguin books, I have no objection at all. Everyone, you included, has the right NOT to read, and NOT to buy a book. What you DO NOT have the right to do is to tell ME and many OTHERS like me what I/WE should read or purchase.

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      1. Totally agree..fundamental right to read what ever I wish.. no one has the right, even the state I dare say, to tell me what should I read or not read.

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      2. Dear Mr. Sengupta,

        Have you ever written what is happening in middle east, specially in Saudia etc. You people have always been against Hindus and pro muslims. You need to stay in Pakistan and Bengladesh for some time with your family, then you will understand that India is much more safe and liberal.

        We are paying the price of not settling the scores in 1947. Had it happened India would have been a peaceful country, specially without the people like you who are enemy of their own community.

        Donot you remeber 1399 timur’s massacre. You do not remember Nadir attack. You do not remeber the mass executions by mughals and atrocities of Khilzi. Muslims rember the act of Yazid even after 1400 years but you even forget what happened in 1947, 1971 and 1992.

        sharme on you.

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      3. Probably out of line snarky comment: I feel like a far greater subset of secular, sane people are consumers of books than of religious fundamentalists, so I do not know if a boycott by Hindutva zealots would be even half as effective as a boycott by those disappointed by Penguin’s move. Because you know, books make you think, and reason, and empathize, and grow…all those things that would probably not make you a religious fanatic!

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    2. You are naive to expect a logical answer. You will be called a Hindutva goon just for airing your point of view. :) hehe

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  6. //Can one act against ‘public tranquility’ in a non-violent manner? //

    You and your dumb commies dont understand even the so called sit in protests are act against public tranquility right? And taking out a protest rally is also an offense against the state that is why you need to get permission from the police.

    Any protest including all forms of democratic protests disrupts public order , that is the reason it is called protest. May be you should look it up in the dictionary.

    Why you commies dont agitate for removing the so called blasphemy law? You dont you advocate bill equivalent to first amendment in US? Anybody can say anything about anything right?

    Why because that also can be used by RSS too right? That is your fear. You wanted the freedom of speech for you not for others.

    //What you DO NOT have the right to do is to tell ME and many OTHERS like me what I/WE should read or purchase.//

    Change the law, remove the CrPC code that allows any one to sue over a book. Then you can talk about these things. If that is my legal right, I have all the freedom to use it. What you dont have is to tell me not use my legal rights.

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    1. I will tell them that they have a hindu name because i was born to parents who subscribed to a religion like everyone else in this world does – not out of choice but because they are simply born to different faiths. After that , like any other faith , i subscribed to some aspects of the faith and did not to other aspects – i do not have to subscribe to everything my parents did nor think that they are not human beings with their faults and strengths and have a blind faith in everything they do – when my parents who brought up me are human, so are the proponents of any religion i inherit from them. I may or not agree with what is practiced and i will decide over time how i will practice and understand my religion and the good and bad that comes with it.
      I have a hindu name because i would like to believe no one person or no one group has a right to decide what hinduism is or is not about and for me just like most other aspects of life i get implicated in , the fallout of being a hindu comes with both good and bad and i try my best to deal with it. I might not be able to choose the parents, the religion , the family, the country i belong to by birth , but like all other human beings , once i am inducted into society , i will exercise my moral and ethical sense to decide the extent to which i can agree or not agree with what has been handed down to me, try and understand and analyse things and then decide to subscribe to what i agree with, reject what i dont agree with, and work towards changing what does not meet my moral sense and my vision of a good life for myself and others.
      i will tell my child all this and ask him to do the same and give him the full freedom to decide whether he wants to hindu, and the responsibility of coming to his own understanding of what it means to be a hindu and if he wants to be a hindu to decide how and on what terms he wants to be so .

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    2. NOBODY ASKED YOU TO READ/PURCHASE IT !! WHO CARES WHAT YOU READ? what you do not have a right to is also TELL ME WHAT I CAN OR CANNOT PURCHASE OR READ. The point is even though penguin would have won the legal battle ultimately, the threat your so called RSS holds out to OTHERS FREEDOM is what is at stake here and always has been ! and that threat is nowhere morally, logically or physically near any threat any commie has held out . That is why bigots are dangerous – they are intolerant and whether the law is on their side or not, they use all means and create enough nuisance value to achieve their ends . For your kind information – the hindutva literature freely available is full of rabid communal publications which violate all laws but go unchallenged – because ‘commies’ are not threat enough to them – after all,their moral sense , despite all their protests is far more superior- so they do not have to rely on force and implicit threats to curb others freedoms to think for themselves .
      It is hindutva goons who are often so scared and so threatened about the shaky grounds they stand on !! – history is replete with censorship exercised by the religious right , not the commies – because they are cowards after all …
      It is very convenient to first create an atmosphere of fear – and use the threat of lengthy court battles to achieve your ends . Have you read the penguin statement? Thats the difference between ‘goondaism ‘ and ‘protests’ – it is about the moral universe either inhabit – and my moral sense tells me that RSS is the worse offenders in this regard.

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    3. @Rajasankara you are well aware of the fact that “you have intended to induce and incite them to commit offences against the State and against Public Tranquility ” is not the language of protest by ‘ commies’ – hindutva goons have a special monoply on such language, we just cant match them here even if we try to – For because of their moral and intellectual bankruptcy , its actually they who fear being challenged on rigorous, rational and moral grounds and its they who fear debate and discussion, not commies . So its not surprising that such covert threats as well as such dumb lawsuits come together where they are concerned as instruments of intimidation – ,there’s hardly been an equivalent lawsuit against even outright hatred, blind prejudice, venom and stupidity the hindutva brigade is so adept at spewing by us so called ‘commies’ . Trust me , we had many and far more substantive grounds to use the same legal provision against the edifying literature your brigade is so good at spilling out – so where’s the fear here- its just that we cant be bothered to waste time and energy over such peurile stuff !

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  7. Such a huge piece! Even when no book is banned. The publisher decided not to go ahead with it. Batra was offended by the book and took his complaints according to Indian Law and took the publishers to the court. He did not harm the writer, break the shops, burn the books or engage in riots. If you have a problem, instead of writing so much, you could have just gone ahead and filed a petition. I don’t understand what’s stopping you!

    As for the content of the book(yes, I have read it) if you wish to teach your kids how perverted Krishna was(acc to the book), please do so. When your child asks why do you still have a Hindu name, I hope you are able to give a satisfactory answer. Peace.

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    1. Well, if Mr.Batra was offended by it, he could have burned it, couldn’t he? And then, after the public at large had read it and well, in the highly unlikely case of all of them getting offended, they will burn the books, bought with their money and after getting offended themselves. Let me be the judge of what offends me. When did I ever yield the authority of getting offended to some third party. I remain opposed to censorship of any sort. It is not being ‘Left’, it is being rational. And for crying out loud, the entire edifice of Indian philosophy is built on introspection and contrasting opinion. The idea of God in the Upanishads is completely at odds with the idea of God in the early Vedic hymns. And as far as secularism goes, that word has no meaning in this country and it is high time we stop using it. Pluralism is more appropriate, I reckon.

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    2. this is a reply to
      @ sarthak . I will tell them that they have a hindu name because i was born to parents who subscribed to a religion like everyone else in this world does – not out of choice but because they are simply born to different faiths. After that , like any other faith , i subscribed to some aspects of the faith and did not to other aspects – i do not have to subscribe to everything my parents did nor think that they are not human beings with their faults and strengths and have a blind faith in everything they do – when my parents who brought up me are human, so are the proponents of any religion i inherit from them. I may or not agree with what is practiced and i will decide over time how i will practice and understand my religion and the good and bad that comes with it.
      I have a hindu name because i would like to believe no one person or no one group has a right to decide what hinduism is or is not about and for me just like most other aspects of life i get implicated in , the fallout of being a hindu comes with both good and bad and i try my best to deal with it. I might not be able to choose the parents, the religion , the family, the country i belong to by birth , but like all other human beings , once i am inducted into society , i will exercise my moral and ethical sense and humanity to decide the extent to which i can agree or not agree with what has been handed down to me, try and understand and analyse things and then decide to subscribe to what i agree with, reject what i dont agree with, and work towards changing what does not meet my moral sense and my vision of a good life for myself and others.
      i will tell my child all this and ask him to do the same and give him the full freedom to decide whether he wants to be a hindu, and the responsibility of coming to his own understanding of what it means to be a hindu, and if he decides to be a hindu to decide how and on what terms he wants to be so .

      Like

      1. Rekha, how can a name be Hindu or Muslim? A name is a name. I’m afraid, your replies, however intelligent they may appear, clearly show your Hindu bias. At this juncture of human civilization, what we need is: seamless synchronization among all human beings, which’s far greater than any religion, ideology, philosophy or doctrine. We need no religion, no god, no country, no specific territory and no label.
        -SUMIT PAUL, Poona

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        1. Dear sumit, while i almost agree with your sentiments, my purpose in using my hindu identity was different . Personally , i would love to be part of such a seamles synchronisation , but until that moment arrives, we all have to deal with the fact that the identities we possess by virtue of religion, caste, class, nation all come with a set of priviliges and constraints as we get socialised into cohabiting with fellow human beings in our immediate contexts.
          I think under such circumstances, it might be useful to work with identities first , so that we are able to counter arguments which seek to speak on our behalf as Mr. Sarthak above,because we have , say a name recognized as a hindu name by most . It is important to speak out then and say ‘no, i do not believe this is what i want simply because i have a hindu name’ . Also we can choose to be hindus, christians, muslims and yet believe in a common humanity.
          For me a religious or any other identity comes with a set of rules and conventions which socialise us into a community they seek to represent – and i being a member of many such communities , claim my agency to decide the terms on which i participate in such communities on the basis of my ingrained moral and social sense. And i refuse to let anyone question an identity my name may represent because he claims to represent what that identity should make me do or not do. That’s all.

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          1. Thanks Rekha for your lucid reply. You talk about the arrival of that decisive moment. I’m afraid, that’ll never come. Har kaam ki shuruaat apne ghar se karni padti hai. Charity begins at home. Don’t await that moment to come. Take an initiative and rise above all labels. All these labels of caste, class, creed and country are accidents of birth. ‘Main akela hi chala tha jaanib-e-manzil magar/Log aate gaye, karvaan banta gaya,’ Dissolve all your silly identities. I’m an ordinary human being. Yet, I’ve done away with all labels. Today, I’ve no religion, no caste, no country and no specific ideology to fetter myself with. You too can do that. Gather moral courage and break all these silly notions.

            SUMIT PAUL, Poona

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  8. Well you seem like an avid reader to me. I would recommed you read these books also to get a different perspective:
    1) Breaking India
    2) Being Different

    I haven’t read The hindus so can’t comment much on that. The penguin India shouldn’t have gone for out of court settlement; they shoud have fought the case in the court, that way we would have been more aware what exacly is written in the book that people found it offensive.
    But they didn’t do that which leads to two obvious deductions (according to me):
    1) They are afraid of Hindu Fundamentlist
    –> I find that hard to believe Shiksha Bachao Andolan “other head of RSS Hydra” has not issued any Fatwa against Wendy to kill her, I didn’t know about that book. Instead they filed a case in the court, as a responsible civillian would do.
    I mean consider this the most number of Phds on hinduism has been done under Prof,
    Wendy Dolinger.

    http://creative.sulekha.com/risa-lila-1-wendy-s-child-syndrome_103338_blog

    2) They might have found it a losing battle; and didn’t want to go through court; might not put too much light on it.
    –> Hmm…

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  9. To the author, or any one else who understand the relevant law, here is a question. Prof. Doniger says her statement, “They were finally defeated by the true villain of this piece—the Indian law that makes it a criminal rather than civil offense to publish a book that offends any Hindu…” Is that correct? Any Hindu, not any ‘religious’ believer? Is there such a law on the books?

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    1. No, there is no such law on the books, and it is unfortunate that Dr. Doniger says this repeatedly (since the mistake only makes it easier for the fascist mobs of the other side to jump on her). Sections 153A and 295A of the IPC criminalise the “deliberate and malicious attempt” to “outrage” the “religious feelings” of any “section”. It is not a blasphemy law and it is not specific to Hindus, contrary to what Ms. Doniger has said.
      In a court – if Penguin had not been cowards – the question would have arisen as to whether this is in any way “deliberate and malicious” and, more importantly, if mere speech can be criminalised when it does directly incite violence (speech that directly incites violence is criminal in many coutnries, if I’m not mistake), as otherwise criminalising it would be in violation of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. Most likely Penguin would have won, after a long time, of course.

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  10. Wendy Doniger has a long history of writing drivel and inaccurate statements on Hinduism, one example: Holi festival and wearing kumkum by Hindu women signifies violence and thirst for blood innate in Hindu culture. She belongs to a group of Indologist (for example Prof. Cartwright, Prof Witzel) in US who have been engaged in degenerating Hindu faith and culture for decades now. It is a long overdue correction of western ritualistic denigration of Hinduism under the guise of academia. Any serious student of History would just throw this book in a rubbish bin. Do you expect a famous historian, philologist and self-declared Sanskritist delete entire dynasty from the annals of history – she writes – Humanyun reigns 1540-1556. Where is Sur dynasty, which overtook and ruled entire Mughal territory from 1540-1556? I don’t how come this book received Ramnath Goenka Award for the best non-fiction book of 2009-10 – yes, you heard right – Non-Fiction. Given the amount of factual errors and racist rants, I find it no more than a fiction (pulp?). The fact is that the publisher’s decision was the result of a legal process. it was not book burning. In the west several books are banned for containing opinions deemed unacceptable (about WW II for example).

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  11. Thank you, Shuddhabrata. I seldom like using the term “hard-hitting”, but, with respect to this post, I am more than happy to make an exception. You really hit it out of the park, with this one.

    And just a few casual observations:

    First, I really fail to understand this persecution complex most Hindus have these days. This isn’t about hurt sentiments; this is about a crass form of upper class/caste mobilization that seeks to muzzle not just free speech, but any kind of critical, academic autonomy that upsets the status quo.

    By this definition, most of Ambedkar’s writings on caste, untouchability and the hegemonic practices of Hindu society are heretical and should be banned! (Which, if I recollect, did happen – most prominent examples being ‘The Annihilation of Castes’ and ‘Riddles in Hinduism’).

    To quote Ambedkar from the Preface to the 2nd ed. of ‘Annihilation of Castes’, I think, is pertinent in this case:

    “I do not care for the credit which every progressive society must give to its rebels. I shall be satisfied if I make the Hindus realize that they are the sick men of India and that their sickness is causing danger to the health and happiness of other Indians.”

    Second, and I think this is as important an issue, if not more, Penguin’s decision to withdraw the books and pulp the printed copies is, for the lack of a better term, stupid. Although you’ve already explained this more than sufficiently in your post, I’ll proffer another observation. I think the public discourse of this kind of crass, extremist censorship keeps falling back on another kind of persecution model – that of “freedom of speech”, which is rarely understood by a large number of people who throw the term around (reflexively, in the past, I may be accused of the same, but moving on).

    That large, corporate publications, too, have their own insidious agendas on the publication/production, and dissemination of information (through books, journals etc.) is as worrisome – and one, that does not reflect public “outrage”. Here, I am primarily speaking in the context of the Oxford-Cambridge-Taylor & Francis consortium against the photocopying stall outside Delhi School of Economics (of which, I first read here on Kafila).

    More broadly, journal pricing, lack of access to online articles etc., these things are as stifling to academic autonomy and, in the long run, detrimental to nurturing critical thought. And fact that it is just a niche of academics (and under- or fresh-graduate students, like myself) speak out against this is more worrisome – if you speak in terms of which harms critical thought more: street censorship? Or stifling access to academic literature?

    These are just a few thoughts I managed to articulate. Thank you once again, for the post. I look forward to more.

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  12. This is what the book contains. Perhaps backed by scholarly understanding, and by common sense, I suppose. You can read if you like. Accessed from http://www.petitiononline.com/petitions/dharma10/signatures

    SCANDALOUS cover jacket of the book – copy for ready reference at http://www.scribd.com/doc/26565460/Scan-0002

    To:
    Ms. Susan Peterson Kennedy
    President , Penguin Group (USA)
    375 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014, USA

    Mr. Mike Bryan,
    CEO & President, Penguin Books Pvt Ltd.
    11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi 110 017
    India

    Dear Ms. Peterson Kennedy, Mr. Mike Bryan,

    The following is a petition from concerned signatories to the Penguin Group asking for an apology for the publication of the factually incorrect and offensive book The Hindus-An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger. We expect Penguin Group to withdraw the book immediately.

    The Hindus: An Alternative History is rife with numerous errors in its historical facts and Sanskrit translations. These errors and misrepresentations are bound and perhaps intended to mislead students of Indian and Hindu history.

    Throughout the book, Doniger analyzes revered Hindu Gods and Goddess using her widely discredited psychosexual Freudian theories that modern, humanistic psychology has deemed limiting. These interpretations are presented as hard facts and not as speculations. Doniger makes various faulty assumptions about the tradition in order to arrive at her particular spin. In the process, the beliefs, traditions and interpretations of practicing Hindus are simply ignored or bypassed without the unsuspecting reader knowing this to be the case. This kind of Western scholarship has been criticized as Orientalism and Eurocentrism. The non Judeo-Christian faith gets used to dish out voyeurism and the tradition gets eroticized.

    A. FACTUAL ERRORS

    The following are a just a SMALL SAMPLING of examples of the factual errors that run rampant through this disgusting book. By due diligence that is badly overdue from your editors, you can either find for yourself, or we will be glad to direct you to, scholarly references so that you can verify these errors yourself and withdraw this obscenity.

    [Page number precedes a reference to inaccurate statements in the book. This is followed by a comment citing verifiable facts.]

    Maps in front pages: Maps titled Indias Geographical Features and India from 600 CE to 1600 CE
    COMMENT: In the first map, the Waziristan Hills area is marked erroneously as Kirthar Range. The Kirthar Range is at least 200 miles further south. In the third map, Janakpur, Nagarkot, Mandu and Haldighati are marked several hundred miles from their correct geographical location.

    Pg. 67 – It is claimed that the entire Harappan culture had a population of 40,000!
    COMMENT: This is estimated as the population of Mohenjo-Daro alone. The population of the entire culture is estimated around 500,000.

    Pg 112 – Wheat is mentioned as a food item in the Rigvedic period.
    COMMENT: Wheat is not mentioned in the Rigveda at all. It first occurs in the Maitrayani Samhita of the Yajurveda.

    Pg 130 – The author claims that there are no Gods in the Vedas who are Shudras.
    COMMENT: It is anachronistic to assign castes to Rigvedic deities, but nevertheless, Pushan, Vesmapati and others have been considered Shudra deities in later times.

    Pg 194 fn.- Gandhi’s commentary on the Gita (a sacred Hindu scripture) was titled ‘Asakti Yoga’ (translated as the science of deep attachment).
    COMMENT: The title of Gandhis work is ‘Anasakti Yoga’ (trans. Science of non-Attachment).

    Pg 206 – The book wrongly states that the Hindus had only a triad of passions.
    COMMENT: Hindu scriptures list six main evils and the concept of shadripus (six internal enemies) is very well known.

    Pg 441 – The book claims that Firoz Shah redeemed a number of Hindu slaves
    COMMENT: A misrepresentation of the fact that he employed (not redeemed) 12,000 of his 180,000 slaves forcibly in royal factories for producing articles of consumption by Muslim elites. No manumission was involved.

    Pg 445 – Dates of Saint Kabir are given as 1450 1498.
    COMMENT: His demise is believed to have occurred in 1518, and the traditional date of birth is 1398.

    Pg 448 – In 713 Muhammad ibn Qasim invaded Sind.
    COMMENT: Muhammad bin Qasim invaded Sind in 711.

    Pg 450- It is claimed that Emperor Ala-ud-Din Khalji did not sack temples in Devagiri.
    COMMENT: His contemporary Amir Khusro clearly mentions that the Emperor sacked numerous temples and raised mosques instead.

    Pg 459 – King Ala-ud-din Husain of Bengal patronized Saint Chaitanya.
    COMMENT: Saint Chaitanya never met the king, and left his kingdom to avoid persecution, as did his disciples. The king had destroyed Hindu temples in Orissa.

    Pg 532 – Emperor Akbar moved his capital from Fatehpur Sikri to Delhi in 1586.
    COMMENT: Emperor Akbar moved his capital to Lahore in 1587, and thereafter to Agra.

    Pg 537-8 – The Sikh teacher Guru Govind Singh was assassinated in 1708, while ‘attending Emperor Aurangzeb’. Emperor Aurangzeb died in 1707.
    COMMENT: Guru Gobind Singh was assassinated in 1708 during the reign of Aurangzebs successor, Emperor Bahadur Shah I. It is insulting to say that the Guru was attending on the Emperor.

    Pg 550 – The book claims that Mirabai lived from 1498-1597, and then on p. 568, the author claims that Mirabai lived from 1450-1525!
    COMMENT: Both dates are wrong and the commonly accepted dates are 1498-1547.

    Pg 552 – The book claims that the Ramcharitmanas was written at Varanasi.
    COMMENT: Both modern scholarship as well as tradition accept that the work (or at least most of it) was written in Ayodhya.

    Section on Bibliography: Shekhawat, V. Origin and Structure of purushartha Theory: An attempt at Critical Appraisal. Journal of Indian Council of Philosophical Research 7:1 (1900), 63-67.
    COMMENT:The correct issue and year of this Journal issue are actually 8:2 and 1991. The bibliography has dozens of errors. Some references cited by Doniger simply do not exist.

    B. DEROGATORY, DEFAMATORY AND OFFENSIVE STATEMENTS

    Clumsily written, each chapter is a shocking and appalling series of anecdotes which denigrate, distort and misrepresent Hinduism and the history of India and Hindus. Doniger uses selective quotations from obscure and non-original, peripheral and ignorant references with a bizarre emphasis on sexuality and eroticism. Cited below are only a handful of quotes along with our understanding and interpretation, with references from Hindu scripture.

    [Page number precedes the quote from the book. This is followed by a rebuttal comment.]

    Pg 40 If the motto of Watergate was Follow the money, the motto of the history of Hinduism could well be Follow the monkey or, more often Follow the horse.
    COMMENT: Very derogatory and offensive. The motto of Hinduism is to follow the truth and unite with God.

    Pg 112 – The author alleges that in Rigveda 10.62, it is implied that a woman may find her own brother in her bed!
    COMMENT: The hymn has no such suggestion. It is offensive to suggest that the sacred text of Hindus has kinky sex in it.

    Pg 128 – The book likens the Vedic devotee worshipping different Vedic deities to a lying and a philandering boyfriend cheating on his girlfriend(s).
    COMMENT: This is offensive and ignores that fact that in the Rigveda, the gods are said to be all united, born of one another, and from the same source.

    Pg 225 -Dasharathas son is certainly lustful… Rama knows all too well what people said about Dasharatha; when Lakshmana learns that Rama has been exiled, he says, The king is perverse, old, and addicted to sex, driven by lust (2.18.3)
    COMMENT: Sri Rama is revered and worshipped as a deity. The highly acclaimed and critical edition of Valmikis Ramayana records no such statement attributed to Lakshmana. An imagined phrase, ‘kama-sakta’ is mistranslated as ‘addicted to sex’ by the author whereas it normally means filled with desires. Valmiki uses a phrase ‘samani-madhah’ (trans. Possessed of passion).

    Pg 467 – Harihara and Bukka (the founders of the Vijayanagara Empire that saved Hindu culture in S India) double-crossed the Delhi Sultan when they reconverted to Hinduism.
    COMMENT: The brothers committed apostasy as they had been imprisoned and forcibly converted to Islam, and immediately reverted to Hinduism when they were 1000 miles from the Sultan, under the influence of a Hindu ascetic.

    Pg 468-469 -The mosque, whose serene calligraphic and geometric contrasts with the perpetual motion of the figures depicted on the temple, makes a stand against the chaos of India, creating enforced vacuums that India cannot rush into with all its monkeys and peoples and colors and the smells of the bazaar
    COMMENT: It is simply unacceptable that a scholar can flippantly, pejoratively and derogatorily essentialize the Hindus as monkeys and peoples, colors and smells.., and chaos in most insulting manner with the aspersion thrown at the entire Hindu culture and community all over the world. Such generalization has no place in serious scholarly work.

    Pg 509 – Shankara and the philosophers wifeThis tale contrasts sex and renunciation in such a way that the renunciant philosopher is able to have his cake and eat it, to triumph not only in the world of the mind (in which, before this episode begins, he wins a series of debates against the nonrenouncing male Mimamsa philosopher) but in the world of the body, represented by the philosophers wife (not to mention the harem women who clearly prefer Shankara to the king in bed). The author attributes the tale to Shankaradigvijaya of Madhava and to Ravichandra’s commentary on Amarushataka.
    COMMENT: The author concocts the story as a sexual orgy in which the Saint Adi Shankara and King Amruka take turns making love to the latters wives after he is tired. Both her sources however state that the King was already dead and the Saint transferred his soul into the dead Kings body through his yogic powers. There is no suggestion in the texts that the queens prefer Shankara to the king in bed.

    Pg 571- It is alleged that in a hymn from Saint Kshetrayyas poetry, God rapes the women devotees.
    COMMENT: The hymn merely presents devotion using spiritual metaphors and the hymns of the Saint seen collectively depict it as a passionate love affair between the God and the devotees. No rape is implied in this hymn at all.

    Again, the above is simply a sampling of the scandalous and offensive statements in the book. By her own admission in the book, Doniger has no credentials as a historian and the title of the book is misleading as the book is not on the History nor an Alternative History of India. This shows that the author is not an authority on the subject as she is not able to understand the deep meaning of Sanskrit verses or Indian Concepts. These cast serious doubts about the authors integrity as a researcher and ability to interpret accurately. Additional examples of the authors shoddy scholarship will be made available upon request.

    We emphasize that this defamatory book misinforms readers about the history of Hindu civilization, its cultures and traditions. The book promotes prejudices and biases against Hindus. Can Penguins editors really be incompetent enough to have allowed this to pass to publication? If this is not deliberate malice, Penguin must act now in good faith.

    As concerned readers, we ask PENGUIN GROUP to:

    1. WITHDRAW all the copies of this book immediately from the worldwide bookshops/markets/Universities/Libraries and refrain from printing any other edition.

    2. APOLOGIZE for having published this book The Hindus: An Alternative History. This book seriously and grossly misrepresents the Hindu reality as known to the vast numbers of Hindus and to scholars of Hindu tradition. PENGUIN must apologize for failure to observe proper pre-publication scrutiny and scholarly review.

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  13. It’s unfortunate that this is exactly what Doniger was critiquing through her scholarship, and became her explicit normative commitment through this book — that there is no “correct” version of Hinduism, and that perhaps there wasn’t even any “Hinduism”, as the “poker game” it has become today, in antiquity.

    Even more unfortunately and perhaps ironically (as evidenced from the commenters above, and the RSS and its cronies), is the need to fix the scientific truth of “Hinduism” without ever acknowledging the various forces that came in contact with it, particularly the British colonialists that they so abhor, trying to do the same, to its detriment.

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  14. All the people whose sentiments get hurt :

    Why don’t you ever argue rationally about a book or a movie or a painting? If people do not agree with the author’s point of view, why not challenge her with a logical argument?
    A work of research is not to appease my or anyone’s sentiments, but to put forward a thesis in systematic manner. As a reader, if you do not agree with the thesis, you should put forward your own thesis in democratic and sincere manner. Not burn or threaten or quote other selective examples ( Satanic Verses has nothing to do with this particular book for e.g.).

    Or is it that maybe you do not have any logical arguments? Or desire to participate in a democratic debate? You are aware that people who threaten freedom of speech, people who burn books, people who refuse to engage in civilised debates usually end up banishing democracy and freedom of thought, right? Do you want to be someone who encourages such a future for India?

    By all means, write a logical answer, I am sure this blog will publish your thoughts and a debate will be extremely useful for all concerned, including you.

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  15. I do not understand what the author actually benefits from such writings? Creating communal disturbances? I am not referring to literary articles or books against Hinduism, but any religion in general. Lets be clear on one aspect, i.e. that most of us are just interpreting what we assume to be the correct translations of events, statements, verses or actions in the manuscripts or books. We do not have any idea of what exactly were the situations or modes and means of the writers of those days. When there is such a large area of uncertainty, why rouse passions by writing on religions.

    I believe that religions is ones way of leading life, and these are just guidelines. Probably our ancestors also intended it that way. So why write and rewrite and make fun of something most folks consider sacred.

    There is no doubt that writers to have a major social responsibility and need to exercise that with care. Hope every body gets more sensitive to each others likes and dislikes in a society so that all of us can live in peace, amity and a life without unwanted stress.

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  16. Very well written. Thank you for helping me understand the issue a little. I only hope the likes of us, who desperately want free speech and liberal thought to win, are enough in number to trump whosoever comes in our way (Penguin or others, though I sincerely wish we don’t have totarget Penguin, would be such a pity!). I wish I had that kind of faith!

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  17. “disgusted by Penguin’s decision to patronize mediocre chick-lit, inane self-help books and other banalities…”
    Doesn’t that sound intolerant (fascist)?
    From someone who has done research on Chick lit…

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  18. I doubt whether there is any real serious intent behind all this hand wringing. Indians are too good at arguing but fall short where action is required. Again with all this internal bickering when faced with a crisis, you lose sight of the real villain of the piece.

    Action is required to get rid of the problem. Go to your elected representatives, write to them, mobilize mass mailing or whatever it takes and get them to change the laws that criminalize free speech. I am certain that once the law is corrected your Courts will deliver correct justice.

    The upper classes are not bothered as they can buy their freedom anytime, or can’t care less…

    The lower classes are struggling to get their basic necessities of life….

    (Yes, the situation is not too different in the first world countries too, I will be upfront to admit that)

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  19. The article seems ok.
    But it doesn’t help me in answer a deeper Q which is that in a pluralistic society can someone impinge on someone else’s beliefs.
    I found a better article in today’s Hindu
    http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/changing-landscape-of-free-speech/article5677713.ece?homepage=true
    Trying to summarize it
    The stand taken by Penguin India is strikingly in contrast with the stand taken by Penguin books when a fatwa was issued by Ayatollah Khomeini on Salman Rushdie of Satanic Verses fame. In spite of repeated opposition by various groups it did not withdrew the book choosing in that case to side with the proponents of freedom of speech.
    A plural society like ours needs free speech. In free speech/society, someone’s beliefs are bound to get hurt. But it’s better to for those sentiments to come out than to simmer in someone’s heart for a long time. We should deal with these clashes openly and robustly rather than suppress them. Any kind of social change will offend people’s beliefs and sensibilities. But the bigger idea is to become a better and progressive society by debating rather than suppressing. In a free society there should be no belief that is too great that it cannot be criticized and challenged in our society.

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  20. Dear Shuddhabrata Sengupta.
    What you DO NOT have the right to do, is to tell ME and many OTHERS like me what I/WE should read or purchase, only because you are offended about the decision of Penguin to withdraw the controversial book unconditionally.
    You are harping much about alleged threat in notice but had Penguin published book offending your sentiments in respect of your parents, spouse, kids yourself wherein showing utter disrespect and writing rubbish about your religion and your family, would you still defend such actions as freedom of expression?
    It is expected from any sane person that if you do not like others to hurt your religious sentiments then you should also respect the religious sentiments of others and should not hurt the religious sentiments under the garb of freedom of expressions.
    It is really interesting to note that You are completely silent on depiction of obscene pictures by Penguin ….. had same thing happened about depicting you near and dear one with intention to offend your sentiments, will you still appreciate conduct, with your contention of freedom of expression at any cost? and not use any of choicest expletives which you are so liberal in your analysis?
    My humble request to you is, please read the provisions of IPC section 292, 293, 295,295 A ,298 about offences affecting public health, safety, convenience, decency and morals, and offences relating to religion, also check whether it is cognizable and non Bailable. Please have professional advice before expressing your views.
    I do not know whether you are law graduate or not. But my personal advice to you is please read relevant provisions of law, as ignorance of law is not the excuse. You may feel the people at Penguin are Idiots but there is every possibility that Penguin has taken professional advice about contesting or not to contest and to settle the matter out of Court and also weighed in consequences of their decision to contest or not to contest the matter. You are liberal in using abusive language in respect of all people generalising all who oppose you as goons and depicting that you are having licence to brand all people except you as bunch of criminals, goons / idiots only because they beg to differ from your ideology.
    In my view Penguin should feel lucky that they settled for out of Court settlement and they are not saddled with heavy costs and damages which prevail in other countries and should consider fortunate to get away without any penalty for offences they have committed.
    Even though there is out of Court settlement in this particular matter, there is every possibility that any other affected person can still file fresh case nay FIR as offence under section 295 A and several other sections of Indian Penal Code has already taken place and said offence is continuing one and The Court also can take Suo moto cognizance of the offence and can ask state to investigate the matter. Only time will tell what were compelling reasons for Penguin to surrender before so called Criminals, goons as alleged by you, by agreeing to pulp the already printed Books by entering into out of Court settlement.
    Hope I have not hurt your sentiments as there is nothing personal against you. If any words or expressions hurt your feelings I sincerely regret. Just felt to express my views thinking that I have also got constitutional right of freedom to express my views and hope you will appreciate the other view without any attempt to stifle the voice not agreeing to your views expressed by you…. I doubt whether my views will be published by you. As they are in direct conflict with your views….

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    1. Obscene pictures on penguin – this is laughable – who are you to decide what is obscene- have you seen khajuraho? And have you even bothered to read what has been written? do you need to be reminded that all religions in this world have also been beds of hypocrisy, bigotry, intolerance and prejudice to others – from christianity to hinduism ? Or are you a believer in practices like sati and child marriage ? Religious conventions and rituals are made by man not god – and hence are subject to debate by other men – that is the only way religious reforms take place overtime . There is nothing sacred about man made codes of conduct of religious life and practices – humanity and human values of tolerance are far more sacred . If we are becoming an intolerant society which cannot even look at ourselves and our practices critically – religious and otherwise – even in this century , then it is people like you who need to do some soul searching . Before rushing on to defend everything in the name of god, please atleast read what the author of this article and the author of the book say atleast with an open mind . You have no right to tell me or anyone else what to read or not to read – if you find the book offensive , then dont read it or criticise it through proper debate and arguments instead of endorsing the blindness and goondaism of these so called ‘religious sentiments” . Nobody has asked you either to read it nor has prevented you from airing your views – so please dont decide what others can or cannot read nor denigrate others religious sentiments by thinking that others have such a prejudiced understanding of their religion. I’m also a hindu but my religious sentiments are not hurt by such books – i can engage with critical debate and learn and understand or argue , but my religious sentiments are definately hurt by the intolerance and prejudice of people like you who make me ashamed of my religion – people like you bring out the weakness and intolerance of religions not otherwise.
      You say penguin is lucky it got such a settlement , i say you are lucky that such a third rate argument was published here in the first place – for it has no logic , just blind prejudice against anything which against your preconceived notions.

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      1. Agree with everything except for “Religious conventions and rituals are made by man not god”.
        There is no God.

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    2. Dear Mr P V Kamat,

      Where exactly does Mr Sengupta tell YOU and many OTHERS like you what you/YOU should read or purchase?

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  21. I dread to think of invoking “scholarship and enquiry” in the court. That is the most disastrous strategy for the defense of such a matter. Freedom of speech is the one and only pivot here and that is where your laws need to be changed.

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  22. At least one good thing out of this, though, as there very often is. I had never, to my present regret, heard of Ms. Weniger before, and have just finished ordering the book online. I wonder which of these is true: that these fundamentalist goons do not realise that their actions provide their intended victims much greater publicity and reach than what they’d have had otherwise, or whether they do and are quite alright with it, as long as they themselves get an occasional mention out of it in the papers.

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    1. For controversial books everywhere the thumb rule is that a reprint will briskly follow. But the present situation is extreme because the book isn’t going to be sold in its main target market ! Doniger does not need this kind of controversy nor would she have rigged this up.

      Banning a book is hardly necessary in any case at all. Idiots don’t read books and seldom do they act on all the long winded stuff that is written there. On the other hand perfectly sedate looking books (Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger, not a plug ! comes to mind) have been blamed for incidents.

      But the great summary is this:

      Indian laws on publishing are overdue for reform.

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  23. Shuddhabrata Sengupta,

    I find your raving and ranting against Penguin, the Andolan and anybody else who opposed the publication of the book, as arrogant as you make these guys themselves out to be. Let’s shelve issues of who has a right to do what to whom or if you’ve been neutral and impartial in your clarion call for freedom of speech, expression etc. for the moment and examine some basic facts, truths and more importantly, feelings:

    As someone has pointed out in an earlier comment, what is the motive behind bringing out such a book? I presume it’s not money (if it is, then there’s no further discussion) or fame (if that’s the case, then it’s certainly condemnable). If the idea was to plant the spirit of enquiry in the heart of everyone about Hinduism, then the opposition to the book is the idea that unwarranted analysis of a faith, which in any sense is less imposed on people than others, does no good to anyone, and only possible harm. How’s the first idea praiseworthy and the second so utterly despicable? isn’t it just your conditioning?

    Does only the author have the freedom to give shape to her thoughts? Even in that case, why not keep your profound analysis to yourself or write a book for your family and friends, why for the general public?

    Sheesh..you’ve pushed me to quote what a maulvi said when the whole thing about Satanic Verses broke: “What Rushdie thinks about Islam is his personal business..what he tells the whole world about his view of Islam, in the process earning fat sums for himself and the publisher, is everybody’s business”…What’s the difference here? (unless , of course, you disagree with the maulvi:) )

    Mind you, I don’t give a hoot about Hinduism or any other ism, and I couldn’t care less if anyone wrote anything on any topic, but obviously a greater part of the world is not like me.

    Come to think of it, why are so many people obsessed about dissecting every aspect of India? How would the general public (not the authors) of some other countries react if their history, geography, customs, traditions et al were placed under such critical scrutiny and v frequently at that?…..

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    1. “the opposition to the book is the idea that unwarranted analysis of a faith, which in any sense is less imposed on people than others, does no good to anyone, and only possible harm.”
      How fragile is this faith if it falls prey to one ‘unwarranted’ book analysing it critically. Perhaps the followers of the faith should be secure enough to ignore the unwarranted and stick to the warranted myths and tracts. Those can be enough to counteract any possible harm?

      “Does only the author have the freedom to give shape to her thoughts? Even in that case, why not keep your profound analysis to yourself or write a book for your family and friends, why for the general public?”
      Of course everyone has the freedom to give shape to their thoughts, also to choose what shape as well. An academic chose to publish a book. The defenders of the faith can also choose to publish tracts, to protest, to urge followers to boycott, to denounce the book.
      But why stop people from being able to make a choice to read the book? Do the defenders of the faith believe that people’s minds must stay strictly within these MAN MADE bounds to be able to keep up the faith?

      It’s people like you and arguments like yours that make me question my faith.

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    2. ” unwarranted analysis of a faith, which in any sense is less imposed on people than others, does no good to anyone, and only possible harm.” Vow ! i’m not even sure what you know about being less imposed on others if you’ve seen the BJP, RSS and the like operating in the countryside in shakha schools and elsewhere – directly and insidously – over years. I would like to remind you that tjis is the same country where Graham steines was burnt alive with his children for so called ‘conversions’ from hinduism’ – so lets not have any understanding of us being ‘less imposed.
      Now secondly, what do you mean by ‘unwarranted analysis of a faith” – who decides what is warranted and what is not ? There is a reason why religion is studied critically – so much has gone wrong in the name of religion all over the world and hinduism is no exception – from practices like sati, child marriage ( which still continues by the way) to oppression of women , excessive ritualism , communal riots and so on – so many seeds of violence and crimes against humanity lie behind the facade of religion and religious practices . So critical analysis helps us in thinking about, challenging , questioning and understanding the roots of several such issues . It throws light on aspects of human psyche which shape the social, cultural and political life of a society. It helps us to interpret why people choose to continue with certain practices and rituals , what it symbolises for them , what possible meanings it could have .
      Whether one agrees with such analysis or not or the extent to which one agrees depends on how it is received by different individuals – but no faith can be sustained unless it passes the test of openness to critical enquiry – otherwise it becomes a hotbed of intolerance and bigotry and affects the quality of life and freedoms available to both its practitioners as well as those perceived as outsiders by them.
      critical enquiry should hence be encouraged by the adherents of all faiths and disciplines – that’s how all major faiths have reformed and revitalised over the centuries . Afterall these are manmade rules and practices – how can they be exempt from critical engagement just because they were laid down by our ancestors in response to a different social environment ? they help us understand ourselves and where we are coming from . Closure of analysis would spell sure redundancy for religion anyway!
      And why should such criticism be limited to friends and family ? why not the public ? Critical enquiry has to be available to the public because its that very “public” who’s actions determine the social life we are all implicated in and affects our everyday lives in so many ways ! so the public better be aware and conscious of the way its practices could be perceved and interpreted ! And in case who speaks for this public – how do a few handful of peple get the right to decide what can or what cannot be made public – let things be out in the public for the public to decide – if it does not like it, its under no obligation to read or buy such works . By banning it in any case you’ve ensured many more people will read it than would perhaps have otherwise done !
      Besides nobody has a right to decide what can or cannot be analysed – people can agree or disagree – let people decide for themselves – why ban such analysis ? If there are issues , then engage in debate – banning is no answer – especially in a country where hindutva goons are allowed to get away with everything including openly communal speeches ( check online some of these on youtube by bjp stalwarts) fanning communal hatred ! When we dont raise our voices against that in the name of freedom of speech – why pulp the books of a scholar who was merely doing her job ?

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    3. “Come to think of it, why are so many people obsessed about dissecting every aspect of India? How would the general public (not the authors) of some other countries react if their history, geography, customs, traditions et al were placed under such critical scrutiny and v frequently at that?…..”

      Again really? its you who’s obsessed about others dissecting India – its this narcisstic self importance about yourself thinking you are the subject of everyone’s attention – i think its time Indians got over this self obsession – really nobody cares anymore or less about you and our country than we do about others ! Also like a frog in the well, you have obviously not read anything about the world outside which makes you claim how ‘general public’ reacts to being dissected ! All over the world people have written extensively about themselves and others , many times far more critically and passionately – about history geography customs etc – there is a whole body of work lying out there- want me to give you a list of basic references?
      And also general public is also where authors come from and what becomes part of public discourse is created by engagements between the public and such works . Its a sign of a vibrant culture infact if there is much critical scrutiny , no otherwise.

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  24. She writes – In 1708, Guru Govind Singh was assassinated while attending the emperor Aurangzeb. – Really?? I did not know that Aurangzeb was still alive in 1708. Thank you Wendy for enlightening Indians.

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    1. Aditya Singh, this is indeed an error, Aurungzeb died in 1707, and we know from the historical record that Guru Govind Singh had left Damdama Sahib near Talwandi Sabo in the Punjab for the Deccan to meet with Aurungzeb in October 1706 (Aurungzeb had indeed asked for this meeting, after recieving Guru Govind Singh’s ‘Zafarnama’). While passing through Rajasthan, Guru Govind Singh heard news of Aurungzeb’s death in March 1707. After Aurungzeb, his son, Moazzam, ascended to the throne as Bahadur Shah I. Govind Singh struck an alliance with the new emperor and joined him in Agra, and accompanied him, with his forces, on military campaigns, for instance, against the Kacchwahas. Bahadur Shah and Guru Govind Singh parted ways in July 1708, over Bahadur Shah’s growing proximity to Wazir Shah, the ruler of Sirhind, who had problems with Guru Govind Singh. Guru Govind Singh left Bahadur Shah’s retinue in Agra and travelled to the Deccan, reaching Nanded in July 1708. While he was in Nanded, he was the subject of an assasination attempt at the behest of Wazir Shah. This took place in or near October 1708. The Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah sent an European Surgeon to Nanded to try and heal Guru Govind Singh, and the wound was healed, but it tore open a few days later, when Guru GOvind Singh was practicing archery with a strong bow. He died of the infected wound in October 1708. So, while, he did not die attending to Aurungzeb in the Deccan. He had started on a mission to travel to see Aurungzeb, and had reconciled with Aurungzeb’s heir, had subsequent disagreements, but was still close enough to the new emperor Bahadur Shah to have received medical help sent at the Mughal Emperor’s behest. Doniger is incorrect on the details here, and she relies on John Keay’s History of India (see footnote 50 in Doniger’s text citing Keay on the relations between Guru Govind Singh and the Mughal throne). But while she may be incorrect in the precise detail, but the actual fact that the Khalsa Panth under Guru Govind Singh was moving towards a modus vivendi with the Mughal empire during both the tenth Guru and Aurungzeb’s last days is not incorrect in and of itself. A second printing of Doniger’s book, with a more precise attention to historical detail, at the editing stage, would have helped correct this error.

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  25. She writes ‘Humayun reigns 1540-1556’. Great! I did not know that. As if, Sur dynasty never existed. I felt enlightened while reading this, in a book written by a famous Indologist, and self declared Sanskritist and Orientalist studied at Harvard (home to Prof. Witzel et al. Company).

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    1. Aditya Singh, there are three references to Humayun in ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’ by Wendy Doniger, on pages 531, 540 and 566-67, and only the first cites the dates of Humayun’s birth and death. The dates of his reign are actually not mentioned. Here is what it says – “Humayun was born in 1508 in Kabul.” – and that “in 1556… he fell to his death.” Nowhere does Wendy Doniger say that Humayun reigns 1540-1556. We know that Humayun ascends to the Mughal throne in 1530, reigns till 1540, is deposed, spends several years in exile in Iran, and returns to Hindostan to rule briefly, from 1555-1556, after which he is succeeded by Akbar. Where in Doniger’s account is anything contrary to these facts? Clearly, you have not read the book.

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  26. Shuddhabrata Sengupta ji before you proudly read your children quotes from Wendy books, you should contemplate whether she understands Sanskrit? According to Prof. Antonio de Nicolas – “Wendy, as you know, wrote her Rg Veda putting my translations next to hers. By giving “maska lagao” to me, she avoided a bad review,…. The theoretical headings she uses for the Rg Veda are arbitrary… the jewel is her translation of “aja eka pada”. Literary it means “aja” = unborn, unmanifest, “eka” = one, “pada” = foot, measure. It is the unmanifest one foot measure of music present in the geometries of the “AsaT”, meaning, the Rg Vedic world of possibilities where only geometries live without forms. Well, Wendy translates it as “the one footed goat” because “aja” in Hebrew means goat. What is a one-footed goat doing in the Rg Veda?”

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    1. Rohit jee, I think Wendy Doniger is one of the most interesting scholars of Sanskrit. Her translations may or may not be debatable. They are certainly flawless. NO translation can be. But the thing to do then (if you are a critic of her writing and translation and scholarly activity) is to write better and more accurate translations, and engage Prof. Donigher in scholarly debate. I am not for one moment asking for books written by those who hold the view opposite to Prof. Doniger to be pulped. I expect the same courtesy. That is how intellectual debate and knowledge grows, through the open articulation of different, and differing views.

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  27. Oh by the way will you also make it a point to read aloud award winning book “Ganesa – Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings” by Professor Paul Courtright, another eminent western Indologists, samples of which are given below-

    “Its (Ganesa’s) trunk is the displaced phallus, a caricature of Siva’s linga. It poses no threat because it is too large, flaccid, and in the wrong place to be useful for sexual purposes.” (Page 121)
    “He [Ganesa] remains celibate so as not to compete erotically with his father, a notorious womanizer, either incestuously for his mother or for any other woman for that matter.” (Page 110)
    “So Ganesa takes on the attributes of his father but in an inverted form, with an exaggerated limp phallus-ascetic and benign- whereas Siva is a “hard” (ur-dhvalinga), erotic and destructive.” (Page121)
    “Both in his behavior and iconographic form Ganesa resembles in some aspects, the figure of the eunuch…Ganesha is like eunuch guarding the women of the harem.” (Page 111)
    “Although there seems to be no myths or folktales in which Ganesa explicitly performs oral sex; his insatiable appetite for sweets may be interpreted as an effort to satisfy a hunger that seems inappropriate in an otherwise ascetic disposition, a hunger having clear erotic overtones.” (Page 111)
    “Ganesa’s broken tusk, his guardian’s staff, and displaced head can be interpreted as symbols of castration” (page 111)
    “Feeding Ganesa copious quantities of modakas, satisfying his oral/erotic desires, also keeps him from becoming genitally erotic like his father.” (Page 113)
    “The perpetual son desiring to remain close to his mother and having an insatiable appetite for sweets evokes associations of oral eroticism. Denied the possibility of reaching the stage of full genital masculine power by the omnipotent force of the father, the son seeks gratification in some acceptable way.” (Page 113)

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    1. Rohit, I would have no hesitation in reading aloud Courtwright’s book, or listening to someone else reading it aloud. I have no objection to the reading of any book whatsoever. Reading, reading aloud, listening does not mean we have to agree with what is being read. I read you, I read you aloud. I clearly do not agree with you but I have no objection to reading you.

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    1. Dear Raghu, I have condemned the cancellation by the Jamia Millia Islamia University of Tarek Fatah’s lecture and I have always publicly stood by Taslima Nasrin’s write to be published, and for her work to be disseminated in any form whatsoever. I think Hindu and Muslim Fanatics are both enemies of humanity, just as are fanatics and fascists of all political and social persuasions and religious backgrounds. I have no hesitation in absolutely condemning those who ask for bans on Salman Rushdie or on Wendy Doniger.

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  28. I want to thank Shuddhabrata Sengupta for his stand on freedom of thought and for his invitation to consider how we might think of deeper roots of caste discrimination in our society. As a scholar of Hinduism ( though not as erudite as Wendy Doniger) I too have written on Hindu texts and I appreciate the enormous effort which went into the writing of Doniger’s book on the Hindus. It is a formidable achievement in terms of her mastery over a diverse range of sources and her superb command over Sanskrit, both Vedic and classical. The fact of the matter is that very few critics of her work who have taken her to court on the ground that her work offends Hindu sentiments have the kind of mastery over sources that she has. As any book that covers such a wide span there are probably minor errors but the bigger issue is that this is one source book for understanding our textual traditions – there are other books for different interpretations of the same texts.
    What I do not understand and strongly condemn is why Hindus sentiments would be hurt if we have an interpretation of say, myths or rituals in which the sexuality of the gods is part of the story or in which symbolism of sex and procreation is explicit rather than repressed. Many of us have written on these topics and we all understand that there are divergent interpretations of what the language of myth or ritual is. For instance, is the disrobing of Draupadi in the Kuru court and Yudhisthira’s silence on the question of whether he was in possession of his self when he waged her in a bet in the gamble, to be seen as the text’s own critique of the assumption that men can own women? Or should we now offended by Vyasa for insulting Hinduism and take him to court?
    My point is that the ancients were not so defensive and were never so easily hurt as to not be able to think of themselves critically – is it the case that the so-called protectors of Hinduism are so ill-informed about the texts as well as the forms of criticism that they cannot engage with arguments – are they so unsophisticated in their appreciation of their own culture that they cannot comprehend that cultures grow through criticism?
    Many of us disagree with Doniger’s interpretations at one point or another even as we appreciate her life time of devotion to the study of Vedic and classical texts – but we express out differences through writing , arguing, rethinking.
    I appeal now to all those scholars who have written for Penguin to first of all, condemn the publisher and those with contracts with this publisher to withdraw from them in the interest of academic freedom and to shun all contact with Penguin as an expression of our solidarity for more adult forms of the expression of disagreement. And thanks again to Shuddhabrata for articulating the issues so clearly.

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  29. I have not read the book in contention. However, a reading of Sam Harris will help one to put in perspective the fact that creating divisions and making the other the holder of negatives is a regrettable and deeply violent capability of the human mind. I do not believe that there is some thing specially negative about the Indian mind. If one compares the injunctions of the holy books of other cultures, one finds a relative absence of ‘out group’ hate in the Indian Dharmic writing. If we compare the number of wars fought, ethnic clean sings undertaken and genocides perpetrated by the so called followers of the various faiths, the whole issue can be put into a perspective.

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  30. Thanks for the post Shuddhabharata. Was wondering though, since the book is being “pulped” based on an out of court settlement and not “banned” by law for sale in India, it could very well be published by some other, less cowardly publisher. Am I right? Could someone with legal knowledge on the subject clarify this.

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    1. Absolutely, it could. And who knows, perhaps plans are already afoot, from less cowardly, and more business savvy publishers, than the people of limited intelligence who seem to be making executive decisions at Penguin India. As long as the author gives someone other than Penguin India the right to publish the book in India, it can be published legally, as of now, as there are no legal injunctions on the book at present. If someone acts promptly, and with presence of mind, they can benefit themselves as well as the readers made to undergo a loss at the absence of the book from the market.

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      1. Good to know. Presumably Penguin will not stand in the way and waive their rights over the book, given what they agreed to WITHOUT having been compelled by any legal entity.

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  31. Aditya Singh: Thanks a million for pointing out a few mistakes in Doniger’s book and helping us realize that her work is not as accurate or as brilliant as the writer of this article wants to make it look. One can’t help but notice the sense of authoritativeness with which he upholds Doniger’s work. I want to point out that there has been a trend among some people to consider any work coming from the west as “objective” and “scientific”.
    Is “freedom of speech” saying whatever one wants to with no regard to the feelings of millions of people which is itself very important for a pluralistic society like India. We can’t borrow a western concept of “freedom of speech” and make it work in India. Our society is so diverse that “freedom of speech” has to go hand in hand with showing respect to different culutres.
    A question for the writer:
    Co existence and diversity are an integral part of Indian society and also fundamental principles on which our democracy was laid. Keeping this in mind, how do we talk about “freedom of speech” in the Indian context?

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    1. Who are these millions of people, I want to know? 287 million of them are illiterate, will their ‘feelings be hurt’ [what a vile-ly wishy washy phrase] by an academic book?! Respect to different cultures must also come with an openness to question and critique cultures, one’s own included. The Ramayana I and ‘millions of people’ in my state grew up listening to was very different from the version of the Ramayana I saw on TV. Why is the TV one supposed to be the right version, and the one I heard the wrong? The importance of the Ramayana only grows when we understand the different versions and its place in our culture. Not by banning and burning and pulping that which seems offensive to ‘feelings’.

      I have to wonder though, if Wendy Doniger had been Hindu, how the invective would be different.

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      1. “hurting the feelings of millions of people” is not a wishy washy phrase. You missed the larger point.

        Literate as well as illiterate people can get hurt.

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        1. I’m sick of arguing about the fact that no one body has a right to represent ‘millions of people who get hurt’ – and i wonder why is it that such arguments are raised only in such contexts – why not go to the sites of RSS /VHP/BJP idealogues – read their works, comments , monographs and ask for bans for hurting sentiments of millions of people residing in India and elsewhere – afterall the hatred they spew is far more direct and outrageous than a work like doniger’s is ever going to be !
          So why not go and protest and ban things there first and raise objections to freedom of speech ? then we can have a serious engagement over freedom to speech .
          In my opinion wendy doniger’s work passed the basic axioms of being a sober and scholarly analysis – where’s the question of bannng it here?

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  32. I am always against ban on books by the State or by fundamentalist organizations. But it is Penguin’s mistake not to fight the case and they could have won it. If Batra writes some incendiary Hindutva material and I challenge it on the same ground, is Batra going to compromise and burn his book? I doubt; I think he will not do so but fight me in court as also outside. The same thing should have been done by Penguins.

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  33. //Rajasankar, clearly, like most Internet Hindutva goons, you have not had the patience to read what I have written – //
    So this is the policy of Kafila.
    calling me as Hindutva goon is acceptable but if I say commie then my comment wont be published.
    And you people wonder why BJP and RSS gaining power in India.
    More you call people Hindutva goons, more you push people to Hindutva. Good luck with that.

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    1. Wow, this article has aroused an interest in me about this book, Is there no way left to get this book in India, legally or illegally(pirated).

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    2. No , you’ve got the chronology wrong sir, it is because BJP and RSS under the benign patronage of Modi have internet trolls everywhere who have nothing else to do but attack anyone saying anything against them. We are all sick and tired of anything remotely critical being drowned by such virtual online goondaism – so you cant blame people for loosing patience with comments which are openly hostile , especially when they also lack good sense and an ability to first engage with what is being said.
      Secondly, i pity those weak and reactionery people who , if they’re simply called ‘hindutva goons’ will actually be pushed to hindutva – what kind of banal logic is this? Are people really so lacking in good sense and a mind of their own , that simply because x,y,z labels them as someone, they will be pushed to become that, irrespective of what they want to be themselves? why give anyone so much importance ? Also people are often pushed to use such labels to indicate how certain comments come across to them – if you are not a hindutva goon then it might be worthwhile to think why you are labelled so – and if you disagree , then you can always dismiss such labels.

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  34. Dear Commentators,
    I want to urge that this is not a marketplace in which we are engaged in selling one religion versus another. It is astonishing for me to see that instead of respectfully allowing difference in interpretations – how quickly we allow certain forms of speaking to obscure what might be ways of taking debates further.
    So first let me say that I have some disagreements with Doniger’s interpretations even as I regard her to be a very sober and brilliant interpreter of Vedic and classical texts.
    One of these differences centers around the question: what is the ontology of gods – what kinds of beings are they? in both the Upanishads and in the Mimamsa, gods do not have a reality independent of the way that language creates them. The Mimamsa is explicit that deities evoked during sacrifice have an existence for the duration of the sacrifice and that different grammatical combinations in fact bring different kinds of deities into being even if the names remain the same. So clearly we cannot be debating if Brahma did this or that even though the statements in the texts are in constative forms for the simple reason that truth or falsity cannot be attached to these statements. When the critics say that our sentiments are hurt because of certain ways of speaking, I respect their feelings and ask them to think why they too fall into the same fallacy of debating whether actions attributed to gods happened or not. I happen to think that divine sexuality is a very important aspect of opening up a discussion on the dark side of sexuality as well as death – none of the texts I know are scared to face this dark aspect. Doniger is also part of the tradition which uses irony (not one of my favorite tropes but quite liked by some of the texts) but the sad part is that the people who are critics of Doniger are simply falling into the trap of reducing divine sexuality to a matter of establishing if a particular god forced himself on a woman or a goddess as a true or a false statement. They will have to think more clearly on how some languages made available for thinking of gods become available for thinking of human relations – is the danger they pose or are there other notions of time in which the world of gods remains elusive and we are blocked off from certain experiences or condemned for doing what gods might freely do? It is quite hard to inherit the troublesome legacy of Hindu texts, profound in many ways with all their potential for good and bad – and banal in others – but anyone ca see that all the authors they cite – Doniger, Courtright – and others are lovers of particular strands of Hindu thought. Perhaps our critics should establish some kind of reading groups that will actually read the texts – e.g. the delicious vakrokti and its eroticism in the dialogues of Shiva and Parvati, or the loving insult literature in which intimacy was expressed through insults.
    What we cannot do is to say Hindus are too childlike and immature to tolerate freedom of speech – or that we are in some kind of competitive market of proving whose sentiments are likely to be hurt more and get a medal for that. The famous philosopher Ramu Gandhi, was fond of narrating how the goddess Kali admonished Vivekanand to say “Is it for you Vivekananda to protect me or for me to protect you?”
    As the love for Sanskrit and Pali and for the lovely medieval languages actually declines in India as evident from the very few young people who want to dedicate even part of their time to learning such languages, one is thankful for the liveliness of the literatures in these languages in India kept alive by the work of many different kinds of authors. However, the lesser the investment in these literatures, it seems, the greater the capacity of those calling themselves the champions of Hindus ( who appointed them so?) to feel hurt and to return this feeling of being hurt by taking resort to the worst forms of intimidation, refusal to argue in measured ways, and to allow a lively space of discussions to be nourished.
    Meanwhile could one still ask those who are authors of Penguin or under contract with them to please sever their connections with this Press that has refused to honor freedom of speech and thought?

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  35. I posted 3 comments yesterday. 2 of them have been published. The third one where I posted links of Rajiv Malhotra’s articles on Wendy is still awaiting moderation. I can only hope that Shuddhabrata Sengupta ji or the moderators are not yet done reading the article :-)

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    1. Rohit, the third comment, with links to Rajiv Malhotra’s articles is now posted. It had been overlooked by me eariler. I thought it had been posted, but then saw that it was still awaiting approval, so I have approved it.

      Like

  36. I completely agree with Mr. Sengupta regarding the ‘withdrawal’ of this book. This is worse than a ban.

    But I felt very uncomfortable of his elevation of Doniger’s work as some reference manual on Hindu attitudes. I would really like his response to this excerpt from a Firstpost article by Sandeep Balakrishna.

    Wendy Doniger: “The Bhagavad Gita is not as nice a book as some Americans think…Throughout the Mahabharata … Krishna goads human beings into all sorts of murderous and self-destructive behaviors such as war…. The Gita is a dishonest book …” (Quoted in Philadelphia Inquirer, 19 November, 2000)

    Assume for a moment that Wendy Doniger substituted “Bhagavad Gita” and “Krishna” with “Koran/Bible” and “Jesus/Mohammed”.

    Would our liberals still support her as they’re now doing? Therein lies the true test of liberalism and commitment to freedom.

    Would Mr. Sengupta have such high regard for an author who held that opinion of the Koran or Bible ? Would he treat that author as a reference for understanding Muslims, if so then he would surely have to subscribe to Christian right wing or Hindu fundamentalist channels.

    Note that I am not at all questioning Doniger’s right to say what she did, in fact, there actually is nothing in the Gita or Mahabharata itself that forbids anyone from saying what she did.

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  37. 1.The Lady in question seems to have Catherine Mayo Mentality.

    The difference is that she has been clever enough to have her accepted as an author of some credibility by writing an Anthology of Rig Veda.

    This, some have declared as very good, as if we have no other Books on Rig Veda.

    There is nothing earth-shaking about this Book.

    But to gain international Fame, most Indian authors do it, to sell their present or future Books abroad,though their grasp of the Subject is questionable.

    This applies to the encomiums on this author.

    Some foreign joker went to the extent of Psychoanalyzing the Hindus’ reaction by saying,

    “a kind of lightning rod for the censure that these scholars receive from freelance critics and ‘watch-dog’ organizations that claim to represent the sentiments of Hindus.[13]“

    2.Look at some among her Portfolio.

    Asceticism and Eroticism in the Mythology of Siva;

    The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mytholog

    Vātsyāyana Kāmasūtra

    The effort seems to portray Hinduism as a sort of Cheap erotic fiction.
    Who is to be concerned if Hinduism is denigrated?

    4.Excerpts from the Book, as available now.

    “The jacket of her book shows Lord Krishna sitting on the buttocks of nude women. She equates the shivlingam, worshipped all over India by millions, with sex and calls it an erect penis. She calls Gandhiji strange and says he used to sleep with young girls…

    He finds it objectionable that Doniger writes in the book that independence hero Mahatma Gandhi had a “habit of sleeping beside girls young enough to be called jailbait in the United States”; and that 19th Century Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda “set himself against all forms of caste distinction and advised people to eat beef”.’
    5.Why is it that writing on Islam, even a hint of Prophet’s Image.would hurt Religious sentiments ?

    Satanic Verses by Rushdie was banned for much less and a booty was announced to kill the author.

    6.The Da Vinci Code was initially banned for portraying History as found in Christianity.

    7.Are these secularists prepared to publish a Book on Muhammad marrying a Widow with a child,

    Or marrying a nine-year old,
    8. will the author raise any question against the protest of the movie…the innocence of muslims in the name of freedom of speech and expression…
    or The practice of Thighing in Islam where children are raped as a practice?

    Or Mary of Magdalene was the wife , to put it politely,of Jesus?

    8.I have a good collection of Posts on the History of Islam, Christianity, American wiping out the Indians,Debauchery of the British Monarchy.

    Any body there to publish them in the interest of Truth and History…..so if you can …then i will agree with you or whatever you will say…
    So will the kafila publish my comments

    Like

    1. So people like you you are what hindu sentiments represent ? what about all of us – who are you to decide what hindus can or cannot recieve about their faith ? My faith is not so weak that it cant stand analysis !. All this edifying history of other religions- where did you get it from ?- besides the sangh parivaar which fed you on all this, that too must have been written and recorded somewhere and i will give you references for all of them where they have been recorded , published and circulated, so that people like you can qoute it in this unthinking, illogical manner ! when people like you can get away with saying such things , why ban a scholar ?
      Besides , i DONT CARE WHAT OTHER RELIGIONS ALLOW OR NOT ALLOW. THAT CANNOT JUSTIFY intolerant and prejudiced minds like yours deciding WHAT I CAN OR CANNOT READ ABOUT MY FAITH. kindly note, nobody asked you to read such things . And if they are wrong – then let hindus decide – they can boycott reading or purchasing the book – nobody is under any obligation to read or purchase them unless they want to 1 and what will banning achieve – you think you can blacken out something which has already been read- many more people have read and heard about this now because of this stupid ban – people like you have ensured all of us got a copy as soon as possible and will preserve it for posterity to pass to our children now !. I am ashamed of people like you coming up with such stupid argumens in defense of an indefensible action.

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  38. 84 comments and most of them are away from the post’s main argument. I have seen many times on social media that any post related to religion, faith etc gets very strong feed-backs and reactions. perhaps we start commenting without digging more and without understanding the complexity of the post and at the same time we miss the main argument or point of discussion. as here also, author’s post is (directly or indirectly) genuinely focusing towards a pattern of lawless ways to demand a ban on books (forceful and undemocratic ways) either by hindu fundamentalists or by Muslim fundamentalists and about shocking response from publishers side on any written work. but instead of understanding main issue we start arguing on diverted issues related to posts. I think sometime because of our own prejudices.

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  39. By deciding to “unpublish” the book, Penguin appears to have lost its copyright to the book. If , therefore, some other publisher decides to “publish” it , he can directly contact the author and work out the terms for the Indian market. A copyright is a sole right to publish a book; not to censor it.

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  40. A few “objective” and “scholarly” observations from Wendy Doniger:

    1. Krishna goads human beings into all sorts of murderous and self-destructive behaviours such as war in order to relieve “mother Earth” of its burdensome human population. (A lecture in 2000 entiteld The Complicity of God in the Destruction of the Human Race)

    2. Rama had a fear of following his sex-addict father Dasharatha’s footsteps, which made him betray his own sexuality, which in turn made him abandon Sita.

    3. Holi [is] the spring carnival, when members of all castes mingle and let down their hair, sprinkling one another with cascades of red powder and liquid, symbolic of the blood that was probably used in past centuries.

    4. The Bhagavad Gita is not as nice a book as some Americans think…Throughout the Mahabharata … Krishna goads human beings into all sorts of murderous and self-destructive behaviors such as war…. The Gita is a dishonest book …” (Quoted in Philadelphia Inquirer, 19 November, 2000)

    Now, would an “objective” scholar outrightly call a historical work “dishonest” and reduce the conversation between Krishna and Arjun as “goads human beings into all sorts of murderous and self destructive behaviors as war…”

    Last but not the least , Wendy Doniger proclaims “Gita is a dishonest book.”

    So much for “interpretion” and “freedom of speech”!! Kudos!!

    Like

    1. Question is not whether what she says is right or wrong. Question is also not whether what she says is fact or opinion.
      Question is simply: Does someone have a right to say what he / she wishes to say ?
      Question further simply is : Does a willing audience have the right to read/listen to the author/speaker ?
      Digressing a little bit, going by your comments, you appear to be an unwilling audience.
      Question is : Does an unwilling audience have a right to prevent a willing audience from reading/listening to the author ?
      And final question, a little rhetorical, but still a question for pondering: Did Mr. Arun Shourie have the right to say what he wrote about Communists (re: August 1942), about the Holy Koran (war passages), and about Ambedkar (his various writings).
      My answer is : Yes, Mr. Shourie had the right to write.

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  41. Let us look at the root of the matter. The right to dissent is a fundamental right offered by the Indian constitution. So the moot question here is – Why don‘t Wendy engage a good lawyer and fight the case in court? If͵ as stated by Penguin͵ the laws are actually to blame͵ then there is a strong case for changing the laws..Laws are not made on stone͵ and there is a clear democratic process of changing existing laws. They took 4 years to take this decision of destroying the offensive book. If͵ as they state͵ the existing laws are draconian͵ are Wendy and her supporters afraid they wont be able to drum up support from among Indiaʹs vast non-BJP parliamentary contingent? Including the Congress party that has been ruling the country all along? Or have they totally lost faith in India‘s democratic systems (including Courts)? Or is it simply that they lack the stamina to effectively confront the people-that-matter-in-india and persuade them to accept their cause? Whichever be the reason͵ merely ranting at the system͵ after having first accepted defeat (very pragmatic!) doesn‘t appear quite right.

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  42. Gita is indeed a dishonest book. It’s a Magna Carta of violence and vindictiveness. No wonder, Russia banned it temporarily for its vitriolic philosophy. All these ‘holy’ books are as irrelevant as newspapers by noon. It’s time, we made a bonfire of all scriptures for the welfare of mankind.

    Sumit Paul, Poona

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    1. Dear Sumit, thank you for your comment, which I am approving here, only to register my strong criticism of it. I do not think there are honest or dishonest books. The Gita’s message may not be agreeable to you. But everyone has the right to read it, be inspired by it, and to revere it, if that is their desire. Just as those who choose not to do so, should be free not to do so, and to advance their criticisms of this or that or any ‘holy’ book. I read The Gita for passages of sublime poetry, and I am disturbed by it, but also enjoy reading it. I read the poetry of Ezra Pound, who was a fascist,for the same reason. And no, I do not think that all holy books are irrelevant as newspapers at noon. I think they continue to be relevant, and are relevant today, not only because they give us a sense of what people considered sacred, but also because they furnish those of us who do not share that sense of sacredness with the reasons for our passionate doubt. I am categorically against the pulping and burning of any books, no matter how holy or unholy they may be either to some, or to many. I am deeply disturbed that you advocate the burning of books, because those who burn books today, (remember Farenheit 451) will burn people tomorrow. I hope that I can persuade you to reconsider your stand.

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      1. Thanks, Mr Sengupta. My opinion was couched in a deliberately caustic language because it’s the way you egg others on to express their counter opinions. It’s the cardinal rule of polemics. Now I come to the point. I too don’t approve of banning or burning any damn book. But scriptures must needs be done away with, because of their pernicious influence on the gullible masses. I’ve read Qura’an and Hadis (compilation of Muhammad’s teachings) in Arabic, all Hindu scriptures and 18 Puranas in Sanskrit, Bible in Armaic and its Vulgate edition, Avesta and Zendavesta in Pahalavi (classical Persian, which’s the language of my consciousness) and come to the conclusion that all these ‘holy’ books are potentially dangerous to mankind. This is the opinion that will never change, even if you call me opinionated or pig-headed.

        SUMIT PAUL, Poona

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        1. Dear Mr. Paul, thank you for your considered reply. I am not asking you to change your opinion about any scriptures. And I might even share much of your sentiment. My only plea is – even if we are too be critical of scriptural texts, we still need to read them, and read them with care and diligence, as you seem to have done. For this to occur we will need to have many print runs and many annotated critical editions of all sacred texts. We need them in our libraries and on our bookshelves. Especially if we are too develope the kind of intellectual and ethical resources that can effectively challenge all that you consider dangerous. Do not pulp books, print them instead.

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          1. Thanks Mr Sengupta. I also dislike extreme radicalism of any kind. But as an advanced student of Islamic theology as well as world religions and cults, I’ve noticed that even the most ‘learned’ and ‘erudite’ professors also explained religious texts with respect to their respective faiths and never discussed the certain discrepancies in their religions and scriptures. I’m extremely annoyed by this attitude and therefore want these books be shelved (if not burnt) till mankind gets collectively evolved enough to ridicule at all the scriptures’ puerile texts and contexts.
            SUMIT PAUL, Poona

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    2. Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with you. It’s time we ponder over our scripts and analyse them without any iota of prejudice. Krishna, in the whole episode successfully persuades Arjun to shed the blood of many soldiers and his near and dear ones. And the only reason he cites is that he is the supreme being and therefore whatever he says should be taken at face value.

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  43. Whether a particular person wants to read a book or not , is her individual choice.
    If she chooses to read it, then whether she agrees with then author or not, is again her individual judgment.
    If she decides to disagree with the author, then whether it is on grounds of facts being distorted by the author (” author is not objective”), or on grounds of author drawing wrong conclusions from true facts (“author is subjective”), is again a matter of her individual judgment.
    But , none of the above choices / judgments bestows on her a right to burn the author’s book, or to ask the publisher to “pulp” it!

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  44. @ Shuddhabrata Sengupta, I also agree with Mr. Sumit Paul. Many times the so-called Scholars are not even aware what the Epics say. Here is some one quoting “Dr. Charles, an American scholar” : “When “god” Rama was exiled to the forest together with his wife, Sukrievan appeared as a deer and fooled “god” Rama. Although Rama was a “god”, he was not able to see through Sukrievan’s disguise. http://avijit.humanists.net/article/oh_hindu_awake.htm It was NOT “Sukrievan” (Sugreevan) but Mareechan (Ravana’s uncle) who appeared in the guise of a Deer.

    Also many “Scholars” are selective in criticism. They criticise the scriptures of other Religions but do not say anything about the scriptures of their Religion. World renowned Rationalist, the late Dr.Abraham Thomas Kovoor was highly critical of all religious scriptures and the paddlers of faith. He had criticised both Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism in his Book: “Gods, Demons and Spirits” though he had referred to Islam only in passing (probably he was unaware of their scriptures as he was settled in Sri Lanka where Muslims were a minuscule community at that time. Nobody had issued any threats against him.

    This is what your colleague, Mr. Shivam Vij, says about the “pulping” of Doniger’s book: A brief history of India’s blasphemy law
    http://scroll.in/article/why-indias-colonial-era-blasphemy-law-used-to-muzzle-wendy-doniger-must-go?id=656608

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    1. Thanks Mr Sengupta for empathising with my views. While studying Islamic theology at Al-Azhar, Cairo, I always wondered how could god/allah (I intentionally don’t use capitals for ‘god’/’allah’) write such preposterous prose in flawed Arabic? Whenever I raised this question, my Muslim professors snubbed me and finally threw me out of the varsity. I’m lucky, they didn’t kill me! I left my theological study incomplete and realised with the passage of time that until we get rid of all man-made faiths, we cannot analyse all religions dispassionately. In my opinion, the so-called secularists have done more harm than outright zealots because every secular person has his/her faith and s/he hasn’t yet evolved in the true sense of the word. Kya kahte hain aap, Mr Sengupta?

      -SUMIT PAUL

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      1. Mr. Paul, generally speaking those who advertise their arrogance about other people’s beliefs, or lack of them, do not endear themselves to me. Faith, and doubt are deeply personal matters. I have no religion, and am as concerned as you are about the way in which religious zealots try to control everybody’s lives. But, I think matters of faith and doubt are best left to individual conscience. I would militantly oppose any move to ban religious books, or to humiliate people anyone because of their faith, exactly as I would militantly oppose any move to ban books that criticize religion, or that place limits on people who are atheists or agnostics. I do not presume to say that we should ‘get rid of all man made faiths’ just as I do not find it necessary to say that we should burn all atheists at the stake. And I do not think that a ‘dispassionate’ analysis of religion, or the lack of it, is either possible, or desirable. My atheism is not dispassionate, and I respect passionate religious people. In fact, my passionate doubt and their passionate faith have more points of resonance and contact than a dispassionate doubt and a mechanical, formulaic faith. Let us simply agree to disagree, and not abuse this forum to advertise our claims to be superior to other people. No one is. you are not, I am not, and people who are religious are not either. As long as we leave enough space for the co existence of doubt and faith and do not interfere with what we can read privately, I do not think there should be a problem. I hope this matter ends here, at least for now.

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  45. Penguin books should be boycotted! I personally will effect that in my book purchases. We all know how Penguin was fleecing Kindle book readers by charging ridiculous prices for their e-books. Now they choose to propagate propaganda.

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  46. I am referring to the para you mentioned regarding “Nishadas”, “The House of Lac”. The para you have mentioned in your article does not match with what was shown in the Episode-31 of Mahabharata serial. The Nishadas who built the lacshgruh were invited by the officer of shakuni and poisoned them, a night before it was to be set on fire. He himself died in the fire. As you have read the book, please provide the reference used by author to narrate the story she has mentioned in her book.

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