This post is co-authored by Aarti Sethi and Shuddhabrata Sengupta
Dinanath Batra is at it again. Not content with having bullied Penguin and Aleph into withdrawing Wendy Doniger’s “The Hindus: An Alternative History”, and “On Hinduism”, respectively, he has now trained his guns on Orient Blackswan. And, in what seems to be emerging as a frighteningly predictable pattern, Orient Blackswan has succumbed to Dinanath Batra’s “legal suits”, not just by agreeing to consider the withdrawal of a book that had attracted Batra’s attention, but also by withdrawing another book, on sexual violence during communal riots in Gujarat, as a ‘preventive measure’ regardless of the fact that it had not even been targeted by Batra and his organization. Clearly these are interesting times for publishing in India.
There is no need to rehash arguments on the importance of free speech and the circulation of books and words and texts. These have been extensively discussed here on Kafila, and everywhere else. At this stage it might be useful to simply clarify some pressing “legal” matters as there seems to be a bewildering confusion rife amongst publishers as to what exactly a legal notice is. Thus, to begin:
What a Legal Notice Is:
A Legal Notice is a grouse sent by registered post and has the same legal standing. Namely, none whatsoever. Any crank with half an hour, a typewriter and money for postage can send a legal notice to anyone about anything. You do not even have to get a lawyer to draft it. You just need a few minutes on the internet where pre-drafted forms are available for free. Or, just for fun, try drafting one yourself. Since it has no legal validity anyway, be creative! Continue reading #youhadonejob: Or, A Quick Legal Primer for Publishers. Or, What (Not) to Do When Dinanath (and other busybodies) Strike
Guest Post by SAJAN VENNIYOOR
“There is no Hindu canon,” declares Wendy Doniger in The Hindus. “The Vedas did not constitute a closed canon, and there was no central temporal or religious authority to enforce a canon had there been one.”
This is a curious argument in defence of heterodoxy. Canons don’t spring fully formed like Athena from the head of Zeus, or drop from the lips of a passing Archangel. Someone has only to do the hard work, and it’s never too late to make a nice hard canon.
As Doniger says, Hinduism as we know it today “is composed of local as well as pan-Indian traditions, oral as well as written traditions, vernacular as well as Sanskrit traditions, and nontextual as well as textual sources.” That’s good news – plenty of material there to choose a canon from.
Back in the 16th century, the Church found itself up the creek without a canon. Plagued by fifteen hundred years of heresies and heterodoxies, disagreements over the sacraments and the scriptures, not to mention a perfect storm of lusty, busty images in Renaissance religious art, the Catholic Church sat in ecumenical council between 1545 and 1563 and decided, once and for all, what was IN and what was OUT.
Index of Prohibited Books
It took the Church just over 1500 years – from the crucifixion of its founder to the Council of Trent – to decide which of its written books and unwritten traditions were truly sacred and which were profane (and which were to be banned). Continue reading The Buttocks of Naked Women and Further Meditations on Sacred Art: Sajan Venniyoor
Perhaps the clearest statement on what exactly it is in Wendy Doniger’s work that bothers some people – and who these people are – is outlined in Jakob De Roover’s empathetic account of the imagined ‘Hindu boy with intellectual inclinations’ born in the 1950’s. This boy grows up going to the temple, hearing stories about Bhima’s strength, Krishna’s appetite, Durvasa’s temper. If you were this boy,
Perhaps you rejoice when Rama rescues Sita, feel afraid when Kali fights demons, or cry when Drona demands Ekalavya’s thumb as gurudakshina.
The boy goes to school and learns about caste discrimination in Hinduism (that he had to go to school to learn about caste discrimination establishes his own caste position very clearly). This makes
You feel bad about your “backward religion” and ashamed about “the massive injustice of caste.”
You sense that it misrepresents you and your traditions—it distorts your practices, your people, and your experience…Everywhere you turn, people just reproduce the same story about Hinduism and caste as the worst thing that ever happened to humanity: politicians, activists, teachers, professors, newspapers, television shows… Continue reading The Embarrassed Modern Hindu (Upper Caste Man)