Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hindus not always tolerant: Wendy. Quit the academe, Wendy. Some academics, like Wendy, are not always gurus.

When 'Ularals' are branded as Intellectualism and accepted as academic freedom, ilks of Wendy and Steve would grow. Should we tolerate them?


Hindus not always tolerant: Wendy. 

This statement is part of the problem. Quit the academe, Wendy. Some a
cademics, like Wendy, are not always gurus.

Anti-Hindu hate groups have their knickers-in-the-twist with the Wendy book withdrawal by Penguin. All electronic forms of the book are also covered by the settlement reached by Penguin. So Wendy should watch out for more violations of the law, before promoting ecopies of the withdrawn book.

The statement attributed to Wendy is one good example of the academic worthy's world-view. She stereotypes a Hindu and straitjackets the entire group into tolerance categories only because she feels enraged by the fate of her book.

Is there any possibility that she will say, 'sorry' and say that she has not learnt enough from her study of the Hindu history, alternative or otherwise? Part of the problem is created by the academic arrogance that accrues to a seemingly eternal tenur in an academic institution without adequate checks and balances and adequare procedures to redress evil- or wrong-doing.

Now, there are guys including Wendy attributing political motives to a settlement entered into voluntarily by a Publishing House.

Politics can be the last refuge of scoundrels.

Let me tell Wendy this. She does not have to feel sorry for the state of the Indian polity or dish out her prognosis of what will happen after the next Lok Sabha polls. A polity of over 125 million people is strong enough to cope with socio-political issues without any help whatsoever from a motivated academi with a warped, porno-mind. Don't peddle porno as history. If porno is a method, apply it uniformly to history of all peoples. Will you, Wendy, true to your academic integrity and penchant for free expression in a free country, the United States of America?

Unfortunately, Wendy is not a citizen of India, she cannot participate in the democratic processes of this country by voting in the next Lok Sabha polls. Even if she becomes a naturalized citizen, after due process, she may have to wait.

For now, Wendy will do well not to interfere in the affairs of a sovereign nation. Let her worry about justifying her tenure position in her alma mater, which happens to be University of Chicago. Yes, Chicago, the same place from which Swami Vivekanand vowed the audience in the World Parliament of Religions with his oration to 'Brothers and Sisters of America...' 

I wonder if porno Wendy understands the true import of this memorable Chicago speech. Listen to it again and weep.


Background links:

Steve Farmer
For those of you who haven't heard yet, Penguin India has bowed to right-wing/Hindutva pressure and withdrawn Wendy Doniger's book, _The Hindus: An Alternative History_, from the Indian market.

The story here includes some of the documents.

Wendy wrote me this morning, after I asked her about this yesterday:
> Dear Steve,

> Yes, Penguin has withdrawn the book, because a small group of Hindus found that it violated their view of Hinduism.

> This is a serious attack on freedom of speech in India.

> Of course, anyone with a computer can get the Kindle edition of The Hindus from Penguin, NY, and it's probably cheaper, too. It is simply no longer possible to ban books in the age of the internet. For that, and for all the people who have expressed outrage over this, I am deeply grateful. Do feel free to write whatever you like about this.

> Yours with concern, Wendy
As normal in this case, the despicable Dr S Kalyanaraman is spreading the word, when he (and others writing under his name: anyone who reads Kalyanaraman's "scholarship" recognizes that he is close to senile, or there already) isn't spreading inflammatory attacks of other sorts about other Western scholars.


Paul from Spring, TX

This is infuriating.  Doniger's book is one of the most unfairly-denigrated historical works I am familiar with.  Despite imperfections which should be considered quotidian to any such sizable tome, I consider it brilliant.  I even nearly lost my friendship with a Detroit-based Hinduism promoter who unthinkingly repeated incorrect assumptions and interpretations of her work, who continued to re-issue emails on the subject even after I proved these assumptions and interpretations incorrect by quoting in context passages from the text.

So what are we to do?

Of-repeated is the assumption that a rational and scientifically-justifiable explanation of history is an insult on the religious understanding of the same history.  But seeing cogently into the past doesn't insult or denigrate Hinduism in the same manner that stating Jesus was simply a flesh and blood human later deified doesn't insult Christianity.

But inquiry within the boundaries of respect - which Doniger's work does fit - cannot be compromised in a free society, especially a secular one such as India, which prides itself on its Capitalism and pluralistic secularism.  Imagine the books of Bart Ehrman or Hector Alvarez being pulled from publication -- not to mention Michael Witzel or Steve Farmer -- due to fundamentalist Presbyterian and Baptists objections.

Let's build a site, start a Twitter or F-book protest.

I, for one, am willing to create Dr S Kalyanaraman's nightmare.  Due to his actions, Doniger's tome get's the publicity and recognition it should have had in the first place.

Paul Pearson
Houston, TX

"Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices."
-Voltaire (Francois-Marie Arouet)

Miller, Robert
This is very unfortunate.  I just returned from India and the book was readily available in many bookstores and prominently displayed.  Sorry to see it pulled.

Bob Miller

Áine ní 
Indeed, as a Muslima who is also a historian, linguist and anthropologist, pushback from my own community is infuriating and perhaps even more consistent. :-(

Anna Johnson
Harvard '97

chaitanya diwadkar
Dear Steve, is it okay if I quote Wendy's email on my Facebook page? I want people to know that the book is still available outside India and that it's on Kindle.
This is absolutely terrible. Hopefully this is not a foreshadowing of what is to come if the fascist Narendra Modi is elected by the middle-class Hindu hordes!

Statement just made public by Wendy Doniger.

Wendy sent the announcement as a PDF, and Yahoo controls for the List at present aren't working and won't let me send pdf files, so I send it on in plaintext below.

I've uploaded the statement in its original form as a pdf to


Dear friends,

I have had literally hundreds of requests for interviews,
in various media, and I can’t do them all. So here is a statement
that you may use. I hope it’s enough; it’s the best I can do
right now. I intend to write a longer article for publication in
a couple of weeks.

Yours with gratitude for your courage and compassion,

I was thrilled and moved by the great number of messages of
support that I received, not merely from friends and colleagues
but from people in India that I have never met, who had read and
loved The Hindus, and by news and media people, all of whom
expressed their outrage and sadness and their wish to help me in
any way they could. I was, of course, angry and disappointed to
see this happen, and I am deeply troubled by what it foretells
for free speech in India in the present, and steadily worsening,
political climate. And as a publisher’s daughter, I particularly
wince at the knowledge that the existing books (unless they are
bought out quickly by people intrigued by all the brouhaha) will
be pulped. But I do not blame Penguin Books, India. Other
publishers have just quietly withdrawn other books without making
the effort that Penguin made to save this book. Penguin, India,
took this book on knowing that it would stir anger in the
Hindutva ranks, and they defended it in the courts for four
years, both as a civil and as a criminal suit.

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, a law that jeopardizes the
physical safety of any publisher, no matter how ludicrous the
accusation brought against a book. An example at random, from the
lawsuit in question:

‘That YOU NOTICE 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). ‘

Finally, I am glad that, in the age of the Internet, it is no
longer possible to suppress a book. The Hindus is available on
Kindle; and if legal means of publication fail, the Internet has
other ways of keeping books in circulation. People in India will
always be able to read books of all sorts, including some that
may offend some Hindus.

Academics, writers decry Penguin's withdrawal of Doniger's book 'The Hindus'

Kim Arora,TNN | Feb 11, 2014, 10.07 PM IST

Copies of Wendy Doniger's The Hindus: An Alternative History will be withdrawn and pulped in India, thanks to a legal wrangle that publisher Penguin found itself in.


NEW DELHI: Eminent academics, writers and lawyers have come out strongly against the withdrawal of American academic Wendy Doniger's book, The Hindus: An Alternative History, following a settlement between publisher Penguin and petitioner Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti on Tuesday.

Noted Hindi literary critic Namwar Singh termed the act as an "attack on writers' freedoms". Having read Doniger's book, he said, he found it challenging. "It is not the kind of book that says 'yes sir' to everything. It challenges several beliefs. If Hindutva is so powerful and secure, it should tolerate it, and respond in kind. It is an open market, and the appropriate response to the written word is the written word itself, not a ban," said Singh.

Jeet Thayil, who came out in support of Salman Rushdie's banned book The Satanic Verses at the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2012, told TOI over phone that the development was "unfortunate". "It is unfortunate that a religion that is known for its tolerance is showing that fundamentalists are the same everywhere," says Thayil.

A number of leading academics have also jointly issued a statement against Penguin's decision to withdraw Doniger's book. The statement has been signed by the likes of historian Partha Chatterjee (Centre for Studies in the Social Sciences, Kolkata), Nayanjot Lahiri and Upinder Singh (department of history, Delhi University).

Senior Supreme Court advocate KTS Tulsi concurred with Singh's view of countering one book with another. "There is a growing tendency of intolerance in a certain section of society against the letter and spirit of the Constitution. Penguin may have succumbed because they did not want to be physically attacked. It shows helplessness against unruly mobs. It is unfortunate that this should happen in India where we pride ourselves on freedom of speech," he says.

However, Dinanath Batra, convenor, Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, and petitioner in the case, is a happy man. He says that with this move, his organization had "won the battle" but is yet to "win the war" against "faulty representation of Indian history and historical figures."

"The writer had heavily sexualized Hindu religious figures in the book. The book had a lot of dirt in it. This caused me a lot of pain and hurt my sentiments," said Batra.

Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti was registered in 2008 and is headquartered in Delhi. Ideologically, the group is right-wing and socially conservative and said to be associated with the RSS. When asked, Batra refused to confirm or deny the same.

In 2008, the Delhi high court had directed NCERT to remove 75 "objectionable" paragraphs from history textbooks following a petition by Batra. The organization has been active in the field of education in India, particularly in getting schoolbooks to reflect a history that, in Batra's words, "reflects India's pride". The group has also campaigned against sex education in schools.

Blacked out

The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie: The 1988 book was banned in India. In 2012, Rushdie was due to appear at the annual Jaipur Literature Festival, but cancelled his visit following reported threats from extremist groups. Even a video conference with the writer at the festival was stopped at the last moment.

El Sari Rojo, Javier Moro: Spanish author Javier Moro was sent a legal notice for his book on Sonia Gandhi. Abhishek Manu Singhvi was quoted in newspaper reports saying that Moro was "exploiting somebody's privacy for personal commercial gains."

Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India, James Laine: The Maharashtra state government ban the book in 2004" after demonstrations by Shiv Sena. The ban was briefly lifted in 2007 and then later again by the Supreme Court in 2010.

Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five examples and three thoughts on translations, A K Ramanujan: The Delhi University Academic Council dropped the essay from the history course after pressure from right wing groups. The ABVP had campaigned for the same since 2008. The essay was about 300 different versions of the Ramayana from across the world.

(With inputs by Alisa Schubert Yuasa)

Hindus not always tolerant: Wendy

Malini Nair TNN 

    Five months before her publishers decided to recall and pulp all remaining copies of her controversial book The Hindus, Wendy Doniger had spoken to The Times of India about the right-wing rage against her writing. Excerpts... 

You have questioned the popular theory that Hindus are a tolerant community.
Hindus have generally been very tolerant about ideas; they did not persecute people whose beliefs about the gods were different from their own. But Hindus have not always been tolerant about behaviour — about what people ate, touched, or wore — and this, of course, makes for trouble with Muslims and Sikhs. What worries me most about the Hindutva brigade is that they are just as intolerant of behaviour but also intolerant of ideas, censorship of a fundamentalist nature 

Despite the growing intolerance, you maintain that the Hinduism of the future will have to be multicultural and pluralist. What makes you so optimistic?
I do watch with growing apprehension as Hindutva-driven factions gain increasing power in India, but the responses I’ve had to my books have been enormously encouraging. The kind of people whose texts I found throughout the history of Hinduism — open-minded, intellectually omnivorous people, capable of self-irony —are still alive and well and living in India. I do believe that the great strength of Hinduism — its openness to contradictory ideas — will carry it through this present danger. 

You trace the ‘dark shadows’ of Hinduism – the way women and lower castes are treated -- to Manu's diktats. Are you saying that Hindus haven’t evolved?
I don’t think that Manu is the source of mistreatment of women and lower castes, but he is a particularly brilliant and detailed example of it. The Manusmriti has been the canonical text for those who would enforce those aspects of Hinduism. I wouldn’t call Manu’s diktats particularly primitive or regressive; almost all the cultures I know have been, and often still are, sexist and classist. 

You point out that ancient Hindu texts happily allowed for “gender boundary jumping” between the gods. This is vastly different from the prudishness we see now, isn’t it?
The contemporary Hindu attitude to alternate sexual behavior is far more repressive than the attitudes of the ancient texts. Even then, there was an official disapproval of such behavior, in the dharma texts, but there were important departures from that conventional stance in such texts as the Kamasutra, and in the imaginative literature of ancient India.

Doniger says she watches with growing apprehension as Hindutva-driven factions gain increasing power in India

Copies of US scholar’s book on Hindus to be destroyed

Smriti Singh TNN 

New Delhi: US author Wendy Doniger’s controversial book ‘The Hindus: An alternative history’, which created a stir among right-wing groups for allegedly “defaming Hindu religion and freedom fighters”, will be pulled out of the Indian market after its publishers decided to “withdraw and recall all the copies from India”. 

    In a settlement agreement with petitioner Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, a Delhi-based group, publisher Penguin India agreed to “pulp the recalled/withdrawn/unsold copies” at its own cost. 

    “The second party (Penguin India) shall ensure that the book is completely withdrawn/cleared from Bharat (Indian territory) at the earliest, and within a period not exceeding six months, starting from the date on which this agreement is signed by the parties,” stated the agreement, which was signed on February 4. 

    Additional district judge Balwant Rai Bansal was hearing the civil suit filed in 2011 by Dinanath Batra, convener of Shiksha Bachao Andolan, through his counsel Monika Arora. Along with him, there were five other petitioners, including ex-IFS officer O P Gupta, and Sharvan Kumar, president, Swami Vivekananda Medical Mission. 

    Talking to TOI, Batra said he had also filed a complaint on April 29, 2010, in the Hauz Khas police station seeking action against the defendants for “gross misrepresentations and printing mistakes in the book — the most offensive of which is to erase Kashmir from Indian territory even between 600 and 1600 CE long before even the existence of Pakistan”. Petitioners to withdraw cases against Doniger T he defendants later approached us for a settlement and we agreed. We also informed the court about the settlement agreement,” Batra added. Penguin India refused to comment on the matter. As part of the agreement, the petitioners would withdraw “with immediate effect all civil and criminal cases/ complaints and any other action initiated under relevant laws against Second Party, Wendy Doniger and Penguin USA and give a written confirmation in this regard”. 

    Accepting the agreement, ADJ Bansal, dismissed the suit as withdrawn. The 800-page book, published in 2009, claimed in its blurb that it is a definitive narrative account of history and myth that offers a new way of understanding one of the world’s oldest and major religions. The petitioners, however, in their plea had claimed that the book was based on “unreliable and unauthentic and one sided sources” and is full of biases, generalizations and pre-conceived notions. “That it has not only used and misused but abused Indian history and religion in an undignified manner. It is a misinterpretation of Hindu dharma and its glorious past,” the petition had stated. 

    Quoting the excerpts from the book, the petition stated that the author incorrectly stated that “Hindu organizations began holding rallies at the site of Babur’s Mosque, campaigning for the rebuilding of the temple despite the absence of any evidence to confirm either the existence of the temple or even the identification of the modern town of Ayodhya”. They also claimed that Doniger had maliciously and mischievously written that “the monkey was presumed to be Hanuman, who has become the mascot of the RSS, militant wing of the BJP”.

    I do watch with apprehension as Hindutva-driven factions gain power in India. (But) the kind of people whose texts I found throughout the history of Hinduism — open-minded, intellectually omnivorous people — are still alive and well in India Wendy Doniger | AUTHOR OF THE HINDUS, AN ALTERNATIVE HISTORY

S. Kalyanaraman

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