This statement is part of the problem. Quit the academe, Wendy. Some academics, like Wendy, are not always gurus.
The story here includes some of the documents.
Wendy wrote me this morning, after I asked her about this yesterday:
> Yes, Penguin has withdrawn the book, because a small group of Hindus found that it violated their view of Hinduism.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
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.
-Voltaire (Francois-Marie Arouet)
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 tohttp://www.safarmer.com/Doniger.statement.pdf
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.
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.
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.
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.