Penguin Books India is pulling a controversial book off the shelves after a criminal complaint from a Hindu group calling the text offensive to their religion.
"The Hindus: An Alternative History" is Wendy Doniger's summary of the history and development of Hinduism. Doniger is a well-known Western scholar of India, who has faced criticism in the past for her ideas. (Via YouTube / AlephBookCompany)
"The Hindus" has been under attack since it was published in 2009. A group of offended Hindu education activists filed criminal and civil charges against Penguin Books, accusing Doniger of misinterpreting and misrepresenting their religion.
As FirstPost reports, a petition sent to Penguin Books India called on the company to pull the book from the shelves, claiming it "seriously and grossly misrepresents the Hindu reality as known to the vast numbers of Hindus and to scholars of Hindu tradition."
But now, Penguin has given in to the critics. The publisher will recall "The Hindus" from the shelves of bookstores across India, and the excess copies will be pulped.
Penguin's decision has been viewed as a severe blow for the rights of free expression and free speech in India. A writer for The Daily Beast says "The fundamentalist book-pulpers won, and, in winning, have set a precedent for other capitulations in the future … and for the pulping of other books."
And another prominent Indian writer, Arundhati Roy, published an open letter in The Times of India blasting Penguin for refusing to stand up for Doniger.
"You have published some of the greatest writers in history. You have stood by them as publishers should. ... And now, even though there was no fatwa, no ban, not even a court order, you have not only caved in, you have humiliated yourself abjectly."
But Doniger herself doesn't blame Penguin for the ban. In a written statement, she criticized "the Indian law that makes it a criminal rather than civil offense to publish a book that offends any Hindu." (Via Facebook / PEN Delhi)
Those who protested the book call it hate speech, with one activist telling Time it insulted Hindus all over the world and another telling BBC that Hindus all-too-frequently feel attacked by modern culture.
"In modern discourse and narrative, it's accepted to attack Hindus and Hinduism wherever possible. It would not be acceptable to do that with any other religion or any other group or any other indigenous community, might I add."
"The Hindus" isn't the only book publishers have recently had to pull in India. Last month, Bloomsbury recalled "The Descent of Air India" in the country after a minister filed an anti-defamation suit.