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When Penguin turned Chicken

Why people should lambast Penguin and not Dinanath Batra for asking for Wendy Doniger’s book to be banned.

When Penguin turned Chicken
Victimhood is a shop round the corner and I want my daily bread.

There are many stories associated with Henry Ford, the inventor of the assembly-line, and one such merits retelling. Legend has it that Ford once asked his men to scour the junkyards to find out which part of his beloved Model T was still in working order even though the car had long gone to pieces. The men came back and told him it was the axle. “Well”, said Ford, “make sure this darned axle never outlasts the car from hereon”.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Books, though, are not cars. Books contain ideas, and ideas cannot be taken out, scrubbed or altered and then put back again. They are meant to outlast their temporary home built of paper and glue. Books are not assembled. If they were, the famous adage that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts would no longer hold true. A book is meant to last till eternity, but only if the author and his publisher stand by it. If they chicken out midway, it follows that either the author or the publisher did not have enough faith in the book in the first place.

Battles are not won by calling time-outs.

The decision of Penguin to withdraw Wendy Doniger’s book, The Hindus: An Alternative Historywithdraw it and squash it to pulp – in the face of a court case filed by Dinanath Batra of Shiksha Bachao Andolan is deplorable. What is more deplorable is the spin that is being given to this decision. Penguin is no longer the scapegoat. Jairam Ramesh was the first to lend support to Penguin, venting his ire at Dinanath and his fellow-petitioners. “The organisation that demanded Penguin take such action is clearly some Taliban-type outfit. It is distorting and destroying our liberal traditions. I hope Penguin reconsiders its decision and musters up courage to tell this outfit off”, he said. He conveniently forgets that, not very long ago, it was presumably another Taliban-type outfit, the Congress Party that demanded a ban on Javier Moro’s El Saro Rojo, The Red Sari – a book on Sonia Gandhi.

What the Congress Party did to Moro and his book was nothing new. Salman Rushdie, in his introduction to Midnight’s Children, gives a detailed account of how Indira Gandhi took him to court over an innocuous remark regarding Sanjay Gandhi. And lest we forget, the cynosure of every Indian writer and publisher, Khushwant Singh, was the first to advocate a ban on Rushdie’s Satanic Verses.

These aren’t exceptions. Every political party has tried to ban books. What is unfortunate in this case is that the sugar-coated let-off has come from the author herself. She should have been readying a team of lawyers to sue the tailcoat off Penguin. Instead, here is what she said. “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 will be pulped. But I do not blame Penguin Books, India.” Taking cue, many intellectuals have termed Dinanath and his fellow petitioners as “cretins” and “idiots”.

Yes, quite right – there exists a law, in fact an article framed in our Constitution, and those who exercise their legitimate right to go to court citing it are worthy of the choicest abuses – abuses that were theirs for the taking had they burnt the book on the streets instead. But, woe befall on them, they went to court, these cretins and idiots. Life would have been so much easier had they displayed Shiv Sena-like hooliganism: trashed a library, hurled rocks at someone, burnt the book and a few offices to go along with it. This convenience – hinsa over ahinsa – was denied to the abusers, unfortunately. Not that it deterred them in any way.

Ridiculous as it may sound, and notwithstanding the hypocrisy of the free-speech flame-throwers and keepers, I do not blame them one bit. What I blame – and what, sadly, they deliberately don’t – is this monstrous clause 2 of Article 19 (1) of our Constitution which states that “All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression subject to ‘reasonable restrictions’ that, among other things, are ‘public order’ and ‘decency’ and ‘morality’”.

A year ago to the day, I had written an article called A Requiem for Galileo, protesting against the then Chief Justice’s rebuke of a lawyer that went along the lines of: “Yes, why not, an idea can be punished!”. Painful though it was to hear, the Chief Justice was right in what he said, his defence being the infamous clause 2.

“Clause 2”, I had written, “is what will sound the death knell for freedom in this nation of ours. It is because of clause 2 that Rushdie was hounded out of Jaipur, Swamy was ejected from Harvard, Nasreen was chased from Kolkata, Hussain was dismounted from his horses, and clause 2 it is that has made Nandy a fugitive in his own country. Are we going to imprison those millions of Naga Sadhus whose dangling penises we may find an affront to our ‘decency’? Are we going to blast those temples of Khajuraho whose walls may assault our sense of ‘morality’? That fine lady who stands atop our temples of justice is tired of our self-righteousness and her sword that is pointing to the skies is blunted and her blindfold is perforated and her scales are rusted, and she is crying hearing someone say that ideas can be punished.”

Overbearing exhortation aside, there’s no getting away from the truth: in our country, ideas can be punished. That is why Clause 2 must be done away with. But until such time it is, until such time we demand a change in our Constitution, it is incredulous to ask people to stop exercising their legal rights. Personal choices do not dictate how societies function. I may not have wanted Dinanath to knock at the courts, but that’s just me. Dinanath does not become a cretin by virtue of the fact that he wants to invoke Clause 2. Instead of lambasting Penguin, writers are castigating a man for going to court to have a book banned. They are deliberately ignoring the fact that unless one changes the Constitution, clause 2 stands and anyone is within his right to use it. Anyone. How can one be blamed for going to court? Is Abhishek Manu Singhvi – who got Moro’s book banned – a cretin? Is Indira Gandhi one? This stand is not only hypocritical, it defies all logic. What else are courts for?

Dinanath didn’t burn Wendy’s book on the street. He went to the courts where the verdict could have easily gone against him. It is Penguin that short-changed the author, Penguin that agreed to pulp the book. It is all very well to lament court delays and asinine laws. Yes, they are archaic and arcane and all the shades in-between. But the delay is same for everyone. If a poor farmer can wait for as long as it takes to get justice in this country, Wendy Doniger must, too. If the delay is painful, change the justice system, change the laws, change the Constitution, but till such time you do, follow the laws of the land and let others do the same.

I may not find Doniger’s unbridled Freudian associations with Lord Shiva’s nuclear family hurtful – in fact I don’t. But that is my personal opinion. Would those editors and anchors kicking Dinanath in the shins have the guts to publish Danish cartoons in solidarity with their Scandinavian counterparts? Would those protesting the pulping of Doniger’s book have the moral fibre to withdraw their own books published by Penguin? “I am a Penguin author and I’m disgusted by Penguin’s action and I’ve sent them a notice to withdraw all my books”, is a comment I haven’t heard since the storm erupted.

There is also another aspect to this controversy. One cannot help but ask: Can a 5000-year-old religion be destroyed by slander, misrepresentation, abuse – all non-physical, when the brutal physical force of countless invasions couldn’t destroy it? My personal opinion is it cannot, but I have no right to stop someone from believing that it can be destroyed. I have no right to stop him from going to courts over it.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, his usual erudite self, has written on the issue. He calls it the Silencing of Liberal India. What he fails to understand is that for an atheist, liberalism was silenced the day god was invented. Does that give atheists the right to run rampage and call believers idiots and ignorant fools?

Yes, there is unnecessary hurt all around. Increasingly, people feel aggrieved by a written word, they get angry at the drop of a hat. But it is astonishing to blame an individual for exercising his right to get angry and move courts. What should be of prime importance is to somehow get clause 2 removed from our Constitution. That no one is willing to write for – in solidarity or in spite of it.

The author can be contacted at anand.icgeb@gmail.com and on Twitter  @ARangarajan1972

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  • abyss

    Good1. Freedom of speech doesnt mean abusing a group, their belief etc without any justification whatsoever. Just Imagine if the name of the book was “The Muslims”. More important is the MSM & left “intellectual” twisting of the facts to bring a “saffron talibanisation” angle in to all this. It is important to note that the issue was settled in court. It also important to note how was the Danish cartoon reaction in our country. More than anything else it would be interesting to note how asylum seeker Taslima Nasreen was attacked, got banned her books, TV serials etc etc & kicked out of liberal-mecca commi bengal. Finally pls go through this http://t.co/QFT0m8Fyz4 to realise what a crap is this book.

    • Guest

      If this book is crap .. leave it to readers to judge or even better challenge it intellectually using reason and facts. Though I do support, ‘reasonable restrictions’for our freedom of speech but it has to be propotionate. But sadly we havent learned the importance of propotionate response in our nation. If farmers protest against land aquistion, we dont shy away or question the use of live ammunition.

      • abyss

        No double standards! If you give absolute freedom of speech then that is fine. BUT conspicuous silence for Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasrin, Danish Cartoonist etc etc & playing SICKularism wont work anymore. I am a person who believes in freedom of speech. But if you feel offended, GO To COURT and settle, like in this case. NOT A SINGLE PROTEST was done. Now Mr. Guest, do you even know what happened with “The Red Sari (El Sari Rojo)” on Sonia Gandhi?

        • prabhjot Juneja

          Does wrong precedents makes wrong actions right?

          • http://bhattvihang.blogspot.com विहंग भट्ट

            No. It does not. However, such books are used as evidence against Hindu beliefs that has no basis. If you know hinduism, most traditions are orally transmitted to young generation. This book, as written word, would have bad impact on Indian education. The book must be condemned and author must be asked for providing original references for her “research”

          • Rex

            How do you know that the author has not researched her book? Have you read it? Can you demonstrate your own knowledge about what she has written by quoting exactly in what chapter and verse she is incorrect?

          • Jishnu

            Did you even read through the objections raised? Question is not just of correctness, question is of accountability too – the author was called in to defend her views and she chickened out in 2011 for want of fact on her side. Inform yourself first.

          • Rex

            Got a link to this supposed debate she had?

          • http://bhattvihang.blogspot.com विहंग भट्ट

            Ok. I am yet to find any verse in her book that she has cited as reference from Vedas. In fact, vedas does not mention that it is written for “Hindus”. Any reference to the word “Hindu” does not appear anywhere in the Veda. Therefore, description in Veda “does not” or “can not” be ascribed to so called “Hindus”. You may find it strange that I am asking you definition of the word “Hindu”. If you want this discussion to be an academic one, I will start from very basics of what you understand by popularly known terms e.g. “Hindu”, “Dalit”, “Brahman”, “shudra”, etc. list is endless. I don’t think you can even comprehend the list of question I have that are prerequisites for conducting the work like that of Prof Wendy.
            Anyways, It is customary now a days, in English language literature, not to cite vedas in its original form. This is because no body reads Sanskrut incorrectly spelled as Sanskrit (My first argument of doggy understanding in English language literature). Hindu community and their social practices changed under various external influences that later referred as “Religious practice” without any understanding. It is not difficult to understand that this was done deliberately by colonizers of different religious leanings e.g. Islamic (Ghoris, Mughals etc) and Christian (Portuguese, British, French etc). Both tried to erase and continue to demonise native culture wherever they could impose their power and grab local antiquities labelling ‘Brought by us’. If you have been “possessive Child” at some time, you will realise where my finger is pointing to.
            I am not “trained” to write in plain English.

            Please do not ask childish questions like “How do you know that the author has not researched ….”. READ BIBLIOGRAPHY.

          • Rex

            Please do not ask childish questions like “How do you know that the author has not researched ….”. READ BIBLIOGRAPHY.

            Kindly improve your reading comprehension before you vomit again in response to a comment without understanding what one is saying. You’re the illiterate poser claiming she has not cited her sources when the appendices to the book very clearly cite out a shitload of references to works, including translations by Indian authors.

            Like I said – quote directly from the book, and challenge what she says. Place your arguments in the form of ‘In chapter X, she claims Y, but she is wrong because of Z which I have referenced from this authoritative source D If you cannot do that, end of discussion.

          • http://bhattvihang.blogspot.com विहंग भट्ट

            read my twitter posts with #wendydoniger. there you will find my direct quotes. while I will not stoop to your third rate level, kindly do some literature review before vomiting at me. Why I should waste my time on stupid theories that has no basis. And I am saying it. I am not interested in discussion with one who come up with stupid book on Hinduism who do not provide any reference to Hindu literature and often misquote them. read http://www.sandeepweb.com/2009/11/25/wendy-doniger-is-a-syndrome/ you will find much more detailed answers. And you know there are many who trash her views. What I can do? I can laugh. and that too loudly.

          • abyss

            NO. There is a fundamental right to go to court for justice. The concerned people did that instead of issuing fatwas or burning public properties. Pls read the rubbish that book says. Now it is not a fiction, it is a study of Hinduism.You cant expect ppl to sit idly over something like that. People hv the right to oppose democratically and judicially. Now more than anything else author / publisher failed defend the content. It is a good step,pseudo-scholarship should be exposed.

          • abyss

            NO. There is a fundamental right to go to court for the justice. The
            concerned people did that instead of issuing fatwas or burning public
            properties. Pls read the rubbish that book says. Now it is not a
            fiction, it is a study of Hinduism.You cant expect ppl to sit idly over
            something like that. People hv the right to oppose democratically and
            judicially. Now more than anything else author / publisher failed defend
            the content. It is a good step, pseudo-scholarship should be exposed.

        • akriti

          Agreed

        • focus

          their brazenness is not surprising, not long ago MMS claimed that the RSS was reponsible for the anit-Sikh riots in 1984

        • Rex

          Firstly, what conspicuous silence? There were riots on the streets for Satanic Verses and Lajja. And Deepa Mehta’s films Fire and Water.
          Idiots like you argue that banning one book offensive to Hindus is justified if you ban another offensive to Muslims, instead of protesting the fucking useless Article 19 clause 2 of the Constitution mentioned above that makes such idiocy legal in the first place.

          • Jishnu

            Do you understand the difference between banning and a publisher withdrawing upon objection? Do you understand the difference between mob intimidation and a legal action? Do you understand the difference between offending with an abuse and getting offended with a mirror is shown? Don’t attempt fake equivalences – no such equivalences hold.

          • Rex

            What fake equivalences? The point here is that Article 19 clause 2 exists. As long as a law exists, it can and will be enforced. What are you going to do about it?

          • Anand Ranganathan

            Correct. You write so well – and you’re brimming with intelligent ideas. Must you use harsh language? :)

          • Rex

            Thank you :)
            I just cannot stand censorship in any form, and the fact that incidents like this or Kapil Sibal’s shenanigans cause so many people to miss the point about our laws needing reform in the first place. And I have little patience with people who misunderstand/misrepresent my comment and then reply, as was done by Jishnu. Nobody is forcing anybody to go and watch movies or read books that they dislike or disagree with.
            Even on this thread, I’ve often made the point that if you disagree with the book, prove that you have read and understood it first by pointing out exactly what you disagree with. Reasoned debate is the only way to deal with so called ‘inappropriate’ content, not banning them.

          • Anand Ranganathan

            Half the job of scaring the folks who wanna reply to your comment, is done by your pic! It is petrifying. :)

          • Rex

            Hahahahah! :D

    • jack_jack

      Even if this book lacks an iota of truth, banning it puts us in the same league as Saudi Arabia and its sister countries. There is and has to be some difference between us and them.

      • notanotherjerk

        there is a difference between them and us- they are a predominantly islamic nation and we are SICKular, they KILL rapists by beheading them publicly, we dont! What ever they dictate or do, their women are more secured, economically doing very well, and no body can say or do what they think is “nonsense”, especially outsiders. but in our case, any tom dick and harry and their entire families can download shit and because i am hindu and that being the most tolarent, i am supposed to shut my arse and mouth. there is a great deal of differece mate.

        • jack_jack

          Don’t you think the so called “ban” brings more publicity to the book? I never heard of this book earlier but now, I will read it to figure out what is wrong with it. If can’t buy it, I will download it. On the other hand, if people stuck to other measures (which we have done to some extent) – having the content ripped apart by highlighting the inaccuracies, people would have dismissed the author as crazy and the book would have died a natural death. The way I see it, banning is a strategic blunder from our perspective.

          • http://www.infinitchy.com/ Infinitchy

            The fact that you and I had not heard about the author does not prevent their work from being widely applauded and cited in academic circles. That is where such dubious authors wield great power and influence the academic discourse. To me, that is a serious problem and I complement people like Batra for taking on such lunatics in a law abiding manner.

          • Indic Logic

            outlookindia(.)com/article(.)aspx?262511 You might like to read this. Read the alternative history and invading the sacred.

            What you are suggesting in your posts has been done. But the problem I see is that misinformation or manufactured truth that is being peddled by Wendy is taken as gospel truth in the academic circles. The academic circle she belongs to is way too powerful to be countered by views and rebuttals by you and me.

            Having said that I still do not believe that the book should be banned/pulped. But then there was a court case and there was a settlement. So I guess everyone had their chance to get heard. Penguin could have approached a higher court, but they decided to settle the matter out of court.

      • abyss

        NO. There is a fundamental right to go to court for justice. The
        concerned people here did that instead of issuing fatwas or burning public
        properties. Pls read the rubbish that book says. Now it is not a
        fiction, it is a study of Hinduism.You cant expect ppl to sit idly over
        something like that. People hv the right to oppose democratically and
        judicially. Now more than anything else author / publisher failed defend
        the content. It is a good step,pseudo-scholarship should be exposed.

        • jack_jack

          In today’s world, it is impossible to absolutely “ban” a book. In this case, you can still buy the book from Amazon and have it shipped to India. If not, you can download copy. The above action only brings a lot of undeserving publicity to the book and I won’t be surprised if its sales increase tremendously due to this order. This defeats the purpose of the ban.
          Also, I believe the beauty of our society lies in the fact that any one can hold a contradicting viewpoint and wouldn’t be hounded for that. Our greatest teachers like Shankaracharya and Ramanamaharshi were branded as heretics at some point. If we had a similar society at that time, they would have not been allowed to propagate some of the greatest philosophies on Hinduism. I am not saying that this book is comparable to their theories. The point I am trying to make here is that we were a very tolerant society and have seen the benefits of it. We should not regress to a Saudi-like society from here.

          • Ram

            Jack*2…book was not banned…NOT BANNED…NOT BANNED…Get it?!

          • jack_jack

            If you understand hindi, “shabdon me kyaa hai, bhawanaon ko samjho”. In english, “tomato – tomahto” :-)

        • jack_jack

          If this “scholarly” work was not related to Hinduism, would your reaction be the same? For instance if some scholar proposed that the earth was flat, would you get his/her paper banned? I believe the normal course of action would be dismiss the scholar as crazy. At the most, you might write an opposing paper to rebut all the points. Why treat this topic differently?

          • abyss

            My reaction will be same -> I ignore such things. But that doesnt mean some1 else if he wants to go to court can be not allowed. The gravity of the issue is it is written by a “scholar” from a “great” place. Now there is a genuine chance that people will get misinformed. BTW in scince circle if a person makes false claims or things which he cant defend under scrutiny / peer review it will not get published.

          • jack_jack

            I am not saying the offended party was wrong to approach the court. As you have pointed out, he was well within his rights to do so. I think that it is wrong to have a (ambiguous?) law that is open to interpretation. This issue might still have some merit but if you broaden the scope to other similar instances like the Tamil movie Vishwaroopam (it wasn’t the court there but…), you know we are going down the wrong road. By our current method, we are making a martyr out of the author here.

            Your argument about the scientific community holds true for journal publications. However, we are talking about a book here and such standards do not apply. A glaring example of this is the book “Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife” by Eben Alexander. The book was extremely popular when it came out but later it was universally panned by all researchers due to the glaring scientific inaccuracies. The celebrated author is now regarded as a publicity seeking lunatic.

            If we didn’t resort to this rash step, the scholar would have been relegated to a “scholar” instead of a martyr in this case.

          • abyss

            there is a difference between writing a book on science & writing a book on certain social group. tk it like this, suppose u r writing a book on my family, saying all abuse that you can. I can chose to ignore, or I can go to court over that issue. “Sentiment” is a tricky issue, here the things she abused &misrepresented is everyday part of our life. If she had written this abt now extinct Egyptians,perhaps ppl wud hv ignored. More than anything else, here the point is bad scholarship, dubious writing to colour an entire community with trash. Then she/Penguin has the moral responsibility to defend the content. FYI there is no absolute freedom of speech in India after 1947.

          • jack_jack

            In that case do you feel muslims of the 3rd world countries were right in protesting (burning down embassies, issues death threats, etc) against Prophet Muhammed’s cartoons and the youtube movie – the innocence of muslims? Their case fits your description (excluding the violent backlash) as someone abused and misrepresented some aspects of their religion which, is a part of their daily life. My point here is that you have a right to be offended with someone views. However, you can’t impose your outrage on the the rest of the country. A fair thing to do here is to discredit the author / book and reducing them to irrelevance. For instance look into the Amazon rating of this book: people have done this through bad ratings.

          • abyss

            “A fair thing to do here is to discredit the author / book and reducing them to irrelevance.” Yeah that what happened! Neither author nor publisher could defend the content, so THEY decided to withdraw the book.

          • beaveheart

            ur soo naive…If this goes unchallnged now , Wendy Alternative history of Hindus will go into curriculums of schools and colleges and will eventually get accepted as undisputable truth(repeat a lie 100 times & it becomes truth)…It already has in the US..
            Pls googl “rajiv malhotra wendy doniger rebuttal” and read it for a change to know all fd facts…
            Wendy is running a mafia to distort and malign Hinduism….and she is funded by u know who…

          • Swati Sharma

            Agree. Our own Sickular media is also hand in hand with u know who.

          • AnalyseAbhishek

            All this has been done in case of Wendy Doniger’s book. A good amount of writing can be found as arguments against this book- including on Amazon reviews.
            Furthermore, the is not banned- this article says the same- still a lot of posters here are talking about banning!

      • focus

        The author is lying, she should be discredited

    • goldenhorde

      ”Freedom of expression doesnt mean abusing a group, their belief etc without any justification whatsoever”

      An arguement also made by Ayotollah Khomeini before he issued that fatwa…..

      • abyss

        Issuing a fatwa & going to court is not the same.

        • focus

          they cannot tell the difference because they have no pride in their origins

          • goldenhorde

            LOL, super hindu, let me ask you one thing? Is your religion so fragile that a firangi writer can destroy it with one measly book?

        • goldenhorde

          No, but the motive is the same. Shutting down of voices that you deem offensive. No recognition of freedom of speech , which includes freedom to ridicule 5000 year old superstitions….

    • Swati Sharma

      I completely agree with you. And I believe it is true – what SandeepWeb says – “Every eminent Indian journo, academic who supports Wendy Doniger’s books on Hinduism is mentally a slave of White colonialists.”

    • Rex

      Freedom of expression doesnt mean abusing a group, their belief etc without any justification whatsoever.

      Sorry, freedom of expression is exactly that. If you have not read the book in question, you lose the right to hold an opinion about it. If you don’t like the book debate it. List out the chapters and paragraphs that you disagree with and post your justification. That’s called reasoned debate.
      Then again this is India, the land of retards who will rush to ban anything that has the slightest hint of hurting their benighted feelings without any freaking justification whatsoever.

  • desidaaru

    You win the award for the most sensible and coherent article on this issue.
    People are blaming ‘Hindutva’ instead of seeing Penguin’s actions for what it is- an outcome of losing a legal battle in the courts- a battle that they could have easily carried on, had they had the conviction to do so. A battle against a private organisation, which is hardly representative of all the Hindus in the country.

  • Amarnath Wanchoo

    An excellent and candid article that puts matters in perspective. I haven’t read what Mehta has written but it could never be better that this blog.

    Although I am for repealing the Clause 2 of Article 19 (1), but with it in place the book The Hindu by Wendy Doniger should be banned.

  • Tanmay Singal

    This one is brilliant, Anand!

    Let blame be leveled to those who deserve it. The Shiksha Bachaan Andolan-kaari lot don’t owe other people that they “don’t feel offended” by Doniger’s books. The sources lie with these clauses in the constitution and the courts. Yes the courts too. I don’t know anything about the Bhasin case which Pratap Bhanu Mehta mentions in his article but if a court ruled that criticism of religion should only be of an ‘academic’ nature then the courts are at fault too.

    Minor point: burning books should be alright… as long as you’re burning your *own* copy of the book. Not someone else’s. You have the right to do with your property as you wish… but not someone else’s.

  • dexter x

    I Think Art 19 clause 2 should exist in our constitution. Many more such books will be written future abusing Indian culture or spreading misinformation about Indian history and I think reader should have right to challenge such books legally if one thinks it’s necessary. Which will also prevent violent acts like burning books or attacking author or publisher. Speaking about this particular book, it written out of pure hatred towards Hinduism. Even non-Hindu cannot read this book.

  • prabhjot Juneja

    Nice article, I think books should leave be left to readers to judge or even better
    challenged intellectually using reason and facts. Though I do support,
    ‘reasonable restrictions’ for our freedom of speech (which I see on the lines fundamental duties) but it has to be
    proportionate. But sadly we haven’t learned the importance of proportionate
    response in our nation. At times, if poor farmers protest against land acquisition, we
    don’t shy away or even question the use of live ammunition.

  • Anirudha Deshmukh

    There is a definition of “liberal” running here. This basically means right to give offense to those who liberals call cretins. And cretins are not allowed take offense because then they will be against liberals. However, the “liberals” can take unlimited offense and play victim. It’s a good game for liberals, they can not loose.

  • Rohit

    Very well put across

  • Jagan

    Beautifully written. I would pay solely to read Anand’s works. Very objective and fair. Unlike our Hindu bashing MSM.

  • stormchaser1983

    Best article on this subject BY FAR

  • No name’s

    “There is also another aspect to this controversy. One cannot help but ask: Can a 5000-year-old religion be destroyed by slander, misrepresentation, abuse – all non-physical, when the brutal physical force of countless invasions couldn’t destroy it? My personal opinion is it cannot, but I have no right to stop someone from believing that it can be destroyed. I have no right to stop him from going to courts over it.”

    Well done, I see everyone taking the convenient position that banning, or in this case withdrawal is bad evil and all that.con

    Here are some points I want to make.

    1. Doniger is widely considered an authority and has the power to control that narrative from a very powerful position cultivated over time and supported by very powerful interests. Every WH Smith with a book on Hinduism has this book on display. People interested in books would have seen that and I bought one, to my eternal regret as I am now a hindu fundamentalist and a fringe element.

    2. I have been through major reviews in well known papers such as the Guardian, the Outlook in India and some articles on Wash..Post. They are mostly favourable. However, I have not seen the same mag’s review Invading the Sacred (a rebuttal) and some other author’s books who right from a “different” perspective than the mainstream history even in India. These books are not easily accessible either, you have to order them on the net.

    3. As for the argument about the impact on hinduism, it is a widely ignored but well known fact that academic historic narratives have a life beyond the immediate future. The impact of incorrect history can be seen in the Dravidian politics, and on many anti-hindu publications and the broadly negative framing that the “liberal” media provides.

    4. As an illustration, refer to the Protocols of Elders of Zion and its impact on Middle Eastern narrative, the impact of the Aryan theory on Nazism, and many more. Given extraordinarily negative power equation, the Talibani in question, Mr Batra sounds like a decent man who, unlike many of his liberal elite opponents, does not shout and scream.

    5. When you criticise the Christian Church or christian history (western) or Islam or communism – it is because they are proselytising. They are asking you to accept their worldview and their religion. They are under an obligation to accept criticism, just as they offer it on other religions, quite viciously. Hinduism does not proselytise, it does not denigrate other religions, it has no concept of apostasy, etc. Dalits have a right to criticise, and you have heard the oppression related criticism and there are books such as why I am not a hindu, Ramayan Vishkumbham etc are available.

    One could make more points, but why waste your time.

    • Tanmay Singal

      1. The only way Doninger can “control” a narrative is if she has the power to censor all other narratives but her. Her narrative is but one of the many narratives floating out there for people to read.

      2. Popular discourse on a subject maybe against your notions/ beliefs. But that’s true for all of us on a variety of different subjects. One has to deal with it.

      3. “The impact of incorrect history can be seen in the Dravidian politics” I don’t exactly see what’s so much more wrong with Dravidian politics as opposed to politics in, say, Karnataka or Kerala or Maharashtra. Tamil Nadu happens to be one of the better performing states (on both the social and development facets) and secessionist movements have never gained much prominence in TN… at least not compared to Punjab or Kashmir or the N-E. I don’t see why peeps keep throwing up Dravidian politics as a shining example of “manufacturing destructive opinion” when it’s hardly been as destructive as, say, what happened in Punjab (which somehow nobody bothers to pick up, I cite that as selective Hindu outrage). In anycase falsification of the Aryan invasion theory ALSO relied in free-speech. So its free speech that comes to the rescue here.

      Also, free speech comes with its risks. Yes, untrue facts can be propagated as truths and can have large-scale consequences. These are just risks you have to deal with. Why opt for freedom when it comes with risks? Because censorship imposes MUCH BIGGER risks. History has shown us this much at least.

      4. “Aryan theory on Nazism” – examples of state control on EVERY aspect of speech. That happens when you censor alternate versions. So your problem should be with *censorship*. Not with free speech.

      5. Ok.

      • No Name’s

        1. Not true, the way to control a narrative is through institutions and networks. If you were to not allow competing narratives to even be reviewed, if you have used your influence as an institution to prevent others from challenging a narrative pushed by you, that is more effective control than censorship.

        2. You can’t divorce 1 from 2, if you control the institutions of power, an “alternative” method would be devised to challenge you. Everybody knows that book is not going anywhere because of the net. The protocols of the elders of the zion is still out there, holocaust deniers are still out there, and so are nazis. But nobody trusts these as a source because these narratives were challenged. You may read it but now you know perfectly well, as does everybody else, that its inaccurate and libelous. Before, anyone like me, would have thought that is the winning argument. Not any more. I had never heard of other writers on hinduism, now I know.

        3. Find out more. All these movements and more are supported by dangerous political narrative, devised not to gain greater understanding, insights, but as an attempt to destroy the other, and build and extend universal doctrines to India and in some other countries. Find out the reasons behind the Sri Lanka war beyond the sensational political games.

        4. Again, find out more.

        5. No. If I go up to you and say, listen you are going to go to hell unless you convert to my view because you worship the devil, you would have a right to argue back. If I say to you that people have been going to heaven only since jesus was born and all people who do not accept him as their saviour will go to hell, or that if you don’t accept the dictatorship of the proletariat and denounce your gods, you have a right to argue back.

        If a hindu does not say anything to Wendy Doniger about why she should not be a jew, or a feminist or a historian, and she still wants to know and write about hinduism. That is perfectly fine. if it is critical that too is fine. But if it is libelous; if she is the dominant narrative creator who controls and being controlled by, and feeds and is fed by, powerful interests overtly inimical to hindu’s, then we have to have a more nuanced approach to freedom of speech.

        There is a point beyond which some people do tend to have noses.

        • Tanmay Singal

          1. Maybe what you mean by “control” is different what I mean by it. Certain narratives are certainly more popular than others. But as long as the alternative narratives aren’t banned from being spoken about, I don’t see anybody “controlling” anything. “Not allowing competing narratives to be reviewed” – they have the freedom to not want to review something. That IS what freedom is about. Nobody is stopping another media outlet/ newspaper/ magazine from reviewing the book. Just that the more popular ones don’t. Like I said, one just has to deal with it. It may just be the case that the popular media outlets are biased AGAINST you and your philosophy (or mine). But they don’t owe you that they are not biased against your (or mine) philosophy/ opinions.

          Free speech doesn’t imply the DEMAND to be heard/ reviewed etc. You can say/ write whatever you want but if someone doesn’t care for your opinions then… tough luck.

          2. Same as above. Yes, you can’t divorce 1. from 2. So 1. and 2. aren’t separate points really.

          3. I know a great deal about the Sri Lankan war – Sinhalese racist domination in the first few years, the first twenty or so years of non-violent agiation being brutally and violently crushed by Sinhalese extremists, Sinhalese extremists massacring and assassinationg Sinhalese moderators who tried to make peace, how the Tamil groups gradually became more violent, how, when and where India intervened in the 80’s, in-fighting between the Tamil groups, the domination of the LTTE, the Jaffna seige, and operation Poomalai, how the IPKF was pulled into a battle with the LTTE and how the Sinhalese PM and LTTE clubbed together to attack the IPKF, Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, Premadasa’s assassination, Lalith Athulathmudali’s assassination, Chandrika Kumaratunga’s husband’s assassination, LTTE’s control over northern and eastern parts, their own version of ethnic cleansing (or Sinhalese and Muslims from their parts), a gradual fallout with leaders from Eastern Sri Lanka (in Tamil dominated), how continuos terrorist attacks and threats earned the LTTE a ban in a huge number of nations across the globe, how rebel Tamil nationalist groups sometimes sided with the SL government against the LTTE, how the Norway talks broke down and how Antom Balasingham’s death meant no peace talks would ever foster again, how LTTE’s demand of boycotting their elections implied that the Sinhalese extremists would win, how the entire Rajapakshe dynasty took over the government and declared war (using India’s help at times), how nasty the final stages of the war became when LTTE used human shields in no-fire-zones and the SL army attacked these same zones and how the LTTE was finally decimated.

          And in the intervening spaces it’s important to remember this: Dravidian political parties in India feared the LTTE. The only reason they lionise the LTTE TODAY is because the LTTE is dead and decimated and SL Tamils are still living in pathetic conditions in the North. But the LTTE milked as much as they could out of most Dravidian parties in TN, have blackmailed and killed some Indian Tamil politicians, have had shootouts IN Chennai (when it was still Madras), Jayalalitha hated Prabhakran the most and Karunanidhi never liked (or was liked by) Prabhakaran (whose only friend may have been MGR, but that was before he showed how extremist he could actually become). LTTE’s popularity among Tamils in TN waned during their time in power (mid 90’s to 2006), but like Tavleen Singh says – death changes perspective.

          So yea, I know a great deal. I’ve lived in Chennai for 4.5 years and I heard a lot from both sides of the debate. There’s a good chance that I know more than you. But I’m not sure of that.

          That said, there’s been very little censorship on the ground in TN as far as SL conflict is concerned. The popular narrative (now that LTTE is decimated) has always been pro-Ealam, but papers like the hindu or the new indian express or magazines like Tuqhlak (if you’ve heard of Cho Ramasamy, who’s a good friend of Subramanian Swamy) have always spoken against the LTTE. No censorship on that front, as far as I know.

          4. There’s nothing more to find out. There was TREMENDOUS opposition against Hitler. And all this opposition was mercilessly crushed once he came to power. Everything was controlled by the state – the media, the education – you name it. What do you think Goebbels was so infamous for?

          5. Anand Ranganathan just said that he’s not offended by what she wrote. Now you have a right to be offended. But the state shouldn’t listen to your appeals to ban a book if you’re asking for a ban. Unless… she’s being libelous. Now how do you distinguish between criticism and between libelous for a religion like Hinduism in which there are so many alternative versions (sometimes contradicting each other) of the same story/ philosophy? Someone’s version maybe someone else’s faith.

          So I put it to you – how do you intend to define what constitutes libel for such a diverse religion like Hinduism, where there are so many alternative narratives, philosophies (sometimes contradictory) and you would LIKE all of these people to believe in their own philosophies, propagate them (if they want to), write books about them (if they want to) and exercise their freedom of speech and religion about them (if they want to)? That is, how do you plan to define libel for a religion and NOT want such a definition of libel entrenching on the rights of all these adherents adhering to these alternative narratives (some of which some may very well find offensive)?

          • No name’s

            1. Control of narratives with the malicious intent of boxing someone in a corner to ease others to demolish that belief system later on, is not just any control. Its a form of control exercised by communists, islamists etc.

            This form of control is not exercised by Hindu’s as is exemplified by the fact that Ramayan Vishkumbham, Why I am not a Hindu, and a multitude of publications not just by Dalits (who have every right to viciously attack brahminism and hinduism) but also by others including contentious history by communists is widely circulated, and often academically referenced. RS Sharma et. al.

            Take for example this book. Penguin has withdrawn it from India, but Aleph still can or anyone else.

            Whilst this book is (was) widely available in stores and its competing narratives were not; and because incestuous academics would reference each other to, as I said earlier, only as a caste and sex religion, I am right in being deeply concerned about the trend.

            3. The idea of this racist domination, us versus them, is a hallmark of this type of boxing of belief systems by institutions. The fact that you are unaware of the motivations of this conflict is what alarms me, there are alternative references available which document how this hate was fuelled. I am deliberately not giving you a wide array of these type of publications because I want you to see how this has an impact in real life.

            The impact of converting hinduism into an exclusivist religion, contradictory religion, of caste and sex alone will have the same impact. Brahmins would have to be the most hated community in India. It is conventional wisdom that India’ social ills have everything to do with them. This maybe true.

            Contrast that with pre-nazi Germany and Europe, the moderate merely said jews may have been the most influential reason for all the misery in Germany, and look at what happened. What was every other “moderates” response, “oh, but I never said they should have been slaughtered”. Or, words to that effect.

            Not everybody who holds an opinion gets it from the same book. But the dominant narrative has a way of seeping into people who are pre-disposed to accept a certain type of narrative. They only need a few leaders whose credentials are justified enough to unleash hell.

            Don’t get me wrong, there is no defense to what Brahmins have done to Dalit’s. But that is the popular and now irrefutable evidence. And, its seeds are laid down in race theories of MaxMuller and others. These theories are not only faulty, they have been exposed to have been motivated by factors other than the search for truth.

            4. Once he came to power is the operative word. Read above for a glimpse of one of the factors that propelled him to power, and a tiny insight into what sustained his and his followers conviction.

            5. This is indeed the most dangerous segment of your comment. And, most revealing of what is happening to our intellectual life. We are being defined by those who do not understand that the fundamental method of inquiry in Hinduism is different.

            You may personally believe that hinduism is contradictory, but if you want put that into a Phd you are going to have to far more rigorous than the rigour shown by these leftist academic. If only those narratives which reduce hinduism to caste and sex are the ones that find there way into academic circles, hindu’s need to be concerned.

            Remember, before thousands of civilisations were consigned to history books along with the Dodo, they were thriving belief systems that existed for thousands of years, and had entire populations as there adherents. Read the books which came after and before their demise and extinction. Read what the pioneers believed about “Indians” before and during their conquest of the west.

            This was not about difference of opinion; this was not about an absence of somebody telling their side of the story, this was about the dominant narrative, which had control over others.

            There is a heart wrenching story about what happened to a large empire in Latin America. There king was decapitated and his head was stuck on a pole, his people stood around him in the hope that being the son of god or something similar he would rise up again.

            I am sorry I can’t look up the full details for you. But the people who brought this upon this empire they did not believed on excellent authority that what they were doing was the right thing to do.

            Imagine yourself being visited by a communist or any other agent of an evangelical religion, bringing you the authority of an award winning book, written by a celebrated author, which is so disturbing that a brahminical system had to order it to be banned, demonstrates as you may conclusively believe that Ram, your god, maryada purushottam, was a sex addict and out of fear that people may look down on him, exiled his wife, Sita, your goddess, who had a thing for Laxman, her brother-in-law.

            If you think I am stretching my imagination, you are also thinking that I am a devout hindu. And that I cannot help. Go ahead, experience it.

            6. Let me make a final point, banning of books is wrong, banning of free speech is wrong, but banishing all of these by scare mongering, IMHO, much worse.

            And also thank you for engaging me in this conversation, it is rare that you get to do that on the net.

          • No Names

            There are two things, I was just reading my own comment above and some grammar and sentence construction is pathetic, I would blame it on early morning, and a really bad keyboard. I hope you get what I am saying.

            E.g. But the people who brought this upon this empire, they (..) believed on excellent authority that what they were doing was the right thing to do.

          • Tanmay Singal

            Just the last point:

            With respect to “Brahmins would have to be the most hated community in India.” – I get the feeling that all communities have this feeling about themselves… say, except for a few communities that aren’t much in conflict with others (Jews, Parsis etc).

            I admit that there is still quite a bit of anti-Brahmin sentiment in TN… but I don’t really see it being meted out in the manner that it used to back early and mid-20th century. Hell, there is a lot more conflict between OBC castes and dalit castes in TN (or probably even more between dalit castes themselves).

  • notanotherjerk

    there are many many scholors who have done extensive research and proved that these are not mere stories and myths, and these indeed are excerpts from ancient history of india. its not the question of fearing death or blow to hinduism, it is about saying NO to unnecessary and baseless name calling in the name of history. already much damage has been done thru our history books. NOT ONE chapter on the great cholas, pandyas and their impact on the art and culture of the coutnry, but Mughals who killed scores of Brahmins, hindus are The Greats?
    Its time to say NO to any nonsense.

    • jack_jack

      Time to say NO not BAN

      • notanotherjerk

        why dont we start from our history books… and it was a court decision to ban it. i dont remember hearing your voice shoutig slogans for the freedom of expression during the Da Vinci, or Satanic Verses…
        As someone above righly put, for many years we have been hearing that these are myths and we started believing it. did you care to read one sanskrit text in complete, comprehend and then compare if it was history or a mythology? when valmiki worte about Uranus in Ramayan, it was a myth until the west discoverd it.
        So, in short, stop being a slave.
        Did you even try to read the papers of those Indian scholors who has done this kind of research? they actually put an approx date to Kurukshetra, rama-ravana battle. and no these are not fictions, these are research.
        if you have a problem with the court banning, please go and contest it. you have no right to say that i should not be offended, i excercise my right and you yours.
        Thank you

        • jack_jack

          Well, such convenient forums didn’t exist when Satanic Verses was banned. (Also, was Da Vinci code banned? I bought a copy and read it a while after it was released). However, my position remains the same here. If some book about Islam / Christianity is banned in the future, I will be against it. Although my protest will be immaterial as it would be in some forum like this.
          I am not saying you don’t have the right to be offended. I am just questioning it with the hope that you would agree to my view or in the process of discussion, my viewpoint might change and I may subscribe to your school of thought (Who knows)
          I feel our epics are part history and part mythology. They started off as history. However, as they were passed on from generation to generation, they mutated and inaccuracies started creeping in. That is probably why we Indians aren’t too good with documenting history. Heck, we are still unable to find some of Krishnadevaraya’s palaces in Hampi and that was the 16th century. I wouldn’t discount Ramayana and Mahabharata as myths. At the same time, I wouldn’t agree that every line mentioned in them is the absolute truth.

  • APCO MAN

    I wonder what DONIGERS attitude would be if Penguin published a HOLOCAUST TM DENIAL book

  • Shahenshah

    Here’s a suggestion: translate your article[s] in other Indian languages too. That might help start a conversation where it really matters. Here, you are more-or-less preaching to the choir.

  • cafecorridor

    Excellent article. I am a hardcore practitioner of Advaita Vedanta and I believe books must not be banned/withdrawn irrespective of it’s content. The positive news here is that the Hindus have not created a law and order situation and have taken the legal route. This is how one should go about registering their protest – in a peaceful and non violent way. Wendy has gotten undeserved publicity and sympathy as a result of this ban. Unfortunately, people who would have otherwise never heard of this book will now want to read it. Lets fight slander and insult with our pens. We Hindus are and have always been an intellectual lot and by resorting to means that silence authors instead of countering them we’re doing a great disservice to our tradition and civilization.

  • Anonymous

    “Pratap Bhanu Mehta, his usual erudite self, has written on the issue. He calls it the Silencing of Liberal India. What he fails to understand is that for an atheist, liberalism was silenced the day god was invented. Does that give atheists the right to run rampage and call believers idiots and ignorant fools?” #Salutes

  • null

    Very disappointed by the image there, expected better from Anand. It is misleading, the book was not banned, it was withdrawn, which Anand mentions in the article. But the image that everyone looks at before reading the article? It has in big bad lettering written over it “BANNED”. Subliminal messaging? Well….

    • Anand Ranganathan

      Sorry about it, Null. You are quite right. Will tell the NL graphics team to sort this out. But no subliminal messaging as the piece makes is amply clear that it hasnt been banned :)
      Thanks

  • Arun Kumar

    This gentleman is right. Let The Barkhas, Rajdeeps and Sagarikas print the Danish cartoon and then talk of freedom of speech. They will not even know where their bones have been interned.

  • Deepak Pant

    Gem of an article on this issue………hats off to you Anand

  • ThinkFreer

    5 stars.. just for the title :)

  • Seshank

    Hard to disagree with anything you’ve written here Anand. Article 19(2) is an abomination which must go. Hearteningly, I think the clamour for it is increasing everyday and every incident like this only reinforces it. In Wendy & Penguin’s defense though, I think they took a call not to contest just to avoid further trouble. You are right – they should have ideally shown more gumption but can’t really fault them too much for their decision based on how these things have blown up in the past.

    I don’t know if we are more intolerant these days or if we were always intolerant and media (mainstream & social) has only provided us a platform to express this intolerance better, but my personal experience (and I wouldn’t call myself young anymore) points to the former. What’s worrying is that every minute thing is looked at, using a political prism these days and there’s no common ground to agree on anything without getting into a futile “your party – my party” argument. Even on issues of national interest or common good. I agree entirely with PB Mehta on that front. Don’t know how this will end but I find solace in the hope that maybe things will take a turn for the better once this all consuming election heat settles down!

  • Kamlesh

    I salute to MR. DinaNath JI Batra.. Really book for not good…

  • BhootNaath

    Anand, there is a larger picture that most commentators on this issue have missed. Dig a little deeper, my friend. It has to do with your question: “Can a 5000-year-old religion be destroyed by slander…etc?” A similar question in the US used to be: “Can this nation, buttressed as it is by the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, ever face a direct attack on its soil?” The year 2001 answered that tragically. Yes, the 5000-year-old religion has been in the process of destruction for quite some time now. You are a self-professed atheist so probably aren’t concerned about it but look around you: How many of us are capable of carrying forward traditions and associated values through our children? Are you?

    Also, have you read Doniger’s book? And have you read all the petitioners’ objections to it? Are you aware of Doniger’s associates esp at the U of Chicago? Are you aware of RISA and Doniger’s role in it? Are you aware of links between Doniger, her associates/mentees, and the Indian left? One such Doniger associate, Martha Nussbaum, for instance, was a “founding member of the advisory board” of The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy. Have you seen the tone and tenor of Doniger’s “release” to the media after her trash was withdrawn by Penguin India? The links (the extent will surprise you if you start looking) and their effect on the social fabric of India is obvious to those who are ready to question the question: Can a 5000-year-old religion be destroyed…? “All it takes is time and pressure.”

    • Veeru

      Completely agree with you, but this article was more about the way it was dealt with, not about the book. Honestly, it shouldn’t have passed editorial panel and I think that’s the reason why Penguin caved in, they would’ve surely lost the case. Thanks to social media, interested people already know about this psycho Wendy, but India’s left liberals & marxist hindus are still living in their wonderland.

    • http://www.infinitchy.com/ Infinitchy

      Brilliantly articulated!

    • RameshT

      very well said.

    • Sujata Srinath

      Thank you for articulating my thoughts so well. The larger picture and the motivation of these so-called Hinduism scholars and their supporters is what must always be kept in focus. Especially now. Just imagine, if Clause 2 of article 19 was not in effect in this country,there would be no way we could express our anger at the denigration of Hinduism in a book or elsewhere other than using the hooligan tactics..what would be the legal course that we could take? If the clause can be used in such a manner to get filthy books off the shelves and show the devious authors their place then, in my opinion, it serves a decent purpose and it should stay.

  • Veeru

    Thanks Anand ji for a sensible article, I was appalled at the way Nidhi “Larger picture” Razdan conducted herself on debate. Everyone was trying to portray Dinanath Batra as villain, narrow minded facist. But the fact is he just utilized the provisions of constitution, at least he didn’t burn books or issue fatwas. If anybody was at fault, that is Penguin, it’s them who went for an out of court settlement, they couldn’t stand up for their own book. Can’t make out why their balls dropped off suddenly, if they published the book, which obviously would’ve gone through their editorial panel, why can’t they defend it in a court?

    But I sincerely feel that psychos like Wendy Doniger needs to be pulled up and all the avenues for doing so should be utilized without fail. We must put bigots like them on notice and respond to them with our own scholarly rejoinders. Tears of left liberals are understandable, “paapi pet ka sawal hai”.

  • Ashok Jahnavi Prasad

    “For we are presented with a clear and simple statute to be judged against a pure command of the Constitution. The outcome can be laid at no door but ours. The hard fact is that sometimes we must make decisions we do not like. We make them because they are right, right in the sense that the law and the Constitution, as we see them, compel the result. And so great is our commitment to the process that, except in the rare case, we do not pause to express distaste for the result, perhaps for fear of undermining a valued principle that dictates the decision. This is one of those rare cases. Though symbols often are what we ourselves make of them, the flag is constant in expressing beliefs Americans share, beliefs in law and peace and that freedom which sustains the human spirit. The case here today forces recognition of the costs to which those beliefs commit us. It is poignant but fundamental that the flag protects those who hold it in contempt.”-Justice Anthony Kennedy in the landmark Texas vs.Johnson judgement.

    “Under the circumstances, Johnson’s burning of the flag constituted expressive conduct, permitting him to invoke the First Amendment…Occurring as it did at the end of a demonstration coinciding with the Republican National Convention, the expressive, overtly political nature of the conduct was both intentional and overwhelmingly apparent.” The court concluded that while “the government generally has a freer hand in restricting expressive conduct than it has in restricting the written or spoken word,” it may not “proscribe particular conduct because it has expressive elements.”-Justice Walter Brennan in the same judgement!

    More than a year ago I had penned a column here on Rushdie’s ban.

    http://www.newslaundry.com/2012/03/19/sir-salman-rushdie-and-freedom-of-expression/

    Freedom of expression is an absolute precondition of a functioning democracy and we have to bear that in mind notwithstanding our own emotions. Justice Kennedy is widely regarded as a conservative but his logic is uncontestable.

    I do not believe there is any place for banning expression in any form unless it is meant to incite violence-and having read Doniger,I do not feel that applies here although I disagree strongly with here on several issues.

    Well done Anand!

    • Anand Ranganathan

      Thanks, Dr Prasad for the lovely comment.

  • rajanvt

    Outstanding! As always, ONLY Anand and ONLY Anand can deliver such incisive articles!

  • sanjay

    The withdrawal of book was right in every aspect, I would even recommend banning. Because if we don’t do so, our eminent Historians and secular liberal educationists would not even think twice before giving references of such books in school books. Such is the secularism followed in India when comes to Hinduism

  • Rex

    Always bet on the Streisand effect. Pity all those calling for bans on various things have never heard of this.

  • manwani

    I bought this book on Fri, 13th Jan’12 from flipkart.

    Found it pathetic.

    And wrote a review that it was pathetic.

    The review is now removed from flipkart.

    I am not your trident and flag waving Hindu.

    But this is supposed to be a leading scholar of Hinduism whose book is recommend as a research text for students wanting to learn about Hinduism.

    here is the review which is still available in my profile:


    I was very excited when I ordered this book. I was hoping to get an unbiased scholarly view of hinduism from a western scholar.
    I am writing this review since I feel that anyone with the above in mind will find this book extremely disappointing.

    The book begins by saying that it is a written to highlite the controversial part of Hinduism.
    As per my observation there is an obsession with the sexual aspects of the rituals in Hinduism. My observation upon reading this book was that this could be written by a hippie who has little understanding of the vastness
    and depth of hinduism and is fascinated by Tantra, Khujaraho and Kamasutra.
    If this is the kind on person that the US has designated as one of their scholars of Hinduism, it is not surprising that the US India relationship is not very good.
    Some examples of the authors fascination and misinterpretation of role of sexuality in Hinduism are
    i.e. She has a sexual interpretation of the relationship between Laxman and Sita of the Ramayana; she mentions the controversial part of Ashvmedha where the queen sleeps with the Ashvamedha horse atleast 12 times in the first 100 pages.
    Even if you skim over the fact that it is the most negative aspect of hinduism, the narrative is extremely shallow. It skims the surface of hinduism without going into why some of these negativities are a part of the rituals.
    Not convincing, not scholarly, not engaging. All in all a waste of my money
    56% of 32 found this helpful

    Is this the view of Hinduism you would like to have propagated as a scholarly work.

    This book deserves to be trashed. Or shown as a prime example of how some biased western scholars are being used to propagate a negative views on Hinduism.
    My view of why Wendy or Penguin are not standing behind this is because they know they have published biased trash which does not have any legs to stand on.

  • http://donotforgetthepast.blogspot.in/ AR

    Namaste,

    Have the commentators and the author seen this video? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtiARMXwI0Q

    If no, humbly request all to watch the entire video please. Please do note the point about Microsoft Encarta.

    Also, let me emphasize that this was 7 years ago .

    Have a nice day ahead everyone.

  • wingman

    I guess it is easy for authors to write their 2 cents worth opinion about something held sacred by millions. No one is going after writers who write about neutral topics. So while the ban on book on Sonia Gandhi is wrong, the ban on this book is absolutely correct. What gives the author to play with a topic which is of religious context. Religious topics should be topics as is. There is no need the authors 2 cents worth stupid opinion. So the author keep that stuff to him/herself and shove it.

  • LogicalLiberalAtheist

    Hi Anand – I am intrigued by your statement “Clause (2) of Article 19 was the reason why Swamy was thrown out of Harvard”. How does an American university throw out an Indian citizen based on rules framed in the Indian constitution?

    • Tanmay Singal

      Also, that is the denial of freedom to speak whatever you want, wherever you want being a faculty member (visiting or otherwise) FOR a Harvard prof.

      That is not the denial of free speech by the state. You can say whatever the hell you want, doesn’t mean you won’t be kicked out of your job. Just means that state won’t chase after you and in case you need it, you’re provided protection against those who may want to silence you.

      • LogicalLiberalAtheist

        Disagree – a friend of mine is a professor in UC Davis, and he says that tenured professors CANNOT legally be kicked out of their jobs, no matter what they say.

        • Tanmay Singal

          Well, in anycase, that’s Harvard that’s not complying with the free speech part. That’s not at all the same as the state not complying with it.

    • Anand Ranganathan

      Hi, you are technically correct. of course you are. The reason I had included Swamy in that para was that because of his piece in DNA – which I found outrageous btw – he was hounded, his house was attacked, and cases were dumped against him. All this had an effect on the Harvard decision. But you’re right if one comes down to it – Swamy’s case isnt really the same as others as US doesnt have clause 2.
      Thanks
      anand

  • Indic Logic

    Bad graphic. The book was not “banned”.

  • Kalyan

    Anand Anna, Class Article…

  • Akhil

    In this situation the book was not banned, the publisher had to remove the book. The author is is free to use another publisher to get it published. This case has nothing to do with freedom of expression. It was about the junk that was presented as facts. I’d stop short of saying hate mongering by the author.
    If the media would have given any space for the other point of view perhaps these methods would have been unnecessary.
    Almost all the mainstream went on praising the book. None of the reviews were about the scholarship. There were many who had presented serious flaws with the scholarship of the book.

    These kinds of methods are the last resort for the suppression of expression. Media is directly responsible for this situation. Media should introspect seriously on this situation.
    For eg
    http://creative.sulekha.com/risa-lila-1-wendy-s-child-syndrome_103338_blog

    Was even one allowed to express this view on the main stream?

  • mhndv

    Where were you all when Salman Rushdie’s and Taslima Nasreen’s were banned.Stop this freedom of speech rhetoric.

  • Ramana Murthy

    Brilliant

  • focus

    clause 2 has been used by the psecs many times, they are not going to get rid of it in a hurry!

  • focus

    Can a 5000-year-old religion be destroyed by slander…etc?

    yes it can be, those who do not read history are doomed to repeat mistakes

  • Kishan M V

    Vilifying Hinduism to propagate their belief is superior will not work. Concepts in Hinduism such as Dharma and Karma have the gross roots of humanity. Demonisation of Hinduism for the artistic and Imaginary notion of Hindu gods and goddesses will only make these hippocrates to look foolish.

  • Hahakar

    The inevitable next step (satire): RSS man demands ban on ancient Hindu texts that offend millions http://wp.me/p3HuN8-35

  • atjosh

    Fantastic and most sane article on this issue as yet, bringing out the real issue to the surface and exposing hypocrisy of the community called liberals in India.

  • Joe

    You should write for some right wing mouthpiece. You qualify!

  • AK

    Brilliant, my friend. This sounds exactly like a case of shooting the messenger as our “liberal” friends say when it suits them. While I do not agree with you on the removal of clause 2 from our constitution, simply on the grounds that freedom of expression is as much the right of person to put forth his / her view as it is the right of someone to express their inability to accommodate such views and if they choose to, take legal recourse to prohibit dissemination of the viewpoint. At the very least it offers everyone concerned a equitable platform. Why shouldn’t a believer have the right to stop an atheist call him / her an “idiot” as much as it is the right of an atheist to call them one or otherwise. :)

  • Moshe the Hasbara

    Donier is Jewish Much of her work is focused on TRANSLATING, INTERPRETING AND COMPARING ELEMENTS OF HINDU THEORIES THROUGH MODERN CONTEXTS OF GENDER, SEXUALITY AND IDENTITY. She describes herself as “a Sanskritist, indeed a recovering Orientalist” and “an old-fashioned philologist”.————-All very fine Wendy All fine and dandy but as a reasoned individual I personally belive in RECIPROCITY Which basically means Goys can freely TRANSLATE, INTERPRET AND COMPARE ELEMENTS OF JEWISH THEORIES THROUGH MODERN CONTEXTS OF GENDER, SEXUALITY AND IDENTITY and start analysing JEHOVA (lets see how THAT goes) so many interesting aspects of the Tohrah and Talmud ONLY IF THE JEWISH ESTABLISHMENT IS OK WITH THAT SHOULD JEWISH ACADEMICS BE ALLOWED TO PULL DOWN AND RIDICULE OTHER RELIGIONS —————-

    • नागदैत्य

      Why don’t you make a start. What is stopping you??

  • Pankaj JETHI

    Mr anand y r u misleading people by printing ‘banned’ in bold letters. The book is not banned niether it has been ordered off the shelf by the courts. Its the publisher’s decesion whatever b their reason.

    • Anand Ranganathan

      Hi! Sorry, you’re very right. Will inform the NL graphics team. Thanks, anand

  • patnaikt

    Best piece on this topic!

  • kripa

    ये किताब …BAN. नही हुई है ये लेखक का खुद का निर्णया है क्योकी वो लोगो के सवालो का जवाब नही दे पा रही थी तो .BANNED… का ड्रामा कर के किताब बेचने की कोशिश भर है | जहा हमारे ऋषि कामसूत्र लिख पढ़ और सीखा सकते है तो ये मस्त राम टाइप अंग्रज़ी लेखिका को पढ़ने में क्या जाता है ? वैसे भी वो कुछ ऐसा नही लिख पाई है जो पहली बार कहा गया हो ….. ये पत्रकारो का ड्रामा है क्योकि उनको ये किताब बेचने को कहा गया तो अब कोई ऐसी किताब को कैसे बेचेगा बिना ऐसे तर्को के ?? …………………………….
    अब ऐसे तार्क़ मुस्लिम और ईसाई धर्म वालो के खिलाफ इंडिया में करना थोड़ा कठिन है ….. थोड़ा पत्रकारो पे दया करो बेचारो की रोज़ी रोटी का सवाल है …. …

  • Afridi

    The restriction on absolute free speech does need to go from the Constitution and so do Sections of the IPC like 295a, which makes it a criminal offence to hurt religious sentiments, that were cited by Penguin for its feeble move to withdraw Doniger’s book. However, I have a difficult time believing Anand Ranganathan’s commitment to free speech while he glees in attacking the supposed hypocrisy of those criticising the petitioner. What those critics didn’t do regarding numerous bans is irrelevant as long as they didn’t come out in support of any of them. This is more than what can be said about Anand who while claiming to be against punishment for ideas, has used this opportunity to express why Doniger’s book deserved to be withdrawn vis-a-vis the existing laws.
    In a free society, atheists should indeed have the right to “call believers idiots and ignorant fools”, and believers should be able to call atheists as they please too, for “sticks and stones may break my bones but [I hope you know the rest]“. How Anand didn’t figure this right into the definition of free speech is puzzling.
    It is also rather ignorant for him to say that everyone must “follow the laws of the land”, even if they are clearly unjust. Would he be willing to impart that advice to homosexuals in India for however long Section 377 remains in the books? Anand may not necessarily want/need to test the limits of his freedom for as long as it is curtailed, but there are others who do and defiance has been established as a legitimate form of protest against unjust laws.

  • Radical Thoughts

    Maybe there was a genuine illegality in the book for them to pull it off the shelf or maybe pulling the book of the Indian shelf (a rather small market), the publishers will become richer in other markets by the publicity it gets. One just doesn’t know why a major publisher like Penguin (that almost daily deal with legal notices the world over) bend even before a fight.
    Maybe they are not Chickens at all.

  • abhi

    116 comments and no rating..interesting??? did any1 read the article…seriously….or jump to comment section…OK i will give my first rating 5 star….and by the way i will like these liberal to also defend some opinion which are publish in newspaper…like s.swamy opinion in dna on how to whip out Islamic terrorism…but they wont there the freedom of expression be dammed….

  • crouching tiger

    Freedom of expression means “Freedom to Express” without worrying about consequences. But practically that is not possible for a lot of people because they live vicariously and react in their own way including choosing to not exercise the oft mentioned ‘freedom of expression’ . Though I haven’t read the book I believe I am entitled to an opinion and my opinion is this – Wendy Doniger’s book is a combination of facts, imagination and interpretation(some right and possibly others wrong).

    As much as Wendy has a freedom to express, so do others who are either in favour of or against her book. FWIW Penguin was the party that had the “most to loose” and they apparently found a course of least financial loss. Irrespective of this one incident there are going to be lots of books published in India that one (or many) may or may not like. In all those circumstances I would prefer the approach taken by Dinanath until I come across a better approach.

  • Raj Sharma

    The first question is, shouldn’t the laws and criteria for judgment be the same for all? On this count, all political parties, especially the Congress, and all media, especially the left leaning, fail. When their opponent says something they do not like, they are happy to quote the constitution and ban the opponent from speaking. When their friend is in trouble for what he / she says, they cry for the demise of freedom of expression. The second issue is the invariable conflict between different rights. Here the freedom of expression right comes in conflict with our desire not to offend. The US is extreme in its support of freedom of expression at the cost of other rights and desirable objectives. India has decided that offending Muslims and other minorities is a terrible idea and since it would have been awkward to extend this courtesy only to Muslims, Hindus also enjoy it and use it, at the cost of freedom of speech.