Det har vakt internasjonal oppsikt at Penguin Books India trakk tilbake en akademisk bok om hinduene som ikke falt i god smak hos hindunasjonalister.
Boken er Wendy Donigers The Hindus; An Alternative History.
Det var Penguin Books India som fikk kampanjen mot Salman Rushdie til å rulle, da utdrag av boken ble forhåndspublisert. To muslimske parlamentsmedlemmer reagerte voldsomt og Penguin bøyde av.
Indiske myndigheter har heller ikke noen ærefull historie når det gjelder å forsvare ytringsfriheten.
In a fight with a major company, a frail 84-year-old retired headmaster would seem to be the David to India’s publishing Goliath, Penguin Books.
But this week the headmaster, Dinanath Batra, achieved the crowning victory of his career as a right-wing campaigner, forcing Penguin to withdraw and destroy remaining copies of a scholarly work on Hinduism by an American professor that Mr. Batra has called “malicious,” “dirty” and “perverse.”
Mr. Batra’s assiduous legal filings in defense of his religion had sometimes paid off in the past, but never like this. India’s intellectuals actually stopped in their tracks this week, wondering what had induced Penguin Books India to settle out of court with what one writer termed “an unknown Hindu fanatic outfit.” The Times of India warned of “Taliban-like forces,” and aprominent columnist decried “the pulping of liberal India.”
Penguin Books India on Friday offered its first explanation for its decision to withdraw its book, Wendy Doniger’s “The Hindus: An Alternative History,” which was released five years ago in India and the United States. In the statement, Penguin stands by its decision to publish the book, but says that section 295a of the Indian penal code — which applies to “malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings” — makes it difficult to uphold freedom of expression “without deliberately placing itself outside the law.” Publishers must respect laws, “however intolerant and restrictive those laws may be,” the statement said. “We also have a moral responsibility to protect our employees against threats and harassment where we can.”
There is no evidence that Penguin’s concession is in any way linked to the coming election, but for some commentators this week, the two things converged.
Arundhati Roy, the leftist writer and activist, addressed a letter to Penguin, her own publisher, asking why the company compromised “even though there was no fatwa, no ban, not even a court order.”
A petition circulated on Thursday by a group of prominent scholars, several of them based in the United States, demanded changes to India’s penal code that would protect serious academic work from frivolous lawsuits, and said that “academic, intellectual and artistic expression of any kind is becoming increasingly hazardous in India.”