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Penguin's decision to pull 'The Hindus' from India prompts outcry

Feb. 14, 2014 at 1:13 PM   |   Comments

LONDON, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Major authors have spoken out against the publishing company Penguin's decision to remove "The Hindus: An Alternative History" from circulation in India.

William Dalrymple, a Scottish writer, told the British newspaper the Guardian that Penguin's decision is "shocking, appalling, dreadful and entirely negative."

Penguin pulled "The Hindus" from circulation in India after the Hindu group Shiksha Bachao Andolan filed a lawsuit against author Wendy Doniger, a University of Chicago divinity professor, accusing her of "hurt[ing] the religious feelings of millions of Hindus," which violates the Indian penal code that prohibits "deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs."

The Chicago Tribune quoted activist Dina Nath Batra as saying the discussing the sexual desires of figures in Hindu mythology is an insult as well as describing the Mahabharata as fiction. She also objected to a map in the book that leaves off Kashmir, the area disputed by Pakistan.

With this victory under his belt, Batra said he planned to file suit against another of Doniger's books.

"Yes, we have freedom of expression in our constitution, but that means freedom to a certain extent," Batra told the Tribune. "We should remain within certain boundaries."

Earlier this week, Penguin settled the matter out of court, agreeing to withdraw the book, and destroy copies.

In an open letter to Penguin India, author Arundhati Roy asked the publisher: "What is it that scared you so? What are we to make of this? Must we now write only pro-Hindutva books? Or risk being pulled off the bookshelves ... and pulped?"

Penguin, which publishes Roy's works, has not yet responded.

Doniger said she was "angry and disappointed" at the situation, and "deeply troubled by what it foretells for free speech in India in the present, and steadily worsening, political climate."

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