DELHI: American scholar Wendy Doniger said she was “angry and disappointed” that all copies of her latest book on Hinduism will be pulped in India after a legal row that has ignited fears about free speech.
Her publisher Penguin agreed on Monday to withdraw the 2009 book The Hindus: An Alternative History to settle a court battle with an activist group which took offence to the depiction of the religion.
“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,” she wrote in an e-mail statement on Tuesday.
Doniger, 74, wrote in her statement that 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.”
The Shiksha Bachao Andolan Committee, a group of Hindu academics, filed civil and criminal suits in a New Delhi court claiming the book contained factual errors and parts of it misrepresented Hindu mythology.
Other writers and champions of free speech have widely criticised Penguin’s decision to cave into pressure and reach a settlement, rather than fight the case.
“The agreement by the publisher to withdraw it is like putting a contract out on free expression,” wrote commentator Pratap Bhanu Mehta in an opinion piece in The Indian Express newspaper.
Penguin India has not responded to repeated requests for comment, but Doniger sprang to the defence of the publisher, which is part of the publishing giant Penguin Random House.
“Penguin India took this book on and they defended it in the courts for four years, both as a civil and as a criminal suit,” she wrote. — AFP