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Penguin India withdrawn copies of Wendy Doniger’s controversial book The Hindus

Penguin maintained a studied silence on the matter and refused to comment, though author Doniger replied by email to some news outlets.

ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Feb 12, 2014, 08.39 AM IST
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Penguin maintained a studied silence on the matter and refused to comment, though author Doniger replied by email to some news outlets.
Penguin maintained a studied silence on the matter and refused to comment, though author Doniger replied by email to some news outlets.
NEW DELHI: Penguin India has withdrawn copies of Indologist Wendy Doniger's book The Hindus: An Alternative History by its publisher, after an out-of-court settlement was reached between it and plaintiffs Shiksha Bachao Andolan which objected to sections of Doniger's book.

The settlement reached on February 4 was leaked on microblogging site Twitter and website Scribd early on Tuesday morning. The details of the settlement include withdrawal of the books from dealers and pulping copies left unsold with the publishers.

Penguin maintained a studied silence on the matter and refused to comment, though author Doniger replied by email to some news outlets that she was upset that the book was being withdrawn.

The book released in 2009, has been eliciting controversy especially in the United States, where a group called American Hindus engaged in a long polemic on a Washington Post-sponsored website on the claims in the book. In 2010, a petition was signed online and submitted to Penguin USA. The petition was backed by the Sarasvati Research Trust and demanded that the book be withdrawn. It was addressed to the Penguin USA president Susan Peterson Kennedy and Mike Bryan, CEO and President of Penguin India.

The group which filed a suit in India is called Shiksha Bachao Andolan with an office in Naraina Vihar in New Delhi. In addition to a civil suit, filed in 2011, there were two criminal complaints filed on the matter in Hauz Khaz. One complaint was filed in 2010, and another in 2013.

Noted columnist Swapan Dasgupta was one of the first to comment on twitter. He said he disagreed with the publishers decisions in this matter. "There is a bit of peculiarity in this case. This is not a state action, but something that the publishers have done. There are two things at work here, one is that publishers probably do not believe in the integrity of the work that they have published or, because this isn't a bestseller like a Jeffery Archer, therefore doesn't have commercial implications, they take the line of least resistance," he told ET.

“This is a dangerous trend and may open the doors to publishers falling prey to any organised pressure. I don’t agree with much of what Doniger has written but that is not the reason to withdraw the book,” he added.

BJP too maintained a distance from the entire controversy. “We have not asked for a ban. This book has been around for a few years, none of the BJPruled states have banned it. We may or may not agree with the contents but the party has nothing to say on the matter,” said party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman.

Congress hinted that Right wing groups were exerting influence over social media and other fora in order to “brow beat opinion.” The party’s media in charge Ajay Maken said that the events were a “portend of what would happen if the Right wing came to power.”
(Catch all the Business News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on The Economic Times.)

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