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India: Publishers under pressure to withdraw contentious books

20 February 2014

“Freedom of speech shrinks in the world’s largest democracy,” reported AFP from New Delhi.

TheHindus_collage

“At least one crucial pillar of its democratic edifice – the right to free expression – is being rapidly eroded, with ominous implications.”
Amy Kazmin

Penguin India, an arm of one of the world’s biggest publishers, the US-based Penguin Random House, has been fiercely criticised for its recent agreement to withdraw and “pulp” all unsold copies of ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’, written by Wendy Doniger, an influential Sanskrit scholar at the University of Chicago. The incident happened after the book about Hindu mythology had outraged rightwing Hindu groups.

Major authors from Arundhati Roy to William Dalrymple and Neil Gaiman condemned Penguin’s controversial removal of Wendy Doniger’s book from circulation in India. The withdrawal was described as an “egregious violation of free speech” and “deplorable” by the international literary community.

The decision is “shocking, appalling, dreadful and entirely negative,” William Dalrymple told The Guardian.

Two authors wrote to Penguin demanding that their books be pulped in protest at the publisher’s removal of Wendy Doniger’s book, while two readers served a legal notice on the publisher claiming it is in “serious breach” of their rights, reported The Guardian.

After having destroyed all unsold copies of the book, Penguin India themselves issued a stark warning of the deteriorating environment for free expression in India.



The Guardian – 19 February 2014:
Penguin India faces growing protests over withdrawal of Hinduism history
Authors demand their own books are taken out of circulation in India after Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus was pulled last week


Financial Times – 17 February 2014:
Freedom of speech shrinks in India, the world’s largest democracy
Publishers under pressure to withdraw contentious books. Article by Amy Kazmin in New Delhi


Hindustan Times – 17 February 2014:
India: 5 victims of India’s gag culture
After Wendy Doniger’s book ‘The Hindus: An Alternate History’ was recalled by Penguin under pressure from a fringe group, we revisit authors and artists who faced the anger of the extremists right wing and had their works:
• MF Hussain
• Rohinton Mistry
• James Laine
• Aubrey Menen
• Wendy Doniger



Artsfreedom – 17 February 2014:
India: Publisher agrees to destroy book about hindu religion
Penguin Books India has said that it will destroy all available copies of the 2009-book ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’ as part of an out of court settlement


Financial Times – 14 February 2014:
Penguin warns over free speech in India
Penguin India, an arm of one of the world’s biggest publishers, has issued a stark warning of the deteriorating environment for free expression in India, days after it decided to destroy all unsold copies of a book about Hindu mythology that had outraged rightwing Hindu groups. Article by Amy Kazmin in New Delhi


The Guardian – 13 February 2014:
Penguin’s withdrawal of The Hindus causes international outcry
Major writers including Arundhati Roy and Neil Gaiman condemn ‘egregious’ suppression of Wendy Doniger’s book under pressure from Hindu nationalists



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