Authors and academics have taken to Twitter to voice their disgust at the apparent decision of Penguin to recall and destroy a book on the history of Hinduism, which campaigners have called offensive.
Penguin India has agreed to recall and destroy all remaining copies of Wendy Doniger's book The Hindus: An Alternative History, which is subject to a legal challenge by Hindu campaign group Shiksha Bachao Andolan.
Indian media has reported that an agreement between SBA and Penguin India was leaked online, agreeing to end the sale of the book, but the publisher is yet to comment officially.
SBA's civil case was brought in 2011 against Penguin India arguing that the book contains "heresies".
"She denounced the Hindu Gods and freedom fighters of India," the group's legal representative Monika Arora, told Reuters.
A petition, signed by 10,000 people asking for the book to be banned, called the work "rife with numerous errors in its historical facts and Sanskrit translations".
Doniger said in a statement that she was furious, but not with her publisher.
The University of Chicago academic said: "Other publishers have just quietly withdrawn other books without making the effort that Penguin made to save this book.
"Penguin, India, took this book on knowing that it would stir anger in the Hindutva ranks, and they defended it in the courts for four years, both as a civil and as a criminal suit.
"The true villain of this piece.. is the Indian law that makes it a criminal rather than civil offence to publish a book that offends any Hindu, a law that jeopardises the physical safety of any publisher, no matter how ludicrous the accusation brought against a book."
She added: "And 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 Hindus is available on Kindle; and if legal means of publication fail, the Internet has other ways of keeping books in circulation. People in India will always be able to read books of all sorts, including some that may offend some Hindus."
Indian writers, including historian Hartosh Singh Bal, said they were disgusted at the apparent censorship.
having published with @PenguinIndia once, feel ashamed. never again. would suggest more of us say so.
— Hartosh Singh Bal (@HartoshSinghBal) February 11, 2014
— Parmesh Shahani (@parmeshs) February 11, 2014
The Mahatma criticised Katherine Mayo's 'Mother India' but didn't seek a ban. In fact he urged people to read it. Thought to end the day ...
— Ashok Malik (@MalikAshok) February 11, 2014
Government minister Jairam Ramesh told the the Hindustan Times that this is an "atrocious decision" as the book is "not blasphemous by any means".
"The organisation that demanded Penguin take such action is clearly some Taliban-type outfit. It is distorting and destroying our liberal traditions. I hope Penguin reconsiders its decision and musters up courage to tell this outfit off,"
India banned Salman Rushdie's 1988 novel "The Satanic Verses" which is viewed by some Muslims as blasphemous.
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