Penguin Books India has recalled and plans to destroy all copies of The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger, in order to settle a lawsuit brought about by a Hindu nationalist group that claimed the religion was misrepresented by the book. According to reports, the book over-eroticizes the religion. In exchange for pulling the 2009 book from shelves, the group has agreed to drop all lawsuits against Penguin.
According to The New York Times, Dina Nath Batra, the head of Shiksha Bacho Andolan, a Hindu educational organization in New Delhi, filed the complaint in 2011 alleging that the book “has hurt the religious feelings of millions of Hindus” in doing do broke Indian law. Doniger responded to the case on Facebook, criticizing India’s free speech laws. She writes:
I was thrilled and moved by the great number of messages of support that I received, not merely from friends and colleagues but from people in India that I have never met, who had read and loved The Hindus, and by news and media people, all of whom expressed their outrage and sadness and their wish to help me in any way they could. 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. 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. But I do not blame Penguin Books, India. Other publishers have just quietly withdrawn other books without making the effort that Penguin made to save this book.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.