•  •  Dark Mode

Your Interests & Preferences

I am a...

law firm lawyer
in-house company lawyer
litigation lawyer
law student
aspiring student

Website Look & Feel

 •  •  Dark Mode
Blog Layout

Save preferences

Penguin settles religious conservatives’ civil & criminal cases by pulping book of Hindu history

Alternative history: Too sexy
Alternative history: Too sexy

In settlement of a civil and two criminal suits brought by a religious group against Penguin Books India, the publisher has agreed to withdraw and destroy all copies of a history book on Hinduism.

According to a settlement agreement that was leaked on Twitter and social media this morning (see below), Penguin settled the disputes by agreeing to immediately “recall and withdraw all copies of the book ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’ written by Wendy Doniger” from India, and “not sell, publish or distribute” the book, which was first published in 2010.

All recalled copies will be pulped by Penguin according to the agreement dated 4 February, the authenticity of which could not be verified at the time of going to press. In the settlement Penguin also states that it “respects all religions worldwide”.

The six petitioners (Dinanath Batra, OP Gupta, Sharvan Kumar, Samley Prasad, Mahesh Chander Sharma, Satish Chand Mittal) are affiliated to the Delhi-based Shiksha Bachao Andolan Committee, a self-appointed guardian of Hindu history, which is a pressure group familiar with legal proceedings and removal of content it disagrees with.

In its listing on US-based online bookstore Amazon, it has received mixed reviews, some of which attacked the book for “maligning” Hinduism and India, while others have praised it as a “look at aspects of the tradition that are usually ignored, highlighting minority concerns and focusing on areas that are seldom discussed”.

On India-based bookstore Flipkart the book is not available to buy at the time of going to press, while on Amazon’s US site there are only two left in stock.

The petitioners claimed in 2010 that the book is “written with a Christian Missionary Zeal and hidden agenda to denigrate Hindus and show their religion in poor light”, and, among other claims:

That on the book jacket of the book Lord Krishna is shown sitting on buttocks of a naked woman surrounded by other naked women. That YOU NOTICEE have depicted Lord Krishna in such a vulgar, base perverse manner to outrage religious feelings of Hindus. That YOU NOTICEE and the publisher have done this with the full knowledge that Sri Krishna is revered as a divinity and there are many temples for Sri Krishna where Hindus worship the divinity. The intent is clearly to ridicule, humiliate & defame the Hindus and denigrate the Hindu traditions.

The petition also claimed that Penguin has “hurt the religious feelings of millions of Hindus by declaring that Ramayana is a fiction”, breaching section 295A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), citing the book’s line that “placing the Ramayan in its historical contexts demonstrates that it is a work of fiction, created by human authors, who lived at various times”.

Section 295A of the IPC covers:

Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs. Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

The petitioners also threatened criminal action under Section 153 (wantonly inciting a riot), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on basis of religion and “doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 298 (uttering words with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings of any person), 505(2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred, or ill-will between classes).

The publisher describes the book as:

“An engrossing and definitive narrative account of history and myth, The Hindus offers a new way of understanding one of the world's oldest major religions. Hinduism does not lend itself easily to a strictly chronological account. Many of its central texts cannot be reliably dated within a century; its central tenets arise at particular moments in Indian history and often differ according to gender or caste; and the differences between groups of Hindus far outnumber the commonalities. Yet the greatness of Hinduism lies precisely in many of these idiosyncratic qualities that continues to inspire debate today. This groundbreaking work elucidates the relationship between recorded history and imaginary worlds, the inner life and the social history of Hindus.”

Saket District Court Case Against Wendy Doniger - Setlement

Click to show 6 comments
at your own risk
By reading the comments you agree that they are the (often anonymous) personal views and opinions of readers, which may be biased and unreliable, and for which Legally India therefore has no liability. If you believe a comment is inappropriate, please click 'Report to LI' below the comment and we will review it as soon as practicable.