‘The Hindus’ controversy: Have to respect laws even if they are intolerant, says Penguin

In its statement, released two days after the controversy broke, the publisher added that it has a moral responsibility to protect its "employees against threats and harassment".

New Delhi | Updated: February 14, 2014 2:23 pm
Following the out-of-court settlement, Penguin agreed to recall and pulp all copies and ensure that the book was completely withdrawn or cleared from the country within six months. Following the out-of-court settlement, Penguin agreed to recall and pulp all copies and ensure that the book was completely withdrawn or cleared from the country within six months.

Under criticism for withdrawing US scholar Wendy Doniger’s book, ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’, from the country, Penguin Books India on Friday said it had an obligation to respect laws even if they were “intolerant and restrictive”.

In its statement, released two days after the controversy broke, the publisher added that it has a moral responsibility to protect its “employees against threats and harassment”.

The settlement reached this week (with the petitioners who objected to the contents of the book saying it hurt the sentiments of Hindus), “brings to a close a four year legal process in which Penguin defended the publication” of the Indian edition of the book.

Following the out-of-court settlement, Penguin agreed to recall and pulp all copies and ensure that the book was completely withdrawn or cleared from the country within six months.

“We have published, in succession, hardcover, paperback and e-book editions of the title.

“International editions of the book remain available physically and digitally to Indian readers who still wish to purchase it,” the publisher added.

“We stand by our original decision to publish the book, just as we stand by the decision to publish other books that we know may cause offence to some segments of our readership.

“We believe, however, that the Indian Penal Code, and in particular Section 295A, will make it increasingly difficult for any Indian publisher to uphold international standards of free expression without deliberately placing itself outside the law,” the publisher said.

This is an “issue of great significance, not just for the protection of creative freedoms in India but also for the defence of fundamental human rights,” it said.

Affirming its belief in every individual’s right to freedom of thought and expression, the publisher said, “This commitment informs Penguin’s approach to publishing in every territory of the world, and we have never been shy about testing that commitment in court when appropriate.

“At the same time, a publishing company has the same obligation as any other organisation to respect the laws of the land in which it operates, however intolerant and restrictive those laws may be.

“We also have a moral responsibility to protect our employees against threats and harassment where we can,” it added.

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App now

  1. B
    Brijkhanna
    Feb 14, 2014 at 2:09 pm
    The fault of publisher PENGUIN is that they agreed to publish this book without caring for whether the contents of this book is going to hurt the feelings of Hindu Communities. Their editors ought to have vetted this book from this angle. The same goes for the Art Galleries who come forward to display religiously objectionably art work of any artist in their gallery. It is not against the Freedom of Expression as enshrined in our Consution but if the same freedom of expression is expressed publicly or at public fora, then it becomes the MIS USE OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION. Let the writer get it published at his own cost but do not sell this publicly, it is ok. But the moment it becomes public it is considered not freedom of expression but a legal offenseWendy Doniger and M.F. Hussain became criminals the moment they displa their work publicly..
    Reply
    1. B
      Brijkhanna
      Feb 14, 2014 at 2:09 pm
      The fault of publisher PENGUIN is that they agreed to publish this book without caring for whether the contents of this book is going to hurt the feelings of Hindu Communities. Their editors ought to have vetted this book from this angle. The same goes for the Art Galleries who come forward to display religiously objectionably art work of any artist in their gallery. It is not against the Freedom of Expression as enshrined in our Consution but if the same freedom of expression is expressed publicly or at public fora, then it becomes the MIS USE OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION. Let the writer get it published at his own cost but do not sell this publicly, it is ok. But the moment it becomes public it is considered not freedom of expression but a legal offenseWendy Doniger and M.F. Hussain became criminals the moment they displa their work publicly..
      Reply
      1. B
        Brijkhanna
        Feb 14, 2014 at 2:09 pm
        The fault of publisher PENGUIN is that they agreed to publish this book without caring for whether the contents of this book is going to hurt the feelings of Hindu Communities. Their editors ought to have vetted this book from this angle. The same goes for the Art Galleries who come forward to display religiously objectionably art work of any artist in their gallery. It is not against the Freedom of Expression as enshrined in our Consution but if the same freedom of expression is expressed publicly or at public fora, then it becomes the MIS USE OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION. Let the writer get it published at his own cost but do not sell this publicly, it is ok. But the moment it becomes public it is considered not freedom of expression but a legal offenseWendy Doniger and M.F. Hussain became criminals the moment they displa their work publicly..
        Reply
        1. S
          Sid Gautam
          Feb 14, 2014 at 8:56 pm
          This a publicity stunt by Penguin books. I bet it will sell far more books
          Reply
          1. S
            Sid Gautam
            Feb 14, 2014 at 8:56 pm
            This a publicity stunt by Penguin books. I bet it will sell far more books
            Reply
            1. R
              Rahul Rao
              Feb 14, 2014 at 9:43 am
              While media has been repprting the jholawala brigade opposition to the ban on Wendy Doniger's "The Hindus", there is no material on why Penguin thought it fit to withdraw it til I saw thiese articles on this site.I have read Doniger's works as a student and was initially puzzled by her lack of understanding of the Indian religious and cultural ethos.I put it down to the usual inability of foreigners to understanding Indian concepts like Dharma. Later on, I sensed a deeper antipathy to our cultural ethos.I was stunned to later on learn that works of indigenous authors on Hinduism including, for eg., say "Hindu Dharma" by the Shankaracharya were not recommemded reading andI instead authors like Doniger were recommended for abetter understanding of "Hinduism". Doniger understands "Hinduism" better than Shankaracharya? Really??As it is, the British have successfully made the world see the Indian way of life and tag it as a "Hindu" religion, so much so, that even most well-read, educated Indians seem to see it as such. People like Doniger have been largely responsible for this clification and misuderstandings of the Indian way of life that Swami Vivekananda appropriately referred to as "Sanatana Dharma". Say you are a member of Sanatana Dharma amd not a Hindu and the bhadraloki babas will look at you as if you've lost it or become a part of the Bajrang Dal.Frankly, as I say it often, these days, looking at what's happening in India these days is like looking down the rabbit of 'Alice in Wonderland'.lol...
              Reply
              1. R
                Rahul Rao
                Feb 14, 2014 at 9:43 am
                While media has been repprting the jholawala brigade opposition to the ban on Wendy Doniger's "The Hindus", there is no material on why Penguin thought it fit to withdraw it til I saw thiese articles on this site.I have read Doniger's works as a student and was initially puzzled by her lack of understanding of the Indian religious and cultural ethos.I put it down to the usual inability of foreigners to understanding Indian concepts like Dharma. Later on, I sensed a deeper antipathy to our cultural ethos.I was stunned to later on learn that works of indigenous authors on Hinduism including, for eg., say "Hindu Dharma" by the Shankaracharya were not recommemded reading andI instead authors like Doniger were recommended for abetter understanding of "Hinduism". Doniger understands "Hinduism" better than Shankaracharya? Really??As it is, the British have successfully made the world see the Indian way of life and tag it as a "Hindu" religion, so much so, that even most well-read, educated Indians seem to see it as such. People like Doniger have been largely responsible for this clification and misuderstandings of the Indian way of life that Swami Vivekananda appropriately referred to as "Sanatana Dharma". Say you are a member of Sanatana Dharma amd not a Hindu and the bhadraloki babas will look at you as if you've lost it or become a part of the Bajrang Dal.Frankly, as I say it often, these days, looking at what's happening in India these days is like looking down the rabbit of 'Alice in Wonderland'.lol...
                Reply
                1. R
                  Rahul Rao
                  Feb 14, 2014 at 9:43 am
                  While media has been repprting the jholawala brigade opposition to the ban on Wendy Doniger's "The Hindus", there is no material on why Penguin thought it fit to withdraw it til I saw thiese articles on this site.I have read Doniger's works as a student and was initially puzzled by her lack of understanding of the Indian religious and cultural ethos.I put it down to the usual inability of foreigners to understanding Indian concepts like Dharma. Later on, I sensed a deeper antipathy to our cultural ethos.I was stunned to later on learn that works of indigenous authors on Hinduism including, for eg., say "Hindu Dharma" by the Shankaracharya were not recommemded reading andI instead authors like Doniger were recommended for abetter understanding of "Hinduism". Doniger understands "Hinduism" better than Shankaracharya? Really??As it is, the British have successfully made the world see the Indian way of life and tag it as a "Hindu" religion, so much so, that even most well-read, educated Indians seem to see it as such. People like Doniger have been largely responsible for this clification and misuderstandings of the Indian way of life that Swami Vivekananda appropriately referred to as "Sanatana Dharma". Say you are a member of Sanatana Dharma amd not a Hindu and the bhadraloki babas will look at you as if you've lost it or become a part of the Bajrang Dal.Frankly, as I say it often, these days, looking at what's happening in India these days is like looking down the rabbit of 'Alice in Wonderland'.lol...
                  Reply
                  1. A
                    Ananth
                    Feb 14, 2014 at 12:56 pm
                    The publisher is not the one to set the tone and conditions of what 'freedom of thought and expression' means. Each country has to decide its perimeters depending on its own beliefs, thoughts, traditions and culture. If they do not wish to follow the rule of the land they should cease their operations there or remain with in the frame work of the law. No one has a right to defame any religion in the name of freedom of expression.
                    Reply
                    1. A
                      Ananth
                      Feb 14, 2014 at 12:56 pm
                      The publisher is not the one to set the tone and conditions of what 'freedom of thought and expression' means. Each country has to decide its perimeters depending on its own beliefs, thoughts, traditions and culture. If they do not wish to follow the rule of the land they should cease their operations there or remain with in the frame work of the law. No one has a right to defame any religion in the name of freedom of expression.
                      Reply
                      1. A
                        Ananth
                        Feb 14, 2014 at 12:56 pm
                        The publisher is not the one to set the tone and conditions of what 'freedom of thought and expression' means. Each country has to decide its perimeters depending on its own beliefs, thoughts, traditions and culture. If they do not wish to follow the rule of the land they should cease their operations there or remain with in the frame work of the law. No one has a right to defame any religion in the name of freedom of expression.
                        Reply
                        1. I
                          Indian
                          Feb 14, 2014 at 8:20 am
                          haha intolerant.. The place and civilization which teaches and in fact is an example of tolerance is intolerant for few so called intellectuals. Learn to respect others' ideologies. Try to understand the emotions and feelings of people here and you will come to know why the book is banned in court.
                          Reply
                          1. I
                            Indian
                            Feb 14, 2014 at 8:20 am
                            haha intolerant.. The place and civilization which teaches and in fact is an example of tolerance is intolerant for few so called intellectuals. Learn to respect others' ideologies. Try to understand the emotions and feelings of people here and you will come to know why the book is banned in court.
                            Reply
                            1. V
                              vijay sj
                              Feb 14, 2014 at 7:52 am
                              When people take it upon themselves to write about religion, any religion ..... there is usually very little to say because all that has been said is already known to people who follow a particular faith. There is really no point in looking at Hinduism or Islam or whatever from the 'fresh' perspective of a 21st century mind. For a rational mind all religions are terribly silly ...... there is really no point writing a book about it and creating an absurd and pretentious argument about Hindu gods. No sane person really cares about these theories ....... I believe this Wendy person has spent most of her life researching Hinduism - it surprises me (from excerpts of the book) that at the end of her life, all she could think of is Krishna's promiscuity and the image of the phallus of Lord Shiva. Even if it is a fleeting reference 'between the lines', I cannot see the point of it ......
                              Reply
                              1. V
                                vijay sj
                                Feb 14, 2014 at 7:52 am
                                When people take it upon themselves to write about religion, any religion ..... there is usually very little to say because all that has been said is already known to people who follow a particular faith. There is really no point in looking at Hinduism or Islam or whatever from the 'fresh' perspective of a 21st century mind. For a rational mind all religions are terribly silly ...... there is really no point writing a book about it and creating an absurd and pretentious argument about Hindu gods. No sane person really cares about these theories ....... I believe this Wendy person has spent most of her life researching Hinduism - it surprises me (from excerpts of the book) that at the end of her life, all she could think of is Krishna's promiscuity and the image of the phallus of Lord Shiva. Even if it is a fleeting reference 'between the lines', I cannot see the point of it ......
                                Reply
                                1. S
                                  Sureshgvr
                                  Feb 14, 2014 at 10:10 am
                                  Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered. "Loka Samastha Sughino Bhavantu" (May all beings everywhere be happy ) is the prominent mantra of Hinduism. No wonder, Hinduism has been the most tolerant religion in the world , and it respects all other religions. We respect freedom of expression; at the same time, we do not forget the famous saying of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. :" My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins".
                                  Reply
                                  1. S
                                    Sureshgvr
                                    Feb 14, 2014 at 10:10 am
                                    Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered. "Loka Samastha Sughino Bhavantu" (May all beings everywhere be happy ) is the prominent mantra of Hinduism. No wonder, Hinduism has been the most tolerant religion in the world , and it respects all other religions. We respect freedom of expression; at the same time, we do not forget the famous saying of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. :" My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins".
                                    Reply
                                    1. S
                                      Sureshgvr
                                      Feb 14, 2014 at 10:10 am
                                      Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered. "Loka Samastha Sughino Bhavantu" (May all beings everywhere be happy ) is the prominent mantra of Hinduism. No wonder, Hinduism has been the most tolerant religion in the world , and it respects all other religions. We respect freedom of expression; at the same time, we do not forget the famous saying of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. :" My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins".
                                      Reply
                                      1. R
                                        raghunathan ganapathi
                                        Feb 14, 2014 at 11:25 am
                                        Hindus are not doormat . Publications should respect Hinduism as a religion also and not encourage sub standard authors
                                        Reply
                                        1. R
                                          raghunathan ganapathi
                                          Feb 14, 2014 at 11:25 am
                                          Hindus are not doormat . Publications should respect Hinduism as a religion also and not encourage sub standard authors
                                          Reply
                                          1. R
                                            raghunathan ganapathi
                                            Feb 14, 2014 at 11:25 am
                                            Hindus are not doormat . Publications should respect Hinduism as a religion also and not encourage sub standard authors
                                            Reply
                                            1. Load More Comments