Blame it on the Indian Penal Code, says Penguin, publishers of the American “scholar” Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative History, for their decision to pulp its Indian edition. Despite this clear confession of the reason for the book’s withdrawal, the trench soldiers of “liberalism” are threatening and condemning the publishers. More, they are targeting their ire on the so-called Hindu right.
That itself shows their bias. Surprisingly, the same liberal left came down on the government, asking it to ban The Satanic Verses, did not rush to save Taslima Nasreen from a screaming mob in Hyderabad for her novel in which the Islamic orthodoxy found anti-Islamic sentences, or protest when a ban was imposed on Joseph Lelyveld’s book Great Soul for its hints at Mahatma Gandhi and his friend Hermann Kallenbach’s relationship.
As for another great liberal, the Congress, why did its Abhishek Manu Singhvi, as counsel for Sonia Gandhi, go to court to block Spanish writer Javier Moro’s novel The Red Sari? Moro was accused of writing around Sonia Gandhi. Even if that inference is true, it would not affect the sentiments of millions, and why can’t the great liberals and followers of Jawaharlal Nehru take in their stride some lampooning of their leaders? The Congress government in Jaipur resorted to a dirty trick to keep world-renowned author Salman Rushdie from attending the Jaipur Literature Festival two years back, just because the Islamists and their “secular” followers would not even countenance the author of Satanic Verses.
But that is not all. From one left liberal to another, including “secularists”, the cry has gone round that, with the publisher withdrawing the book, freedom of expression is in danger in this country. Is that the truth? Has the book been banned, and who wanted the ban? The fact is that nobody, not even the so-called Hindu right, asked for any ban.
The simple fact is that the publisher bowed out in response to a complaint filed by the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti against the book. The complaint was only pointing out in its suit certain flaws, factual errors and deliberate attempts to insult Hindu sentiments in the book. That is not asking for banning the book.
The publishers had the option of contesting the claim or appealing to a higher court. They could have countered the accusation in the complaint with their version of the facts. As the complaint was registered in court under the provisions of the IPC, the law itself could have been challenged as violating the freedom of speech provisions in the Constitution. In that, the self-proclaimed liberals should have targeted not the publisher but the IPC itself, or its Section 295. They did not condemn the IPC’s clause when it was used to ban Satanic Verses or several other books. They did not go continued…