Our fraudulent Left-liberals, who dominate the commentariat and academic institutions, poisoning impressionable minds, are out in full force, doing what they do best: Maligning Hindus by propagating falsehood. They have seized upon Penguin Books India’s decision to withdraw and pulp a book, ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’, authored by Wendy Doniger who is on the faculty of the Divinity School at Chicago University, to accuse “Hindu nationalists”, “fringe fundamentalists”, “Hindutvawadis” of enforcing ‘censorship’. This fiction is being repeated, again and again, in keeping with Goebbels’s dictum of repeating a lie till in the popular perception it begins to appear as the truth.
Here are the facts. Wendy Doniger’s book was published in India by Penguin five years ago. It met with a hostile reception and its contents were contested by several writers well-versed with Hindu texts and Sanskrit. Even the most casual reading of the book would show that the ‘alternative history’ that Wendy Doniger peddles is so much bunk and no more. For all her scholarship, her interpretation of text and tradition, her understanding of the finer nuances of Sanskrit, come across as amazing shallow in this book.
Critics of ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’ have argued, and not without reason, that the book was crafted to intentionally pour scorn on Hinduism; to titillate those who feel it is obligatory, either for reasons of ideology or faith if not both, to denigrate Hinduism; to use the papier mâché mask of scholarship to mock at Hindus for worshipping gods and goddesses who are portrayed as high on Viagra.
Hinduism does not abnegate the recreational pleasures of sexual intercourse – an entire chapter, The Anodyne, in Nirad C Chaudhuri’s celebrated treatise, ‘The Continent of Circe’, elaborates this point. Nirad babu drew upon a vast body of Sanskrit text, both religious and secular. But whereas it is a pleasure to read Nirad babu’s exposition, and a joy to read the texts he refers to even in translation, crudity and misinterpretation makes Wendy Doniger’s “alternative history” odious.
It could be entirely coincidental, but what Wendy Doniger has to say about Hindus and Hinduism bears remarkable similarity with the salacious, slanderous contents of lesser pamphlets used by pastors sponsored by foreign evangelists who run a multi-billion-dollar trans-national business of harvesting souls. For evidence, compare Wendy Doniger’s slickly produced ‘The Hindus’ with Pastor MG Matthew’s shabbily printed ‘Haqeeqat’. I would desist from quoting either of the authors because that would amount to giving undue publicity to scurrilous comments aimed at demeaning Hindus and defaming their faith. The similarity does not necessarily suggest a larger conspiracy, not the least because Wendy Doniger, I am told, is not a Bible-thumping Christian but a secular Jew.
A year after the book’s publication in India, Dinanath Batra, representing an organisation called Shiksha Bachao Andolan, filed a case against Penguin Books India and Wendy Doniger, demanding that the book be withdrawn from circulation. The petition extensively cited flaws in the book and explained why these were unacceptable. In brief, someone offended by the book exercised his right to seek legal remedy. On February 4, Penguin Books India, instead of contesting the petition and fighting it out in the courts of law to uphold the author’s right to free speech, decided to cut its losses and pulp the book.
It would be in order to mention that Penguin Books India has in the past elected to dump another author without even so much as a murmur of protest. Khushwant Singh, who was an adviser to Penguin Books India those days, was the first to propose that Salman Rushdie’s ‘The Satanic Verses’ should be dropped and went on to urge Rajiv Gandhi that it should be banned. Rajiv Gandhi did ban ‘The Satanic Verses’, making India the first country to proscribe it. Penguin Books India never contested that decision. Instead, it meekly recalled and pulped all unsold copies.
Some 30 years ago Sunanda K Datta-Ray’s ‘Smash & Grab: The Annexation of Sikkim’, perhaps the only book on one of the most important chapters of post-1947 history, was withdrawn and pulped by Vikas Publishing, the biggest publisher of the times. Vikas did so to settle a case filed by India’s last representative to Gangtok who had been uncharitably portrayed in ‘Smash & Grab’. Publishers in India are not known to fight legal battles to a bitter finish.
If our Left-liberals are truly upset, they should direct their ire at Penguin Books India for letting down Wendy Doniger and her book. They won’t do that because it would mean castigating ‘people like us’. It would also mean burning bridges with Penguin Books India which they are loath to do for reasons that are not limited to India’s premiere publishing firm. Yet our Left-liberals need to be seen as angry and outraged. So they viciously turn on “Hindu nationalists”, “fringe fundamentalists”, “Hindutvawadis”, their fangs bared in hatred.
Some years ago when a callow student of fine arts at MS University in Baroda ran into trouble over two paintings, one allegedly depicting Jesus on the Cross and the other Durga, there was a similar attempt to malign Hindus. Conveniently glossed over was the fact that the protest was led not by Hindus but Christians horrified by what they perceived to be a sacrilegious portrayal of Jesus.
We didn’t hear a pipsqueak from our Left-liberals when the Church was asked to clear the film ‘The Da Vinci Code’, whose screening was proscribed in several Congress-ruled States. There are several instances of Left-liberals slyly acquiescing to censorship by the Congress which has over the decades banned and proscribed scores of books, journals and films.
Our Left-liberals forget, ever so conveniently, that book-banning would not have been an issue in this country but for Jawaharlal Nehru introducing the first amendment to the Constitution. In India, the first amendment curbed freedom of speech. In the US, the first amendment enshrined freedom of speech as non-negotiable. If intolerance towards inconvenient views and obnoxious opinions exists in this country, it stems from that original sin. Let us also never forget that our Left-liberals are the most bigoted and intolerant of all.
Banning, burning and pulping books are not welcome options. But neither is it welcome that authors who wear a halo of ‘academic scholarship’ abuse their position and perch to defame a community and its faith. And definitely the carping of the spurious Left-liberals is unacceptable.
(Photo courtesy lokvani.com)