Everybody is shocked at what you have gone and done—at your out-of-court settlement with an unknown Hindu fanatic outfit—in which you seem to have agreed to take Wendy Donniger's The Hindus: An Alternative History off the bookshelves of 'Bharat' and pulp it. There will soon no doubt be protestors gathered outside your office, expressing their dismay.
Tell us, please, what is it that scared you so? Have you forgotten who you are? You are part of one of the oldest, grandest publishing houses in the world. You existed long before publishing became just another business, and long before books became products like any other perishable product in the market—mosquito repellent or scented soap. You have published some of the greatest writers in history. You have stood by them as publishers should, you have fought for free speech against the most violent and terrifying odds. And now, even though there was no fatwa, no ban, not even a court order, you have not only caved in, you have humiliated yourself abjectly before a fly-by-night outfit by signing settlement. Why? You have all the resources anybody could possibly need to fight a legal battle. Had you stood your ground, you would have had the weight of enlightened public opinion behind you, and the support of most—if not all—of your writers. You must tell us what happened. What was it that terrified you? You owe us, your writers an explanation at the very least.
The elections are still a few months away. The fascists are, thus far, only campaigning. Yes, it's looking bad, but they are not in power. Not yet. And you've already succumbed?
What are we to make of this? Must we now write only pro-Hindutva books? Or risk being pulled off the bookshelves in 'Bharat' (as your 'settlement' puts it) and pulped? Will there be some editorial guide-lines perhaps, for writers who publish with Penguin? Is there a policy statement?
Frankly I don't believe this has happened. Tell us it's just propaganda from a rival publishing house. Or an April Fool's day prank that got leaked early. Please say something. Tell us it's not true.
So far I have had been more than happy to be published by Penguin. But now?
What you have done affects us all.
(Author of In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones, The God of Small Things, Listening to Grasshoppers, Broken Republic and other books all of which are published by Penguin India)
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
"Arundhati's warning against the fascists is quite appropriate"
For people who are shitting bricks these days, this comes as a feeble comfort!!
The pathetic communalists in this forum would like us to believe that Penguin withdrew the book of it own volition. It did not, it issued a clear statement that it was bad Indian laws and its worse Judiciary that made it do so.
I see tons of "scholars" in English media who are ridiculing Penguin in every forum for not defending the freedom of speech. Whose speech is it? For Penguin it may be just a business decision: legal cost - vs. - money it would make in selling Doniger’s book. I suspect if there are many buyers of her book even in the group of “scholars” who are distraught by this. Do not tell me that all these scholars/publishing houses who are writing/publishing books are not there for making money. Just look at Times of India, Hindustan Times, and many other web sites run by eminent “journalists”, are full of soft porn, to attract the readership (or at least they think so) & make money…
By the way Penguin is not the only publisher. These “scholars” can certainly arrange publication of Doniger’s book somewhere else, or better publish themselves. Who stops them? The book is not banned. Tarun Tejpal’s India-Ink will be happy to oblige. If another, “unknown Hindu fanatic outfit” or “fly-by-night outfit “, as Arundhati described it, goes to courts, these “scholars” who are concerned about “freedom of speech” can certainly pick-up the legal battle. Why these champions of “free speech” are caving in and humiliating themselves abjectly before a “fly-by-night” outfit? (Forgive me borrowing a sentence from Arundhati)
In any case, I do not think anyone, (courts, governments or “fanatic Hindu” or even God) has the resources to ban the book in the internet age. So what is this fuss all about?
By the way, I support freedom of speech, which includes freedom to be stupid!
>> I believe parivar has found out that it is easier to work from inside.
Good. So far we had only jehadis and anti-nationals working from inside. Now we shall have some nationalists working from inside too.
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