POSTED BY Buzz ON Jun 03, 2014 AT 23:56 IST ,  Edited At: Jun 03, 2014 23:56 IST

Publishers Orient Blackswan (OBS), recently received a notice from Dinanath Batra, the convener of Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti (SBAS), for the textbook, Plassey to Partition: A History of Modern India by Sekhar Bandopadhyay, a history professor at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, was defamatory and derogatory to the RSS.

Batra had recently been in the news for forcing publishers Penguin to withdraw Wendy Doniger's book The Hindus: An Alternative History, and Aleph to undertake that they would reprint her book On Hinduism only after a review by lawyers, independent writers and scholars.

Citing concern for the security of authors, staff and their families, OBS in turn decided that they would do a “pre-release assessment of books that might attract similar reactions” and among the books they decided to hold back from release was Megha Kumar's Communalism and Sexual Violence: Ahmedabad since 1969, and they wrote to her saying that her book would not be released "for the present" until a “comprehensive assessment has been made and advice obtained.”

Kumar, who holds a DPhil and an MSt in colonial South Asian history from Balliol College, University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and a BA from the University of Delhi, and has held the Past and Present Research Fellowship at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, and taught South Asian history and politics at Oxford, contests the publisher's claims and points out that the book had already been on sale from the OBS website since April 15.

Given the fact that Kumar's book revolves around communal and sexual violence in the Ahmedabad riots of 1969, 1985 and 2002, the political implications of the decision was bound to raise concerns about specific pressure being brought on the publisher.

Writing in the Indian Express, Seema Chishti quotes Mimi Choudhury, publisher, Higher Academic Social Sciences, Orient BlackSwan, as saying:

“We have not withdrawn Megha Kumar’s book. We are simply reviewing it in the wake of a legal notice that was served on us by Dina Nath Batra of Shiksha Bachao Andolan for a textbook titled From Plassey to Partition… In the context of the legal notice, Orient BlackSwan has decided to identify and review again books — those already published as well as those under consideration.”

“The academic merit of a book is always judged by an established academic in the field. Megha Kumar’s book will be reviewed by an academic; the recommended changes, if any, will be discussed with the author. The book will be published following the review and revision, if any.”

But Kumar underlines that the book had “been printed following thorough peer review and systematic copyediting between June 2013, when the first draft of the manuscript was submitted, and March 14, when the book went to press”.

Chishti quotes Kumar as saying:

“Should these trends gather momentum in the wake of the recent electoral transition — my book is not the first to evoke such a response from a reputed publisher — there will be profound adverse consequences for academic publishing, universities and other educational institutions. Moreover, given the frequency and brutality of sexual violence against women in India, withholding research on this important subject seems particularly damaging.”

Writing in the Hindu, Anita Joshua adds:

Waltraud Ernst, one of the four editors of the series ‘Critical Thinking in South Asian History’, under which Ms. Kumar’s book was published, wrote to the publisher: “I find it very difficult indeed to fathom the severity of what is going on here in regard to what seems to me to be politically motivated interference with academic freedom. I would be most grateful for reassurance that all this has been a mistake.”

When contacted, Prof. Ernst, an adjunct professor at St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Bangalore, and Prof. Bandyopadhy, who is also a series editor, told The Hindu that under the circumstances it was understandable why the publishers resorted to such action. “What is to be done when the IPC becomes relevant to the way professional history is written?’’ said Prof. Ernst.

POSTED BY Buzz ON Jun 03, 2014 AT 23:56 IST ,  Edited At: Jun 03, 2014 23:56 IST
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Daily Mail
Jun 18, 2014
01:25 AM
R. Saroja
Bombay, India
Jun 10, 2014
11:03 AM

'Publishers fear legal or violent reprisal’ - Editorial, Asian Age

First, Penguin pulped Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History; then, Orient Blackswan withdrew Sekhar Bandopadhyay’s From Plassey to Partition: A History of Modern India from the market. And now it has pulled an unspecified number of other academic works, including Megha Kumar’s book Communalism and Sexual Violence: Ahmedabad Since 1969, although there was no legal action or protest against it.

Dallas, United States
Jun 09, 2014
06:47 PM

Those who hide behind the "law allows batra to do this" and other apologists:  it is not the law that the publishers and writers are scared of, but the virulent attacks sometimes physical and destruction of property and intimidations by the fanatic gangs.  If it is just the law, they will fight it in court (like they do in the west where many of the defenders of batra live but do not seem to have learnt anything from the freedom and the open minded outlook they experience)) and withdraw the books if the courts ordered them to do so.  On top of that, it is an irony that many of the people condoning these actions in the current forum live in the free, democratic and secular western countries, use every one of these freedoms and privileges to boot and at the same time rooting for theocratic rule in India.  Just goes to show that there is none who is more blind than the one who refuses to see.  Hopefully, some day at least some of these will see the truth and truth shall set them free!

T. Nayak
Washington, United States
Jun 07, 2014
07:48 PM

 Credentialled  writers!

Credentialled by themselves or fellow warriors of the crusading alliance of the jihadis, cultural imperialists and Stalinist fascists.

I would prefer an ordinary Indian like Dinanath Batra over these pompous self proclaimed geniuses any day.

Pradip Singh
stafford, uk
Jun 07, 2014
07:24 PM

For the first time the diabolical alliance of the jihadis, western cultural colonialists and Stalinist fascists is having to face challenge from the grassroots Indian and the alliance's warriors are going totally insane with impotent rage.

Hats off to the tenacity of Dinanath Batra.

Pradip Singh
stafford, uk
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