American scholar Wendy Doniger’s study on India and Hinduism, titled “The Hindus: An Alternative History” was published in 2009 by Penguin India. The book, among other things, talks about the ubiquitous sexual symbolism in Hinduism and is described as a retelling of the history of Hinduism. In 2011, Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti -SBAS, founder Dina Nath Batra dragged Penguin and Doniger to court, alleging that the book is a blasphemous account on Hinduism and it hurts the religious sentiments of crores of followers. The case went on for four years, and four days ago, Penguin reached an out of court settlement with the petitioner, to withdraw all the books in market and also to destroy any books in stock.
While the author felt that the publisher did all they could, several freedom of speech crusaders have objected to the acceptance of defeat by the publishing major. Penguin India said that the archaic IPC 295A is to be blamed. Now a Bangalore based advocate and book lover slapped a notice on Penguin India to having failed the country’s readers. The advocate asked Penguin to relinquish the rights over the book as it is not working to protect it’s ownership on it.
Shuddhabrata Sengupta and Aarthi Sethi, argue that because Penguin has agreed to withdraw the book from India and destroy all copies, it has “effectively acknowledged that it is no longer interested in exercising its ownership in the work” and should surrender its copyright to the Indian public.
SBAS has earlier on several occasions played a ‘saver of Indian value systems’ – forcing changes in NCERT sex education content, few cases on MF Hussain, and also in removal of an AK Ramanujan essay from Delhi University syllabus.