A Book, an author and a controversy
Controversies aren’t strange in the publishing world. But a publishing giant like Penguin agreeing not only to withdraw one of its titles from the shelves but to destroy all the available copies as well is something that is not usual. Back in 2009 Penguin Books India, a unit of Penguin Random House, published a title “The Hindus: An Alternative History” by Wendy Doniger, a Professor of Religion in the University of Chicago.
The book had not invited public attention- should’ve drawn the attention only in the academic circle and few readers of non-fiction – until a lawsuit was filed against Penguin India by Dinanath Batra, the head of Shiksha Bacho Andolan, a Hindu right-wing watchdog dealing with education and text books that monitors for any misrepresentations of Hindu ideologies. Dina had filed the lawsuit under 295A of IPC (Indian Penal Code), which punishes the deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the feelings of a religious community.
Wendy is also a renowned American Indologist who has exceptional mastery over Sanskrit. She has also penned a plethora of non-fiction works (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendy_Doniger#Works), most of which though based on Hinduism and Hindu Mythology, takes an alternative but provocative approach. Though I haven’t personally read none of her works till date, digging information on her works after she made headlines convinces me to consolidate her works on Hindu Mythology and the religious practices seems to suggest the sexuality in them which is more highlighted blurring a legion of other aspects of the Hindu Tradition.
Author’s reaction over the recalling of her work by the publishers came soon after the publishers agreed to pull out and pulp the copies of the book, in view of the opposition that it faced in India. Reading her press release (http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2014/02/12/in-full-author-wendy-donigers-statement-on-withdrawal-of-the-hindus/ ) which we may find across American media and the comments that it had garnered we could understand one thing. This work is perceived as an attempt of a Western Christian author who has tried to reduce the whole Hindu belief is constructed over myths. Hence the comments question the credibility of the Bible besides filing strong condemnations for this work.
Dinanath Batra, the person in the limelight now after the announcement from the publishers has opened up to TIMES. His conversation with TIME can be read here (http://world.time.com/2014/02/12/sex-lies-and-hinduism-why-a-hindu-activist-targeted-wendy-donigers-book/ )
One of the main issues sited from the book is that it claims the Epics Ramayana as a work of fiction. This has severely injured the sentiments of Hindu fanatics. Ms.Wendy is said to have sparked controversy with the psychoanalytic methods that she has deployed in the issues of gender, sexuality and religion. The controversy over the book and the publisher’s acceptance to bow for the pressure has alongside created rave criticisms in the literary circle. Scholars and academics from around the world see this as a failure for freedom of speech. Truth in fact has many versions. The problem arises when tires to ensure the prevalence of their ‘versions’ of truth by suppressing all other alternative approaches. The supporters have already started a signing campaign and have planned to send the collected signatures to the appropriate authorities of India.
After reading the comments over the author’s press release in the link that I’ve sited in this article, to answer the questions raised over the credibility of the Story of Jesus, yes, there have been scholarly works in great number over this, whether or not the Vatican approves it. We, human beings always look for a complete understanding of our existence and everything around us. For questions those unanswerable by science, we try to fill the voids with beliefs. These fillers are religious believes as some call it and some considers it as a mere matter of convenience acquired through myths and legends. The ultimate truth, if ever it exists, may lie hidden somewhere within the realms of perception.