India’s Information and Broadcasting Ministry has denied permission to screen a short film about the “beef eating practices” in Mumbai. The 21-minute film, titled ‘Caste on the Menu Card’ was chosen to be screened at the 12th Jeevika Asia Livelihood Documentary Festival in 2015 but was pulled after the ministry …Read More »
The world’s biggest book fair opens in Frankfurt this week under a cloud of controversy with Iran calling on all Muslim nations to boycott the exhibition because Indo-British author Salman Rushdie has been invited to speak. Organisers defended the choice, saying freedom of expression was a key theme at this …Read More »
In a landmark ruling that will be seen as yet another blow to Freedom of Speech in India, the country’s Supreme Court today ruled that a bank worker who published a “vulgar” poem about Mahatma Gandhi can be prosecuted. The ruling relates to a long-running case involving Devidas Ramchandra Tuljapurkar, …Read More »
The India Society at Oxford University has cancelled a high-profile lecture set for next month, days after some members of the Indian community in the UK objected to one of the speakers at the event. The appropriately-named ‘Contrarians’ conference, which had been scheduled to take place at the University’s Exeter …Read More »
The Indian government’s decision to ban British director Leslee Udwin’s documentary ‘India’s Daughter’ has caused intense debate in India, not least in the country’s parliament. The documentary explores the horrific gang rape of the young physiotherapy student Jyoti Singh Pandey on a Delhi bus in December 2012. Udwin had engaged …Read More »
Police in Mumbai have registered a case against a number of Bollywood stars on obscenity charges over the staging of the All India Bakchod (AIB) comedy ‘roast’ of actors Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh. In news that will spark further debate about freedom of expression in India, police officials said …Read More »
The internationally renowned Oxford University Press (OUP) has warned its stable of writers to avoid mention of “pigs”, “sausages” or “pork-related” words in children’s books, in an apparent bid to avoid offending Muslims and Jews. The guidelines came to light after a debate on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme where …Read More »
Facebook has become the latest internet giant to succumb to government censorship in Pakistan after the social network blocked users from access to the pages of a popular local rock band and a number of liberal political pages. Members of ‘Laal’, a band well known for creating “socialist” and “progressive” …Read More »
Indian authors, critics and readers have expressed their outrage after Penguin India on Tuesday agreed to withdraw a book on Hinduism by American academic and author Wendy Doniger.
Doniger's 'The Hindus: An Alternative History' was first published in 2009 and caused much disquiet within conservative Hindu circles for its controversial re-interpretation of ancient Hindu texts and mythology, particularly in relation to sexuality and gender.
However, the best seller received widespread critical acclaim and was shortlisted for Book of the Year by India's National Book Critics Circle in 2010.
Penguin India's decision to withdraw the book from sale follows a series of court cases and protests against the company and the author by a number of Hindu organizations in India and the United States, most notably the Hindu American Foundation and the Indian American Intellectuals Forum (IAIF).
IAIF President Narain Kataria was quoted in 2011 as saying of the book: "By giving a pornographic twist to Hindu objects of veneration and worship, Doniger is trying to create the illusion that Hinduism is nothing but a crude immoral religion.
This has the potential to create disaffection, disillusionment and depression in the minds of Hindu children about Hindu Dharma."
According to Aseem Shukla of the Hindu American Foundation, who criticised her work online, "Parallelisms in her book conjure up obsolete anecdotes comparing the sacred stone linga representing Lord Shiva to a leather strap-on sex toy, and Lord Rama, one of the most widely worshiped deities, is psychoanalyzed to have acted out of fear that he was becoming a sex-addict like his father."
Doniger responded to Mr Shukla in 2013, saying: "(The book) highlights a narrative alternative to the one constituted by the most famous texts in Sanskrit and represented in most surveys in English.
It tells a story that incorporates the narratives of and about alternative people – people who, from the standpoint of most high-caste Hindu males, are alternative in the sense of otherness, people of other religions, or cultures, or castes, or species (animals), or gender (women)."
Chicago-born Doniger, 73, is one of the most respected Indian scholars in India and is a professor of History at the University of Chicago. Much of her work is focused on translating, interpreting and comparing elements of Hindu theories through modern contexts of gender, sexuality and identity.
The withdrawal of 'The Hindus' - the book is still available online and is yet to be banned outright in India - has resulted in an outpouring of criticism on social media networks with #TheHindus trending throughout Tuesday.
Respected Indian historian and writer Ramchandra Guha tweeted: "Anwser to a book one doesn't like is another book, not a ban, or legal action or physical intimidation".
Academic Kranti Saran said: "Penguin India caves to right-wing bullies & agrees to pulp, at their own cost, Wendy Doniger's book on the Hindus. Shocking & disgraceful!"
Some twitter users had practical advice to those still interested in buying a copy of the book. "Just ordered "The Hindus" from Amazon. Feeling smug about forcing @PenguinIndia to take my money for a book I might not've read otherwise", tweeted Alok Prasanna Kumar.
Another user said simply: "Hindu religion has always been vibrant. That is why we r different from others. Being a staunch Hindu means being staunchly secular".Read More »
Award-winning Tamil actor and poet V.I.S. Jeyapalan has been arrested in Sri Lanka for alleged violations of visa rules, reports say. Mr Jeyapalan, a Norwegian passport who had travelled to the Island on a tourist visa, was arrested in the northern Sri Lankan town of Mankulam on Friday. A police …Read More »