Authors angry over Penguin pulping Wendy Doniger's book 'The Hindus', legal notice sent

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New Delhi:  Days after Penguin decided to pulp American author Wendy Doniger's book 'The Hindus: An Alternative History' following an out-of-court settlement, at least two authors hit back asking the publisher to withdraw their books, nullify their contract and pulp their books too in protest.

Academic Jyotirmaya Sharma, who has published two books with Penguin, and journalist and author Siddharth Varadrajan said they are outraged at the leading publishing house capitulating before a fringe outfit called Shiksha Bachao Andolan which alleges that the 2009 book insults Hindus.

"I am a writer. I want to be published. But we have to do this to save the liberal space," Jyotirmaya Sharma told NDTV.

Siddharth Varadarajan, whose book 'Gujarat: the Making of a Tragedy' was published by Penguin in 2002, says, "If you are in the publishing business, it is assumed that you will write, edit and publish something that somebody might not like. And that's part of what living in a free democratic society is all about... Penguin should have fought it out rather than capitulate at the lowest court."

Penguin in its defence had said it had "an obligation to respect the laws of the land, however intolerant or restrictive." In reply to NDTV's email on the controversy, a Penguin spokesperson wrote, "Ongoing discussions between our authors and us are confidential and we will not be able to comment at this point."

In Bangalore, Anmol Vellani, the founder of India Foundation for the Arts, has started a unique protest asking people to return one Penguin book and encouraging others to do so. He started by returning Franz Kafka's iconic 'The Trial'.

"I returned it because I felt it was on the one hand a relatively harmless form of protest... it engages the subjectivity of the reader. One reader I know has returned George Orwell's '1984'," Mr Vellani said.

Prominent academics like Anil Sadgopal, Irfan Habib and many others also signed a statement drafted by the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust or SAHMAT calling Penguin's action "an early salvo in the renewed campaign to drown all questioning voices and prepare the ground for a full-fledged chauvinistic and communal presentation of our history and culture."

Penguin may also face legal action now with a lawyer sending a notice to the publisher claiming its move violated freedom of speech and rights of its readers.

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