New Delhi: A group of authors and historians has denounced the withdrawal of American scholar Wendy Doniger's book on Hinduism, calling it a "campaign to drown all questioning voices and prepare the ground for a chauvinistic and communal presentation of history and culture."
In a statement today, Delhi-based Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust or SAHMAT said the "surrender" by Penguin, the publisher of 'The Hindus: An Alternative History', in an out-of-court settlement, which involves withdrawal and pulping of the book, has "a more sinister aspect."
"The next step, as some newspaper reports already suggest, is to extend the net of censorship and use government machinery, wherever available, to extend to school and college textbooks the same kind of misinformation, chauvinistic claims and denigration of other religions and cultures that we had seen during the past BJP-led regime at the Centre," it said.
The statement has been signed by Irfan Habib, CP Chandrasekhar, Mridula Mukherjee, MK Raina, Ram Rahman, Jayati Ghosh, Zoya Hasan among others.
In a statement, Penguin India today said, "Ongoing discussions between our authors and us are confidential and we will not be able to comment at this point."
The publishing house agreed to withdraw the 2009 book and destroy all remaining copies to settle a four-year court battle with an outfit called Shiksha Bachao Andolan that alleged the book insulted Hindus.
Meanwhile, author and journalist Siddharth Vardarajan tweeted that he along with Jyotirmaya Sharma "have asked Penguin to pulp our books and revert copyright so we can deal with any would-be bullies on our own terms."
"As an author I no longer have the confidence that Penguin will stand by my book 'Gujarat: The Making of a Tragedy' in the event that some group or individual should decide to demand that it be withdrawn," Mr Vardarajan said.
Earlier this week, activist and Booker Prize winning author Arundhati Roy wrote an open letter to the publisher, asking it to explain what "scared" one of "the oldest, grandest publishing houses in the world" when it decided to withdraw Ms Doniger's book.