The Hindus: An Alternative History (book)

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Artist: Wendy Doniger

Year: 2014

Date of Action: February, 2004

Region: Asia

Location: India

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion, Religion

Medium: Literature

Confronting Bodies: New Delhi-based Shiksha Bachao Andolan Group and Penguin Books India

Description of Artwork: The Hindus: An Alternative History, is a 2011 book by University of Chicago professor and noted Hindu scholar Wendy Doniger. It offers a new way of understanding Hinduism and elucidates the relationship between recorded history and imaginary worlds.

The Incident: Critics of the book stated that the book is incorrect and is an illegal representation of Hinduism. In 2011, Dinanath Batra (representing the Shiksha Bachao Andolan group) filed a civil suit against Doniger and her publisher The Penguin Group. The suit was based on a section in the India Penal Code (ironically inspired by British legislation), which punishes deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the feelings of any religious community.

Results of Incident: The two sides agreed upon a settlement where the Penguin Group will withdraw the book from Indian shelves within six months, and destroy any unsold or recalled copies of the book at its own expense. Doniger expressed a lot of anger and disappointment regarding the settlement stating, “I am deeply troubled by what it foretells for free speech in India in the present, and steadily worsening, political climate.” She also added that although it cannot be sold in India, people still have access to the book online.