In a response to the outrage expressed by writers and intellectuals including Ramachandra Guha and Arundhati Roy, Penguin Books India on Friday placed the blame for its decision to pulp all copies of the Indian edition of The Hindus by Wendy Doniger on the Indian Penal Code.
“We believe… that the Indian Penal Code, and in particular section 295A of that code, will make it increasingly difficult for any Indian publisher to uphold international standards of free expression without deliberately placing itself outside the law.”However instead of helping the publishing house regain the lost respect, the statement seems to have further irritated proponents of free expression.
Arundhati Roy wrote, “You must tell us what terrified you,” hinting that she wouldn’t want to be published by Penguin in the future.
The controversy has been good for business — the Hindus has climbed to 34 on Amazon’s bestseller list. Dinanath Batra’s advocate Monika Arora stated that the book’s withdrawal “is an outcome of a valid, legal battle fought by people of eminence in this vibrant democracy.”
Meanwhile, advocate Lawrence Liang of the Alternative Law Forum has issued a legal notice to Penguin India, claiming that the publisher has violated freedom of speech laws and readers’ rights.
The notice states that since Penguin has “effectively acknowledged that it is not longer interested in exercising” its ownership of The Hindus, it should surrender its copyright to the Indian public. It now looks like Penguin India will be fighting many battles with both, liberals and the right wing.