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HindustanTimes Thu,21 Aug 2014

The legal system is the obvious villain: Rana Dasgupta on Penguin’s withdrawal

Subuhi Parvez, Hindustan Times   February 15, 2014
First Published: 16:58 IST(15/2/2014) | Last Updated: 17:12 IST(15/2/2014)

Delhi-based author Rana Dasgupta is appalled with the off-shelving of American author Wendy Doniger’s 2009 book, The Hindus, in India.

The publisher, Penguin India, decided to withdraw the book and reportedly destroy all remaining copies following a conflict after an organisation called Shiksha Bachao Andolan raised objection on religious grounds.

Read: Penguin earns online fury for scrapping 'The Hindus'

"Doniger’s book is a ­necessary one. It’s disappointing how the circulation has stopped and I hope it could be reversed. The obvious ­villains in the story are: the legal system that protects this action, and absolutism," said the 42-year-old author at a book reading in city on Thursday.

"This (intolerance) is something we have to get over. We have to mature as a society and tolerate ­people who ­disagree with us, otherwise we’re infants," he added.

On the related protests planned at the World Book Fair that opens on February 15, the author said, "It’s difficult not to sympathise with that anger. Definitely, in this whole situation, publication houses have to stick out for authors."

The publisher, on its part, explained in a statement, "We stand by our original decision to publish The Hindus, just as we stand by the decision to publish other books that we know may cause offence to some segments of our readership. We believe, however, 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."

Read: Penguin blames Indian laws for pulping Wendy Doniger's The Hindus

Apart from condemning the publication house, the writer is kicked about his latest book Capital. It is his first non-fiction work and the very first account of Delhi, where he has been living for the last 14 years.
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"It’s an attempt to describe the bewildering world of the contemporary Indian metropolis. It’s generally a dark book. It’s dominated by these controversies (referring to Wendy Doniger). I would say, slightly more intense than my previous books because it’s about me and my own life. I appear in it as myself. But ultimately it’s the story of the people I meet, an emotional and intellectual journey at that", says Dasgupta.

Being a foreigner, he says writing on Delhi came naturally. It was as if he has a lot to say.

He gives credit to talking to the city, in his head, for years. He was almost fighting with it all this while.

Beside books, it is Hindi films that have been keeping the petite intellectual busy of late. His favourite is Dibarkar Banerjee of the lot.

"I think Indian films have done better than Indian books in terms of capturing the record of our existence. I like Dibarkar Banerjee’s ‘Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye’. It’s a great character that he has created. He has drawn to the things that we all talk about or think about", he chuckles.


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