Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Right to Read

It is always a pleasure and often a sense of having done the right and in no uncertain terms of having asserted your right when you jump a fence that in the first place no one had any business or right to put up.
I today received by courier from AMAZON the Wendy Doniger’s book, “The Hindus an Alternative History”. It cost me Rs 1250 and took two weeks to reach me from its international publisher (not the pliable Penguin India).

This book as many know was found offensive by Dinanath Batra and his group of self-acclaimed Hindus and custodians of Hindu culture ( yes caste, untouchability, dowry, bride burning, marital rape,honour killing , khap panchayats and gang rape of women too are part of the culture they laud about). This group of drumbeaters and bigots filed a civil and criminal suit against the publication and sale of the book in India and simultaneously arm twisted the pliable and  pusillanimous  Penguin India to withdraw the book and pulp it. Interestingly this very same Dinanath Batra took on the Educational Board and has actively opposed and subsequently stopped the introduction of sex education in Indian schools, saying it was against Hindu culture and religion.

Shobha Narayan writes in her post titled “The real reason Wendy Danger’s book on Hindus was banned in India: It’s not boring enough.” She goes on to say, “Doniger is clever and playful; she shines the light into the dark crevasses of a religion that was formulated at a time when feminism as a concept didn’t exist. Doniger knows her Sanskrit and her Vedas, but she looks Hindu rituals and traditions from the point of view of women and minorities. …… .”             
  “…… blasphemy, as far as he is concerned, never mind that Doniger knows her Sanskrit and Upanishads better than he does; never mind that she understands the glories of ancient India in a way that he cannot begin to fathom; never mind that she knows that the Manu Smriti that he often quotes uses animals to define humans.”
Now in these days when I finally begun to read to hearts content, now that I have a few good books that are tempting me on my table in their own forcible way to be read first, I guess Wendy Doniger has come and the rest will have to wait a while until I read through her tome.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

The author herself had this to say on the pulping of her book in India. “And I am deeply troubled by what it foretells for free speech in India in the present, and steadily worsening, political climate,”                                                                            

 As for me it is not the question of free speech or literary freedom. It is not the widely misused word blasphemy or offending sentiments and hurting religious feelings. It is the question of my fundamental right, my birth right to read what I want. The courts in India have ruled before proscribing books but they have not banned reading them. These impostors and custodians of Hindutva or of Semitic religions, faiths, culture race or region cannot and shall not usurp my right to read and accept or reject what I want.

How about you?


rudraprayaga said...

The freedom of reading by grown-ups is their birth as well as life long right,which by no means can be curtailed.

All religions travel through the path of superstitions and suppression in in which individual's lingual part is sealed in the mouth.An impressive post really.

jijo moolayil said...

Dictatorship in any kind is afraid of ideas and intellectual activities much more than physical force. The clear example is of Mussolini who was advised by the public prosecutor on Antonio Gramsci: "At least for next twenty years we must stop this brain from functioning." Consequently, he was sent to jail. But even from there Gramsci comes out with his most famous "Prison Notes". Church too has its share in perpetuating "Index Librorum Prohibitorum" even to the date in a secular world.

KParthasarathi said...

Hindu religion has survived many a onslaught for centuries.The core of the religion remains eternal.
But the practices and rituals that have grown on it may be repugnant to modern ideas.Banning a book or arresting free flow of thoughts is no solution.If a religion cannot stand scrutiny,it lacks strength.
But there is a grouse that there is a propensity to find flaws only in Hindu religion as others would not brook dissent.But your point about your freedom to read what you like is unexceptionable so long the written material is not sacrilegious or blatantly offensive.
I have not read this book.

Renu said...

I agree to partha sir!..banning is not solution, but why everybody takes liberty only with hindu gods and religion only..see whenevr there is anything about muslim or christians,their sentiments are honoured...

I bought the book Lajja by Tasleema Nasreen...and found nothing obectionable there..but the writer is permanently hounded, and the same for Salman Rushdie...

Its the same the way people forget that 60 people were burned alive in a pre planned incident.. clerics were shouting there to kill all, and anybody who came out was cut to pieces..but everybody forgets all that but rememebers only gujarat riots and modi..

Freedom is good only if excercised with responsibility, otherwise its detrimental to the society..

anilkurup said...

@ rudraparayag,
Yes you understood and thanks for the comment.

@ Jijo moolayil

Agree with you. It is matter of distraught and pity that people are increasingly becoming intolerant and bigoted.A literary statement has to be discounted by pedagogy and not obfuscation and proscribing the stuff.I guess the Church is far reformed in that matter .

KParthasarathi,@ Renu

I;m afraid you contradicted yourself in your comment.While beginning with the statement that arresting free flow of thought is not the solution , you wound up by asserting that,".But your point about your freedom to read what you like is unexceptionable so long the written material is not sacrilegious or blatantly offensive".
Offense is felt when we do not have the wherewithal or the argumentation to repudiate a statement. Sacrilege is again a state of feeling, when we fail to be objective in our judgement. I feel they both are signs of our insecurity rising out of our lack of understanding.

The grouse of why always pick on Hinduism is though a reality because of Hindusim being the majority religion in the country and vote bank politics dictating. I would say let people pick on Hinduism, If Hinduism is strong , is resilient it will survive as it has all these millennium. In fact criticism is an eye opener. If not we still would have had the practise of "Sati", child marriage, and many other evils that were part of Hinduism at a point in time not so long ago.

Yes , Renu I read the book "Laja" a very matter of fact book and I wonder what is in it to take umbrage. Rushdie's book is far ahead of the times and Muslims will need another few thousand years to understand and critique the book in a civilised manner.

About Godhara, who has the answer to the mystery. It was planned act but who did it was it the fanatic Islamist or a job from within the extreme Hindu fold to whip up the feelings towards the implementation of the Gujarat programe.

Renu said...

I agree.but for your last line..why always give them the benefit of doubt(doubt for you , I have no doubt who did it)?

Insignia said...

Sometimes; the noise created makes it all the more wanting to do something. In this case reading the book. If it were not for banning and criticism; maybe the book wouldnt have been so tempting :-)

Glad you got it Anil. But yeah; an opinion by one author doesnt necessarily change the truth or beliefs.

anilkurup said...

@ Insignia,
Well well here is a rare visitor to my blog!!
Indeed the controversy raised have made the book known, else I wonder how many of us would have noticed it and we may have had a glance at it in book stores and pushed it away as another book on the subject of religion.

And, B an authors opinion may not change a belief , because belief in itself is not based on empirical matters .. It is just a convenient cul de sac when you run out of reason and proof to prove it true.
But scholarly books , creations should at least make us think and they do if we care to.

Ashwini C N said...

In Harry Potter, there is a quote - The only way to ensure people read something is to ban it.

It's not a good sign to prevent someone's thoughts from reaching across to a community. We might choose to agree or disagree with it, still.

Tracy Terry said...

A great post to feature during Banned Book Week in September, I do hope you will allow me to link to it.

BK Chowla, said...

I agree,banning is not the answer.
But,demeaning a relgion or its followers not one either

anilkurup said...

@ BK Chowla,
What is this "demeaning" we talk about. I'm on this book, I suggest you read this. It is the refusal to open ones eyes that is demeaning , don't you think so?
By the way what religion or belief is it that falls apart at the slightest criticism or scholarly challenge?

@ C.Ashwin, Yes you saw the point

@ Petty Witter,
Certainly T, no problem, go ahead please.

Happy Kitten said...

Hope to read you after you read the book too..

Think the best way to counter this book would have been to write another book since I can't understand why there should be no Indian experts on Hinduisim.

And why did Penguin agree to pulp? On purpose? a marketing srategy?

Web Colors said...

while searching on google come across here, Nice

Skyline Spirit said...

pretty nice blog, following :)