New Delhi, Feb 15:
After remaining silent for two days, Penguin India Friday sought to justify its move to withdraw a book on Hinduism, citing moral grounds, and the need to protect its employees.
“Penguin Books India believes, and has always believed, in every individual’s right to freedom of thought and expression, a right explicitly codified in the Indian Constitution.
This commitment informs Penguin’s approach to publishing in every territory of the world, and we have never been shy about testing that commitment in court when appropriate,” said a statement from the publishing house Friday.
“At the same time, a publishing company has the same obligation as any other organisation to respect the laws of the land in which it operates, however intolerant and restrictive those laws may be. We also have a moral responsibility to protect our employees against threats and harassment where we can,” it added.
The withdrawal of US scholar Wendy Doniger’s book “The Hindu: An Alternative History” came Tuesday after the publishers went for an out of court settlement with Dinanath Batra of Shiksha Bachao Andolan Committee who had filed a civil suit and two criminal complaints against it.
This timid move by the publishers came under severe criticism from literary writers, thinkers and readers who said such decisions encourage “self-censorship” and undermine freedom of expression.
While an Indian edition will not be available, Penguin said international editions will be available to the Indian readers.
“The settlement reached this week brings to a close a four year legal process in which Penguin has defended the publication of the Indian edition of the book,” it said.
“We have published, in succession, hardcover, paperback and e-book editions of the title. International editions of the book remain available physically and digitally to Indian readers who still wish to purchase it,” it added.
“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,” it said.
“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,” it added.