Indian readers sue Penguin for copyright to book that is to be pulped due to religious fundamentalists' campaign

I cannot comprehend the title :frowning:


Ha! Try Orthodox Jew and Pentacostals turning cartwheels in the aisles!

Complicate it with the fact that different groups may worship different gods, with a whole lot of internal “my god can beat up your god” one-upmanship! And a native-born atheist/agnostic/materialist tradition that’s still considered part of Hinduism.

Really, the name Hindu is so loose as to be a historical accident more than a religion!

The problem is that the Hindutvas (that’s Hindu fundamentalists) want to make us into a single belief system, in the model of Catholicism or Islam…


Actually, no. If Penguin had tried to fight this in the courts, it’s highly probable that the higher courts - especially the Supreme Court - would have struck down any conviction in this case, even if the lower courts had gone nuts.

This is a misapplied law. It’s meant to combat incitement to religious violence and hate crimes. They also misapplied libel laws in this case. It was never meant to be used for blasphemy.

They didn’t test the case in court, so no precedent has been formed anyway.


I suspect the law in question may have been passed to provide a tool to help stem religion-based violence in India, which, from the article in Wikipedia, appears to have been a national pastime for centuries. Like our feckless politicians in the US, the protesters of this book are more likely concerned with appearing to care deeply about defending their cause than they are about actually defending their cause.

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There’s been plenty of crappy books about any number of religions. They don’t pulped. They get criticized and shown for what they are.


me either. or the arguments being presented here. i’m eating a grilled cheese, thus no caps. yum.

But what if you can’t actually come up with a convincing argument as to why the book is false? That’s the wondrous thing about blasphemy/libel laws. If you can’t argue, threaten legal action! You won’t even have to go to court in most cases because often the mere threat is enough to get your opponent to back down.


Where does Chinmay’s post support censorship?

“Censorship is wrong, even though this book is really shitty” is just as valid as “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”


Hmmm… I should have been more upfront about my personal opinion about this whole matter…

Censorship is wrong in almost all instances and was also a bad move here strategically that just made the book a martyr anyway. That the law on religious sentiments etc exists in India is also unfortunate, as I stated previously. It has been used not just on foreign but also on indigenous work regardless of religious majority/minority status. More free speech (and people learning to not blow their gasket every time someone says something) would be better for India, as it would be everywhere else.

Personally I think this book (or any other work in any medium) should be debated and/or ridiculed as appropriate on its own merits.

Since I wasn’t involved in the original book banning movement (this only popped up on my radar a few days ago, after Penguin withdrew it) there’s only so much I can say about that. But I’ll make sure to let the people involved know about your opinions. As I’m sure you know, all 1 billion of us meet regularly to plan these things as the ancient and wise peoples that we are. :stuck_out_tongue:

In terms of western religions, what I specifically said was, this kind of “scholarship” would get people “laughed out of the room”. And that is exactly what I feel about the book - it’s a laughable embarrassment that has apparently failed miserably in understanding Hinduism both in its own context and in the context of religions in general.

That these people at the top of the US academia are using shoddy and erroneous research methods as well as Freudian psychoanalysis to draw utterly unsupported inferences is just mind boggling to me. I do work in the sciences though, so I don’t know if perhaps in the humanities this is par for the course - at least in certain sections (Doniger is an accomplished professional in her area).

Whether or not this type of shoddy scholarship and use of unsound techniques still goes on at the higher levels of the study of western and abrahamic religions/cultures I don’t know, but if it does, that is rather tragic too. Not because I think religions should be “respected” but because understanding why religions work as useful sociopolitical tools and personal belief systems could be useful for creating better social structures. I don’t see how using Freudian hermeneutics is of any use whatsoever other than keeping a few people in cushy tenured jobs.

Hopefully, in combination with my original post, this clears up a few things.

Finally, here’s another article about how Doniger and her students have been engaging in such shoddy scholarship for quite a while and how the established political structures of their profession allow them to carry on without being held accountable for academic malpractice. - RISA Lila - 1: Wendy’s Child Syndrome - 2002 (Yes, this has been going on for a while…)

Also, TIL: I’m a silly goose who clutches my pearls while engaging in latter-day postcolonial prudery as well as old fashioned tight-assed censorship… I wonder if someone could paint me a portrait of that… :smile:

edited to quote a bit more of Supercrisp’s post and to remove (self-censor? :open_mouth: ) some of my own rudeness :smile:

PS: I stand by everything I said in my post, including that Dinoger et. al.'s work contains strong cultural imperialism, presentism, and eurocentrism. These attributes are at the very least currently seen as suboptimal for academic historians, anthropologists, sociologists etc, and perhaps are even just plain wrong. That said, if you read all that I wrote and inferred that I was implying “more oppression of brown people, eurocentrism plain and simple”, that’s all you @Supercrisp. I personally don’t think a small portion of US humanities academia has the power to oppress anyone. (OK, maybe some of the economists do :wink:)

Also, could you explain what “latter-day postcolonial prudery” is? I know Indian culture got much more prudish with the islamic and puritan invasions, but I believe we’ve (slowly - hundreds of millions of people take a long time to die/change minds) been getting less prudish. What do you exactly mean by that phrase? I hope it’s not just more humanities style impressive sounding nonsense, cause it sounds kind of cool! :wink:

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I’m with you 100%. The attempted censorship and capitulation by Penguin was bad all over. See my other post for more…

PS/edit: Since I’m a new user, I’m apparently only allowed to make 3 replies on a topic. (Censorship? On boingboing??? Say it ain’t so! :wink:) So I’ll put a few notes here… Sorry sean_mckibbon! (And I can also only at-reference two people in a post… I suppose we do live in an age of presumed-spammer-until-proven-otherwise… :expressionless:)

@WaylonWillie - I’m far from an expert in Sanskrit texts. You should look into the links I’ve added in my other posts. There’s also a book called “Invading the Sacred - An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America” which contains essays by other Indologists. That might be of interest if you’re seriously interested in the topic. There’s a free pdf download available on It’s in my reading pile for the future… (I’m not connected with any of these people… Just got drawn into this rabbit hole over the past few days.)

@jerwin - I have no idea what to make of your “a telling bit of terminology”. “Academic malpractice” is my personal judgement of how some people in Indology seem to be operating, based on my experience of academic “benepractice” from working in the sciences. I don’t think the epistemological characteristics of objective academic inquiry change that much from field to field. Not sure what it tells you though, so…

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Not true. It’s not like powerful groups never lie about marginalized groups’ cultures and/or religions, and never used these lies to start witch-hunts, pogroms, rape, etc. It’s actually happened just about everywhere. I mean all the frame-ups for ‘Satanic ritual abuse’ are a pretty egregious recent example, where those doing the offending were doing the violence too. Of course, these laws are much more likely to protect powerful groups than marginalized groups anyway, and to protect lies than to challenge them.

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Thanks for pointing that out. I came in too hot on this, and let myself blow up over the issue. I wonder if I could get one of those neurofeedback kits and train it to let me know when I’m getting too excited to comment with reasonable things.

HTML tags.

Strike doesn’t work

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I notice you don’t cite any evidence here. Do you have particular Sanskrit passages that you want to discuss?

“Academic Malpractice”? A telling bit of terminology.

OTOH, the Indian ban on criticism of religion that started with the Satanic Verses case was intended to protect the minorities so they don’t get upset and riot. (And it’s not like those ultra-tolerant Hindus are any better when they’re in power, viz Shiv Sena. And occasionally even Buddhists, who are even more tolerant than Hindus, have occasionally been violently oppressive, such as the current violence against Rohingya Muslims in Thailand, or the Sri Lankan ethnic conflicts.) It’s not like Western religious fundamentalists are the only obnoxious ones around, especially when religion is being used as a tag to identify “us” vs. “them” in an ethnic or economic conflict.

Thanks! I just assumed Discourse would only allow its own formatting shortcuts and would parse out HTML tags.

But will they be reincarnated as better or worse books?

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India can come off my shit-list when they fix their homophobic sodomy laws.

I say: offend, let them riot, throw them in jail for rioting. The system works.