Sir: Is India’s academia falling victim to the Hindu nationalism sweeping through the country? It seems so from the Penguin Books India’s decision to withdraw Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History from Indian bookstores and pulp any remaining copies. A complaint was filed in court by Dinanath Batra, head of Shiksha Bachao Andolan, a Hindu fundamentalist group that opposes sex education in Indian schools and textbooks that deviate from its Hinduvta interpretation of Indian history. Many books are challenged in the US but the First Amendment allows them to survive. But India is increasingly muzzling freedom of speech.
A famous Indian artist Maqbool Fida Hussain was forced to flee the country by religious extremists. He died while abroad. It is not only a Hindu phenomenon, other religious groups in India are equally anxious to pulp anything that does not suit their state of mind. One had always thought India to be more progressive and liberal. It’s time for the academics, intellectuals and artists to defend themselves against the onslaught of religious extremism on literature and liberal arts. Indian historian Ramchandra Guha had offered a better solution to the issue: “The answer to a book one doesn’t like is another book, not a ban, or legal action, or physical intimidation.”
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