PEN members in India have been expressing their concern at reports that Penguin have agreed to withdraw Wendy Doniger's book the Hindus: An Alternative History from circulation. Members of the PEN All-India Centre in Mumbai and the PEN Delhi Centre have released the following statement:
PEN's India Centres in Delhi and Mumbai are deeply concerned about the reported decision by Penguin India to withdraw Wendy Doniger's scholarly book, The Hindus: An Alternative History. Choosing to settle the matter out of court, instead of challenging an adverse judgment, narrows India's intellectual discourse and significantly undermines freedom of expression.
We do not know why Penguin took the decision and expect the publisher to be transparent about the circumstances in which it made the decision, which comes at a time when Indian publishers have faced waves of threats from litigants, vigilante groups, and politicians. Siddharth Deb's "The Beautiful and The Damned" was published without its first chapter because of a lawsuit. Bloomsbury India withdrew from circulation Jitender Bhargava's book, The Descent of Air India. Sahara Group is suing Tamal Bandyopadhyay, author of Sahara: The Untold Story. Foreign publishers have not distributed an English translation of The Red Saree, a book loosely based on Sonia Gandhi's life.
PEN Delhi, which is under formation, and the PEN All-India Centre in Mumbai, are committed to free speech and expression. The removal of books from our bookshops, bookshelves, and libraries, whether through state-sanctioned censorship, private vigilante action, or publisher capitulation are all egregious violations of free speech that we shall oppose in all forms at all times.