Wendy Doniger’s Alternative “History”: A Wake Up Call
There has been a flurry of writing activity in the wake of an out-of-court Settlement that Penguin India sought with SBA and 5 others and which led to the withdrawal of Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus. Just to clarify – there has been no ban by any court till date concerning this book. Thus I hardly think this is an occasion to study the encroachment on freedom or the purported shortcomings of Indian legal system. Still, if someone is disturbed by allegations of this nature by some pseudo intellectuals, it would be good to look at the statement issued by Monika Arora concerning the law and determined anarchists who are trying to be above the Rule of Law. I am not wasting my time writing about a book torrentially full of the most basic factual errors that make it unworthy of even being dubbed an intellectual monstrosity. Vishal Agarwal , a talented engineer, has already done a brilliant job pointing out the gross inaccuracies – so grandly different from mere factual distortion. In the ‘real world’ so many factual errors should be grounds enough for voluntary withdrawal of any document from public circulation. But more relevantly, this incident provides an interesting opportunity to impartially study the diverse mind sets – especially Indian mindsets – for me.
I would encourage moving beyond the blinkered slogan mongering lunatic fringe that is condemning “narrow minded bigots” and taking cudgels for “artistic freedom” (of Wendy Doniger) from a “fascist”, “Hindu fanatic outfit”. It is a matter of concern when a person holding a responsible public position comments that this series of events is “atrocious”. Someone else may have the audacity to ask – against whom has the atrocity been committed? Certainly no atrocity has been committed against Wendy, sitting in her Hyde Park mansion surrounded by priceless Indian antiquities (something that is not even legal anymore!). No sir! The lady, in fact, received a barrage of sympathetic, loving, and supporting emails from Indians offering to help her in whatever way she needs. How amazingly deluded can we humans be, if we are to think that Wendy needs help from people in India??? In the farce that is quickly morphing into the joke of century, Wendy is touched!! But if you still insist on paying your homage, you will have to take a number because you stand in a long queue guys! Lesser mortals are still befuddled: who was the target of this supposedly Taliban-esqe atrocity?
But the best is yet to be! How can SBA run by an earnest 85 year-old school teacher working from his small one room office, to protect the young impressionable Indian minds from a document that is deeply profane and hurtful, be described as “some Taliban-type outfit”? To protect that vulnerable generation where most only hear their grandmother talk of a religion called Hinduism and are constantly exposed to warped, factually incorrect inventions of 5-minutes-of-fame-seekers? Seriously! I would say we need a lot more like him, faced with the uphill task of nation building. I almost feel the need to quote the battered cliché of the true visionaries never being appreciated in their own time. In 1947, we celebrated freedom and we did geographically combine, thanks to the courage and grit of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the hundreds of odd pieces left by the colonial heritage. But who will do the dirty task of reviving and putting together the beaten, bashed, and plundered wealth, economy, education, cultural heritage, religion, and above all self- respect, so that we are well equipped in mind, body and soul to move toward the pre-colonial glorious concept of Bharat Varsh. Certainly the government has not done a good job of it. I think it is just left to God – as we leave most of the other unpleasant things.
I must close on a note of thanks to Wendy for this wake up call to see what we are, and not accept an “alternate history” that has adharmic intent and is deeply hurtful to millions of Hindus world over. For us Hindus, sex is not “primal sin” like Christians, it is part of our life that might be as basic and as integral as religion – but all the same it is an inherently different aspect. A forced and artificial union of the two is offensive, adharmic, and a western construct. Hindu Dharm has rightly been compared to the concept of “open architecture” by Rajiv Malhotra in his new book Indra’a Net but at the same time he cautions against the need to keep out what is contradictory to the core concepts of Hinduism. It is very relevant to posit that the core of Hindu religion is sacred and Invading The Sacred logically does not happen if a book/ publication related to Hindu religion is authentic, well researched and evidence-backed and not just a fictional “paperweight”. We needed something as outrageous as this book to call a halt to such “alternate history” of what we are not. We Indians do not need to redeem and reinstate Freud after every one else has condemned him to relic-like oblivion.
 Monika Arora, Advoacate, Supreme Court of India on 13th Feb., 2014 in http://beingdifferentforum.blogspot.ca/2014/02/intolerance-in-name-of-freedom-of.html
 Vishal Agarwal in http://vishalagarwal.voiceofdharma.com/articles/thaah/ Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ram Chandra Guha in Economic Times on 13 Feb. 2014 in http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/comments-analysis/our-fear-of-freedom-donigers-is-just-the-latest-case-of-courts-publishers-politicians-failing-to-protect-artistic-rights/articleshow/30325938.cms
 Ram Chandra Guha in Economic Times on 13 Feb. 2014
 Arunaditi Roy on 13th Feb.,2014 in Times of India
 Arunaditi Roy on 13th Feb.,2014 in Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Wendy-Donigers-book-You-must-tell-us-what-terrified-you-Arundhati-Roy-writes-to-Penguin-India/articleshow/30306451.cms
 Jairam Ramesh Minister in Government of India, on 11th Feb, 2014 cited in http://world.time.com/2014/02/11/india-the-hindus-wendy-doniger-penguin/
The Hindus: An Alternate History by Wendy Doniger
 Invading the Sacred: An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America. You can now download it free at link http://rajivmalhotra.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Invading-the-Sacred-Final.pdf