Posted by Abdul Alim
ET: Another book has been bullied into suppression in India, this time, Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An alternative history.
Though it is a collection of 25 essays, Doniger’s is not a casual work. It comes from decades of immersion in the subject. She is a scholar of high calibre focused on Hinduism. Even her students — Arshia Sattar (Kathasaritsagar and Ramayan) and to an extent Gurcharan Das (Mahabharat) — are known for their ability with Sanskrit texts.
Doniger’s introduction to the Penguin Black Classics translation of Manusmriti is itself a classic and worth reading for all Indians.
The disappearing of her current book, which was around for four years or so, follows the proscription of another fine work by the scholar James Laine on the Maratha hero Shivaji.
I had read the Laine work and so I was puzzled when it was attacked since I had not noticed anything inflammatory in it. When I read the details of the report, I was not surprised to see that it was one line, in which Laine reports a traditional Marathi joke, which was the problem.
When this was noticed, it sent members of the community berserk. They attacked the place which had hosted Laine for his scholarly work, the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. This was stupid because it is a place that all Indians should be proud of, and particularly Marathis. The Institute produces the History of Dharmashastra, the magnificent work for which PV Kane won the Bharat Ratna. Oxford University Press withdrew the book, denying hundreds ………