Indian Publisher Withdraws Book, Stoking Fears of Nationalist Pressure

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NEW DELHI — In a fight with a major company, a frail 84-year-old retired headmaster would seem to be the David to India’s publishing Goliath, Penguin Books.

But this week the headmaster, Dinanath Batra, achieved the crowning victory of his career as a right-wing campaigner, forcing Penguin to withdraw and destroy remaining copies of a scholarly work on Hinduism by an American professor that Mr. Batra has called “malicious,” “dirty” and “perverse.”

Penguin Books India on Friday offered its first explanation for its decision to withdraw its book, Wendy Doniger’s “The Hindus: An Alternative History,” which was released five years ago in India and the United States. In the statement, Penguin stands by its decision to publish the book, but says that section 295a of the Indian penal code — which applies to “malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings” — makes it difficult to uphold freedom of expression “without deliberately placing itself outside the law.” Publishers must respect laws, “however intolerant and restrictive those laws may be,” the statement said. “We also have a moral responsibility to protect our employees against threats and harassment where we can.”...

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