Is India going to put its liberal values and freedom to speech aside? Sadly yes, as is evident from the power extremist groups are gaining day by day. A group of leading Indian and international academics have criticised Penguin-India’s decision to make an out-of-court agreement with a group that has vehemently opposed a book by Wendy Doniger, ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’. Instead of fighting the case in courts to come to some logical conclusion, it decided to recall and destroy all the unsold copies of Wendy’s book.
India is fast changing in an already changed world around it. India’s most famous artist of present times — Maqbool Fida Hussain was forced to flee the country by religious extremists; he died abroad. Not only Hindus but other religious groups also keep trying to stop or threaten this very essential freedom of speech by violent means. Sadly it’s not only India but its neighbours are also moving towards medieval times. It’s time for academics, intellectuals, artists to join hands to keep extremist groups at defensive, not on offensive. Historian Ramchandra Guha has put the extremists issue in perspective by declaring: “The answer to a book one doesn’t like is another book, not a ban, or legal action, or physical intimidation”. Let’s see when religious extremist groups will come forward with a pen and a paper, not a gun or a sword.
Jubail, Saudi Arabia