February 14, 2014
Magha Pournima, Kaliyug Varsha 5115
I was shocked and aghast to read the comments of author Wendy Donniger calling Indian judiciary the main villain in the case of ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’. Equally shocking were the article of Ramachandra Guha carried by your newspaper stating that courts have failed to protect artistic rights and the letter written by Arundhati Roy to Penguin India calling us a ‘fly-by-night outfit’, fanatics and fascists. All these reactions display the same mindset, which holds “we will obey the law if it suits us, otherwise damn it.”
The objectionable passages in the book are defamatory, objectionable and insulting to freedom fighters and Hindu gods. Eminent personalities including a former ambassador, historian, educationist and freedom fighter approached a court of law for deletion of these passages. After a four-year legal battle, Penguin agreed to withdraw this book and gave an undertaking to the court to this effect. Hence the withdrawal of this book is an outcome of a valid, legal battle fought by people of eminence in this vibrant democracy.
India is governed by rule of law which states that the law is supreme and governs the whole country and its people. Article 19 of the Constitution of India states that the fundamental right of freedom of expression comes with reasonable restrictions on public order, morality, unity and integrity.
The aforementioned people are criticising Indian courts, the publishing house which stated that it respected all religions, and a group of eminent, educated people who adopted purely legal, civilized means to approach a court of law for a remedy for their legitimate grievances. These champions of freedom of expression have taken upon themselves their favorite agenda — to attack all those who do not agree with them. Like US President George W Bush, they seem to believe that “either you are with us or you are fascists, extremists and fanatics”.
I humbly state that getting international awards does not put anybody above Indian law and does not give you a right to damn the Indian courts, judiciary and all those voices who disagree with you. Further, it does not give you the right to defame freedom fighters and any religion in the name of freedom of expression.
(Advocate for Shri Dinanath Batra)