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Statement by Scholars in North American Universities on Withdrawal of Wendy Doniger’s book

Comments to this doniger article are very interesting. The condemnation that the book “presents a threat to the orthodox brahminical interpretations of Hinduism” jolts me into thinking about deepa mehta’s film water and jha’s film matrubhumi. In water we see that women are blamed for their husbands’ death then stripped off their Jewelry or colorful saris Then made to do penance in a human prison, like living dead, condemned to begging and praying for food and therefore their existence. These same women who are the scourge of the earth are sexually exploited by Brahmin priests to satisfy their carnal desires because they think that these women can be “less” sinful by sleeping with these Hindu priests. Is this Hindu scripture? Is it Hindu scripture also for priests to rape pre pubescent girls when they think they’re going to hit puberty? AND this literal yet scriptural rape with the child’s parents’ consent? How can rape be of god? How can being sequestered away in an ashram be god-ordained for widows, who are worshipped when married, but cursed when widowed? Is that why women continue to be raped without indemnity in India?

Someone makes an excellent comment in asking if the book was against Islam or Christianity if Hindus would feel the same. That point is a very valid one, particularly for those who criticize Islam and Christianity for their unchanging and unevolving take.

But, finally if one interpretation holds for Hindu scriptures and cannot be challenged, how will India Escape it’s third world moniker? While I don’t like the term ‘third world’ we all know what it signifies and we all should know that ALL third world countries have one thing in common: they keep women subservient and voiceless. These countries are “forever developing” and never reach ‘developed’ status, because other voices can’t be heard. The Hindu right opposes any reading. The right will have theaters burn down for a deepa Mehta film because it is an alternative reading of what Hindu scriptures say, or what people think they say, but never will it dawn on those condemning to ask why something is thought of differently. Pulling doniger’s book is only attesting to this “forever developing” status of India. Doniger may not be a subaltern woman, for she speaks, but she sure isn’t going to be heard!

This statement expresses the views of the individuals listed below and does not represent the views of the University of Chicago or any of its departments.

We, the undersigned, as students of South Asia, strongly condemn the withdrawal by Penguin Press India of Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History from distribution in India. We believe that this work has been attacked because it presents a threat to orthodox Brahminical interpretations of Hinduism. We believe that this attack is part of ongoing attempts by upper-caste extremist Hindu forces to stifle any alternative understandings of Hinduism. As students in the United States, we are acutely aware that North American organizations of the Hindu right initiated the protests against Wendy Doniger’s scholarship. Hindu right wing organisations in India have worked in tandem with their North American counterparts to suppress alternative voices in India and too often violently. We are deeply concerned about…

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