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Offence: The Hindu Case (Manifestos for the Twenty-first Century) [Hardcover]

Salil Tripathi
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

17 Nov 2009 Manifestos for the Twenty-first Century
To many outside India, Hinduism is envisioned as the foundation of an ideal, all-embracing society. Yet this is far from the truth. Though historically the practice of Hinduism does promote the idea of an inclusive and tolerant way of life, in the past decade Hindu extremists have captured the religion and perverted it to their own ideological ends. In "The Hindu Case", Indian journalist Salil Tripathi meticulously documents how Hindu fundamentalists have succeeded in censoring and banning many cultural works, tampered with university teaching, and prevented academics from continuing in their jobs. In addition, Tripathi shows that these extremists are in the process of rewriting the ancient Hindu scriptures. This title in the "Manifestos for the 21st Century" series, published in collaboration with "Index on Censorship", the only international magazine dedicated to promoting and protecting free expression, focuses on rights, tolerance, censorship, and dissent within India's complex society, and it is an essential read for those interested in the struggle between religious fundamentalism and free expression.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 102 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (17 Nov 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906497389
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906497385
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 10.6 x 18.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,083,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Salil Tripathi was born in Bombay. He moved to London in 1999 and has written frequently for numerous publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Guardian, Independent, New Statesman, Spectator, Prospect, Index on Censorship, Philadelphia Inquirer, Washington Post, and Salon. He is also senior visiting fellow for business and human rights at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book about India's present 22 April 2010
By S. Yogendra VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
This book is one in the series, Manifestos for the 21st Century Series, published in collaboration with the Index on Censorship, where other books argue the Muslim case, the Jewish case and the Christian case. The books in this series have upset many, who feel the books are blasphemous or even seditious. To that extent, only free speech purists will be able to read the book without getting agitated or angry. I have had the opportunity to attend a Free Word event in London in October 2009 where Mr Tripathi and Ms Shamsie, author of the Muslim case, were speaking and faced much cross-questioning from the audience, not all of it laudatory or unabashedly appreciative.

At 116 pages, including references, the book is a quick read. But it has not been so easy to review it. I read the book about three months ago. Since then much water has flown in the Ganges, so to speak. The artist, MF Husain, the story of whose persecution in India runs through the book, has renounced his Indian citizenship and taken Qatari citizenship. The book opens with Husain's story, then proceeds to demonstrate how Hindu nationalists are systematically catalysing censorship and bans, and revising history to suit a narrative, which is entirely at odds with India's constitution (which creates India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic Republic) and with India's and indeed Hinduism's history as an inclusive philosophical movement. By focusing on Rama as a deity, Hindutva seems to be constructing a discourse on "offence" which is inspired, for want of a better word, by monotheistic religions such as Islam, shunning the richness and plurality of the religion's mythology and traditions.
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Amazon.com: 2.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
13 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bad book at many levels: plagiarized bits, shallow and unscholarly 30 Jan 2010
By A. Kumar - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a bad book at many levels and shows a very superficial understanding of India by the author. The most disturbing aspect is that he may have plagiarized some portions from others. The author clearly misses the major points of law that have chilled the freedom of expression in India - the censorship during Emergency in India, the ban by eight states on the screening of the Da Vinci Code, the ban on Salman Rushdie's book to appease Christians, the ban on blogs, the ban on several websites, the arrest warrant on a journalist who questioned the handling of a lawsuit, the arrest of people who operate mailing lists on yahoo and orkut with different political views, the arrest of the editor who republished the Danish cartoon on Mohammed, etc.

All of the above were perpetrated by the author's political allies (the author never hides the fact that he is a supporter of the Congress Party and is biased). Instead, he focuses on two acts of vandalism and attributes them to Hinduism without providing the basis for such attributions. Of these, he gets one of them wrong. The attack on Bhandarkar Institute in Pune was not by those to whom he attributes motives, but by people opposed to Hindus. The brigade that committed this act of vandalism was a backward group protesting against Hindus in India. The most disturbing part in Salil Tripathi's book is that his wrong labeling of the group is identical to the mislabeling in human rights reports and this raises the flag of plagiarism. Digging in a bit, one finds that the author is an activist working for Amnesty International in a junior position!

The second point he tries to use in his favor is that the artist MF Husain has been targeted for using Hindu Goddesses as subjects in pornographic artwork. The author's arguments fall flat when you realize that the protests happened more than 10 years after he first made such paintings and the protests happened as a reaction to the ban on Salman Rushdie's book. The protesters wanted parity with Muslims and the issue had nothing to do with free-speech. The author also suppresses the fact that MF Husain himself has acquiesced to demands from Muslims to change his songs that were defamatory to Mohammed.

This lack of understanding by the author is not surprising as he seems to have been educated in one of the colleges started by Christian missionaries at which the students are usually clueless about the real India while they polish their British accents to please the White man by repeating racial stereotypes against other Indians. This attitude is also clear in his articles elsewhere, in which the author has also argued against a uniform law in India (similar to the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution) that would remove privileges for Muslims and has defended acts of terrorism in India. However, he was one of the first ones to attack Muslims in UK when the London terror attacks happened and has opposed separate laws for Muslims in UK on the grounds of equality! His articles and this book make it clear that his college has achieved its purpose of creating a GungaDin and has done a stellar job at it.

The author also defends Marxists and people with poor scholarship. Two names deserve mention here. The first is Wendy Doniger who has on record stated that Saint Thomas was a real character in history who landed in India in 52 CE. She has even assigned dates to a conversation that Thomas had with Jesus, a fact looked own upon by real scholars. After complaints about her poor work and racist stereotypes, Microsoft Encarta pulled her contribution for "inferior scholarship, low quality work and offensive racist stereotype with no basis in scholarship." Instead of taking issue with assigning dates to imaginary characters from the Bible, the author is livid at people who protest such poor scholarship. The other person he defends is a person named Romila Thapar who has made several dubious claims - according to her, the excavations in Indus Valley prove that there was Soviet style "central planning" in those days and so it was "primitive socialism." This was then followed by a "class war" and was replaced by a feudalism. Then the British came in with "capitalism" after winning a "class war" and so India's history perfectly fits in with the boilerplate version of history as written by Karl Marx.

To be fair to the author, he is not a Marxist and he has no idea about Marx's claims about every society having exactly 5 stages of history punctuated by class wars. He is just a well meaning clueless bloke who wants appreciation from the Whites when he speaks in Queen's English and makes the British feel good by telling them that people in their colonies were all barbarians until they were delivered by the White man. A comparison with other books in the series shows that the author must have been given a template and was asked to fill in the details. Perhaps he was too lazy to change some of the points in the template because some of the points in his book seem outlandish in the context of India but would seem okay in the context of Catholic inquisitions of the past. This is a thus a bad effort in bad faith by the University of Chicago. Why should every culture have identical paths in history and identical actions that are egregious?

In general, this leaves the reader with no illusions about the veracity of the claims in the book. The reader is left with an amused feeling when the author makes laborious efforts to make a mountain of a molehill and assumes that someone who throws an egg at a meeting is equivalent to, hold your breath, the Taliban! The author deserves credit for making his political position clear and the book also does not hide the fact that it is part of a series that tries to shoehorn every culture into a boilerplate version of history of offenses. This of course makes Catholics look only as bad as Jews and Hindus. For not hiding these points, the book deserves one star.
7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TRUTH CAN HURT 26 April 2010
By Azra - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I was not surprised to read the shrill reaction of the first two reviewers to this book.
It is obvious from reading the reviews that is hard for many Indians living in India and abroad, to accept that Hinduism is suffering the same fate as many of the other religions of the world today. That Hinduism has also been taken over in some parts of the world (and in some States in India) by ideologues and zealots. Hard liners who are easily "offended" by views of those they disagree with.
The narrative (almost conversational) tone of the author makes this book an easy read. No shrillness there. The story he presents however is far from pleasant and in parts very uncomfortable. This is more than a story about the literary freedom of an Indian painter who had to leave the country due to extremist reaction to his work or distortions of history to fit in with a purist "Indian" origin of the Aryan civilization.
It is a wake up call to all those who call themselves Indians and those who care about pluralism and the right to co-exist with others whose religious/artistic/moral views maybe different from theirs. This is a good book. A book that should be read by anyone interested in this region or subject. It provides an insight into a darker face of a religion which till now has often been seen as inclusive and non violent.
11 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Yet another example that "Harvard" means "Easy A" 31 Jan 2010
By Facultyadvisor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The author cites journalistic credentials, and more impressively, the title of "Visiting Fellow at Harvard". This should be a red flag (no pun intended), because some parts of this otherwise famous university are increasingly seen to misuse that hard-won credibility to propagate hate, and make money by pandering to bigot gangs that stoop even to child pornography.

This author's thesis is that when Hindus protest against the bigots, those protests should not be heeded because (of some perceived anecdotal imperfections of a few among the many billions who have lived and died as Hindus). Wow! What an ORIGINAL thesis! So Christians should not be unhappy about Osama Bin Laden because some who were born in Christian families were also axe murderers etc? THIS is Harvard Scholarship in the 21st century? I do agree that Hindus should wonder where their religion went wrong, if their vaunted tolerance and freedom of thought results in some with Hindu sounding names occasionally turn out to be Marxist fools who would sell their mothers down the drain for a few bucks from certain hate-propagating universities.

A cursory browsing of the internet using such terms as "Wendy Doniger", "Egg misses fat author" or "Limp Phallus Courtright" would instantly reveal why Hindus who encounter such hate-mongers are shocked enough to protest. Doniger, Courtright, and Harvard's own Fuhrer Herr Witzel the Aryan Supremacist, wear cloaks of self-professed Divinity or Religion Expertise as they try to sell books (some through Amazon) peddling child pornography in the guise of "Religious Psycho-Analysis". Courtright claimed that a Hindu text where a toddler shows desire for a fruit or a piece of candy, "represents" the child soliciting oral sex!!! This from a faculty member employed and trusted by a Methodist University (Emory University) to teach your and my kids! Doniger wrote in (un)critical acclaim of this Courtright book, removing all doubt.

Over a hundred thousand Hindus were driven out of their homes in Jammu-Kashmir by Islamic bigots, simply because they were not Islamic. Hindus have no case to take offence? Herr Witzel of Harvard writes that US citizens who send their daughters to learn Indian classical dance are training them to be prostitutes. Hindus have no case to take offence? Courtright, Doniger and Co. abuse Hindu religious books on practically every page of their books. Hindus have no case for offence?

So if modern Hindus point out the (duh!) obvious fact that lowlife bigot pornographers are no scholars, there is "no case" for such protest? Awesome thesis!

If you want to read trash, there are far more talented trash writers than this author or his heroes and heroines of Harvard, Emory and U. Chicago. Save your money. Or wait until it comes down under $0.02. Doniger's and Courtright hard-cover books are headed that way. Wonder why.
3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book about India's present 20 Jan 2011
By S. Yogendra - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is one in the series, Manifestos for the 21st Century Series, published in collaboration with the Index on Censorship, where other books argue the Muslim case, the Jewish case and the Christian case. The books in this series have upset many, who feel the books are blasphemous or even seditious. To that extent, only free speech purists will be able to read the book without getting agitated or angry. I have had the opportunity to attend a Free Word event in London in October 2009 where Mr Tripathi and Ms Shamsie, author of the Muslim case, were speaking and faced much cross-questioning from the audience, not all of it laudatory or unabashedly appreciative.

At 116 pages, including references, the book is a quick read. But it has not been so easy to review it. I read the book about three months ago. Since then much water has flown in the Ganges, so to speak. The artist, MF Husain, the story of whose persecution in India runs through the book, has renounced his Indian citizenship and taken Qatari citizenship. The book opens with Husain's story, then proceeds to demonstrate how Hindu nationalists are systematically catalysing censorship and bans, and revising history to suit a narrative, which is entirely at odds with India's constitution (which creates India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic Republic) and with India's and indeed Hinduism's history as an inclusive philosophical movement. By focusing on Rama as a deity, Hindutva seems to be constructing a discourse on "offence" which is inspired, for want of a better word, by monotheistic religions such as Islam, shunning the richness and plurality of the religion's mythology and traditions. Mr Tripathi constructs his argument using references and conversations with some of India's leading contemporary thinkers and historians, as well as influential cultural icons such as Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindra Nath Tagore. Indeed Mr Tripathi also cites Wendy Doniger, who is not the most popular western commentator on Hinduism but to be fair, Hindu nationalism revivalists in India also have help from native Belgian and American commentators so I say, fair play to Doniger.

This book is a snapshot of India's recent events. It is a book about India's present, not India's past but there is also a disturbing prospect of a future trajectory that is potentially reductive, exclusive and revisionist.

As I mention earlier, some readers, especially of the Hindu persuasion, may feel agitated, frustrated or confused while reading the book. Others will find it thought-provoking and may take on the opportunity to explore Hindu scholarship in detail. Mr Tripathi's is a perspective that needs to be shared widely. India cannot remain India Shining by excluding from its future narrative a good 20% of its people. I rate the book 4 stars because it will not be to everyone's taste and many are bound to take offence.
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