Academics Upset by Oxford’s Stopping Essay on Indian Epic

Indian and American academics have expressed outrage at a decision by the Indian branch of Oxford University Press to stop publication of an essay about the Hindu mythological epic, the Ramayana, following protests by conservative Hindu groups in India, reports The Hindu, a newspaper in India.

The move comes after the controversial decision by the University of Delhi to remove the essay, “Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation,” by A.K. Ramanujan, from a history course.

The academics, who include such leading Indologists as Sheldon Pollock, of Columbia University, and Wendy Doniger, of the University of Chicago, have written a  public letter to Oxford’s chief executive to express their “shock and dismay” at the decision, which, they argued, was compounded by the Indian branch’s recent apology in court to a Hindu group that had said the essay offended Hindu sensitivities.

The letter calls on the Oxford press to withdraw the apology, publicly state that it is committed to the right of scholars to publish their works without fear of suppression or censorship, and demonstrate this commitment by reprinting Mr. Ramanujan’s collected essays.

A spokesman for the publisher said that it has not yet received the letter but welcomed a dialogue with the scholars, and that scholarly freedom “is of central importance to Oxford University Press.”


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