• Thursday, October 06, 2022

Penguin Random House Drops 'Hindutva,' Other Words From Varavara Rao's New Book

on Jun 06, 2022

According to the Quint, Penguin Random House India's legal team allegedly erased words like 'Hindutva,' 'Sangh Parivar,' and 'saffronisation' from Telugu poet Varavara Rao's recent book Varavara Rao: A Revolutionary Poet.

The book, which has yet to be published, would be the 81-year-old Rao's first English-translated collection of poems. He was arrested in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. He is currently free on medical bail. 

Following objections from organisations stating that the book provided a "distorted" portrayal of Hinduism, Penguin retracted Wendy Doniger's book The Hindus in 2014.

On Ambedkar Jayanti (April 14), Penguin Random House published The Dalit Truth, which "studies the current Dalit condition, economically, socially, and politically, Ambedkar's relevance, and the new road of empowerment to be formed."

The book was described as "a symphony of Dalit voices as they shout out to the future," with authoritative perspectives from authors such as Sukhdeo Thorat, Badri Narayan, and Bhanwar Meghwanshi; activist and Congress MLA Jignesh Mevani; and professor Suraj Yengde.

The publisher also claimed that "the pages of this book depict the diversity of Dalit truths and their battles against the lies produced by the caste system, pointing towards a future full with promise and potential for future generations."

However, according to the Quint story, less than a month after the release of The Dalit Truth, Rao's current collection of poems has allegedly been censored at the hands of Penguin Random House's legal staff.

According to the report, the phrases in question were omitted from the most recent version of Rao's book, and the news site suspected that the move was made to prevent being punished by the government under repressive legislation such as sedition or defamation.

Rao has not responded since, according to a source close to him, one of his bail terms was that he not speak to the media.

The Wire reached out to Penguin Random House India's senior management for comment. As they answer, this article will be updated.

In fact, Varavara Rao: A Revolutionary Poet was delayed last year as well, and the delays were blamed on an unfavourable legal decision.

After the delays elicited a strong response against the publishing house on social media, Rao's nephew, N. Venugopal, stated in November last year that he is awaiting a "favourable, second legal opinion."

The book contract was signed in 2020, and the publisher claimed that it would be released in mid-2021. The contract, however, included a 24-month term for publishing.

Venugopal added that publishers had until October 2022 to publish the book, after which "editors can either sue them for breach of contract, or we can make a public issue that they have stopped publishing."

Three out of 65 poems were dropped in 2021

Venugopal claimed "legal concerns" as the reason for the removal of three of Rao's poems from the collection, which were written when Rao was on trial.

"There were some legal issues because he is involved in a case, thus the poetry he composed during the case are under consideration." That's why we got rid of the three poems. "The publishers said because he is in litigation, this may lead to difficulty," Venugopal was cited as saying in the Outlook story.

According to the report, Penguin Random House published a translated collection of Rao's letters from prison, titled Captive Imagination, in 2010, prompting Venugopal to say, "Penguin has published his letters from prison in 2010, so if writing from the prison is not a problem, these poems (in the new book) are only re-publications of what appeared in Telugu for the last 60 years."

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