Tamil writer quits after book 'One Part Woman' sparks protests in India by right-wing Hindus

Associated Press

An Indian novelist went into hiding and said he has quit writing after his latest book about a woman's efforts to get pregnant with a stranger sparked virulent protests by right-wing Hindu and caste groups.

Perumal Murugan's publisher was pulling all copies of his 2010 novel "Madhorubagan" — published in English in 2013 under the title "One Part Woman" — from shelves on Thursday after Hindu nationalists and caste groups organized weeks of protests in the southern state of Tamil Nadu demanding Murugan delete portions of the Tamil-language book because they found them offensive.

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Murugan disappeared from public view on Tuesday and announced he would no longer write books. "Writer Perumal Murugan is dead. He will continue to live as a teacher," he wrote in a Facebook post in which he also promised to compensate booksellers for any losses.

His publisher, Kannan Sundaram, said the author had also been receiving threatening phone calls over the past month.

It wasn't the first time that Hindu conservatives have silenced an author or forced a book to be withdrawn. Last year, Penguin India decided to destroy all copies of historian Wendy Doniger's book on Hinduism after an outcry by religious groups. In 2011, the state of Gujarat banned Joseph Lelyveld's biography on pacifist freedom fighter Mohandas K. Gandhi, after reviews suggested Gandhi had a homosexual relationship.

Murugan's latest book, set about a century ago in the small town of Thiruchengode in Tamil Nadu, tells the story of a childless couple and the woman's attempt to become pregnant through consensual sex with a stranger at a local temple festival.

Sundaram said protesters had demanded Murugan delete references to Thiruchengode, where the author also teaches in a college.

A group of Indian writers called the attacks against Murugan's work a blow to freedom of expression.

"The kind of fundamentalism and street censorship that is growing in our country is definitely a cause of concern. Freedom of expression is a basic right and that itself is under threat because of incidents like this," said writer P. Lalita Kumari.

Tamil is spoken by around 75 million people, mainly in southern India, and in Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia.