James W. Laine: Indian Court Overrules Effort to Prosecute American Scholar Whose Book Sparked a Riot





[James W. Laine is a Professor of Religious Studies at Macalester College.]

India's Supreme Court on Monday ordered the western Indian state of Maharashtra to stop the criminal prosecution of an American scholar, James W. Laine, who had been charged with deliberately stirring sectarian strife in an academic book published four years ago.

The publication of Mr. Laine's book, Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India, by Oxford University Press in 2003 angered some caste and religious groups in Maharashtra. The groups said the book insulted Shivaji, a 17th-century Hindu king, and questioned his parentage....

In January 2004, a mob ransacked the prestigious Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, in the Maharashtrian city of Pune, for having given research assistance to Mr. Laine. Hundreds of rare manuscripts were destroyed. The Pune police subsequently charged Mr. Laine and the publisher with "wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause a riot." The Oxford press then voluntarily pulled all copies of the book from the Indian market.


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