The Casual Vacancy is facing protests in India over its portrayal of a Sikh girl as “mustachioed yet large-mammaried”.
Sikh leaders said they were investigating complaints about the “provocative” language and would demand a nationwide ban on the book if Rowling was deemed to have insulted the faith.
The dissent is the latest negative reaction to greet The Casual Vacancy, which was published last week to mixed reviews.
Rowling has upset villagers in Tutshil, Gloucestershire, where she was raised and which she used as inspiration for her fictional town of Pagford, a hotbed of cruelty and snobbery.
The novel’s bleak subject matter, which includes child abuse, prostitution and drugs, has also presented a dilemma for parents whose children are clamouring to read the latest book from the writer of the Harry Potter series.
The Sikh character in The Casual Vacancy is Sukhvinder, the daughter of a surgeon and his parish councillor wife. She is teased for her hairy skin and referred to as “the Great Hermaphrodite” and a “hairy man-woman”.
India’s Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, which manages places of worship including the Golden Temple in Amritsar, said yesterday that it had received several complaints. Avtar Singh Makkar, the head of the committee, said the descriptions of Sukhvinder were “a slur on the Sikh community”. He said: “Even if the author had chosen to describe the female Sikh character’s physical traits, there was no need for her to use provocative language, questioning her gender. This is condemnable.”
A spokesman for the group added that its leaders would read the book carefully. “If deemed derogatory to the Sikh faith, we will demand a ban on it. We will make sure it doesn’t sell in India,” he said.