The original petition:-
132 Indian scholars and academicians petitioned Rohan Murty towards removing Pollock from chief editorship of the Murty Classical Library. The response this petition has drawn is staggering in scope and astonishing in content.
Rohan Murty has himself hit out saying, “It is quite rich to sit in the peanut gallery, pass comments and throw empty shells at those who are actually rolling their sleeves up and working on the ground.” In essence he belittles top scholars from prestigious institutions of IITs and Sanskrit universities as in a “peanut gallery” who throw “empty shells”. This is a staggering and disrespectful dismissal of Indain scholars. Contrast this with the respectful approach of the petitioners who in the very beginning express their admiration and appreciation. He also asserts that the root of the problem is that “there aren’t more scholars in India capable of carrying out such translations from ancient literature”. So basically in India, he cannot find scholars capable of translating its own scriptures? How low have Indians sunk in the eyes of these folk?
The second shocking attack came from Kiran Mazumdar Shaw.
“Idle xenophobic minds” – This to a petition that made no personal attack whatsoever and squarely stuck to positions that Pollock takes and his political activism. This a tag for 132 eminent academicians of India!
So petitioners have no right of saying respectfully that they don’t approve of a decision taken by Rohan Murty? Distorting the discourse by making it something about rights which it is not?
The name calling for Indian scholars continues
He dismisses 30 Sanskrit scholars of which some are Head of Departments and Chair persons as confused between “Mantra chanting” and scholarship. Our elite are self professed experts in understanding who is a fine Sanskrit scholar.
How do they know he is a fine/great scholar? I hope not like this…
Rajiv Malhotra has written a book specifically on this topic for these journos and elite to be informed about Sheldon Pollock’s scholarship. But here, our folk conclude he is a great scholar by meeting him at JLF! In the same token how have they dismissed Indian scholars? Is it because they have read them or because they do not attack the Modi government enough? There is no doubt of Pollock’s interest in Indian politics.
Below is another article by Indrani Basu who thinks this name calling by Rohan Murty is a “brilliant response”
It must be noted in the article, that she introduces Pollock as a “historian” when he is a Sanskrit scholar who interprets Sanskrit texts. This is how 1) interpretations turn into facts 2) Indologists become experts of everything in India from history to politics 3) “well informed” journos haven’t done even minimum fact checking.
Hindustan times article:-
When HT seeks an opinion about the issue, who does it approach? Ramachandra Guha and Kancha Iliah. One who thinks that “red” and green in the Indian flag represents Hindus and Muslims respectively and the other who has racist justifications for the destruction of Hinduism. The article also notes ” The Change.org petition, signed by 132 Indian academics, most of whom hail from various Brahmin sub-castes”. They have done a caste census of the signatories of the petition! It also misquotes the petition where the original states that the scholars conducting the translation “need to be imbued with a sense of respect and empathy for the greatness of Indian civilization”. Hindustan Times distorts this and quotes the petitioner as saying “Pollock lacks respect and empathy for the greatest of Indian civilizations”
Has he read that Pollock criticizes the very idea of Shastras? This is what he has to say on the topic, “Sastras is one of the fundamental features and problems of Indian civilization in general and of Indian intellectual history in particular.”
Let us rewind a bit. Does Kiran who thinks Pollock is “a great scholar who knows what he is saying”, or Shekhar Gupta who thinks “Pollock is a fine Sanskrit scholar” being attacked by those envious of him or Madhavan Narayanan who thinks questioning Shastras needs to be “democratically considered”, know that Pollock had signed a petition pressurizing the University of California, Irvine against setting up Vedic and Indic civilisation chair from funds by DCF. Here is a detailed article that is must read on the same:-
So why, if he was a fine scholar, did he have to pressurize through petitions to pulp certian chairs? Couldn’t he have a genuine debate and free flow of ideas? Why did his student Ananya Vajpayee sign a petition to pulp Rajiv Malhotra’s books the result of which, Pollock is being known for his views among the common public? Will Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and Shekhar Gupta now use the same names and words they tagged the Indian scholars with on Pollock?
When the elite of India have such a dismal attitude towards Indian scholars bordering racism, when their only source of information on Indian affairs comes from the Pollocks of the world and when they are so ill informed about his own writings while defending him, are we to pretend a level playing field exists? Pollock in the end maybe right in his views of Shastras, but when the discourse is so lopsided and when his cabal signs petitions to pulp Hindu academic chairs, there is just no genuine debate required for the churning from which the truth will come out. One must also remember that all this has a lot to do with marketing. There are many great Indian scholars who don’t market themselves in the same way. The various media posts that claim “right wing” scholars are petitioning against Pollock have shown that the Indian elite is reduced to thinking through their “wings”. The discourse becomes so reductionist and unhealthy. As regards to Pollock’s politics I quote from The battle of Sanskrit which quotes Grunendahl:-
“Pollock’s post-Orientalist messianism would have us believe that only late twentieth-century (and now twenty first century) America is intellectually equipped to reject and finally overcome ‘Eurocentrism’ and European epistemological hegemony that is a pre-emptive European conceptual framework of analysis that has disabled us from probing central features of South Asian life, from pre-western forms of ‘national’(or feminist, or communalist, or ethnic) identity or consciousness, premodern forms of cultural modernism, precolonial forms of colonialism. The path from “Deep Orientalism” of old to a new “‘ndology beyond the Raj and Auschwitz’ leads to a ‘New Raj’ across the deep blue sea.”