Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hindu Academics Force Destruction of "Insulting" Book

"If someone makes a cartoon of the prophet Mohammad, Muslims are outraged around the world. So why should anyone write anything against Hinduism and get away with it?" Dinanath Batra

Batra, the man who oversaw revisions in Indian history textbooks for the country's National Council of Education, Research and Training (NCERT), has forced Penguin India to recall and destroy all copies of "The Hindus: An Alternative History"  by University of Chicago scholar Wendy Doniger published by Penguin Books about 5 years ago.

Professor Doniger has authored 30 books so far. Her research and teaching interests revolve around two basic areas, Hinduism and mythology, according to University of Chicago Divinity School website. Her courses in mythology address themes in cross-cultural expanses, such as death, dreams, evil, horses, sex, and women; her courses in Hinduism cover a broad spectrum that, in addition to mythology, considers literature, law, gender, and zoology.

In 2011, the Hindu nationalist group Shiksha Bachao Andolan filed a civil case against Penguin India. The group claims the book offends Hindus by inaccurately representing Hinduism. A criminal case was also brought against the publisher alleging a criminal violation of India's law establishing its exclusive unilateral claim over the entire disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The publisher has now settled the case by agreeing to recall and pulp all copies of the book.

Explaining his opposition to Doniger's book, Batra told Time magazine: "The entire book is objectionable, but yes, that is one of our main objections. She is insulting our gods and goddesses and religious leaders and texts and even our freedom fighters. I don’t have any objection to sex and neither does our religion, as long as it’s within the parameters of religion." 

"According to her book, when Ramrajya [an idyllic vision of state propounded by Mahatma Gandhi] comes to India, then Christians and Muslims will be driven out of India. We all know that Gandhiji’s vision was about unity; he dreamed of a state where there would be no discrimination based on religion or wealth. Her book will incite hatred among communities. Furthermore, Doniger says [in the book] that when Sanskrit scriptures were written, Indian society favored open sexuality. The jacket of her book shows Lord Krishna sitting on the buttocks of nude women. She equates the shivlingam, worshipped all over India by millions, with sex and calls it an erect penis. She calls Gandhiji strange and says he used to sleep with young girls", Batra added.

Hindu nationalists have been battling scholars over history for decades. They tried to do in California what their Indian counterparts have already done in India. They attempted to change California history textbooks in 2006, when they argued unsuccessfully to include their claims like the indigenous origins of Aryans and tried to deny the terrible impact on hundreds of millions of Indians of the caste system and misogyny prevalent in Hindu texts and Aryan culture. Hundreds of history scholars from US and South Asia helped defeat this attempt by Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and its allies in the United States.

India has a very long list of "banned" books dating back to the days of the British Raj. It includes books such as Katherine Mayo's "Real Face of Mother India" which is banned for its "pro-Muslim and anti-Hindu bias". Another is "Satanic Verses" by Salman Rushdie which is banned because it is offensive to Muslims.

Just as "Satanic Verses" received massive publicity after worldwide Muslim protests and became a best-seller overnight, "The Hindus: An Alternative History" is also getting a lot buzz in both traditional and new media around the world. Number of Amazon e-book downloads on Kindle has jumped and links to free pdf downloads are being widely shared through social media. Strong reaction to perceived "insults" has backfired in both cases. Let's hope those offended by such books will learn a lesson from what is happening now.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Hindutva Whitewash of History

Pro-Modi Candidate in Silicon Valley Congressional Race

Sonal Shah in the White House

Gujarat Muslims Ignored By Indian Politicians

Indian-American Lobby Emulates AIPAC

Pakistani-American Demographics

Minorities are Majority in Silicon Valley


Sid said...

Good article Riaz sahib, the saffron tactics have been unsuccessful as of yet.

New York, NY (February 5, 2009) - The Hindu American Foundation sent the following letter to the President of the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC), Jane Ciabattari, expressing its disappointment of the short-listing of Professor Wendy Doniger's The Hindus: An Alternative History and urging NBCC not bestow the 2009 nonfiction award to it.

Dear Ms. Ciabattari,

The Hindu American Foundation (HAF), a non-profit advocacy organization for the two million strong Hindu American community, strongly objects to NBCC's short-listing of Professor Wendy Doniger's The Hindus: An Alternative History as a finalist in the "nonfiction" category. Prof. Doniger is known for seeking and presenting provocative and idiosyncratic sexually explicit and Freudian analyses of Hinduism's holiest books. In The Hindus: An Alternative History she hues to the same, now tiring interpretation of the acts, deeds and words attributed to Hindu deities and included in Hindu scripture and sacred books. This has naturally stirred up strong emotions in the Hindu community in India and in the Hindu Diaspora. Far from encouraging thoughtful, careful and disciplined inquiry into others' histories and belief systems, any award from NBCC for this book would merely fuel negative sentiments among Hindus, and do a disservice to serious academic inquiry.

The Hindus: An Alternative History does not represent nor provide insight into the contemporary practices and interpretations of Hinduism and its scriptures. In the end, rather than offering the reader a depiction of a family of vibrant religious traditions practiced by a billion Hindus globally, Prof. Doniger offers an offensive, shocking, and gratuitous deconstruction of some of the most important epics and episodes in Hindu thought and belief. The pornographic depictions of Hindu Gods and Goddesses in Prof. Doniger's books already grace the websites of some banefully anti-Hindu hate sites with their own varied agendas.

Prof. Doniger denigrates the Gods and Goddesses that Hindus worship. Parallelisms are proffered in this book comparing the sacred stone icon representing Lord Shiva to a leather strap-on sex toy, and Lord Rama, one of the most popular deities of Hindus, is accused of acting out of fear that he was becoming a sex-addict like his father. A Danish cartoonist would be hard pressed to match the disturbing parodies of a believer's faith that Prof. Doniger offers here.

Unfortunately, instead of answering her many Hindu critics, Prof. Doniger sweepingly labels her Hindu critics as Hindu fundamentalists, never bothering to analyze the legitimacy of arguments stemming from adherents of the faith in which she claims scholarship. In her well-received piece, "Oh, But You Do Get It Wrong", Aditi Banerjee, Esq., points out that "Doniger ignores the prolific response to her work by the American Hindu community, including dozens of published articles, countless public conferences, and repeated calls for debate and dialogue between the academy and the Hindu-American community." To add to Ms. Banerjee's last point...

HAF urges NBCC not bestow such a distinguished honor upon a piece of work that is not just degrading and insulting to one billion Hindus worldwide but, frankly a distortion of the history of the Hindu faith. Finally, the Foundation and its membership hopes NBCC takes into account the numerous protests from the Hindu community by reexamining its decision to short-list Prof. Doniger's book.

Sid said...

(The reply from NBCC)

Statement by National Book Critics Circle on Wendy Doniger’s ‘The Hindus
by admin | Feb-12-2014

The National Book Critics Circle wishes to voice its support for author and distinguished scholar Wendy Doniger and to register its concern and disappointment over the decision of Penguin Books India, the publishers of the lauded The Hindus: An Alternative History, to withdraw and pulp all remaining copies of Professor Doniger’s award-winning book for sale in India. The NBCC, which honored Professor Doniger’s substantial and compelling work by naming it a finalist for the 2009 award in nonfiction, urges Penguin Books India to reconsider its deplorable decision to remove The Hindus from circulation in the country, a de facto act of self-censorship that will only contribute to a further rolling back of free speech in India. Such an action, accompanied by Penguin Books India’s plan to cease distribution of the book in the face of legal and other threats from Hindu nationalists, is incompatible with the traditions of free inquiry that are necessary for democratic institutions to function. The NBCC appeals to Penguin Books India to support Professor Doniger and her important work and to reverse its decision immediately.

Anonymous said...

This is a very unfortunate development!

I by the way am a PROUD HINDU.

And one of the main appeal of Hinduism is that it is NOT a revealed religion with an infallible single holy book.

However there are many many books similarly 'offensive' to the far right that remain in circulation and are indeed taught at universities.

So let us sincerely hope this is a one off!

Anonymous said...

Unlike Salman Rushdie who's no scholar of any religion, Dr. Doniger is a well-respected scholar of Hinduism and author of 30 books. She's a professor of religion at top-ranked University of Chicago.

Anonymous said...

Oh now the author is a highly respected scholar. Where did the respect disappear for the knighted Sir Salman Rushdie who penned the Satanic Verses. At least Rushdie is born a Muslim, he has some knowledge of Islam. The same cannot be said about this Jew lady Doniger.
Ignorance can never be a reason to write something tainted by one's personal beliefs. That is fiction. And rightly so its called pulp fiction and hence deserves to be pulped.

Sid said...

Why? RSS thugs had Rushdi's work published in India and we all know their thirst for knowledge and their beliefs about freedom of speech. This serves them right.

Riaz Haq said...

Excerpt of The Guardian Review of
Dr. Wendy Doniger's "The Hindus: An Alternative History" by Priyamvada Gopal:

Those in Britain who evoke the majestic diversity of Hindu beliefs and practices usually incur the hostility of self-styled custodians of the religion. Outraged at deviations from an inflexible and remarkably uninformed understanding of the religion, these custodians have succeeded in shutting down an exhibition of MF Husain's paintings and forced the Royal Mail to discontinue a stamp showing a Mughal painting of the Virgin Mary wearing Hindu insignia.

Wendy Doniger's compendious account of religious traditions that constitute an "ism" only in the broadest possible sense begins with an account of being egg-pelted by one such hardliner who objected to her suggestion that some Sanskrit texts are interested in divine female sexuality. It is towards countering the contemporary straitjacketing of Hindu beliefs that she offers this Alternative History.

Beginning with the pre-Hindu Indus Valley civilisation and ending in the contemporary era when Hindu nationalists destroy an Islamic site as an act of reclaiming India for "indigenous" Hindus, Doniger's narrative spans centuries without claiming comprehensive coverage. It is conceived as a "pointillist collage, a kaleidoscope, made of small, discontinuous fragments" or, in an appropriate motif, a banyan tree with multiple roots and branches.

Though not an affiliate of the "subaltern studies" school of south Asian history, Doniger shares with it the principle that larger stories can be gleaned from studying fragments. In addition to recovering neglected works, attention to whispers and asides in the canon enables her to reconstruct voices (particularly of women and Dalits, formerly "untouchables") and insurgent traditions (like the Hindu-Islamic syncretism of Kabir) that have been subordinated by the Brahmin patriarchy.
Doniger slightly weakens her argument by participating in the obligatory intellectual ritual of declaring that hers is just one version among many. But as she demonstrates, the deliberate falsification of history by Hindu chauvinists makes it imperative to underscore the accuracy of some accounts as opposed to others. This may not be the only good history of the Hindus, but it certainly makes for a more authoritative and respectful starting point for thinking about the subject than the self-serving baying of fundamentalists.

Anonymous said...

Yet these same people and their Non Resident Indian counterparts will not hesitate to gang vote for their Hindu authors to win coveted international book and other awards!
Going onn a tangent, the late South African cricketer, Hansie Cronje, had participated in a "Jesus" film in which he gave testimony to his belief in Jesus. This film was aired even in India. Shortly afterwards he fell prey to a match fixing scenario.

Hopewins said...

^^RHL "Just as "Satanic Verses" received massive publicity after worldwide Muslim protests and became a best-seller overnight, "The Hindus: An Alternative History" is also getting a lot buzz in both traditional and new media around the world...."

Do you have any photos of any Hindu mobs rioting against this book in India? Has any top Hindu religious leader there ordered a death sentence on this Wendy woman?

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "Do you have any photos of any Hindu mobs rioting against this book in India? Has any top Hindu religious leader there ordered a death sentence on this Wendy woman?"

It never got to that because, unlike the Rushdie publisher, Doniger's publisher caved in.

Otherwise, you could so what Hindu mobs doing what they did in Ayodhya and Gujarat and Trilokpuri. Or what they did to MF Husain when they ran him out of the country.

As to any fatwas, there is no concept of it in Hinduism. They do it without issuing fatwas or any warnings.

Tambi Dude said...

So now you are a supporter of free speech, like the movie on MOhd shown in youtube.

Or suddenly you find Indian Penal Code 295C something to get rid off because that was the clause used to ban all anti muslim books or even benign movies like Da Vinci Code.

Raman said...

Mr.Haq, you are proving your hatred towards India with every minor thing. A country of 1+billion population with many religions is being run without much problems. Also a country with so many illiterate people, this book situation could turn out to be disaster if provoked. This is one of the instances where the country is taking proactive action to prevent unnecessary issues.

Compare this to Pak where the country with 1/6 of population being torn down with one single major religion. Same religious people are killing each other for petty reasons. If you care about Pak, spend your energy in fixing that instead of throwing mud at India.

I know that you are highlighting the real situation in India as usual, but more can be done for Pak.


Hopewins said...


QUOTE: "FOR a country that may be on the verge of electing a fascist government, India seems calm to the point of boredom..."


Please comment on this.

Anonymous said...

Even as an Indian I commend Riaz Haq for dealing with this juvenile poster HWJ.

The link you provided is nearly 16yrs old. Since then BJP has proved itself to be as good in governing , if not better, than Congress.

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "Please comment on this"

I see little real difference between Indian political parties when it comes to treatment of minorities. Some of the worst atrocities against minorities have occurred during Congress rule in Delhi.

Neither of the national parties is willing to dismantle what Prof Paul Brass of Washington University describes as the “institutionalized riot systems" in India.

Brass has done extensive research on India's communal conflict and describes it in the following words:

"Events labelled “Hindu-Muslim riots” have been recurring features in India for three-quarters of a century or more. In northern and western India, especially, there are numerous cities and towns in which riots have become endemic. In such places, riots have, in effect, become a grisly form of dramatic production in which there are three phases: preparation/ rehearsal, activation/enactment, and explanation/interpretation.1 In these sites of endemic riot production, preparation and rehearsal are continuous activities. Activation or enactment of a large-scale riot takes place under particular circumstances, most notably in a context of intense political mobilization or electoral competition in which riots are precipitated as a device to consolidate the support of ethnic, religious, or other culturally marked groups by emphasizing the need for solidarity in face of the rival communal group. The third phase follows after the violence in a broader struggle to control the explanation or interpretation of the causes of the violence. In this phase, many other elements in society become involved, including journalists, politicians, social scientists, and public opinion generally.

At first, multiple narratives vie for primacy in controlling the explanation of violence. On the one hand, the predominant social forces attempt to insert an explanatory narrative into the prevailing discourse of order, while others seek to establish a new consensual hegemony that upsets existing power relations, that is, those which accept the violence as spontaneous, religious, mass-based, unpredictable, and impossible to prevent or control fully. This third phase is also marked by a process of blame displacement in which social scientists themselves become implicated, a process that fails to isolate effectively those most responsible for the production of violence, and instead diffuses blame widely, blurring responsibility, and thereby contributing to the perpetuation of violent productions in future, as well as the order that sustains them."

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: Even as an Indian I commend Riaz Haq for dealing with this juvenile poster HWJ."

No, I think you misunderstand HWJ.

He is making an important point by citing earlier dire predictions made before BJP's Vajpayee's election to the office of prime minister of India.

Anonymous said...

Riaz Haq said...

<....> As to any fatwas, there is no concept of it in Hinduism. They do it without issuing fatwas or any warnings.

February 15, 2014 at 11:18 PM

You are absolutely correct. Behind the facade of being "the world's largest democracy" lots of fatwa-less activity goes on. For example, in Mumbai, it is the Christian institutions that have to forfeit land for "road widening and development 'projects' ", and Christian wayside religious shrines that are summarily demolished.Likewise, there are PA systems night time strictures in place so that the two midnight services per year of the Christians do not disturb neighbourhoods, but everyone can be deaf to, for example, the nine nights of Navrathi.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an FT story on shrinking freedom of speech in India:

India often boasts of the robust health of its electoral democracy. But at least one crucial pillar of its democratic edifice – the right to free expression – is being rapidly eroded, with ominous implications.
The latest symptom of this fragility was the recent decision of Penguin India, an arm of US-based Penguin Random House, to destroy all unsold copies in India of The Hindus: An Alternative History, by Sanskrit scholar Wendy Doniger, a University of Chicago professor.
The destruction of the books is part of a court-supervised settlement of criminal and civil cases filed against Penguin by Shiksha Andolan Bachao, or the Save Education Movement, a Hindu fundamentalist group seeking to purge India’s educational curriculum and bookstores of works it deems insulting or threatening to Hindu culture.

Ms Doniger’s treatment of ancient Hindu myths as human creations rather than divine truth – and her Freudian analysis of the tales – outraged the self-appointed guardians of Hindu orthodoxy. Penguin, which is 47 per cent owned by Pearson – the Financial Times’ parent company – battled for four years to defend the book before settling.
After the settlement, Penguin warned of the increasing difficulties all publishers will face “to uphold international standards of free expression” in India – citing highly elastic legal limits on free speech, which academics say encourage radical groups to mobilise for the suppression of works not to their personal taste.
Meanwhile, Indian courts’ convoluted rulings in free speech cases have also eroded the confidence of writers and publishers of legal protection – or even of protection of their physical security – when confronted with individuals or groups upset with their work.
Until now, the primary targets in India’s intensifying culture wars have mostly been interpretations of religion and distant history.
In October 1988, then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s administration prohibited the import of Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses”, fearing the novel would inflame its Muslim minority. India has subsequently banned several other books – two by rightwing Hindus – considered highly inflammatory because of their critique of Islam...

The late Maqbool Fida Husain, India’s most celebrated modern painter, was driven into self-imposed exile in 2006, after his canvasses – some of which depicted Hindu deities naked – were repeatedly vandalised by rightwing Hindus, who also filed multiple criminal complaints against him.
But India’s lack of commitment to free speech does not only constrain depictions of faith and distant history. It also poses a growing threat to Indians’ ability to vigorously debate the present – including the nexus between politicians and large Indian companies, the performance of key institutions, and the track records of political parties, or powerful individuals.
In January, Bloomsbury India withdrew The Descent of Air India, by a former executive director of the money-losing state carrier, after the former civil aviation minister, Praful Patel, filed a lawsuit against it. Bloomsbury publicly apologised to Mr Patel for any embarrassment it might have caused.

Three years ago, an award-winning 1991 novel was removed from the University of Mumbai’s curriculum, after the late Bal Thackeray, leader of the rightwing Shiv Sena, objected to how he and his party were depicted in the fictionalised account.
Ten years ago, courts also suppressed a sociological monograph, Taking the State to Court – Public Interest Litigation and the Public Sphere in Metropolitan India, by issuing a contempt notice to the author, Hans Dembowski, and publisher, Oxford University Press.
The case was never heard, but the book remains out of circulation, a case of what Mr Dembowski has called “stealth censorship.”


Mesquiteice said...

This is the difference between love and hate. Yes there may be something bad in every religion, but certain hatemongers use those to spread hatered. Unfortunately, they have to suffer the consequences of their actions. Ms. Doniger, studies religion with an intention to hate and you this is what you get. While i am OK with ideological agruments about superiority of religious faiths, i find hatemonging unacceptable. By talking good of others we add value to our civilisation. By talking bad about others, we spread abnoxiousness for others and for us.

Hopewins said...

^^RH Quotes: "India often boasts of the robust health of its electoral democracy. But at least one crucial pillar of its democratic edifice – the right to free expression – is being rapidly eroded, with ominous implications....."

Correct me if I am wrong, but surely India's constitution only guarantees "free expression" in India to Indians. There is no such guarantee for foreigners, is there?

So how can a restriction on Wendy's expression IN India become an rights issue when she is not even remotely an Indian citizen or resident?

What are your views?

Does any constitution anywhere in the world grant non-citizens/residents? Does the US constitution guarantee "freedom of expression" to Iranians in Iran?

Taking this further, can an Egyptian professor from Al-Azhar write a book entitled (say), "The Jews: An alternative history" and then claim the absolute right to publish and distribute it in Europe-- where "anti-Semitic" speech and literature is strictly banned?

What are your views?

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "Correct me if I am wrong, but surely India's constitution only guarantees "free expression" in India to Indians. There is no such guarantee for foreigners, is there?"

Read the whole gives examples of Indians' freedom being abridged too.

BTW, the US constitutional guarantee of free speech extends to all people and books in America regardless of who wrote them and where.

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "Correct me if I am wrong, but surely India's constitution only guarantees "free expression" in India to Indians. There is no such guarantee for foreigners, is there?"

Read the whole gives examples of Indians' freedom being abridged too.

BTW, the US constitutional guarantee of free speech extends to all people and books in America regardless of who wrote them and where.

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "Correct me if I am wrong, but surely India's constitution only guarantees "free expression" in India to Indians. There is no such guarantee for foreigners, is there?"

Read the whole gives examples of Indians' freedom being abridged too.

BTW, the US constitutional guarantee of free speech extends to all people and books in America regardless of who wrote them and where.

Hopewins said...

^^RH: "BTW, the US constitutional guarantee of free speech extends to all people and books in America regardless of who wrote them and where"

Have you seen any books from Mir Publications in ANY library in the US?

If not, why do you think that is? After all, for a long time, Mir Publications was one of the LARGETS publishing houses in the world. And yet....

Hopewins said...

^^RH: "No, I think you misunderstand HWJ.

He is making an important point by citing earlier dire predictions made before BJP's Vajpayee's election to the office of prime minister of India. "

"What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
for there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has already been
in the ages before us.

There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be among those who come after."


Anonymous said...

"BTW, the US constitutional guarantee of free speech extends to all people and books in America regardless of who wrote them and where."

Helen Thomas would readily agree with that :)

Riaz Haq said...

In an unusual move of solidarity with Wendy Doniger, the author of The Hindus, other writers have requested that their own books be withdrawn and turned to pulp in protest (The Guardian). Siddharth Varadarajan and Jyotirmaya Sharma, for example, have sought this course of action in order to (in Varadarajan's words) take on "intellectual bullies" "on their own terms." Doniger's book was taken off the Penguin catalogue for fear that it might offend religious sentiments. The move prompted severe backlash, successfully adding the word 'pulped' to the Indian news lexicon. A few self-described "avid bibliophiles" have invoked their 'rights as readers' to denounce Penguin's decision. A statement from the group reads, "while they may both be birds, there is a world of difference between a Penguin and a chicken and the last time my clients checked, the penguin had not changed his feathers in the natural world."

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ and Anon: "Mir Publications...Helen Thomas..."

Neither was prevented by legal action through courts.

Anonymous said...

"Neither was prevented by legal action through courts."

Every country has legal rules based on its needs. Indian Govt feels that offending religion in India can stoke unnecessary violence.

India has section 295 applied to muslims too. After all India was the first country to ban Satanic Verses.

Are you claiming that sec 295 is good as long as it is not applied for Hindus.

For the record, I am all in favour of removing Sec 295. Let every book mock all religions. If Allah/Bhagwaan is great, he should be able to easily withstand it.

Anonymous said...

" If Allah/Bhagwaan is great, he should be able to easily withstand it."

So should be jews ? Why do they make laws banning denial of holocaust.

Majumdar said...

Prof Riaz ul Haq sb,

other writers have requested that their own books be withdrawn and turned to pulp in protest (The Guardian). Siddharth Varadarajan and Jyotirmaya Sharma, for example, have sought this course of action in order to (in Varadarajan's words) take on "intellectual bullies" "on their own terms."

Good and it is time you followed their example. Request Pak Govt to ban "Haq's Musings" in Pakiland in protest against GOP decision to ban Youtube there.


Hopewins said...

^^HWJ: "Mir Publications..."

^^^RH: "..was not prevented by legal action through courts.."

The question of prevention through courts did not even arise.

The Communist Party was BANNED in the United States and, as a consequence, any books coming from Communist Party-owned publishers was AUTOMATICALLY banned in the US. The US courts upheld these sweeping bans imposed by Congress as constitutional.

This is FAR, FAR WORSE than taking a publisher to court.

The US may not as supportive of "free expression" as they appear to be (and as you might think).

Riaz Haq said...

@narendramodi #India textbooks: "#Japan nuked #USA", "Cutting trees raised CO3", "Gandhiji killed on Oct 30 1948"

Unknown said...

Riaz ur continued hateful propoganda against india and hindus in particular is utterly shameful. It is the very reason why there is so much growing hatred in india against their neighbours. India as a country has problems a plenty. Similarly it is a country which has its miracles too. Such one sided biased opinions reflect poorly on u. People would take you more seriously if u gave balanced opinions than continuously posting articles and posts highlighting india's fallacies. And please get over this tame following of the western views of our region. India and pakistan r quite capable of ruling themselves without the constant exploitative politics and views of the west. USA especially is interested in our region for its own gains and is definitely not someone whose idealistic talks can be taken seriously. Cause you should do what u preach. I would advise u to use ur energy in helping ur country progress than wasting it on hating on india.

Riaz Haq said...

A set of booksby Dinanath Batra - who gained notoreity when he managedto get Penguin to agree to pulp American scholar Wendy Doniger's book on Hinduism-are now going to be a part of the Gujarat primary school syllabus, says a report in the Indian Express

The report says that on 30 June, "the state government issued a circular directing more than 42,000 primary and secondary government schools across the state to make a set of nine books by Batra, translated from Hindi to Gujarati, part of the curriculum's 'supplementary literature'."

And the books contain some gems which highlight Dinanth Batra's 'Indian' thinking.

For instance the report points out that in one book titled "Shikhan nu Bhartiyakaran (Indianisation of Education)" Batra writes against the celebration of birthdays with cakes and candles becauseit is a western practice. He writes, "Instead, we should follow a purely Indian culture by wearing swadeshi clothes, doing a havan and praying to ishtadev (preferred deity), reciting mantras such as Gayatri mantra, distributing new clothes to the needy, feeding cows, distributing prasad and winding up the day by playing songs produced by Vidya Bharati."

Batra also shows that regardless of geopolitical compulsions, he does not believe that India's neighbours should be recognised as separate countries. In a book titled "Tejomay Bharat (Shining India)", Batra argues that the Indian map should include "countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Burma" as it's all a "part of Akhand Bharat."

Riaz Haq said...

Shashank Bengali on strike at Film and Television Institute of India (FTII):

For nearly three months, the roughly 400 students here have been on strike, protesting the Indian government’s appointments of loyalists with dubious credentials – including an actor who appeared in B-grade adult movies and a maker of right-wing propaganda films – to the state-funded school’s governing body.

“They want to turn the institute into a factory for their political views,” says Ranjit Nair, a directing student helping lead the protests. “We totally reject that.”

The skirmish is over not just the future of the foremost film academy in the world’s biggest movie-making nation, a breeding ground for Oscar winners, expert technicians, darlings of the international festival circuit and stalwarts of Bollywood and India’s thriving regional cinema.

It also represents the biggest showdown yet over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to reshape India’s cultural institutions to fit his conservative Hindu nationalist agenda.

During 16 months in power, Modi has packed the national censorship board with political supporters; named an obscure historian who believes in a literal reading of Hindu mythology to lead a prestigious research institute; and created a government ministry to promote yoga and traditional medicine while docking the country’s overall health budget.

“It’s obvious that these moves are connected,” says Jabeen Merchant, a film editor and alumna. “Every government nominates people it likes; that’s inevitable. But this particular government is doing it in such a way that nobody can miss the agenda that’s being promoted.

The confrontation escalated early this month after a group of students refused to let the institute’s director, Prashant Pathrabe, leave his office one night. They formed a chain and blocked Pathrabe’s door in a type of civil disobedience known as a gherao, or encirclement, a favourite tactic of Indian labour activists in the 1960s.

Police arrived to free Pathrabe, who filed charges the next day, saying he had been subjected to “mental torture”. That night police arrested five students, who were freed on bail.

Supporters of the strike accused police and administrators of overreacting, while those sympathetic to Modi’s government called the students insubordinate.

“They are not discussing with the government; they are trying to dictate,” says Uday Shankar Pani, a 1974 graduate who was a first assistant director on Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi.

“They’re saying, ‘We don’t want anyone connected to your party’. Hey, man, who are you talking to? The government is paying for this school.”

At the core of the dispute is the peculiar status of the institute, which is formally a unit of India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, founded in 1960 to train skilled workers for a nascent film industry. The full-time professors are civil servants. On the campus in the bustling western city of Pune, everything is subsidised, from the US$1,100 annual tuition and fees to the cafeteria’s US$1 chicken curry.

New Delhi’s view of the institute as a polytechnic has long clashed with students’ creative aspirations. The school vacuums up national film awards, and its graduates include some of the leading lights of Indian film and theatre, including actor Anupam Kher, director Shyam Benegal and Resul Pookutty, who won a sound mixing Oscar in 2009 for Slumdog Millionaire.

“The institute has contributed immensely to the flowering of both mainstream and art house Indian cinema,” says Indranil Bhattacharya, a directing professor. “Its place in the industry is extremely crucial.”

It has also developed a reputation as a hotbed of protests – “‘One strike a decade’ is an unofficial institute slogan”, a professor says – although they never before spilled into national politics.

Riaz Haq said...

Wendy Doniger on Bhagvad Geeta:

Davis notes the tenacity of the warrior’s Gita: “The Gita begins with Arjuna in confusion and despair, dropping his weapons; it ends with Arjuna picking up his bow, all doubts resolved and ready for battle. Once he does so, the war begins.” Krishna’s exhortation to Arjuna has the force of Henry V’s rousing speech on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt (“We few, we happy few…”). Krishna, however, is a god as well as a prince who takes part in the battle, and his most persuasive argument consists of a violent divine revelation: at Arjuna’s request, Krishna manifests his universal form, the form in which he will destroy the universe at Doomsday, the form that J. Robert Oppenheimer recalled when he saw the first explosion of an atomic bomb. Arjuna cries out to Krishna, “I see your mouths with jagged tusks, and I see all of these warriors rushing blindly into your gaping mouths, like moths rushing to their death in a blazing fire.” This is an argument for Krishna’s overwhelming power that Arjuna cannot refuse. It is the climax of the violence of the martial Gita.

But at the end of this vision, Arjuna begs Krishna to turn back into the figure he had known before—his buddy Krishna—which the god consents to do. This intimacy is reflected elsewhere in the Mahabharata in two quite playful satires on the Gita that Davis does not mention. One comes much later, long after the battle, when Arjuna reminds Krishna of their conversation on the eve of battle and adds: “But I have lost all that you said to me in friendship, O tiger among men, for I have a forgetful mind. And yet I am curious about those things again, my lord.”

Krishna, rather crossly, remarks that he is displeased that Arjuna failed to understand or retain the revelation, and he adds, “I cannot tell it again just like that.” But he says he will tell him “another story on the same subject.” Here the satire (on the reader’s forgetfulness, as much as on that of the nonintellectual warrior) ends, and Krishna expounds a serious philosophical discourse, known as the “after-Gita” (the anu-gita).

The second, much longer episode may have been inspired (or, later, referenced) by the line in the Gita in which Krishna goads Arjuna by saying, “Stop acting like a kliba; stand up!” (Kliba is a catch-all derogatory term for a castrated, cross-dressing, homosexual, or impotent man, here used as a casual slur, “not a real man.”) But earlier in the Mahabharata, Arjuna has masqueraded as precisely such a person, a transvestite dance master who also serves as charioteer to an arrogant wimp of a young prince who does not realize that he is treating the greatest warrior in the world as his servant, just as Arjuna does not at first realize that he has for his charioteer a great god who has sheathed his claws. The issue of manliness will recur throughout the subsequent history of the Gita. But the playfulness in these early treatments of the martial Gita was eventually smothered under the pious reception of the philosophical Gita.

The Nationalists and the Martial Gita

Meanwhile, back in India, the Nationalists, culled from the same level of Indian society that had swallowed the British line that the Gita was their Book, and embarrassed by the Krishna of the Gopis, went back to the Krishna of the Gita, but this time to the martial Gita, particularly to its exhortation to the right sort of action (karma yoga). Even Vivekananda endorsed the martial Gita, insisting, “First of all, our young men must be strong. Religion will come afterwards…. You will understand the Gita better with your biceps, your muscles a little stronger.” And he cited, as a directive to Indian youth, Krishna’s exhortation to Arjuna, “Stop acting like a kliba; stand up!” which he translated, “Yield not to unmanliness.”

Riaz Haq said...

Working to saffronize education in entire #India: #RSS ideologue Dina Nath Batra #Modi #BJP via @timesofindia

RSS ideologue and Haryana government's school and higher education consultant Dina Nath Batra says he not only wants to 'saffronize' education in the state but in the entire country. He was in Chandigarh on Friday to co-chair the first state-level consultative meeting on the new education policy for Haryana.

Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar chaired the meeting which was attended by a range of people, from vice-chancellors of universities to teachers. Founder of the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti also indicated that the Bhagwad Gita would be introduced as a moral education subject in schools from class VI to XII from next session. He also clarified that the existing school teachers will teach the Hindu scripture.

"The students will be taught a compilation of two shlokas from every chapter of the Bhagwat Gita,'' he said. The government had announced in December 2014, that it planned to introduce the Gita in schools with many accusing it of trying to saffronize school education in the state. Since then, however, the subject had been in cold storage.

Speaking to TOI later, he said that his own definition of saffornization was not related to any community or religion, but to a set of ideas which give an independent identity to a person. "Saffron is made of a mixture of red and yellow," he said. "Red is symbolic of bravery while yellow symbolizes patience and prosperity. Hence, we need this kind of education."

Batra insisted that he was not working just in Haryana. "I am working for saffronization of education in the whole country, and I want to complete it at the earliest," he said, adding, "let us teach the world about contribution of our experts and expertise towards the global growth." Batra, however, dismissed the allegation that his strategy was part of a larger agenda of the Sangh.

Batra also gave some insight into his vision of education in Haryana. Terming the running of colleges offering Bachelor of Education (BEd) courses as a wasteful exercise, he advocated for an integrated university for training of teachers and certifying the colleges.

"When teachers don't even go to school, how can you expect students to go to the classroom," He asked. "I know many such people are there who have got BEd degrees while sitting at home. Such a system has to be done away with. Education of a teacher needs to be as rigorous as that of a student. We don't favour any dedicated stream. Let the child be groomed in all the streams of arts, medical, non-medical and commerce and core education standards be maintained,'' he said.

Batra had sparked off a major controversy in when he had filed case against Amrican scholar Wendy Doniger's book 'The Hindus: An Alternative History'. The publisher, Penguin India, had decided to destroy all copies of the book.

Riaz Haq said...

Top #Indian Scientists Say #India's #Modi Government Is Becoming Increasingly Anti-science. #BJP … #science

Three murders, a suicide and a rash of political appointments at universities have thrown Indian academia into an uproar against the conservative (right-wing) government. Prominent artists, writers, historians and scientists are speaking out against an intensifying climate of religious intolerance and political interference in academic affairs.
“What’s going on in this country is really dangerous,” says Rajat Tandon, a number theorist at Hyderabad Central University. Tandon is one of more than 100 prominent scientists, including many heads of institutions, who signed a statement protesting “the ways in which science and reason are being eroded in the country.” The statement cites the murder of three noted rationalists — men who had dedicated their lives to countering superstition and championed scientific thought — and what they see as the government’s silent complicity.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi leads the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which won the 2014 general elections in India in a landslide victory. The BJP and Modi, in particular, are aligned with the extremist right-wing group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS. (This unholy alliance is comparable to the relationship between the Republican Party and the Tea Party, but the RSS is a paramilitary group with more violent overtones than the Tea Party has shown so far.) Together, the BJP and RSS promote the agenda of Hindutva, the notion that India is the homeland of Hindus and all others — the hundreds of millions of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and others in this sprawling, secular democracy — are interlopers.
“The present government is deviating from the path of democracy, taking the country on the path to what I’d call a Hindu religious autocracy,” says Pushpa Mittra Bhargava , who founded the prestigious Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology in Hyderabad.
Despite his blatantly anti-secular stance, Modi’s stated goals for economic development are wildly popular, particularly among the country’s majority Hindus. But academics and intellectuals have been protesting the erosions on academic freedom almost from the start.
In January 2015, at the 102nd session of the Indian Science Congress, several members of the BJP government led a session on ancient Indian science and claimed that thousands of years ago, Indians had built planes that could fly not just on earth but between planets. There were other outlandish claims — that the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha is proof that Indian ancients knew the secrets of cosmetic surgery, for example. Scientists were dismayed, and some did call for the session to be canceled, but their primary response then was still ridicule, rather than outrage.
In February 2015, economics Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen stepped down as chancellor of Nalanda University in Bihar, protesting the “considerable government intervention” in academic decisions. That same month, gunmen attacked a left-wing politician called Govind Pansare and his wife; Pansare later died of his injuries. Then, in August, gunmen killed Malleshappa Kalburgi, a leading scholar and rationalist, at his home. “They were a threat, so they were eliminated,” says Tandon.
The attacks shocked the academic community and ignited protests from writers, filmmakers and historians; many returned their national awards as a symbol of their dissent.
Scientists were late to the table, which is not surprising, given that most of Indian science relies on government funds. Still, in October, three separate groups of scientists made statements — the total signatories now number nearly one thousand — protesting the government’s inaction against the acts of violence. (Bhargava returned his Padma Bhushan, one of the highest civilian awards in India, to the president.)

Riaz Haq said...

Analysis: #India, #Pakistan in race to destroy young minds with false #history #textbooks

Consider the latest attempt at subversion from India. According to reports on Thursday, ministers in the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled (BJP) Rajasthan state have proposed that the outcome should be rewritten in the mediaeval battle of Haldighati that was fought between the forces of Mughal emperor Akbar and Rajput chieftain Rana Pratap.

It ended in a stalemate with the latter retreating deeper into Mewar, but Hindutva historians are determined to show him as the clear victor.

It is less widely admitted that his Rajput General Mansingh led Akbar’s 1576 campaign.

If Hindutva historians have their way they would project even Alexander of Macedonia as an anti-India Muslim marauder.

Cinematic versions of Alexander’s war with King Porus have already attempted this in a way, showing the foreigner speaking in Urdu, implying a Muslim language, while the vanquished Indian ruler spoke chaste Hindi, erroneously projected as a Hindu language.

It would be equally embarrassing for Hindutva historians to admit that Maratha king Shivaji communicated with his arch-foe Emperor Aurangzeb in Persian while conducting his Maratha empire’s administration in Modhi, a less discussed precursor of Marathi.

It is routine among Hindutva historians to claim mediaeval monuments as Hindu structures grabbed by Muslims. According to P.N. Oak, an early myth-maker in this genre, Taj Mahal was a Hindu palace as was the Asafi Imambarha of Lucknow.

According to Oak, Christianity is Chrisn-nity, an ascription to Lord Krishna. “Christianity is in fact a popular variation of the Hindu, Sanscrit [sic] term Chrisn-neety, i.e. the way of life preached, advocated or exemplified by the Hindu incarnation Lord Chrisn, spelled variously as Crsn, Krsn, Krishn, Chrisn, Crisna or Krisna also,” Mr Oak wrote.

To keep the spirit from flagging, even Wagner’s theory of continental drift was harnessed to claim that light-skinned Indians originally came from the border of Bihar and Orissa.

Later, the border drifted away to form the North Pole, thus implying that Caucasian and Central Asian genes travelled from India to their current abode, not the other way round.

As in India, rigging the chronology of history has been honed into a craft in Pakistan too, and it is difficult to say who between the two is better in conjuring myths that exhort young minds to violence.

A recent study in Pakistan found that the country’s public school textbooks negatively portrayed religious minorities, including Hindus, Christians and Ahmadis, as “untrustworthy, religiously inferior, and ideologically scheming”.

The report, “Teaching Intolerance in Pakistan: Religious Bias in Public School Textbooks”, analysed 78 textbooks from all four provinces covering grades five through 10.

Riaz Haq said...

In India, 'the Unthinkable' Is Printed at One's Peril
January 12, 2004|James W. Laine | James W. Laine, a professor of religious studies at Macalester College in Minnesota, is the author of "Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India" (Oxford University Press, 2003).

Growing up in Texas in the 1950s, I spent many days roaming my neighborhood wearing a coonskin cap, carrying a toy rifle and singing "Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier." I was always drawn to stories of heroes.

In western India, not just kids have heroes. In recent years, the figure of Shivaji, a 17th century Hindu king, has attained almost divine status among the Hindu population. He had long been a regional favorite, for he founded an independent kingdom against all odds in the face of the Mughal Empire to the south and other sultans in the north. There is a way to read his story as the first chapter in a tale of Indian independence -- first from Muslim rule and then from British. His portrait is everywhere and his name is always invoked with reverence, especially among Hindu fundamentalists, in a time of polarized religious politics in India.

In 1985, I began to translate the Shivabharata, "The Epic of Shivaji." It contained a great story about Shivaji: How, as a young prince, he was attacked in a diplomatic meeting by an arrogant general but, forewarned by a goddess to wear chain mail, he instead fatally stabbed his attacker and led his troops to victory over a much larger force. I was hooked.

I began to realize that everyone knew these tales. Some were historical, some fictive, but they fell into a neat and commonly accepted narrative, reproduced in popular histories, school textbooks and comics. I decided to write about that narrative process, an account of three centuries of storytelling that produced a tale that lived in the minds of people celebrating Shivaji's legacy today. The book came out this summer, and even ranked up with Hillary Rodham Clinton's in the local list of English-language bestsellers in Pune, the city south of Bombay where these cultural traditions are most in evidence and where I had spent months in the library at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. Back in Pune this summer, I saw a couple of bland but positive reviews in the Indian papers. I thought, "As long as they don't get to the last chapter."

And then someone did. The last chapter is where I entertained what I called "unthinkable thoughts" -- questioning "cracks" in the Shivaji narrative. I wondered, for example, why no one considered the possibility that Shivaji's parents were estranged, given that they never lived together during the period the three were alive (1630-1664), and that the tale provided "father substitutes" for the king-to-be. Why not entertain such an idea? What made it unthinkable?

As it turned out, the "owners" of Shivaji's story had their own set of questions, delivered with a punch: Who should be allowed to portray this history? Should an outsider, working with Brahmin English-speaking elites, have a greater say in Shivaji's story than Shivaji's own community?

In November, in response to protests over the book, Oxford University Press stopped distributing it in India. With the book unavailable, rumors piled on rumors. Misreadings lapped the globe by e-mail. A colleague, a man mentioned in the book's preface, distanced himself by condemning its contents but was still roughed up by zealots, who smeared tar on his face. Another Pune scholar tore up his manuscript of a biography of Shivaji, proclaiming scholarship an impossibility in such a context. Horrified, I faxed letters to Indian newspapers, taking full responsibility for my book and apologizing for causing offense.

Riaz Haq said...

Shivaji spark
Culture police vandalism and politics force the Maharashtra Government to ban the biography of the Maratha warrior king.

James W. Laine wanted to redeem history from legends. What the professor of religious studies at Macalester College in Minnesota did not realize was that some Indians find legends more comforting than history.

Laine's slim volume, Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India, published by Oxford University Press, is the latest victim of the culture police. Following the rage of the self-styled keepers of the Maratha heritage against Laine's blasphemy, the Government of Maharashtra has now banned the book.

What about the lost manuscripts, though? On January 5, an angry mob calling itself the Sambhaji Brigade of the Maratha Mahasangh stormed the 87-year-old Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI), Pune, and destroyed priceless manuscripts and artifacts.

They targeted the institute, one of the finest archival centres of the country, because it was acknowledged in the book as Laine's "scholarly home" in India during the time of his research. The loss was a piece of India's own heritage.

A rattled Laine,who considers Pune his second home, even made an appeal that he alone, and not those who assisted him in his research, should be held responsible for the book. The Sambhaji Brigade, saying the ban is more political than official, is threatening to take the book-burning protest beyond Pune.

What's Laine's blasphemy? By "reviewing" the narrative evolution of the legend of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the 17th century Maratha hero who defied the Mughal Empire to found an independent kingdom, he hopes to rescue the biography of "this great man"from"the grasp of those who see India as a Hindu nation at war with its Muslim neighbors".

Today Laine's work is struggling to rescue itself from the grasp of Maratha pride because it raises some "personal" questions about the warrior king. Questions like: Did he have an unhappy family life?
Did he have a harem? Was he more interested in building a kingdom than liberating a nation? Was he least interested in the religion of Bhakti saints? Laine calls them "cracks" in the Shivaji narrative.

Writing in LA Times on January 12, Laine, "always drawn to stories of heroes", defends his scholarly freedom to entertain what he calls "unthinkable thoughts". As he says in the article, "The owners of Shivaji's story had their own set of questions, delivered with a punch: who should be allowed to portray this history?
Should an outsider working with Brahmin English-speaking elites have a greater say in Shivaji's story than Shivaji's own community?" Defenders of the Maratha pride see an intellectual conspiracy in the cracks.

Outraged by a reference in the book to Shivaji's "absentee father", Purushottam Khedekar, founder member and president of the Maratha Mahasangh, says, "We strongly condemn the Brahminic attitude and the heinous propaganda against Shivaji Maharaj."

And politically too, Laine is not getting any support.Sharad Pawar, the veteran Maratha leader, has already warned that scholarship should not clash with public sentiments and faith. Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, as usual, was an exception. He condemned the violence and upheld the importance of disagreement and debate in a democracy.

Chief Minister S.K. Shinde, under pressure from the Maratha lobby in the NCP and his own party, the Congress, is hesitant about taking action against the violent protesters.

In the time of elections, few political leaders can afford to be on the wrong side of Maratha pride, and fewer can afford to take the side of free expression.

Riaz Haq said...

#Aurangzeb Wasn't The Bigot India's Right Wingers Make Him Out To Be On Social Media … #KnowAurangzeb #Mughal #history

Aurangzeb's life, widely misrepresented by the Hindutva brigade as that of a cardboard despot's, was far more complex

To impose on Aurangzeb the standards of the modern world is to thus make a grave historical error

It's no big news that contemporary India is brazenly partisan about its national heroes, especially the ones who tower over the subcontinent's history. But few figures have elicited as much contempt from a section of the public as well as the political class as the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.

Aurangzeb's legacy, in the popular imagination, is one of unmitigated tyranny — reviled as the destroyer of Hindu temples, executioner of Sikh guru Teg Bahadur, and an austere Muslim ruler, who imposed unpopular taxes and curbed expressions of liberal Islam.

In 2015, amid a raging controversy, the ruling government acceded to an extraordinary request from the New Delhi Municipal Corporation to have the name of Aurangzeb Road in the national capital changed to APJ Abdul Kalam Road. The idea was to remove the association of evil, represented by Aurangzeb, from the name of the street and replace it with the name of the former president of India, who, presumably, embodied goodness.

The hatred for Aurangzeb also comes through in his denunciation by the Shiv Sena and other groups that admire his arch-rival, the Maratha warrior, Shivaji. In 2004, a biography of Shivaji by James Laine was banned in Maharashtra because it had dared to raise questions deemed unseemly by his fans. In 2015, a Shiv Sena MP abused an officer on duty on camera by calling him "Aurangzeb ki aulad" (a descendant of Aurangzeb), after he razed some temples during a demolition drive sanctioned by the district collector in Aurangabad, based on high court orders.

Historian Audrey Truschke took it upon herself to write a biography of Aurangzeb for the common reader to disabuse them of the many misconceptions around the Mughal king. At a little over 100 pages, without the paraphernalia of footnotes, it is as accessible as a complex historical narrative can get, without losing its essential core of erudition.

Debunking The Myths

As Truschke says in the Preface, the idea for the book, fittingly, came to her in an exchange on Twitter, a minefield for peddling divisive political agenda by interested groups and individuals. The spirit of the book, with its crisp prose and controlled polemics, hits out at the easy generalisations of social media.

Aurangzeb's life, widely misrepresented by the Hindutva brigade as that of a cardboard despot's, was far more complex, as anyone with common sense would expect, as well as riddled with many contradictions. Those who are familiar with politics should not be surprised by the persistence of the latter either.

Riaz Haq said...

A Critique of

Wendy Doniger’s “The Hindus, an Alternative History”

Penguin Books (2009)

By Vishal Agarwal

On page 67, she claims that Harappa and Mohenjodaro are the only two major cities of the civilization. This reflects the understanding till 1960s, but now we know of at least 5 major cities.

In chapter 4, dealing with the post-Harappan period, she regurgitates a century old (and now invalidated) arguments to ‘prove’ that the Harappan culture could not have been Vedic.

In her chapter on Dharmasastras, she claims (p. 304 sqq.) that the first Sanskrit inscription was published by the Indo-Greek King Rudraman. And then she goes on to create a pseudo-history of how the foreign ruler did this to gain legitimacy in the eyes of Hindus (p. 307) etc. One could have appreciated this remark if it were in a book written 30 years ago, but since then, at least 2 chaste Sanskrit inscriptions predating Rudraman’s inscription by almost 250 years and attributed to the Brahmin Kanva dynasty have been found in the region of Mathura.

III. Perpetuation of Racist and Orientalist Stereotypes:

On pages 468-469, Doniger says – “Mosques also provided a valuable contrast with temples within the landscape of India….The mosque, whose serene calligraphic and geometric contrasts with the perpetual motion of the figures depicted on the temple, makes a stand against the chaos of India, creating enforced vacuums that India cannot rush into with all its monkeys and peoples and colors and the smells of the bazaar and, at the same time, providing a flattering frame to offset that very chaos.” Doniger’s comment is quite racist and orientalist. It is simply unbelievable that even in this age, a scholar can essentialize the Hindu Main St. of sultanate India as “monkeys and peoples, colors and smells, and chaos” – just a variant of the cow, caste and curry stereotype of India and Hindus. Doniger makes it appear that the large scale displacement of temples by mosques was some kind of an architectural blessing on India. It is pertinent to ask if she has similar views on ongoing destruction of Hindu temples by Islamists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and in Kashmir (India).

In fact, towards the beginning of the book itself (p. 40), Doniger makes the following derogatory remark against the Hindus – “If the motto of Watergate was ‘Follow the money’, the motto of the history of Hinduism could well be ‘Follow the monkey’ or, more often ‘Follow the horse’.”

III. Trivializing Hindu Spirituality:

Spiritual scriptures are not meant to be read literally. They abound in analogies, metaphors and symbolism that convey deeper truths. Unfortunately, Doniger debases profound scriptures like the Upanishads and gives them her own crass and often obscene spin.

For example, while discussing Upanishadic descriptions of the journey of the soul after death, Doniger remarks (p. 175) – “The people who reach the moon in the Brihadaranyaka are eaten by the gods (as they are eaten by animals in the Other World in the Brahmanas), but the gods in the Chandogya merely eat the moon, a more direct way to account for its waning.” This is an example of Doniger understanding the mystical language of the Upanishads in a very literal way, missing their heart completely. The texts use a metaphorical and poetic language to stress that performance of good karma alone is not adequate because its results are finite. Eventually, these souls that reach the ‘moon’ due to performance of good karma also have to take a rebirth. No heaven is permanent – this is the import of these passages.

She caricatures the Yoga philosophy of Patanjali as exercises of mind and body (p. 505). In chapter 18, dealing with Darshanas, she often sacrifices accuracy in favor of literary cutisms.

Riaz Haq said...

#WATCH | It's said there's a lot of discussion on Jihad in Islam... Even after all efforts, if someone doesn't understand clean idea, power can be used, it's mentioned in Quran & Gita... Shri Krishna taught lessons of Jihad to Arjun in a part of Gita in Mahabharat: S Patil, ex-HM


S. Patil in the tweeted video: "Krishna said he has come here not to establish peace, he has come with a sword"