discussion track on manuscripts

Bijoy Misra bmisra at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Thu Dec 4 15:00:37 UTC 1997

I also have another observation.  While I think
people have a right to differ with views, analysis
of an ethnic background or disciplinary training
has little to do with a general policy issue.
I hope we can keep such discussion above any
personal or nationality level.  My observation
is that a person's ethnic background has no
relevance and should not enter discussion.
( pun: It sounds like Mahabharata somewhat when
Karna is asked to describe lineage before he is
permitted to participate.  I believe it's
a mistake.)

Coming back to my view, let me state it clearly
again.  I strongly hold that the intellectual
property of a nation/people must not leave them
on any circumstance.  The efforts to preserve
them locally and disseminate them globally is
relevant.  But to capture them and move them out
of the country is unscholarly and must not happen.
It's a competition between personal ethics
and an urge to move ahead.  In such competition
scholarly ethics must win over any other rationalization!

I agree that things have happened in the past and many
manuscripts and artefacts have left shores.  I call upon
all scholars to prevent such happenings and help preserve
materials among the people who contributed in generating
them.  This is true globally.  This is a social call and
a call of respect to the intellectual property and its
owners.  If we all pitch in, we can assist with various
efforts that are under way in respective countries.
This we must do.  To feel pity about the deteriorating
condition and to make effort to "rescue" the material
is a negative concept.  Think of "preserve" instead.

I thank all to listen to my argument.  A focussed
discussion and proposed efforts are worthwhile.

Bijoy Misra

On Thu, 4 Dec 1997, Robert J. Zydenbos wrote:

> On Sun, 30 Nov 1997, Bijoy Misra wrote:
> > Anyone thinking of so called "rescue" of documents
> > from India or the subcontinent is utterly on
> > the wrong track.  ....
> > ...respect to a country's heritage and her people.
> > I agree people have to get more serious to be protected against
> > being "rescued".  I will do my bit.
> "People" should be "protected against being rescued"? (Is this is new
> sub-thread?)
> > But on the point in question, the assumed guardianship of material
> > on "rescue" missions should be abandoned.  One very easily sees
> > the shallowness of such missions.
> No, sorry, I don't see it. "Shallowness"? "Guardianship"?
> "RESCUE - save or bring away from danger or harm" (Oxford Learner's
> Pocket Dictionary, 1992). I do not think of this as a shallow matter.
> > I agree that the conditions
> > in the subcontinent are not the greatest, but it's reasonable
> > to speculate that the material would survive longer than anything
> > else on the planet.  Don't people agree?
> That speculation is quite unwarranted. In other postings on this topic,
> evidence of the contrary has been mentioned. You also seem inconsistent
> in arguing "shallowness" while at the same time you propose to do
> something in this direction yourself.
> Forgive me if I have difficulties in following your train of thought.
> There is also the mention of "ethics" in an earlier posting of yours,
> and perhaps a clarification is in place here. Does your last quote above
> indicate that you find it more "ethical" and more respectful towards
> India's heritage that the international scholarly community does nothing
> to help stop the loss of historical materials? (Mind you, we are speaking
> about materials unlike your stars and planets and other things far away,
> of which there are innumerable specimens anyway.) If you think that all
> this is maya and will ultimately merge in some nirguna brahman anyway,
> just go ahead and believe that; but I do believe that you should allow
> others, both in and outside the subcontinent, who (unlike you) are
> committed to these studies, the liberty to believe and act otherwise.
> Most fortunately, the IGNCA, the DFG, the Nepali government and, I
> dare say, the overwhelming majority of academics committed to the
> study of Indian culture do not agree with you -- for the simple reason
> that if the materials are no longer in existence, a good deal of the
> cultural heritage, and all research, stop there. Anyhow: evidently, and
> fortunately, what you think about this issue does not really matter,
> because the work is continuing anyway.
> RZ

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