"Science" in India

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Oct 23 22:07:07 UTC 2000

I thought I wouldn't post any more on this thread, but I have
to clarify some points raised by Ms. Samira Sheikh.

>that Indologists are being forced to speak out against the abuse and
>appropriation of their discipline. It is certainly a mystery why acolytes
>of Rajaram et al, many of them engineers, presumably scientifically
>trained, react so violently to scientific applications of history or

Let me make clear that I am not an acolyte of anybody. As a
matter of fact, the vast majority of Indian scientists and
engineers couldn't care less one way or the other about the
Indus seals or about horses. And so long as they are told
that they are unwelcome, they won't get any interest. We only
wonder why a few idiosyncratic people are being thought of as
representative of Indian scientists and engineers.

>archaeology, as demonstrated by the responses to Witzel and Farmer. Perhaps
>the answer lies in the fact that the Indian educational system (in common
>with many others, I am sure) gives minimal importance to any scientific
>questioning of culture and tradition, and places the study of history

What the Indian educational system does with culture and
tradition is to present a predetermined model of caste as the
answer to everything in India. This leaves the students more
confused than ever before. You are right, no questioning of
the dogma is allowed, and that dogma has been predominantly
that of a particular school of thinking.

The reason I raised Prof. Thapar's name is that in Frontline,
she said that she had proposed the rejection of the old Aryan
invasion theory, way back, in 1968. The only reference she
provides is a talk at ICHR, the proceedings of which are
quite inaccessible. I have certainly not read a single
publication by her that supports this assertion. Not her
popular book on the History of India, not her book on Asoka
and not her book on the formation of the state in the times
of Gautama the Buddha, and not in the reports of the lectures
she has given in numerous places. Either she is trying to
claim credit for something she never really said, or she
chose, for *political* reasons, never to publicize the fact
that she had reason to revisit the old paradigm.

Well, in a democracy, there are reasons and there are reasons.
There is no point in accusing one's opponents of political
motives when one has political motives of one's own. The
argument becomes not about the merits of an issue, but about
whose political motives are more palatable. However, I find
it curious that a particular school of Indian intellectuals
are very vociferous in crying foul at this point of time. If
politics is all that important to you, work to throw out the
BJP government in the next elections. The last I heard, India
is still a democracy, isn't it? Other than that, I respect
Thapar and her research quite a lot.

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