[INDOLOGY] Hitler and MLBD

Jonathan Silk kauzeya at gmail.com
Wed May 21 16:43:57 UTC 2014

Dear Colleagues,

 I am afraid that the comments by Prof Magnone cannot go without
There is a deep and fundamental difference between suppressing books and
thoughts--which requires coercive power, in principle of the state or a
semi-state apparatus--and working actively to discourage distribution of
ideas with which one does not agree. I would insist that this distinction
is absolutely basic! (Yes, I would take this to its logical conclusion, as
many would not, but I leave that for another day): I do not have to
*suppress* anything to say to a movie theatre: if you show violent films, I
will not patronize your establishment, I will discourage others from doing
so, and I will pay for advertisements in the newspaper to discourage
others. This has nothing to do with suppression, it is an exercise of
freedom of choice.
There is therefore absolutely nothing, logically or legally, of suppression
in writing to MLBD and saying: if you sell this, I won't allow you to sell
my book, I won't buy books from you, I will discourage others from buying
books from you. This, Prof Magnone, is what democracy is all about, this is
what freedom is all about. I have a right to buy from whom I wish; anyone
has a right to (try to) sell to whomever they wish, but I can tell them: I
won't buy from you, so if it is important to you to sell to *me* (in case,
me = we Indologists, or as it seems at least some of us), then you might
want to rethink what you do.
Aside from one or two perhaps not entirely serious remarks earlier in the
discussion of using the Doniger law to attack MLBD, I don't think
anyone--and certainly not I--want to use anything remotely approaching
recourse to the courts to stop the distribution of this book. It is rather
akin to saying: you can invite whomever you like to your party, but if you
want to see me there, then make sure that you dont invite Mr X. I won't be
in the same room with him; you choose whom you would like to see present.

Cordially, Jonathan Silk

On Wed, May 21, 2014 at 7:53 AM, Paolo Magnone <paolo.magnone at unicatt.it>wrote:

>  Dear list,
> I resisted being dragged into this discussion, since right now I really do
> not have the time to spare. Still, lest I regret my supineness later, I
> feel I must take up my stand besides Robert, who
> has let a much needed dissenting voice be heard in a forum where, it
> seems, too many birds of a feather flock together. I second his every word,
> to which I would add a couple more of my own:
>    1. I personally do not endorse the suppression of any BOOK, whether it
>    be written by Hitler or by Satan in person. This is a very dangerous
>    attitude which has often ended up in most unwelcome consequences, from the
>    Qin great Burning of the Books, which we must thank for knowing virtually
>    nothing genuine of ancient Chinese thought, onwards. And, you know,
>    somebody’s “great Satan” may easily be different from someone else’s…
>    2. For that matter, I do not even endorse the suppression of any
>    THOUGHTS — there, I  have uttered this blasphemy! In the West, beside the
>    alien tradition of the “holier than you” attitude and the attending crusade
>    calls amply exemplified in this thread, we have another tradition, which I
>    love better, of preferring critique over censorship. Unfortunately,
>    nowadays a new cheap dogmatism of mind-benumbing shibboleths like
>    democracy, freedom (whatever it may mean in the present context) with its
>    appendage, freemarket (which is the real aim of it all) etc. is taking over
>    the older church dogmatism in an appalling fashion.
>    3. What MLBD chooses to publish, and their motives for publishing it,
>    is none of our business. Western publishers are known for promoting
>    whatever will bring money, irrespective of its worth. Even “indological”
>    essays have been published by prestigious Western publishers whose main
>    thrust (as can be gathered from their titles) lies in titillating the
>    layman’s base instincts (I will not enter into which (essays) I regard as
>    such).
>    4. On a lighter note, the whole affair reminds me of the petty clerk
>    tyrannized by his boss who takes out his frustraton on his wife and
>    children. Sanksrit chairs are closed down all over the place,  university
>    courses are managed by ignorant administratives like productive units of a
>    company without scholars ever having a say, corporate companies are taking
>    upon themselves to decide what is worth studying and what is not, but what
>    we do to prove our weight and influence is call to account a FREE Indian
>    publishing house for their publishing policy!
> Sorry if anyone should feel offended by my remarks, but, as they say,
> *amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas. *With best wishes,
> Paolo Magnone
> Sanskrit Language and Literature
> Catholic University of the Sacred Heart - Milan
> Study of Religions III (Hinduism) & IV (Buddhism)
> Theological Faculty of Northern Italy - Milan
> Jambudvipa  - Indology and Sanskrit Studies (www.jambudvipa.net)
>  On 21/05/2014 14:55, Robert Zydenbos wrote:
> Dear Dominik (whom I owe more than you probably will ever know),
> Dominik Wujastyk wrote:
>  Robert, I do not agree with most of your points.
>  That is no surprise. :-) However, I would like to point out a few
> relevant matters that have gone unnoticed. You may actually decide to
> alter the wording of your petition, if you wish to go through with that.
> Below I will give some more thoughts about what is happening here (see
> esp. “Joachim Fest” below), based on information which anybody can read.
> But first a few clarifications:
>  It has been said by me and others that the central argument here is
> that MLBD as an Indological publisher owned by Jains has no good
> justification for publishing /Mein Kampf/. MK is not an Indological
> work (and indology is MLBD's main business identity) and it is a
> work that promotes cruelty (MLBD is owned by a pious Jain family).
>  Has anybody made the effort to look closely at the MLBD Website http://www.mlbd.com ? Please go there. Then look not at the right edge,
> but the left edge of the screen. What I see is a list that says
> “Administration, Current Events, Fashion, Cooking, Medical,...”
> Evidently, as booksellers, they already sell anything that is printed.
> I do not think it appropriate that we label an independent Indian
> publishing house an “Indological publisher” and then pretend that we
> overseas Indologists can decide what they should publish (e.g., whether
> they should limit themselves to Indological publications or not). Like
> it or not, they have already diversified.
> Also, let us leave it to the Jainas (at times, throughout their long
> history, a persecuted minority, whose traditions I have studied for 38
> years) to know how to survive in a pluralistic Indian society with their
> values intact. To turn the Jainas into a caricature (through a
> simplistic formula "Jainism = ahiṃsā, therefore we will not allow them
> to even remotely deal with anything violent in world history") is, in my
> honest opinion, patronizing and not at all appropriate either.
>  The internal controversy precisely shows how uncomfortable the
> Bavarian govt. is about publishing this work, even the crit. ed.
>  It rather shows that the present government is dodgy and lets itself be
> swayed this way and that by lobbies. I have already given links to the
> relevant information, incl. the reaction of the leftist (yes! the Greens
> and the SPD) opposition in parliament.
>  As we also know, other signs of Nazism are criminal offences in
> Germany (SS runes, Hakenkreuz, salutes, slogans, holocaust denial
> aimed at incitement, etc.; /Strafgezetzbuch/ para 86a, apparently).
>  This is not relevant here. Possession of the book, also in Germany, is
> not punishable. In India, with its own laws, the book can be freely sold
> (like in the USA, for instance).
>  Consistency: you exactly invert the truth. If the Indian Penal Code
> can be used to prevent the publication of relatively harmless
> academic books, then let it also be used for its original purpose, to
> prevent the publication of genuine hate literature. Let the law of
> the land be used to do some good.
>  To clarify: I wrote about consistency in the stance of the overseas
> academic community, not about an impossible consistency spanning several
> Indian publishers and diverse sections of the Indian populace.
> I am not aware that, in this case, that Indian law has been invoked in
> India by any person who has felt aggrieved. The continued existence of
> other editions of Mein Kampf since decades sufficiently shows that this
> is so.
>  Effectiveness: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is
> for good men to do nothing." -- Edmund Burke
>  That is a nice quote, even if it is apocryphal
> (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_Burke#Good_men_do_nothing).
> I am concerned about the condescending, really very eurocentric
> displays of emotionalism in this thread which are unlikely to generate
> any real understanding in India, but resentment instead. (I remember a
> soft-mannered Indian diplomat (!) here in Munich who once innocently
> asked me: “Why is everybody here so upset by the use of a good word like
> ‘Aryan’?”)
>  [...] when I have conversations with friends in India about the
> European experiences during the two World Wars, they are often
> horrified and had no idea beforehand about the Holocaust and other
> facts.
> Superfluousness: Yes the book is not on the front page of MLBD's
> website today. But they are apparently still selling Mein Kampf,
> together with a DVD of a film.
>  Please, Dominik... stay cool, have a good look and read the text
> (http://www.mlbd.com/BookDecription.aspx?id=14737). That film is a
> documentary by Joachim Fest, Germany's best-known historian for the
> Nazi period (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joachim_Fest – I love the
> last sentence in that article).
> The film: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitler_%E2%80%93_Eine_Karriere
> That film is just the sort of thing which we WANT to see distributed
> anywhere, also in India.
> The idea of packaging the film by Fest with that book is excellent. It
> is a way of saying ‘here is that book that everybody is reading –
> together with a serious explanation of just what it is.’
>  It seems that they have changed the edition that they are selling, or
> at least the covers illustration. I am not yet sure about the meaning
> of this change.
>  Offering the award-winning Fest film suggests that the meaning is to
> seriously inform the public.
> My conclusion, for the time being, is that MLBD may be doing something
> brilliant: jumping onto the bandwagon and at the same time diverting the
> course of that bandwagon. It is constructive engagement. Why should
> anyone want to stop that?
>  "Discriminatory"? How? Because we haven't written to every
> publisher?
>  I will tell you how. My use of the word “discriminatory” was meant as a
> short recapitulation of what I wrote earlier in that same posting of
> mine: “What effectively is being said is ‘Americans and Israelis should
> read the book, but it is too dangerous for you foolish Indians to have
> it’.” And I believe it is VERY bad for Indologists (of all people!) to
> create such an impression.
> The way things stand now, it almost seems that you are rebuking MLBD
> because they want to distribute a genuinely informative film along with
> the book (which booksellers and publishers like Amazon, Jaico a.o. do
> not do).
>  "Not Indological?" Well, that's point, isn't it? Why should an
> Indological publisher promote Mein Kampf?
>  Please forget about MLBD being an “Indological publisher” (see above).
> It is not a valid argument.
> Furthermore, one can hardly call it ‘promoting’ when MK is bundled with
> the Fest documentary.
>  Or do you mean that we shouldn't discuss this issue because it isn't
> Indological?
>  I am discussing it! But a serious Indologist who deals also with
> contemporary India and its more recent cultural history and living
> culture must also take into consideration “the complex dynamics of
> Indian democracy today”, as Ram-Prasad Chakravarthi rightly mentioned.
>  "Publicitywise counter-productive"? We don't yet know, do we? MLBD
> has removed the advertisement from their website's front page
> already, within 24 hours.
>  (Without your petition, mind you. Think about that.)
> I am thinking of possible headlines like: “Arrogant Western
> ‘Indologists’ tell Indians to read Doniger's blasphemous, perverted
> fantasies, want to forbid Indians to read embarrassing historical text
> from the West”, or “Forget real history, Indians! Go for Wendy's sick
> dreams”.
>  You want MLBD to sell Mein Kampf?
>  I would also like people to stop selling cigarettes, pornography, and a
> few other things. (I believe cigarettes kill more people than Mein Kampf
> does.)
> Selling MK together with the Fest film? Not a bad idea, as I have
> explained above.
> And I would like to repeat my question: has anybody seen this MLBD
> edition? (No, of course not.) Does it have (like the translation which I
> have) an explanatory preface that says people have a right to see this
> classical text about a criminal mentality, so that they can recognize it
> when it crops up again? And how many of us have seen that DVD with the
> Fest film?
> If any reader here wishes to join the petition, thinking that this will
> give him / her a nice, warm feeling, then of course I cannot stop them.
> Nor can I prevent any smug, ill-informed, knee-jerk politically correct,
> patronizing, see-how-good-I-am statements from being made. But in view
> of everything that I have said here and in my previous posting, let it
> be understood that I cannot join.
> I also thank those list members who, unwilling to jump into the
> emotionalized fray for a variety of reasons, have written words of
> appreciation to me off-list.
> Sincerely,
> Robert
> P.S. Before anyone thinks up cute ideas: I am not a German (I just work
> here in Munich). The study of contemporary India is part of my
> professional duty. I have no Nazis among my relatives, but I do have
> Jews among them, also in my ancestry. I too lost relatives in WW2 whom I
> never met. And nobody is paying me to write these postings.
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J. Silk
Instituut Kern / Universiteit Leiden
Leiden University Institute for Area Studies, LIAS
Johan Huizinga Building, Room 1.37
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
The Netherlands

copies of my publications may be found at

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