[INDOLOGY] Hitler and MLBD

Paolo Magnone paolo.magnone at unicatt.it
Thu May 22 07:03:33 UTC 2014

Dear Prof. Silk et al.,

I understand the difference. It is fine with me, even though your explanation of

what democracy is all about, […] 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* […] then you might want to rethink what you do.

strikes me as some bit different from what I had figured out... but it is true that North Americans have a flair for boiling everything down to money :-)          (I beg your forgiveness for my impertinence).

You and others certainly may shop wherever you like. But I had something else in mind. I had in mind the oft-cited sentence wrongly attributed to Voltaire, which in spite of its apocryphal nature does indeed seem to reflect the substance of his thought:  “je ne suis pas d’accord avec ce que vous dites, mais je me battrai jusqu’à la mort pour que vous ayez le droit de le dire”. And, I may add, to me books and ideas are not the same as consumer goods or products of the entertainment industry. Ideas and books are not — should not be — “on the free market”, and to me it is an ominous sign of the perversion of the age that it should occur to someone that they be.

With best wishes,
Paolo Magnone

On 21/05/2014 18:43, Jonathan Silk wrote:
Dear Colleagues,

 I am afraid that the comments by Prof Magnone cannot go without clarification.
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<mailto: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<http://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

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

[...] 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

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

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

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

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

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.



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


Messaggio istituzionale

Ricerca, Formazione, Assistenza, Cooperazione e Sviluppo: 5 ragioni per metterci la firma.
Grazie a un gesto semplice puoi sostenere le iniziative dell’Ateneo dei cattolici italiani e del Policlinico “A. Gemelli”.
Sottoscrivi il 5 per mille a favore dell'Università Cattolica.
Info: www.unicatt.it/5permille<http://www.unicatt.it/5permille/>

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