[INDOLOGY] Malhotra and plagiarism

koenraad.elst at telenet.be koenraad.elst at telenet.be
Wed Jul 22 21:06:04 UTC 2015

Dear listfolk, 

>No one has asked for a ban. The demand has been for a public acknowledgement, apology, and withdrawal of his plagiarized books from the market.< 
That is exactly what Dina Nath Batra's supporters said and still say. Among Malhotra's fan base too, they are fairly well represented, so I have pointed out to them that their anti-free-speech position back then is now coming back to haunt them, and that it makes their present petition "for freedom of speech" sound hollow. So in response they insist that the Doniger controversy was "not a free speech issue", that "free speech does not mean the right to insult" and that there was "no ban", only an agreement with the publisher for "withdrawing" the book. Laughably transparent in their case, and in this case too. 
"His plagiarized books"? His published work now amounts to a few thousand pages, and in these, only a handful of sentences have been found to be plagiarized. To be sure, that should not have happened, but the ample reference to Nicholson precludes any plagiarist's attempt to "steal" the honour from Nicholson. Malhotra was just a bit thoughtless/lazy when he was developing a position, based on many Indian and a few Western writers that had already been formulated by Nicholson. Of course he now brings out a corrected version of the offending book, and that should be enough. 
It is nonetheless quite a sight to see so many (well, not that many) scholars get so worked up about a formal fault in a book which they never cared to acknowledge contentswise. Malhotra's work contains some big and entirely original ideas (the U-turn, invading the Sacred, the importance of Purva Paksha etc., in case you ever heard of those) which are pertinent to Indology and which professionals of this field ought to have dealt with. Still you manage to ignore his ideas, but when an allegation against his person is uttered, then suddenly you mobilize and express yourselves about his person in rather less than academic terms. 
So, some egg may have landed on Malhotra's face, but the scholarly community has not earned any glory from this affair either. 
Kind regards, 
Koenraad Elst  

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