[INDOLOGY] Against the petition against Prof. Pollock

Tyler Williams tylerwwilliams at gmail.com
Thu Mar 3 06:00:27 UTC 2016

Dear colleagues,

I must apologize in advance-- I would like to keep the discussion on a
positive note, and concisely explore ways that we can continue to work
together to not only protect intellectual freedoms but also to make the
public more aware of the good work being done by Indian and non-Indian
Indologists (many of you are already doing this important work that helps
to avoid the kind of under-informed positions that are gaining currency).
I also greatly appreciate the insights shared by Dominik, Ananya, Matthew,
Anandavardhanan, Andrew and numerous others.

Yet I find the suggestion that "The full judgement of Pratibha Rani should
likewise be read by all those who signed the solidarity statement on JNU"
because "they can learn a lesson or two from it," a bit troubling.  I agree
that we should all read the statement-- it is a clear marker of how
imperiled free speech and intellectual freedom at Indian universities are
at the present moment.  However, the suggestion that scholars like Sheldon
Pollock, myself, and many of you who signed the petition in support of JNU
should 'learn' from Justice Rani's statement is deeply troubling.  Among
the many problematic things Justice Rani has written, the following stand

1. "The thoughts reflected in the slogans raised by some of the students of
JNU who organized and participated in that programme cannot be claimed to
be protected as fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. I
consider this as a kind of infection from which such students are suffering
which needs to be controlled/cured before it becomes an epidemic."  Neither
does the Justice Rani specify exactly or convincingly what is
'anti-national' in the students' thought and speech, nor does she explain
why it is anti-national.

2. "Suffice it to note that such persons enjoy the freedom to raise such
slogans in the comfort of University Campus but without realising that they
are in this safe environment because our forces are there at the battle
field situated at the highest altitude of the world where even the oxygen
is so scarce that those who are shouting anti-national slogans holding
posters of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhatt close to their chest honoring their
martyrdom, may not be even able to withstand those conditions for an hour
even." This bizarrely-worded argument referencing Siachen glacier suggests
that the exercise of military power ensures democracy, *not the actual
exercise of democratic rights like the right to free speech.*

3. "Whenever some infection is spread in a limb, effort is made to cure the
same by giving antibiotics orally and if that does not work, by following
second line of treatment. Sometimes it may require surgical intervention
also. However, if the infection results in infecting the limb to the extent
that it becomes gangrene, amputation is the only treatment." This reference
to the aforementioned 'epidemic' is a clear and chilling threat made to
those who dare to question the government, echoing the language of fascist
regimes and pogrom logic.

4. Justice Rani states that she grants bail to the jailed president of the
JNU Students Union on the condition that "as President of JNU Students
Union, he will make all efforts within his power to control anti-national
activities in the campus" and elsewhere suggests that JNU faculty and
administrators should curb anti-national thought on campus.  This amounts
to nothing less than an order to police thought on the university campus
and a threat that failure to do so will result in the cancelation of bail.

Since this email is already lengthy, I will simply invite colleagues to
read the document, but do wish to register my serious concern that this
appears to be a step backward, not forward, in securing intellectual and
political freedoms in the academy.  Let's please keep the conversation
positive and moving forward, but we should also not let it go unremarked
when it is suggested that we who have the temerity to speak up for academic
freedom should 'learn from' repressive and totalitarian thought.


Tyler Williams
Assistant Professor
University of Chicago

On Wed, Mar 2, 2016 at 9:40 PM, Nityanand Misra <nmisra at gmail.com> wrote:

> Dear list members
> Late last night, Mr. Rohan Murty stated to the Economic Times that Prof.
> Sheldon Pollock will stay on the board of MCLI for “many years to come”.[1]
> With this, the short-lived controversy is over and the chapter is closed,
> and it is time for everybody to move on. While I do not personally agree
> with one statement of Mr. Murty ("there aren't more scholars in India
> capable of carrying out such translations from ancient literature"), I
> respect his decision and am nobody to question it. Mr. Murty's comments
> should be read by all petitioners, they can learn a lesson or two from
> them.
> Concidentally, yesterday evening Justice Pratibha Rani granted a six-month
> interim bail to JNU student Kanhaiya Kumar with some conditions (he will
> not participate actively or passively in ... and make all efforts within
> his power to control ... anti-national activities).[2] The full judgement
> of Pratibha Rani should likewise be read by all those who signed the
> solidarity statement on JNU, they can learn a lesson or two from it.
> [1] Divya Shekhar and Indulekha Aravind (March 3 2016), Rohan Murty says
> American Indologist Sheldon Pollock to stay, Economic Times, URL:
> http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/51231553.cms
> [2] Justice Praibha Rani (March 2 2016), Kanhaiya Kumar versus the State
> of NCT of Delhi, Delhi High Coury, URL:
> http://lobis.nic.in/ddir/dhc/PRA/judgement/02-03-2016/PRA02032016CRLW5582016.pdf
> On Mar 1, 2016 2:04 PM, "Caren Dreyer" <mail at caren-dreyer.de> wrote:
>> Dear all, isnt it time for an alphabetical blacklist to be regularly
>> updated in order not to invite the wrong persons financed by public funds
>> caren dreyer
>> Sent from my phone.
>> On 01 Mar 2016, at 13:31, Walter Slaje <slaje at kabelmail.de> wrote:
>> ​ ​
>> Dear List,
>>> it might be of some relevance to the community of Indologists that among
>>> the prominent signatories of the Pollock removal petition Prof. V.
>>> Kutumba Sastry ranks fifth on top of the list:
>>> https://www.change.org/p/mr-n-r-narayana-murthy-and-mr-rohan-narayan-murty-removal-of-prof-sheldon-pollock-as-mentor-and-chief-editor-of-murty-classical-library
>>> That Prof. Kutumba Sastry signed this petition in his capacity of the „President,
>>> International Association of Sanskrit Studies” (IASS), has meanwhile
>>> attracted the attention of also the media, who specifically single out his
>>> name and function:
>>> http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/murty-library-editor-petition-wants-us-scholar-removed-cites-jnu-remarks/
>>> http://www.huffingtonpost.in/2016/03/01/sheldon-pollock-murty-lib_n_9345928.html
>>> In terms of Indological research, it is perhaps of no little
>>> significance that the President of the IASS - a leading organization
>>> carrying “International” as part of their name and arranging the "World
>>> Sanskrit Conference" on a regular basis - publicly supports the text of the
>>> debated petition in full and demands, among others, “Make in India” ethics
>>> and “Swadeshi Indology” in contexts of research and academic publications
>>> guidelines. Trying to be “international” and “swadeshi” at the same time
>>> clearly equals a contradiction in terms.
>>> The IASS ought to state their position in this matter by clarifying if,
>>> in promoting nationalist ideas of Indological research, their president is
>>> acting on their behalf:
>>> http://www.sanskritassociation.org/board-members.php
>>> Thanks and regards,
>>> WS
>> -----------------------------
>> Prof. Dr. Walter Slaje
>> Hermann-Löns-Str. 1
>> D-99425 Weimar
>> Deutschland
>> Ego ex animi mei sententia spondeo ac polliceor
>> studia humanitatis impigro labore culturum et provecturum
>> non sordidi lucri causa nec ad vanam captandam gloriam,
>> sed quo magis veritas propagetur et lux eius, qua salus
>> humani generis continetur, clarius effulgeat.
>> Vindobonae, die XXI. mensis Novembris MCMLXXXIII. ​
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