[INDOLOGY] New article on Sanskrit

Ananya Vajpeyi vajpeyi at csds.in
Fri Sep 16 07:20:13 UTC 2016

Dear Professor Karp,

The question of "resistance" arises in a a given political context, which
those of us who live and work in India, and happen to care about Sanskrit,
whether for cultural, scholarly, religious, educational or other reasons,
experience here on a daily basis for the past 2-3 years, but especially
since May 2014.

In this environment, as I am sure you must know from news of current
affairs in this country, everything, from the most innocuous name of a
street or square that no one had paid attention to for decades, to
prestigious national institutions of higher learning; from what people eat
to what people wear; from founding fathers to government holidays; from
textbooks to novels and policy reports to poetry -- every single aspect of
civic life is aggressively being appropriated and painted with a saffron
brush by the ruling dispensation. Minorities have never been so vulnerable
at any time since Partition and Independence, nor has media discourse been
so muted and stifled. (This reportedly happened during the Emergency in the
mid-1970s as well -- but at least then, it was a properly declared period
of emergency, and people were aware that the rule of law had been suspended
in favour of a state of exception).

It is in this very particular and increasingly suffocating situation that
Sanskrit too, has become yet another weapon in the armoury of the Hindu
Right, which it selectively "promotes" (or rather, deploys) -- not because
of love of the language or a genuine understanding of its historical
significance and its wealth of knowledge -- but in order to further a
majoritarian and communal agenda. Scholars and intellectuals -- like others
in public life -- have to resist this climate of intimidation and
censorship, not because they may or may not have this or that linguistic
preference or pedagogical skill, but because Sanskrit is now much more than
an ancient, classical, dead or living language. It's part of everything
that has to be fought over to protect the diversity and inclusiveness of
India, its secular state and its egalitarian Constitution. This is a
difficult proposition when it happens to be a democratic mandate that has
installed a Hindu nationalist party in the Centre, with a majority vote.

My point was that as Indologists, philologists, historians and educators,
we cannot allow the architecture of the Hindu Rashtra to rest on a
scaffolding of Sanskrit. In failing to be aware of the flaws and
contradictions within the complex history of this rich language, in curbing
our criticisms of the way it is implicated in caste ideologies and social
inequality, and in abandoning its pedagogy and cultivation to inept if not
malign government bodies, we are remiss in our responsibility towards the
very thing we claim to love the most.

With best regards,

Ananya Vajpeyi.

On Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 11:15 AM, Artur Karp <karp at uw.edu.pl> wrote:

> > academics need to step out of the ivory tower and resist the
> government’s manipulation of this ancient language
> Dear Ananya,
> Why should they *step out* and *resist*? Whatever the government's
> efforts, people aren't going to start speaking/writing Sanskrit.
> Do you suspect that replacing some - yes, Islamic and Christian
> (Arabic/Persian and English) - parts of Modern Indian Languages
> vocabularies with their - yes, Hindu (Sanskrit) equivalents could create
> communal tension?
> Look at European Languages and the role of Latin/Greek lexemes in their
> development, especially late XIXth century. In the case of my language
> (Polish) many German(ic) lexemes were being then systematically replaced
> with their Latin equivalents. And new Latin/Greek lexemes introduced - to
> describe, by one word, new philosophical, scientific, technological,
> political concepts.
> Yes, there were some people who tried to resist this trend and kind of
> re-introduce (largely artificially created) Old-Slavic lexemes. Yes - but
> their efforts were soon forgotten.
> Regards,
> Artur Karp (ret.)
> University of Warsaw
> Poland
> --

*Ananya Vajpeyi *
*Centre for the Study of Developing Societies*
*29 Rajpur Road, Civil Lines*
*New Delhi 110054*
*e: vajpeyi at csds.in <vajpeyi at csds.in>*
*ext: 229*

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