Koenraad Elst koenraad.elst at gmail.com
Wed Jun 26 11:27:54 UTC 2019

Dear listfolk,

Seems a just-begun draft made it to my outbox. Anyway, this will make
my analysis a lot shorter and more readable.

The many Sanskritists and other ivory-tower-dwellers on this list will
not like the irruption of politics into their lofty discipline. But
like it or not, Indology just happens to be far more politicized than
e.g. Sinology. So I for one don't mind accepting Tyler Williams'
apologies for troubling us with the politics of it all. And he in turn
shouldn't mind comments on his position, by Nagaraj and now by me,
especially since he chooses to burden this list with an in-your-face
allegation against a fellow list member.

>With all due respect to the colleague who posted this announcement, I must express serious misgivings about the nature of the proposed "conference," so serious that I am uncomfortable with the Indology listserve being used to promote this event.<

He surely hasn't missed his entrée. Right away, he leaves us in no
doubt about where he stands. It is customary for a certain ideological
school, the self-styled SJWs, to deny its adversaries legitimacy for
not only the contents but even for the definitional status of their
"publications". As a marked "scholar" with a "PhD" who writes "books"
and "papers", I recognize from afar the political implications of the
expression "conference". As if it were anything else than a
conference. And I don't get disappointed, for the next part of the
opening sentence already is a request for deplatforming his chosen
adversary, -- deplatforming being the absolute favourite in very that
school's armoury. That just begs to be "problematized".

>There is no delicate way to put it: the AAIS is a Hindutva ideological project with specious intellectual foundations that is not only hostile to the disciplines and work of many of the scholars on this list but that also aligns itself with a politics that encourages harassment and even violence against our colleagues in India.<

"Even violence"? My oh my, what have we got here on this list?
Lavanya, is that you?

But I do know of a target of Leftist violence, viz. Vivek Agnihotri,
the coiner of the term "Urban Naxal", to which Williams objects. It is
a verifiable fact that several Leftist public figures, from Sanjay
Dutt on down, have physically made common cause with terrorists; and
that hundreds have verbally supported terrorists. Personally I think
that that is allowed, you could e.g. give reasoned arguments for
Kashmiri separatism all while this cause is equally defended with
terror by others. But to oppose it is equally permitted, and it seems
Hindus are no longer taking it lying down and have joined the battle
of discourse. As an ex-Marxist, I think the adoption of such colourful
fighting terms tends to be a crucial moment in the history of an
emancipation movement.

And "Hindutva" project? The story of this recent "Indic" movement is
precisely a concern to distance themselves from the legitimate
"Hindutva" crowd, meaning the HMS and Sangh Parivar, who swear by
"nationalism". The more successful the Parivar has become politically,
the hazier and clumsier it has become ideologically, so it is facing
several budding alternatives within Hindu politics. A first paper of
mine about this is already 8 years old
but has never made any dent in the standard narrative.

Most "experts" on the subject make a very loose, pamphlet-like use of
the term Hindutva. Yet, it has a precise definition, given by the
founder himself. A fast criterion for objectivity in reporting, and a
fortiori in scholarship, is using the terms which the people
themselves use for themselves, with any qualifiers being separate and
made recognizable as such. The context in which VD Savarkar started
the political use of this term for "Hinduness" (coined in 19th-century
Bengal in the same sense) in 1923, was nationalism, and hence the only
permissible extension of its meaning is as "Hindu nationalism",
identified with the Hindu Mahasabha and the Sangh Parivar. However,
the story of this recent "Indic" mouvance is precisely to keep a
distance from it.

I entirely agree that even with this "Indic" critique of "Western
Indology", a few things are seriously deficient. But a serious
Indologist will recognize this as one voice in an array of criticism
of Indology per se (see e.g.
In particular, the great interest Western India-watchers take in class
conflict within Hindu society, certainly comes in for a suspicion of
neo-colonialism. Exploiting inter-native conflicts was a prime
stratagem in colonization, e.g. Hernan Cortes conquered Mexico from
the Aztecs by allying with disgruntled other tribes. And indeed, the
"Breaking India" forces (such as the Christian Missionaries) extol
this conflict beyond all proportion, thus making their own project of
conquest ("rich harvest of souls" -- Pope JP II) invisible, at least
to naïve or wilfully blind observers.

Indeed, "colonialism (and its epistemological violence) were carried
out by European together with members of elite South Asian
communities",--and, if the colonialist so chose, also with other
agents, such as members of the Depressed Classes, e.g. Dr. Ambedkar
serving on the Viceroy's council. The power struggle is indeed more
complex than the native/foreign binary of the Indics, but also more
complex than the "good subalterns plus their Western sympathizers vs.
the ugly evil Brahmins" of the Indian Left and its Western sponsors
(examples on request).

Finally, I note the over-confident condemnation of the reference to
"more than 5000 years of a continuous civilization" as an
"anti-historical assertion". To the extent that this hints at the
Aryan Invasion Theory, so dear to the hearts of the Breaking India
forces, I will comply right away with the desire of most list members
not to re-open te debate on this old saw.

Kind regards,

Dr. Koenraad Elst, neither Hindu nor nationalist

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