Koenraad Elst koenraad.elst at gmail.com
Fri Jun 28 03:17:13 UTC 2019

Dear Prof. Sauthoff & listfolk,

Interesting: "Rather than continue this conversation with politically
charged attacks (...) I would like to" engage in politically charged
attacks on an unnamed "founding board member of AAIS".

That's a very convenient kind of attack, for there is no way of
countering this attack. Look, I don't know this man, nor the whole
board of this AAIS, I don't know how white their souls are, and that
is not the point. Anyone has a right to be heard, and when I see the
names of august Indologists  like Arvind Sharma or Jefferey Long, I
very much doubt the judgment of those who clamour for banning an AAIS
announcement. Even if this allegation were true, it would be no worse
than any of the times that I myself have been the target of "efforts
to shut down academic freedom and integrity", and that consistently
failed to make me call for censorship or a form of repression against
them, or "deplatforming" as it is now called. There is no reason for
banning or stonewalling this AAIS just as there never was any reason
for me to demand anything similar against dissenters, not even the
despotic secularists & socialists who had gone out of their way to
smother my own voice.

The answer to a bad conference is a better conference. In 2014, I was
among those participants of the European Conference of South Asian
Studies in Zürich who signed a petition for freedom of expression
piloted by, I believe, Laurie Patton and our own Dominik Wujastyk, and
spefically against India's pro-censorship and anti-hate-speech law IPC
295A, on the occasion of a censorship-oriented Hindutva (in this case
it is correct to call it that, Dinanath Batra being an RSS man) move
against Wendy Doniger's  'Alternative History of the Hindus' (see
I whole-heartedly support freedom of expression, just as much for my
adversaries as for my friends. (This attitude is rarely reciprocated,
e.g. at that same conference, my own contribution was at the very last
moment censored from the congress proceedings of my panel.) If you
don't like a book, the only good answer is a better book, i.c. Vishal
Agarwal's counter-book detailing the numerous errors in Doniger's
unjustly famous book.

It amused me to see how a number of people whom I had gotten to know
for their active or passive attempts to get me banned from other
forums, e.g. from the RISA-list (successfully, though in violation of
the list charter); now suddenly stood up for freedom, as this time it
was one of their own who was targeted. But it amused me even more that
all these anti-Hindutva heroes were standing up to a law that had now
been used by the Hindutva crowd, but that was actually (not just
enacted in order to protect Islam from Hindu criticism, but esp.) a
model for the "hate speech" codes that are now terrorizing academe in
the West, and that I knew many of them were supporting. Indeed, Art.
295A IPC was a model hate speech law, and its British colonial
motivation is well worth remembering when surveying the clamour
against "hate speech" today. The Brits justified it by saying that
unlike themselves, the natives were not mature enough to deal with
criticism without going overboard. "Hate speech" laws are despotic by
nature. Decolonization implies abolishing them. Call me an

So, we have no need of being protected against this AAIS conference,
much less against the very mention of it. It represents one viewpoint,
and adherents of another viewpoint are welcome to express their own,
indeed they are already doing so. And to engage with the AAIS people
in order to make them see the supposed error of their ways. Indeed,
knowing those Hindu diaspora circles rather well, I make bold I can
get you, Patricia, invited to the conference and given time & the mike
to explain to them that they are wrong. They call that the Purva
Paksha, the counter-viewpoint, an integral part of the formation of
their own opinion.
In fact, reading on, I notice that you have had a similar idea yourself:

> I have invited that same board member to my talks at several conferences, they have not come to my talks or responded in any way.<

OK, I take it upon myself to make communication between this AAIS
fellow and yourself possible. You can contact me off-list on
koenraad.elst at gmail.com. I greatly appreciate your willingness to talk
it out, as contrasting with the SJW decision that condescending to any
communication with "Hindutva" ogres is useless.

> One of the founding board members of AAIS is also on the board of Nalanda University in Bihar, India. I taught at Nalanda several years ago, helping to found the School of Buddhist Studies, Philosophy, and Comparative Religion. (…) After my contract was not renewed and I was given no reason, I had to argue with the university about my final pay (which I have never received).<

The Nalanda university was (re-) founded by a number of Leftist
intellectuals, with as poster boy the Nobel winner Amartya Sen. Its
selection of foreign professors was as partisan as what was to happen
under the BJP a few years later. But in a shameless show of
Congressite corruption, Nalanda was mismanaged so badly that it
accepted a take-over by the State. But then the BJP came to power,....

So you were not paid. Well, that sounds familiar. Last December, a
number of list members including myself participated in a conference
in Sanchi University (founded as the BJP's answer to Nalanda). We had
been promised a reimbursement but then the BJP government was ousted
by Congress in state elections, so we got a new Education minister, a
new VC, and since then, no reimbursement. We have no direct
information, but the Indian media have reported that corrupt
Congressites had immediately started making up for the hungry years in
the opposition. Oh, and the University Board had also okayed my on
nomination as Visiting Professor; but that too has come to naught
since this political change. So, I am sorry for your loss, but I also
know from experience (and not just the incident related) that, well,
deplatforming happens, broken promises happen, plain stealing happens,
even regardless of ideology.

>  I woke up to an email from a journalist asking me if I had any response to Ram Madhav's tweet about my course.<

My God, we must be twin souls. Me too, I had a clash with Ram Madhav.
After having been deplatformed many times by the Left, it was this
Hindutva bigwig's turn to deplatform me. (He is the main addressee of
this open letter about the incident:

> I will also note that this board member joined the Nalanda board after an RSS-linked administration was put into place.<

>From your info, I still can't know whom you mean. The blockhead
behaviour  you describe certainly indicates an RSS inspiration, though
my point remains valid: the current that prefers the term "Indic" as a
middling term between "Indian" and "Hindu" tries to mark itself off
against the RSS. But the RSS, like the Trotskyites of yore or the SJWs
today, persistently pursue an entryist policy.

But thanks anyway for your testimony. I have seen the developments in
the Indian Council of Historical Research at close quarters, including
the impact of the BJP's rise to power. It was, as usual, a far cry
from what the supposed experts and India-watchers claim. Thus, Kapil
Kapoor & Michel Danino's excellent textbook about Indian knowledge
systems and India's contributions to the sciences, which should have
been a favourite of all Hindu-minded people, had been launched under
Congress but fell into disuse under the BJP. Far from packing the
field with pro-Hindu scholars, the RSS idea of dominating an
institution was to use this occasion (normally seized upon for
nominating dynamic people ready to change the game) only to reward
incompetent gerontocrats with plum sinecure posts and not change
anything. So you say that in Nalanda they did affirm their ideology;
maybe, but so far not higher than at Twitter level.

> That board member certainly did not speak up for academic integrity at that or any other point. I am offended that an organization would publish a conference listing on this list of international scholars when one of its own board members remained silent (and in my mind complicit) with these threats. I am disheartened that not a single member of their board, full of esteemed academics, did not at least speak out against the violent threats made toward me. I am angry that not one of them spoke up for academic freedom.<

As a habitual receiver of threats since 30 years, I certainly don't
approve of threats. But ever since I got  scared somewhat by a
Khalistani threat back then, I have learned that they are not truly
scary. Cheer up, those who are serious about harming you are not the
ones who first send a warning to you with threats. Twitter is just
words. Nevertheless, those esteemed academics should have supported
you, indeed. But again, it is not only in your case that they abandon
the victims. When terrorists attacked (not just threatened but
actually attacked) a Mo cartoon event by Pamela Geller and Robert
Spencer in Texas, both presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and
Donald Trump refused to sympathize without ifs or buts. After the
Danish cartoon affair, the AAA at its subsequent annual conference
held a panel on it, where all six panelists and the moderator just
couldn't get it across their lips to simply support the cartoonists.
All of them started out to this effect: "I am all for freedom of
expression, BUT..." All of them ended up blaming the victim, though
some avoided becoming too explicit about that. So, Patricia, join the

>There is your clear link between AAIS and Hindutva..<

Clear?! Well, no, I don't see any big Hindutva name on that website, I
really wonder whom you mean. Names of moderate figures like Arvind
Sharma or Jeffrey Long suggest something else. Then again, they have
indeed begged for comprehension of the Hindu position once in a while,
and for most India-watchers, that would immediately stamp them
"Hindutva". Here, the India-watchers (and within India, the so-called
secularists) and the RSS make common cause: they both claim that
anyone defending anything Hindu is "an RSS man". In reality, there is
a whole array of non-Sanghi yet pro-Hindu voices arising, and the
"Indic" current (led by Hari Kiran Vadlamani) is one of them.

There is a slogan nowadays: "Hindus against Hindutva". It has been
launched by anti-Hindu forces, and with "Hindutva" is meant any
defence of anything Hindu. They want the freedom to attack Hinduism
left and right, and any defence against those attacks is a nuisance
that we should be "against". But let us take them at their word: they
have at least correctly distinguished between Hinduism and Hindutva.
But let's see in practice how long they can keep this up. For my
experience over the last 30 years is that the least sign of life in
Hinduism, of not succumbing to suicidal behaviour, is at once
demonized as "Hindutva".

The psychology behind this, is that they like Hinduism alright, as
long as it is only "museum Hinduism". This goes back to the Christian
Missionaries, who mostly had a genuine sympathy for much of the
culture they had come to destroy (by replacement with Christianity),
e.g. by writing descriptions of these dying cultures (e.g. the Edda,
or de Sahagun's writings on the Amerindian culture). Today, things
like Bharat Natyam or Carnatic music are still tolerated, they give
some colour to life. But when Hinduism resists being phased out, it
immediately gets criminalized as "Hindutva". This very colonial
attitude of accepting the Other only when he gives no sign of life
anymore, is like visiting a museum where everything is passive and
dead; but then suddenly, Tut-Ankh-Amon's mummy starts to move his arm,
and then even to raise his voice. Oh, that is not so nice anymore,
that is -- dare I say it? -- "Hindutva". In such a scary moment,
people don't think rationally anymore, so all distinctions disappear,
it all just becomes "Hindutva".

All the best,

Dr. Koenraad Elst

> On Wed, Jun 26, 2019 at 5:28 AM Koenraad Elst via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info> wrote:
>> 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
>> (https://koenraadelst.blogspot.com/2011/08/hindu-activism-outside-sangh.html),
>> 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.
>> https://www.academia.edu/14688786/The_lost_honour_of_India_Studies).
>> 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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