[INDOLOGY] Supporting each other in public

Koenraad Elst koenraad.elst at gmail.com
Sat Jun 29 16:16:30 UTC 2019

Dear Dominik,

Thanks for being so openly partisan and yet not even threatening to
exclude me, let alone simply censor me. In a better world this ought
to be a matter of course rather than a reason for thanks, but is has
become so rare that it deserves special mention.

Your point is well taken: make expressions of kindness, human
fellow-feeling etc. public. Only, I have received several messages of
support off-list from members who insist on keeping them off-list.
They claim to have reasons to believe that their social standing and
career chances would suffer otherwise. No use telling them that Good
Guys would never countenance such an intolerant scenario. Public
expressions of support must be an SJW privilege.

As for your notion of "majority", in India so problematic but on this
list a source of warm feelings of kindness etc., I dare say from
experience that it is not very consequential. In 1990 when I was
hatefully attacked by big experts at the Ramayana Conference in my
hometown Leuven, only for my politely formulated viewpoint that there
had indeed been a temple at the contentious site in Ayodhya, those who
expressed sympathy with me (in private) were in a minority. Yet, the
big experts were resoundingly wrong while I went on to being proven
right: as the 2003 excavations superfluously proved once more, of
course there had been a temple there. And when the UP High Court
acknowledged as much in autumn 2010, at the next AAA annual conference
I was actually congratulated by two American professors. That felt
quite good. The price for staying within the safe and warm majority is
that you'll never get to feel this.

When Copernicus launched the heliocentric worldview, he was in a
minority of one. Overnight, his theory made all the works containing
references to the geocentric framework obsolete, and their authors
resented him. The support he enjoyed was sparse, the opposition
abundant; but none of that mattered to the next generation, that found
he had been right. And today, the "majority" opinion of those days is
only a historical curiosity. So, enjoy your majority while it lasts.

Now I don't want to compare myself to Copernicus, if only because his
insight was highly original whereas I only restated what had been a
matter of consensus until a few years earlier. As was clear in a trial
ca. 1885, all parties concerned agreed that a temple had forcibly been
replaced with a mosque, though the local Muslims and the British judge
in his verdict thought that no remedy for that should be tried at this
late hour.  That could have remained the position of the anti-temple
camp. Alas, the "eminent historians" in the late 1980s started
pleading that the temple had never existed and was only a "Hindutva
concoction". They never gave evidence for this break with the
consensus, but the Congress politicians felt intimidated enough to
abandon their earlier attempts for a peaceful settlement giving the
site to the Hindus, leaving the issue to the BJP. More important for
this forum, and far stranger, is that most Western experts started
speaking out against the existence of the temple at the mere say-so of
their "eminent" colleagues. A Dutch scholar who had in tempore non
suspecto adduced more indications for the temple in his own research,
and got retro-actively attacked for this (what had suddenly become a)
deviation from the party-line, even hurried to fall in line and
condemn the temple tradition. But years later, when called to the
witness stand at the UP High Court to present the fabled evidence that
had somehow swayed politicians and Indologists alike, the eminent
historians imploded one after another, an embarrassing coda on which
the lid has carefully been kept (except in

Even more strangely, many supposedly dispassionate scholars got quite
emotionally involved in this borrowed anti-temple position. This
partly followed from their prior assumption that the pro-temple party
(though containing Congress politicians like Gulzarilal Nanda, Buta
Singh and PM Rajiv Gandhi, who merely wanted a reasonable solution,
see https://www.academia.edu/14614579/The_Three_Ayodhya_Debates) were
the bad guys, and how could these ever be right? There is nothing
wrong with hate if it is against the bad guys, right? So, many of the
attacks I underwent in those days had a particularly self-righteous
and mean quality. Better to be wrong with the eminences than to be
right with the allegedly Hindutva crowd.

But that was then and this is now. I trust we have learned from
episodes like that one. Hence, no doubt, the practice of real
toleration in free speech on this forum.

Kind regards,

Koenraad Elst

On Sat, Jun 29, 2019 at 4:58 AM Dominik Wujastyk via INDOLOGY
<indology at list.indology.info> wrote:
> Dear colleagues,
> When these discussions arise that have a political dimension, and you feel moved to write to one of the good guys with a message of support, please think about sending it publicly.  Messages of support are a very good thing, public or private.  Anything is better than nothing.  But sending such a message publicly can greatly magnify the effectiveness of the support for the individual.  It also sends a message to everyone, on this list and beyond, that there is a ground-swell of kindness, of human fellow-feeling, positivity and watchfulness amongst the majority of our community.  We care about each other and will support each other when attacked.
> Best wishes,
> Dominik
> --
> Professor Dominik Wujastyk,
> Singhmar Chair in Classical Indian Society and Polity,
> Department of History and Classics,
> University of Alberta, Canada.
> South Asia at the U of A: sas.ualberta.ca
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