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Right-wing scholars petition to "protect" Indian culture from Pollock, top Sanskritist of Columbia University

Sheldon Pollock (right) with Rohan Murty 
By Our Representative
A group of right-wing intellectual-supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi are on a unique mission: They want to “protect” Indian culture from western “takeover” through a petition. And, how they want to go about doing it? By seeking the ouster top Sanskritist Sheldon Pollock as chief editor of the Murty Classical Library of India.
A private project floated by IT giant and Infosys founder NR Narayana Murty and his son Rohan Murty, his son, costing $5.2 million, the aim of the project is translate 500 volumes of traditional Indian literature into English.
Brain behind the petition is an American businessman-turned-scholar campaigning for revival of Sanskrit as the primary source of Indian culture, Rajiv Malhotra, who has called upon everyone to support what he calls the “powerful petition … to protect Sanskriti from Western takeover.”
Malhotra is known to be have been hailed by Modi for “glorifying our priceless heritage.” Floated by Prof K Ramasubramanian, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Bombay, among its biggest supporters is former chief election commssioner, N Gopalaswami, who currently heads the Union human resources development ministry’s committee on Sanskrit promotion.
Pollock is a Padma Bhushan awardee and, quite in line with Ambedkarites in India, believes the old "Brahamanical Sanskrit" is long dead, even as stressing on the revival of what he calls the "real" Sanskrit that belongs to subalterns like Dalits, tribals, women, etc., whose voices have been oppressed.
Pollock has given the name of the “Sanskrit cosmopolis” to the cultural-political order in which Sanskrit did the work of “articulating a form of political consciousness and culture, politics as ... celebration of aesthetic power.”
Well-known Mori protégé, Minhas Merchant, has accused Indian scholars in Sanskrit for failing to “translate into English the large repertoire of literature in regional Indian languages, as well as in Sanskrit, which is currently inaccessible to a wider world.”
He adds, “Indian scholars need to come up with their own translated works of ancient Indian authors going back 2,000 years and render their own interpretations of these works, some in Sanskrit, some in Pali, some in Persian. If they don’t, someone else – like Pollock – will.”
Addressed to Narayana Murthy and Rohan Murty, the petition, signed by 11,000 persons, and awaiting support of at least 15,000 persons, says that the Murty Classical Library should “deeply rooted and steeped in the intellectual traditions of India”, hence it should not be handed over to Pollock, who has “deep antipathy towards many of the ideals and values cherished and practiced in our civilization.”
Already termed a "Leftist", the petitioners, ironically, say that Pollock echoes "the views of Macaulay and Max Weber that the shastras generated in India serve no contemporary purpose except for the study of how Indians express themselves.”
Claiming that Pollock is not “politically neutral”, the petitioners say, “In recent years, Pollock has been a prominent signatory of several statements which are of a purely political nature and devoid of any academic merit; those statements have condemned various policies and actions of the Government of India.”
One of the main accusations against Pollock is, he is a “prominent signatory of two recent statements released by US academicians condemning the actions of the Jawaharlal Nehru University authorities and the Government of India against separatist groups who are calling for the independence of Kashmir, and for India’s breakup.”

Comments

anurag tiwari said…
I have two major problems with this writeup, instead of basing the "counter" on established facts of the relevant matter it is based on presumption bordering an idea to discredit the person in focus by showcasing his supposedly close links to current political establishment in India. This presumption now hints towards the (naivety) that if the person in focus had any form of government backing his works would have acquired a altogether different dimension.
It would be prudent for the protectors of free speech to have a "intellectual" discussion on the issue raised rather to personally harass and paint the person, After all that's all he wants!! I apologise for not being able to use as many quote-unquote as the writer has to color his point!
Unknown said…
I do not think author has read all the works of RM or else he would be more subjective.RM has followed Pollock from 80s and is on solid ground when giving rebuttal .All he wants is a healthy discussion but champion of free speech would rather deny him that.We have seen how shouting brigade of unruly mob in TISS behaved when faced with facts.For too long most of Indian intellectuals are colonised by westeners.If it was not for social media on net we would not have alternative view like of RM because Indian Media has been trained by westeners to toe their line and intellectually brain washed,
Anonymous said…
The article really proves the case put forth by the petition. Here is how.

"Pollock is a Padma Bhushan awardee and, quite in line with Ambedkarites in India, believes the old "Brahamanical Sanskrit" is long dead, even as stressing on the revival of what he calls the "real" Sanskrit that belongs to subalterns like Dalits, tribals, women, etc., whose voices have been oppressed. "

Pollock if he is a real "Sanskrit scholar" should be more interested in the revival of Sanskrit. But he seems to be more of a Brahmin conspiracy theorist interested in the internal conflicts of India. This is a cause for concern for people wary of subversive anti-national elements looking to inflame conflicts.
There is nothing called 'Brahmanical Sanskrit' and 'Subaltern Sanskrit'. He cannot prove these terms and so he has pulled them out of thin air. Islamic and British invasions of India did more damage to 'Dalits, tribals, women' than any Brahmin conspiracy. If Sanksrit is Brahminical why did it spread across Asia among non-India cultures and also among Buddhists ?

"Pollock has given the name of the “Sanskrit cosmopolis” to the cultural-political order in which Sanskrit did the work of “articulating a form of political consciousness and culture, politics as ... celebration of aesthetic power.” "
Again a grand claim without substantiation. Is this phenomenon unique to Sanksrit ? He is basically inverting phenomena of his native culture onto Bharat traditions and claiming to have discovered something new. Latin, English, French, German, Arabian have been dominating and destructive than Sanskrit.
Anonymous said…
Sanatana Dharama does not discriminate it only recognizes discrimination as seen in human tendencies - it advocates seeing the divinity in everything while appreciating the manifestation of that same divinity in all forms, with unique strengths and limitations. This collective is the "Viswaroopam" or Saguna Bhraman, supported on the formless Nirguna Brahman. It further emphasizes that this same construct can be applied to an individual level as well. While the individual form may be limited and unique in body, mind and intellect, the inherent saguna form is the same common sub stratum that supports all individuality. It exhorts everyone to recognize this as the key knowledge, which will guarantee permanent happiness or bliss - the "kingdom is within" is the message, not in the pursuit of impermanent worldly objects. To the shallow and shameless argument of "brachminical" control on this knowledge, let me state that it is so far from the truth - in every Shiva temple in Tamizhnadu one will find the worship of the sixty three nayanars, from different walks of life, from cobbler, to washerman, to kings, and priests. Similarly in Vasihanvaite temples one will see the 18 Alwars, all from different walks of life. The ancient Hindu rishis, saints and seers were from different backgrounds, Valmiki a tribal, Viswamitra a nobleman, sabari an adivasi, Veda Vyasa who was born to a fisherwoman, the list goes on. It is a shame that such evolved culture and understanding is reduced to such ridicule and ribald vitriol. Even the foremost of nuclear scientists such as Neil Bohr, Openheimer et al have acknowledged their training in Vedanta. The world should be embracing Sanskrit and the knowledge withing - when the Japanese and Americans and leveraging the language and inherent strengths to better their societies, it is a disgrace and shame that the people of India should silently watch the open digestion of their intellectual property and shamelessly be willing abbetors in this daylight robbery. In this technology driven world I would imaging that all Indians will collectively come together to celebrate their past and disseminate all the wisdom in the Dharma, willingly to all Indians first so all may benefit first and feel proud about their heritage and civilization. Unless of course they want to participate with a criminal syndicate that is determined to keep India as a virtual colony, enslaved forever - if Dharma goes so will freedom of all kinds, even God will not forgive the inaction by the Hindus. This petition is towards protecting the original intent of Dharma as did the Hindu kings of the past - this is a defence against theft and enslavement. This is a battle against intolerance, colonialism, and hegemony masquerading in sophistry and asthetics as Rajiv puts it. For the detractors, as Lee Iocaca said, either lead, follow or get out of the way! I hope the Murthy's recognize the huge potential they have to revive the native traditions in their lifetime, instead of outsourcing their own and collective identities to imperial mindsets. If they do they will damn an entire civilization, which no invading power could do in over 5000 years! Only Bhagawan can help!

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