The Nastiness in the Weeds: Reactions to the Statement on Modi's Upcoming Visit to Silicon Valley

As Executive Editor of this blog, I have a tweet automatically produced for each post. It goes out over my name. Most often, that results in retweets and mentions that are positive; sometimes, quite the opposite. Never before, however, had I seen anything like this:

That comes in response to one of a series of posts (here, here and here) relating to concerns expressed by scholars with an Indian connection or concern about the upcoming visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Silicon Valley. The group is concerned that India may be on the verge of becoming a country where rights to privacy are compromised through digital tools unregulated in governmental hands.

The comments to the initial posting of the statement, some 350 long at this point, are as troubling as the tweet addressed to me. Many of them chortle sarcastic “thanks” to the scholars for listing their names, for now they can be identified. Though a few of them do try to address the substance of the statement, even those mostly deal with peripheral issues. Mostly, we see name calling and anger.

India, I see, isn’t very different from the United States.

It has been 15 years since the first time I tried to set up a blog. Since then, I have been involved in blogging in a number of different venues—and have even written three books relating to blogging. From an initial optimism about the form and the “citizen journalism” it made stronger, I have descended to despair about the damage we do to each other through both blogs and social media in general and back to what I hope is a more balanced vision, seeing the blogs (and social media) as the real and reinvigorated public sphere that I had hoped they would be but also recognizing that the public sphere itself is not always a very nice place to be. It may be necessary, but it is rarely pleasant—not when one gets down into its weeds.

And it is weeds we see sprouting in those 350 comments, crowding out reasonable seedlings and rational discussion.

One of the problems, of course, is that people feel free to comment from under the blanket of anonymity, blasting away while believing that no one can find out who they are (an irrational belief, by the way, in the current state of the digital revolution: Years ago I started finding ways of peeking under that blanket; today, I could easily find the identity of just about any one of the people who have posted such noxious comments).

Early on, I learned the value of keeping my own identity open. It provides a brake, a hesitation before posting the nastier comments that any of us can (and often do) so easily make. I understand that there are reasons, sometimes, for anonymity, so I never try to “out” anyone, but I find it difficult to respect those who attack others without revealing themselves.

Some of the signers of the initial statement, perhaps less hardened to the seamier side of the internet than I, have been quite concerned by what they read in the comments. And why wouldn’t they be, when they find things like this:

Useless biased anti Hindu anti India bunch of low levels of intelligence and high levels of hatred for all original Indian ideas and cultural ethos. Terrified at the high level of penetration these dirt bags have managed in the the academia field in India and out of India. India needs to have a violent brutal purging of these elements. Hope pro Hindu organisations stop their love of Gandhian measures and start emulating hanuman Krishna chanakya and shivaji’s way of forceful elimination of traitors and antinationals.

I emailed the person who posted that:

Though we approved your comment, we are concerned by the implicit threat of violence it contains. We ask that you keep comments civil. No one needs “a violent brutal purging.”

And received this in reply:

I do not mean it in literal sense but some actions or words are such that they force you to become angry. Anyway You are right

I am thankful for that. However, there may be others who would resort to violence. Online threats do need to be taken seriously, as events have proven.

The points the signers of the statement raise are legitimate though they are also debatable. The purpose of the statement is to raise awareness of issues of concern to the governance of every country—and particularly every democracy—resulting from new means of intrusion into individual privacy. The anger aimed at the signers is extremely inappropriate.

Recently, we are starting to see more comments making reasoned responses to the statement, and I am glad to see that. It does not, however, obviate the nastiness we still continue to receive.

40 thoughts on “The Nastiness in the Weeds: Reactions to the Statement on Modi's Upcoming Visit to Silicon Valley

  1. If it’s any consolation, although I don’t know why it would be, I have started to do research in the area of Islamophobia. If you read the tweets in that twitter account’s time line, you’ll see the bigotry that fuels this kind of irrational rage toward anyone who dares to say anything critical about Modi.

  2. It is so important that the first word of AAUP not be construed too narrowly in a nationalistic sense. These posts place the Association in an internationalist posture in defending academic freedom and extramural utterances. Many of the hundreds of comments that disagree with the professors’ opposition to aspects of the Silicon Valley visit have revealed a venomous, intimidating opposition to criticism of President Modi.

    I am well-versed in being the object of such scorn; it is a club I did not sign up for. Yet I think the editor’s request that some type of civility be honoured, yes CIVILITY, is appropriate. He is not using the term to destroy an academician’s career or to sanction speech, but to protect it without censorship.

    • Civility goes both ways and is based on mutual respect. Demands for it to be one way coming from those with power fall under the heading of subjugation. That is after all the history of Western relations with Hindus and India.

  3. Aaron, this is very well said.

    I have only a somewhat superficial awareness of the current political environment in India–not much more than one gets from the daily newspapers, weekly news magazines, and online news sources. So, I can honestly say that I had no fixed or even very strong opinions about Modi or his political supporters before I started reading the comments on these blog posts.

    But those comments have been so rabidly indiscriminate–so permeated with viciously personalized political invective–that they have convinced me that the signatories to the blog posts have very likely raised very legitimate concerns that deserve to be taken seriously.

    If I were Modi, I would tell my supporters that engaging in this sort of mindlessly reflexive and ridiculously hyperbolic rhetoric is self-defeating because, far from defending the legitimacy of what he represents for India, it is instead reinforcing the worst characterizations of him and his policies.

    • I am not Hindu but the attacks on Modi bother me. They come from some of the same people who demonize Israel. And Hindus who support Modi are right to be indignant about the Aryan Invasion invention which let people exploit Hindus as close to slaves on the theory that they did not even invent their own religion and languages.

  4. I’m surprised that the critiques of Modi and the BJP have been interpreted as anti-Hindu and anti-India. But then again, anti-Likud/anti-Israeli Right Wing (anti-Netenyahu) sentiment in the US is seen as anti-Israel/ anti-Semitic. Especially as someone who is interested in Political Science, I’m surprised that most people view articles like what you posted not as critiques of public policy and administration but an attack on the Indian State. Then again, I don’t know much about this phenomenon (if its actually a phenomenon in the first place) so I’m not sure why people believe in such views.

  5. Pingback: Oppose Prejudice and Fear-Mongering in the ‘Faculty Statement on Narendra Modi’s Visit’ | The Academe Blog

  6. I am not surprised that some of the non-Indian respondents on this page express surprise at the anger of the comments in the original posting. This is because these non-Indian respondents are completely unaware of the history of India, and the immense damage caused to its civilization by people aligned with “breaking India” forces, now, and in the recent and distant past. These respondents are unaware how the majority in India has been beaten down from participation in the public discourse, how it has been denied a place in academia, how it has been kept down by cabals in politics, academics, and organized-religions. The monolith-anger sensed in the comments should be a hint to you that the academia is totally disconnected with large sections of Indians today. I am not surprised that Aaron chose to highlight the most egregious comments, rather than highlight the most thoughtful critiques – this entire chain of posts by Academe Blog suggests a pattern of creating fear, uncertainty and doubt, rather than a honest discourse. Fear and sensationalism indeed sells and boosts the traffic to your site in online straw man battles, while honesty is an old-fashioned, overrated value to be jettisoned – at least by the values espoused by this current chain of posts here.

    • Honesty? Attacks on people cannot be excused as honesty. Anger does need to be expressed, but not in this manner. My point is not about the thoughtful responses, though I do mention that they do exist, but about the ones–and there are way too many–that cross the boundaries of civil discourse.

      If you look at the blog, you will see that we host voices, when the discussion is reasonable and considered, from a variety of viewpoints…. even in this particular area.

      • I just read Prof. Juluri’s rejoinder to this acrimonious chain of posts, and agree with you that Academe Blog does indeed host voices that seek to balance the discourse – in addition to anonymous voices such as mine. The honesty I referred to does not refer to “attacks on people”, but refers to “attacks on a civilization”. Please look beyond the acrimony, and look at the larger picture. For what it is worth, I extend a welcome to you to India, hope you will visit India and learn about its people and history, and the curious phenomenon of “sepoys” who are widespread today in Western and Indian academia.

      • Aron, you will understand the anger and its nature if your culture and civilization gets victimized and demonized for centuries. You need to understand the difference between “Victims and Victimizers” . Indian people and their Dharmic thought have been a victimized and demonized for so long, first by mughal invaders, then by British colonizers and now by Leftist and Western Academicians. Leftist academicians being non-practicing Hindus simply can’t comprehend the depth, openness and vastness of dharma thought.

      • Aaron,

        Are you Jewish?

        It is a sad state of affairs when the ONLY country in the world (until WWII) that gave refuge to the Jews is trashed on a daily basis by Jews in the Western academia and media.

        The ingratitude is cringeworthy and belittles the only positive relationship between Hindus and Abrahamics – where the other two (Christian and Islamic) have always been antagonistic towards India and Hindus for as long as their ‘religions’ have existed.

        The crux of the matter is this: the preponderance of non-Hindu academicians in Hindu Studies and/or South-Asian Studies (even though the latter is not explicitly about Hinduism as a ‘religion’) and sidelining of Hindu (emic) scholars makes for a severely jaundiced view of India, Hinduism, and Hindus. This is what we are seeing with this so-called “petition.”

        Your peculiar disdain for “attacks” is hypocritical; far worse attacks on Hindus/India are made on a daily basis by Western academia through the works of so-called scholars like Wendy Doniger, Paul Courtright, Michael Witzel, Sheldon Pollock, etc. etc. It is amazing that instead of doing the research to find out why Indians/Hindus are upset with these clowns parading around as scholars, you are attacking Hindus for standing up to them. Though some of the language is vulgar, it in no way negates the point that these people who have signed the ‘petition’ are venomously anti-Indian and anti-Hindu.

        Please read “Breaking India” by Rajiv Malhotra to understand the nexus at play.

        Further, India is the ONLY ancient civilization to not just exist, but to thrive despite the onslaught of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism (as well as Communism in the 20th century CE).

        Hindus are the most highly educated and most successful minority in the US; why? Do you think that’s a coincidence? India was at the zenith of the world until 1830. Why was the mass-murderer Christopher Columbus looking for India?

        It is imperative that Hindus maintain control of India/Hindu studies. A foreigner writing about Hinduism, an untouchable, is like getting the Taliban to write US History. The travesty would be that the Taliban would be correct!

        • John Smith, first of all, that’s an inappropriate question. Second, your assumption of the answer smacks of Antisemitism and is a conclusion drawn from the fact that I have a Biblical first name, nothing more. Third, I attack only the attacks that go beyond the bounds of civility and I attack no one’s position in this debate. What I am concerned with has nothing to do with Hindus or any other religion but with keeping debate respectful and non-violent. My own religion, be it Judaism or any other, is not involved.

      • Kudos to John Smith for bringing up the very pertinent question of why academics of a certain persuasion are to anti-Hindu and anti-Indian. If people can throw about terms like ‘anti-semitic’ in response to that, it most certainly is relevant to state that the original posts are anti-Indian and anti-Hindu.

        Coming to the validity of the original academic letter, it’s certainly an expression of freedom of speech for them to argue anything they wish. They however, are not entitled to be taken seriously.

        A quick perusal of the list shows one (maybe two ?) academics who are in the field of technology. The rest are all in fields not even remotely related to the topic that they base they argument upon. Does that mean they can’t make the argument ? No. Does it mean they must be taken seriously ? No.

        When it’s a letter authored by a hundred professors all from the computational sciences, network security and cryptography departments of the world’s best technological universities, it might be a letter worth a second look.

        Remember, the letter to Roosevelt on the dangers of the atomic bomb was not written by a group of sociology and English history professors. It was co-authored by Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard, signed by dozens of others physicists. I assume these professors wanted to make such a statement, but they lack the academic competence in the fields in question to have even remotely the same gravitas.

        • “Of a certain persuasion”? So, you are also assuming my ethnicity for your own purposes as much as you are assuming (incorrectly) that I am “anti-Hindu and anti-Indian” because of my ethnicity (and you and “John Smith” are wrong about what that is, by the way). That smacks as much of Antisemitism as the “John Smith” comment in the first place. It makes everything else you say suspect.

      • We have a very enlightening discussion , over here . Though I find , the mention of Judaism a bit appalling . But perhaps the points the authors wanted to make were different from what may be interpreted .

        Suraj makes a point about ” why academics of a certain persuasion are to anti-Hindu and anti-Indian.? ” . I may be wrong , but I think he is not referring to religion here , but to certain academic persuasions. One thing that has been observed in India and even in Israel , is that hard science and engineering people tend to have views , that are considered “right wing.” . While humanities and language , affiliated academics tend to have views typically considered left of the political spectrum.

        An example for this is the recent petition by a few academics against Modi. As pointed out by Suraj , almost all of them are humanities and language related professors.While there is another petition , that supports Modi. This on the other hand is filled with engineering and science professors. In case of Israel , too similar phenomena have been observed .

        What accounts for such an observation? My hypothesis is that , extensive quantitative grounding received in STEM training , enables a level of critical thinking , that mainly relies on numbers and data. They have a tendency to verify , every statement made by the news media , to see if it actually makes sense. A solid grounding in Math and statistics , give us an uncanny ability to see beyond ,linguistic fluff.

        While , humanities professors don’t usually see things from that perspective. They rely of great philosophers and humanists like Voltaire , or Machiavelli or otthers. They are strongly opinionated and are difficult to influence or debate too. Some professors have an agenda of their own. and a narrow field of study. Like Doniger for instance. For decades , she fed a very parochial view about Indian society and people . Since in the 1970s and 80s , the interaction of Americans with Indians was rather limited , people took her words as gospel. She was after all a Harvard professor.

        But now things are different .People began to question the demonizing of Indians that she initiated . And the reputation of Indians among the average American changed drastically . Today Indians are associated with a world class space program. And a worlds fastest growing alternative energy program. The CEOs of 2 of the 5 largest software companies are Indians . India is no longer known for its caste system (The existence of which is in fact debated) . Nor is it known as a land of snake charmers.

        But some people are uncomfortable with this new found good reputation of India. And other causes which these academics support are Anti zionism , and pro-Pakistanism . I often wonder what is the link between these 3 . I have not been able to figure that out , even with my extensive mathematical abilty .

  7. I posted something about this and it didn’t seem to take. I agree with Professor Juluri. When a large number of people are attacked, it is odd to think all of them will respond calmly. Hindus admire Modi as much as many in the U.S. admire Obama. And Christians have worked very hard to put down Hindus and Hinduism while treating many Hindus almost like slaves and looting India. The Academic establishments have helped with that.

  8. The academia of South Asian studies who pretend to be expert on Hindu studies and practices over the period have developed an habit of “scoot and shoot”, they write something with little or no knowledge of Hinduism, when challenged play the game of victimhood accuse others of being radicals etc.Over the period their slander and lies went unchallenged.And there are reason for that, due to their monopoly and influence in publications,media they silenced opposing voices.With advent of social media people started talking, started engaging with each other (sometime they go oveboard just like Indic scholers) realized that there is absolute propaganda about their religion i.e Hinduism.When they wanted dialog and debate they are denied, why ?? As far as so called indic experts and their writings on our religion is concerned, the Hindu American dont regard them as an informant let alone scholers.Just for curiocity I like to know when and where these so called experts engage with various Hindu org in USA ? I guess the answer is they never.That explains everything.

  9. Sir, there is mention of Gujarat riots of 2002 & allegations that Modi did not do enough to stop it before loss of over thousand lives. This is purely propaganda of the Congress party which was in power at the center. Since he was chief minister of Gujarat then he had nothing to gain by promoting the riots. The courts have found that the administration has performed its duty well in time but the detractors of Modi unleashed a witch-hunt against him which lasted for several years and still continues.
    In the past several riots have taken place in Gujarat during Congress rule of the state when more lives were lost but no one was persecuted as in the case of Modi.
    More riots have taken place in states ruled by Congress where thousands lost their lives.
    Modi has been given a mandate by the electorate but the opposition especially the Congress headed by Sonia Gandhi &her son Rahul Gandhi are out to dislodge Modi Govt with the help of the left parties and others opposed to Modi. Those who are signatories to the petition are only trying to propagate anti-Modi sentiment & not because of their concern for India or for humanity as they claim.

  10. Aaron, first of all I agree with your point about the intemperate responses. Whoever makes them have no place in an informed civil debate.

    At the same time, I would like draw your attention to the bigger picture. It is said that whenever India votes (which she does regularly every five years) history is created with the largest exercise of adult franchise in the history of humankind.

    Yes elections in India are a miracle. They are huge and colorful with unprecedented numbers involved due to one of the highest voter turnout percentages in the world. The trivia that comes out from each election is amazing. For example, this time one polling booth was set up deep inside the Gir forest in Gujarat manned by 8 polling officers. Why? Because one family chooses to live inside the forest and they are voters. India’s fiercely independent Election Commission mandated that there should be a polling station within one and a half miles walking distance for every voter. Despite the numbers India is the only country in the world where the entire voting system is electronic and results start pouring out within a few hours after polling ends.

    My intention is not to impress you or anyone else here with the statistics, even though I would be surprised if anyone who values democracy, free speech and free choice isn’t impressed.

    What I want to highlight is that after such an exercise in 2012, Narendra Modi came to power with the largest mandate given to any leader in 30 years in India and this translates to the largest democratic mandate given to any leader in human history.

    It is in this context that Modi should be judged. The South Asian academia who question the legitimacy of Modi and urge that he be treated with the disdain that is reserved for some of the most vile dictators in the world are not insulting Modi. They are insulting the choice of the voters who participated in the largest democratic exercise in the history of humankind. They are insulting the entire democratic process of India.

    And by stating that there are still some apparent legal issues against Modi they are, in effect, saying that the Election Commission of India, who allowed Modi to file his nomination form and the Supreme Court of India who gave the green signal to the Election Commission are at best incompetent or at worst corrupt or subject to manipulation.

    I highlight these point to you and other non Indians on this forum because I feel (I may be wrong!) that all of you are looking at the issue based on the to and fro that has occurred on blogs such as yours. It appears there is a lack of awareness of the larger picture. There is an urgent need to understand the context in which the debate is being framed.

    I feel that questioning Modi’s legitimacy as the Prime Minister of India is very similar to questioning Obama’s legitimacy of being the US President based on some cock and bull idea about race and looks. Just as Obama’s election should be celebrated as the triumph of the democratic system in the US (irrespective of whether one agrees with his and his party’s policies), Modi’s – who is a son of a tea vendor – election as the PM should be celebrated as a triumph of the Indian election system.

    Popular mandates (for both Obama and Modi) carry a legitimacy that is far more important than ivory tower thought process of folks who have lost touch with reality. For South Asian studies the election of Modi – an outsider to the power structure in India – is the most important thing that has happened since 1947. Instead of trying to understand the phenomenon from an academic/intellectual point of view, these scholars are expending their energies in trying to de-legitimise the results of India’s 2012 elections. This in a nutshell explains a lot of the anger and disdain.

    Thanks for the opportunity to respond.

  11. “Kudos to John Smith for bringing up the very pertinent question of why academics of a certain persuasion are to anti-Hindu and anti-Indian. If people can throw about terms like ‘anti-semitic’ in response to that, it most certainly is relevant to state that the original posts are anti-Indian and anti-Hindu.”

    I find that odd if by certain persuasion Jews are meant. There is overlap in the attacks on Modi with people who promote BDS against Israel. Many of us think the BDS movement is permeated by Anti-Semitism. Being born into a group does not mean people will think highly of the group. And there are people of the liberal persuasion whose solidarity with every trendy liberal cause overrides thinking for themselves.

  12. Its obvious that to be accepted into the ivory tower of ‘South Asian’ studies one has to start with the necessary basic qualifications of extreme prejudice and contempt for original Indian and Hindu thought, culture, history and religions.

    This has to be the only field of study whose chief aim is to distort, vilify, insult and re-brand its focus area in the name of ‘academic freedom’. The same academic freedom which is fiercely opposed and crushed when attempted by those who have a genuine understanding and affinity to India and hindus.

  13. Respected Aaron Barlow,

    1. India is worlds largest democrarcy. MODI is elected by 800 million voters.

    2. So some jokers from So called south asian studies come & give false info against Digital India & MODI & a blog is written on that>

    3. Before u write a Blog study india First – some so called Leftist..Who have branded themselves as intellectuals write some misinformation on india without even knowing what is actually happening here.

    4. Hope next time plz make more reserach before writing such a blog else as a professor u will Loose Respect

    Lots of Love,

    • Abishek, the facts of India’s size and Modi’s vote total are completely irrelevant. Neither has a relation to the validity of any viewpoint nor provides an excuse for nasty comments (which are the subject of the post). Second, if you call something “false info” it is best to prove that, not to claim it. Third, my post is not about India and contains no information, correct or incorrect, about the country. Finally, it should be “lose respect,” not “Loose Respect.”

      • The numbers are the number of people the academics have insulted. That a few of them are very angry should be no surprise. The academics are close to clueless about computers and India. They give no facts to refute.

        “The so-called left-liberal forces don’t have a monopoly anymore on American academic discourse, at least where India and Narendra Modi are concerned. More than 150 US-based academics issued a statement on Tuesday welcoming Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the US and his “Digital India” agenda, challenging the assertion by their liberal counterparts and peers who wrote a letter to Silicon Valley executives cautioning them about the Modi government’s motives pursuing the digital program.

        Suggesting that the liberal activists were needlessly demonizing the Digital India project, the signatories to the pro-Modi statement maintained that it “heralds a new age of participatory democracy and enhances transparency in governance in India, levelling the playing field for vast numbers of India’s citizens.”

        “We recognize the indigenous talents of Indian scientists to develop the infrastructure to effectuate Digital India and other initiatives predicated on technological advancements, even as we express our hope that Prime Minister Modi will seek partnership with American academic and business leaders with the expertise and experience to ensure that Digital India realizes its potential without imperilling India’s privacy laws and individual liberties,” they said.”

  14. Why is it that Prof . Barlow and most of the gang of 125 , who are opposing “certain aspects of Modi’s” visit , only want to selectively answer questions ? In fact most of the questions raised by them have been answered dozens of times by hundreds of people.

    I reiterate my questions

    1)Why is it that disproportionately large (or should I say almost all) of the “professors” and “academics” who are vituperative against Modi , are in the field of sociology ? (especially “India studies” or “south Asia studies) .

    2) Why is it that almost all their attacks are ad hominem an seldom backed by data?

    3) Why do they never respond , when countered with facts or data?

    4) Why is the same bunch of people also involved in attacking Israel?

    I have tried to avoid name calling so far. And I don’t intend to insult any particular academic persuasion . But I feel , that the thought of India eventually being a developed country haunts these people . This can be demonstrated by the fact , that many of the 125 write venomous articles in the press , whenever the Indian space research organization achieves a milestone. They particularly enjoy reminding the world , that India may have sent a probe to the Mars. But a sizable chunk of the Indian population , does not have access to toilets or basic sanitation. But now we have a PM who has made it a priority to ensure , that the entire population has access to sanitation , by the end of the decade. That takes away the pleasure of them writing all those articles. They seem to get a vicarious pleasure by Indian poverty and thus fear , that Modi might bring the pleasure to an end.

    Other pet subject of these great bunch was India’s caste system. In the US where Black Americans were sold as slaves , not even allowed to vote , or eat at the same restaurants , Such slavery never existed in India . There is no denying that discrimination existed , But it was nothing compared to the western societies . And yet India has done so much to uplift the lives of the erstwhile backward castes. We no that America won’t pay any reparations to he blacks . And the discrimination exists till today. You can get arrested for carrying a homemade clock to school. But their were a few holier than thou folks , who in spite being a part of the discriminators want to pontificate about “religious tolerance.” PM Modi is a slap in the face of these people , as he comes from a “Backward caste. ” And it kicks their narrative about discrimination in India out of the window .

    Whether you guys like it or not , India will prevail . And so would Hindus . We have survived murderous Islamic invasions for 2000 years. And a genocidal British invasion. Who are these 125 , that they ll be able to stop us ?

    • I agree with the thrust of what you say. But you are wrong about Islam. Islam has not been around for two thousand years. The Mongolian Khans became Muslim but they sacked Baghdad first. That changed the political nature of Islam and led to it becoming less tolerant and pluralistic. Wars of conquest have been kingly enterprises where religion was drawn in for support but was not the object. The early Mughal emperors were tolerant and pluralistic. Aurangzeb changed that.

      People thinking they are better than others and selling themselves on that is not a plot. It is a common tendency. It takes a huge amount of mental work to fight it. It is better to recognize that we are all simply human and we all make mistakes. The key is to recognize when we are making mistakes and not celebrate them and justify them.

      • Thank you for bringing up the topic of the Mughals . And I meant a 1000 years of Muslim invasions.

        Aurangzeb was surely among the most murderous person to have roamed around India . But his predecessors were no saints too. Lets take Shah Jehan for instance . Taj Mahal is considered to be a symbol of love. And is a popular tourist spot. But the dark side of the story is that he had its Hindu architect murdered. And butchered all artisans who worked in it. So much for being a symbol of love.

        The imposition of Sharia law by Aurangzeb , prevented the industrial revolution in India . And his manic governance , impoverished our treasury , that made us susceptible to foreign invasions.

        Even today , the condition of an average Muslim in India is far worse than other religions . Many still have four wives . Recently I read that a muslim cleric in Kerala decreed against immunization. They send their kids to madarssas and don’t want to teach them Math or science.

        Where are these Donigers and Witzels and Pollocks , when these things happen. In fact their proxies in India oppose uniform civil code tooth and nail.

        Modi wants to uplift the muslims and get them to the mainstream. The BJP ruled maharashtra government , recently classified religious schools and madarssas , where English , Math and science were not taught as non educational institute . But the lefty-loonies started crying at this as an attack by Modi against Islam .

        Recently when Aurangzeb road was renamaed as Kalam road (who was a Muslim too) , the lefy loonies began their shrill again.

        Would any of them want a street in Washington DC named after Lee Harvey Oswald , or Timothy McVeigh or Osama ? Judging by their views , I ll not be surprised if some of them found a poet or a philosopher in Osama or McVeigh

  15. Aaron Barlow,
    As an Indian and also as a student of Indian history and culture I have no hesitation in complimenting you on carrying the letter in your blog. The concerns expressed in the letter are very genuine and represent a point of view definitely worth debating and discussing. I am also concerned that the space for debate and discussion is shrinking rapidly in India and this cannot be good for any democracy. Coming to the various comments posted here, they are too numerous to read. However, I read one at random by John Smith in which he alleges that “…through the works of so-called scholars like Wendy Doniger, Paul Courtright, Michael Witzel, Sheldon Pollock, etc. etc. It is amazing that instead of doing the research to find out why Indians/Hindus are upset with these clowns parading around as scholars,…” For the record hardly anyone in India has even heard of these names, far less have bothered to read some of the high quality scholarship they bring to Indic studies. This is definitely ‘manufactured’ angst without an honest attempt to engage with the scholars.

    • “,…” For the record hardly anyone in India has even heard of these names, far less have bothered to read some of the high quality scholarship they bring to Indic studies. ”

      Boy , that made me laugh so hard that I tumbled out of my chair. Even the fictional Sheldon Cooper is more of a scholar than Sheldon Pollock .

      “..The concerns expressed in the letter are very genuine and represent a point of view definitely worth debating and discussing. I am also concerned that the space for debate and discussion is shrinking rapidly in India and this cannot be good for any democracy”

      If you did not notice by now , we are ready of a debate at the time and place of their choosing .. And we have responded to all their manufactured ‘concerns’ about Modi and silicon valley.

      But they chose to respond with a large #Modifail LCD billboard close to the Tesla factory that costs USD 30K for a 64s loop.

      Judging by their past record , they are scared of a debate and have used all their influence to prevent it .

      For instance Rajiv Malhotra and Subramanian Swamy , wanted to counter them in Oxford early this year.

      What was their response ? They created a change .org petition , that requested the Oxford Dons to have it cancelled . And they described both these scholars are “right winged Hindu’s with biased view.”

      They were simply not ready to debate with him. And you claim that “. that the space for debate and discussion is shrinking rapidly in India ” . So tell me who is limiting the space.

      Both these people are infinitely better scholars than the worthies you are trying to defend. Swamy received a PhD in math before the age of 25. He taught at Harvard and IIT for years. Malhotra was a well know engineer , who founded nearly a dozen firms that dealt with complex engineering issues.

      No wonder witzel et al shiver at the thought of facing these great scholars. Forget RM and swamy , these people don’t stand a chance against the people who wrote comments on this page . And we are not asking for them to challenge us in our respective STEM fields. We just want a debate on the view of Indian society they hold , and why is it so wrong. That view is what these worthies teach at various places .

    • ‘For starters, I do not contend that Doniger is anti-Hindu, though many Hindus find her scholarship to be; she expresses great admiration for the tradition. But the book and many of her articles over a 40-year academic career misinterpret facts or pick and choose incidents that conveniently fit a narrative of an erotic, exotic, mythologically rife Hinduism whose portrayal is actually alien, and often insulting, to adherents of that tradition. While we as academics have a right to be concerned about academic freedom and the right to publish, there’s also the underrepresented idea of academic integrity. From that standpoint, Doniger’s work is certainly questionable.

      Her book seems to conjure up facts and dates that don’t jibe with any historical consensus, and the list of errors has been dissected by both academic and lay scholars. Doniger titles one of her chapters “Fusion and Rivalry Under the Delhi Sultanate: 650-1500 CE,” though the Delhi Sultanate didn’t begin until the 13th century. While Doniger does include an accurate timeline in the chapter, she covers nearly a thousand years and blurs the time period of Islamic rule in India, something that most historians would never do. Doniger also whitewashes Islamic rule over India, claiming that violence by Muslim rulers against Hindus has been overstated. That would contradict even the records kept by Muslim scholars of that time, and go against the accounts given by Tamerlane, whose forces ransacked Delhi and killed at least 100,000 Hindus.”

  16. I don’t accept that the letter was written to raise issues about governance and warn people about the implications of Digital initiatives of the governement of India. If that was the genuine concern the signatories ought to have raised their objections long ago when the UPA government initiated the Aadhar programme and should have followed it with political protests. The signatories are clever enough to know that their act becomes one of self fulfilling prophecy because their resistance can understandably interpreted as the hostility of these south asianists to India’s progress. After all, it also proves the point of Hindu sympathisers that Hinduism with its accommodative eclecticism is a soft target for the left unlike other shades of jehadi fundamentalisms. That perhaps explains their loud silence on issues of jehadi fundamentalisms. Their posture is also a type of moralising and soft forms of moral policing. am sure after this statement, my friends in that list would hesitate to break bread with me, let alone invite me to their homes, because it is easy for them to brand me as a right winger because I do not in their ideological spectrum. And let me mention that I have great respect to my Indian colleagues who are taking on the new regime from within India; I am afraid I can’t say the same thing of my Indian friends who have plush perches in US universities taking pot shots at this Modi regime. In many ways their letter gives ample ammunition for the government to choke funds for social science research and studies within India.

  17. Pingback: India, Free Speech and Academic Freedom | The Academe Blog

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