Oppose Prejudice and Fear-Mongering in the 'Faculty Statement on Narendra Modi's Visit'

Dear Professor Barlow,

I am a professor of media studies at USF (and a proud supporter of USFFA) and the author of several books. I have written for several publications and blogs including Foreign Affairs, The San Francisco Chronicle, On Faith, Huffington Post, The Indian Express, The Times of India, The Hindu, and have spoken about Bollywood, Hinduism, and India on PRI, KQED, Al Jazeera English and other fora.

I am writing to you after reading your most recent statement on “nastiness in the weeds” with a desire to broaden the context and explain the current climate of distrust and anger that exists between the South Asia studies faculty in the US and the Indian diasporic community. This is not a simplistic liberal-secular academicians versus religious fundamentalist-nationalists issue, as it is often made out to be.

The truth is that there has been a near-total collapse of credibility for South Asia studies academicians and activists in the eyes of many Indians in India and the diaspora for several reasons which are not reducible to but nonetheless tend to cluster inevitably on the figure of Narendra Modi. Narendra Modi’s election as Prime Minister is seen by many Indians as the return of an indigenous, yet pluralistic, anti-colonial civilizational aspiration in India after several decades of domination and misrule by a corrupt regime hiding behind secularism as a hypocritical fig-leaf (please see my article in Foreign Affairs on how Modi’s rise marks a generational process of decolonization in Hinduism, rather than a mere upsurge of anti-secular religious nationalism as our colleagues on the original petition might view it).

Most South Asia studies scholars, on the other hand, have failed to engage in open debate about these issues, and have resorted to an intensive campaign of strategic silencing which is widely viewed in the Indian community today as a form of racism and neo-colonialism. Why? For the simple reason that the academic consensus on India and Hinduism in particular was never decolonized from its old colonial-era Eurocentric, orientalistic assumptions, as were social sciences and humanities generally, leading to the rise of black studies, women’s studies and other fields in the 60s and 70s. There was no new Hinduism studies that emerged with Hindus in it at that time, and the same old assumptions remained, albeit somewhat re-invented in the guise of a progressive, secular project that, in my view, is yet to truly become one (I consider some of Prof. Doniger’s work, to which I respond in my new book, a prime example of this).

That, simply put, is the reason you see so much bitterness about this petition from the Indian and Indian American community. For my part, I have taken a leap out into the public sphere myself, addressing my work more and more to the general audience, hoping to build bridges between the Hindu American community and the academia it has grown so weary of. I have to say that South Asian academic activism of the sort we saw in the faculty statement has not only perpetuated nasty, racist epistemic violence on Hindu thought and sensibility, but has also affected many well-meaning peoples’ lives, including members of American academia like you and me unfairly tarnished with charges of supporting “Hindu extremism” and violence.

Anyway, you should be aware that several people writing to you on your comment boards in protest are not just some angry ill-educated bigots but also American faculty members and citizens of good standing. They care little for oppressing minorities as current South Asian theory might imagine. In fact, there are many more members of academia who have read the original petition but who have simply decided not to respond – that’s how crazy and irrelevant they think humanities and social sciences are. At times like this, I fear for the credibility of my field, more than anything else. I have no desire to endorse any politician or political group, but I do wish to see a real debate between the ivory tower world of South Asia studies and the real world of South Asian people.

If any of this seems meaningful to you, and you wish to offer space on Academe for a response, please consider publishing the text of the petition below which has gathered over 1,200 signatures in just two days. It has been signed by several professors in American universities, and several hundred students, postdoctoral researchers, and alums — though many of these signatories have declined to mention their affiliations for fear of repercussions. If you scroll through the comments, you will see the credentials of several people, the sane reasons offered by even those who did not mention their credentials – and at best a mere 3 or 4 somewhat intemperate comments out of several hundred.

The digital surveillance fear is a hoax, sir, as is the idea of Modi as a Muslim-hating mass murderer. Simple as that.

Once again, I fear for the credibility of my field, and for a future where “liberal” becomes a bad word in the eyes of a community whose religiosity was deeply liberal and tolerant of all faiths at a time when the monetheisms were slaughtering and colonizing others. Hence, my work.

Thank you,

Vamsee Juluri

Professor of Media Studies and Asian Studies

University of San Francisco

 

TEXT OF PETITION ON CHANGE.ORG

OPPOSE PREJUDICE AND FEAR-MONGERING IN THE ‘FACULTY STATEMENT ON NARENDRA MODI’S VISIT’

We, the undersigned, are professors, researchers, scientists, scholars, students, and professionals with undergraduate, graduate or doctoral degrees from universities across North America. We are members, partners, or products of a world-class higher education system and many of us are successful leaders of today’s global knowledge economy. We are well aware of the principles of scholarly research, scientific method, and objectivity, and we are also aware of the need to respect a wide range of opinions in academia, especially in fields like the humanities and liberal arts.

However, there are occasions when academic opinion strays so far from the scope of sane discourse, and worse, creates the risk of devastating human consequences in political and economic terms, that any one who has seen the insides of a university classroom and respects its worth, must step up and speak up to protect its integrity. The recent statement against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley by some faculty members who claim expertise on South Asia, is such an occasion. This statement lacks the slightest respect for facts and for academic integrity, and presumes to claim unilateral expertise over India by brandishing credentials in lieu of persuasive arguments.

We reject its claims for the following reasons, and we call strongly for introspection and change in the ossified and fantastic little mental world of South Asia studies as it exists today.

1) The allegation that Narendra Modi ought to be viewed with suspicion, if not disdain, by business leaders in Silicon Valley because of surveillance implications in the Digital India initiative seems a desperate ploy rather than any genuine concern for India. They offer no evidence for their claim, and neglect to mention that the Indian government has been pursuing several digital initiatives long before Narendra Modi assumed office, a fact that never bothered them when the UPA government, with which several U.S. based South Asian academics have had close ties of patronage and privilege, was in power.

2) Their attempt to invoke an admitted mistake on the part of the U.S government in denying Modi a visa as a “powerful signal” is a stark case of false reasoning (would the incident of a false complaint being made in a police station still be mentioned as evidence of culpability when due process had found there was no cause for even an arrest, let alone a trial and conviction?) and a deplorable attempt to exhume ugly lies about Modi’s attitude towards Muslims. Modi was cleared by several investigating agencies of any complicity in the riots that broke out in Gujarat in 2002 following the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims by a Muslim mob. He ran an inclusive campaign for Prime Minister and was vindicated by one of the largest mandates received by an elected official on the face of the earth. He has shown no sign at all that he disfavors someone because they happen to call God by a different name than he does. His recent visit to U.A.E. where he was received warmly by senior members of the government (who happen to be devout and proud Muslims) should be a reminder to academicians who somehow think they are protecting Islam better than Muslims themselves, many of whom have voted for Modi enthusiastically. The powerful endorsement Modi has received from two of the major institutions that govern civilized modern societies, law and democracy, should be proof enough of the inappropriateness of the allegations that have been relentlessly leveled against him by a section of academia and the press.

3) Their allegations that somehow academic freedom is under threat in India because of administrative changes at a couple of institutions are completely belied by the reality of what Indian citizens see in their news media every day. TV anchors, writers, journalists, columnists, and bloggers not only criticize Modi and his government, but often go so far as to promote baseless and sensational charges only to retract them quietly later. There is growing evidence of a systematic process of defamation against India and Narendra Modi in the international press and in a large part of the elite English-language Indian media. No government that seeks to restrict freedom of speech would permit the amount of calumny that passes off as news in India.

4) On the contrary, for all their talk about assaults on academic freedom, the signatories of the anti-Modi letter have never reflected on the possibility that the subject of the greatest censorship and distortion in South Asian academics in recent years might well have been Narendra Modi. Just a few years ago, Modi was effectively prevented from addressing by videoconference students and faculty at UPenn because of a campaign similar to the present one. The only effective (if invisible) restrictions on free speech and academic freedom that exist today are the ones that silence those scholars, writers and concerned citizens who have dared to question the South Asianist academy’s institutionalized Hinduphobia and disdain for facts.

We therefore reject the faculty statement against Modi in its entirety. We do so not necessarily in the name of any one person or political party, but in the name of the high standards of academic excellence we have worked towards building, in and outside of academia. We call on the authors of this petition to introspect, change, and for once seek to earn the trust and respect of the community in whose name they have been making a living all these years.

Signed by 1,294 supporters (as of Friday September 4, 2015) including (in no particular order):

 

Faculty:

Vamsee Juluri, University of San Francisco

Ramesh Rao, Columbus State University

Vishal Misra, Columbia University

Vineet Goyal, Columbia University

Shalendra Sharma, University of San Francisco

Arup Varma, Loyola University

Aseem Shukla, University of Pennsylvania

Jeffery Long, Elizabethtown College

Apurba Bhattacharjee, Georgetown

Prashant Banerjee, University of Illinois

Madhu Jhaveri, (Professor Emeritus) University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Ganti S. Murthy, Oregon State University

Prakash Ishwar, Boston University

TRN Rao (Loflin Chair Professor Emeritus) University of Louisiana

M.L. Goel, (Professor Emeritus) University of West Florida

Murali Subba Rao, Stony Brook University

Vivek Natarajan, Lamar University

Independent and Post-doctoral researchers:

Yvette Roser

Pandita Indrani Rampersad

Karthi Sivava, University of Central Florida

Prashant Jha, Carnegie Mellon

Mayur Punekar, Texas A&M

Ritesh Seal, Pittsburgh/MIT Sloan

Pawan Rattan, Physician

Gururaja Vulugundam, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
Overseas Faculty Supporters:

Rajeev Srinivasan

Pramod Kumar, Amrita University

Gautam Sen

Alums:

Uma Challa, Ohio State University

Anil Challa,  Ohio State University, UCSD

Suresh Chitturi, Emory, Harvard Business School

Amitabh Basu, Johns Hopkins University

Shivadev Shastri, UC Hastings School of Law

Soham Ghosh, Purdue

Ram Vemuri, Stanford

Ramesh Bhutada, University of Houston

Pavitra Krishnamoorthy, UC Irvine

Vidya Jonnalagadda,  UPenn, MIT

Srinivas Udumudi, Worcester

Sucheta Mehta, CUNY

Murthy Vemuganti, Johns Hopkins University, Babson College

Krishna Gaddam, University of Aakron

Amit Gokhale, University of Wisconsin

Vijay Srinivasan, Carnegie Mellon

Virochana Khalsa, Caltech

Soumya Chowdury, West Virginia U.

Badrinath Setlur, MSU, WMU

Venkatachalam, Montana State

Vandana Jain, UMD College Park

Charudatta Galande, Rice University

Prashant Jha, CMU

Anupam Gupta, MIT, VT

Venkata Santhanaraman, University of Houston-Victoria

Ashok D, LSU

Abhinav Gupta, University of Kansas

Manjunath Raju, SDSU

Chandra Sivaguharaman, Nova Southeastern University, FL

Narsing A, SIU

Nirmal Dutta, University of Houston

Santi Dash , University of Miami

Kalyan Mankala, UDelaware

Pradeep Prabhu, USC

Sushama Maddipati, MIT, VT

Rajasekhar Gudla, Illinois Institute of Chicago

Mathangi Venkatesan, University of Illinois Chicago

Venkataraman Ganesan, San Jose State U

Jyotish Parekh, U Connecticut

Varma Dantuluri, Iowa State University, Ames

Indrajeet Chauhan , Queens College, CUNY

Sanku Saha, UT Dallas

Sneha Shukla , Queens College, CUNY

Anil Agrawal, Queens College, CUNY

Ritu Sharma, UT Arlington

Sumalatha Elliadka, San Jose State University

Phani Adidam, University of Nebraska

Adita Bhat, Buffalo

Suman Basyal, CUNY

Ramesh Yadawar, Brandeis

Sudhakar Tiruveedhula, San Jose State U

Mahendra Sapa, University of Maryland

Pratik Kumar Dhuvad, Temple

Mahak Singh Chauhan, Naples

Abul Meghani, FSU

Yogini Deshpande, Purdue

31 thoughts on “Oppose Prejudice and Fear-Mongering in the 'Faculty Statement on Narendra Modi's Visit'

  1. What’s not noticed by the antiModi letter writers, that the bulk of the digital India ideas were already in progress and were written up during Dr. MMS regime time. PM Modi has just followed up on the same tweaking it to fit the Indian context. The fears are far fetched, overblown and would go right into tin foil hat conspiracy theory area were it not for the professors names to the letter

  2. The so called expert in South Asian studies arguments has so many flaws, it ws clearly driven by self interest & has no relation to the ground reality. Apparently the group is a disgruntled lot. Their argument is based on conjecture, without any evidence.

    I support Prof Juluri’s points. MODI has been target because he came to power with a landlslide victory purely supported by people of India. Some of these South Asian studies expert then coined the statement that only 31% only voted for him thus were trying to undermine democracy & its institution. These are the same people who opposed his video conference at UPENN, he should have been allowed to express his views… this is the kind of hypocrisy is at display.

    None of the signatories of South Asian Studies letter included a technology person while the grievance is addressed to Entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley, it shows the hollowness of that letter.

    As Prof Juluri stated that it is affecting the credibility of other academician & activist because of some of these South Asian Studies Academician & Activitst.

  3. Professor Juluri’s head on expose of “South Asianist academy’s institutionalized Hinduphobia and disdain for facts” is marvelous. In my humble opinion, Professor Juluri’s recent book “Rearming Hinduism” is an answer to the hegemonic RISA scholars empire. I would like to see a public face-to-face debate between world renowned Professor Wendy Doniger and the budding young Professor Vamsee Juluri if AAUP academe can dare to arrange one.

  4. Thank you for your excellent articulation of facts, Prof. Juluri. I loved your incisive statement that social sciences in “South Asian studies” is yet to be decolonized. That is an amazing observation, and one that I have empirically observed, but never seen articulated by the typically in-breeding cabal of academics. I will read your works, and fondly hope you have explored this theme in more detail (or will do so in the future). My best wishes to you and for your scholarship.

  5. Finally, we see some strong, clear articulation of the truth from Academia in this area. Long overdue, and more power to you, Professor Juluri.

    I will just add a small response here to the last comment I saw – which was that

    “IF you are what you are, then you would have (“known my place” and been quiet as a good little mouse, etc and not challenged bigoted assumptions and superstitions with clear, easily verified facts).

    I have this to say: Yes, I am what I say I am, because unlike some of these fear-mongers, I have no reason to hide or lie, but equally no compulsion to flaunt my credentials. And yes, I think and do what I think and do, not what the long-standing prejudices deem that I should think and do. It is the Models that some people have of what “we” should think and do, that need changing. Hopefully through good logical reasoning, open eyes and minds and some efforts to learn. But if not, perhaps through shocks such as what happened here when AAUP seems to have been discovered by, and in turn discovered, the modern outside world. It’s not the 1980s any more. Indians and Indian-Americans have access to the Internet. What you post here in sheltered American suburbia this instant will be seen by an 18-year-old in India or Tanzania or New Zealand inside 5 seconds, and the response may be here inside 15. You may not like it, I may not like it, but there it is.

    Before saying goodbye and returning to my Proposal and Paper and Course Assignment deadlines, I will venture into an area where I am sure to get hammered. I do not in any way endorse any suppression of opinions, (Why do I have say this? The Age of PC?) much less any violence against those who express them. But, as I mentioned, the most dire threat to Academic Freedom comes not from dictators and Thought Police or Vigilante Groups or Extremists, but from those who knowingly, deliberately, repeatedly, grossly misuse that Freedom. I have seen the self-anointed Scholars of “South Asia Studies” or “Religion” hide behind that very barricade of Academic Freedom to peddle blatant p0rnographic hate literature about belief systems outside their own. That is not just bigotry, it is actionable when it is about a Child, as you all know. Pointing that out is not some “personal threat’, it is a statement that even tenured full professors are subject to the laws of the land. Yet these entities get to scream “Terrorism!” if someone states that obvious truth. Similarly, we see here some people citing the demise of some (lamented) human in Bengaluru as evidence that THEY are under ‘threat’ in Boston, MA or Santa Cruz, CA. (while a dozen murders may have occurred in their own neighborhoods that weekend). Isn’t this gross dishonesty? Is this the standard of Academia today?

    I would support the notion that if one takes an issue where the Supreme Court of the land has carefully and intensively investigated an allegation and declared itself satisfied that there is no merit to that allegation, then it is Contempt of that Court to keep brandishing the same allegations as some have done and continue to do here. With assumed impunity. The peer review processes and general Honor Code of universities should have stopped such lies long ago. But in South Asia Studies, sorry, it ain’t so. There ain’t no standards, no Honor, evidently. So people outside academia have lost hope of internal sanity prevailing. And so is it not understandable, if not quite legitimate, for them to point out that if such entities were to step into a territory where the writ of the same Supreme Court runs, then they would like to know about it, so that law enforcement can proceed? Is that an illegal “threat”, any more than a policeman checking an airline schedule to see when a drug dealer is expected to land?

    Again, that is not ‘personal threat’. It is a statement of fact, that respect for the law and the Constitution is essential, and even Academia are not exempt from that. They may have no standards of elementary human decency (the writings of Doniger, for instance, leave no doubt on that count), but the law still has standards, as even Professor Doniger discovered not so long ago, to the usual accompaniment of loud whining and squealing and careening.

    As for “Freedom of Expression” being under threat in India, it took me only a few seconds to “Google” the confirmation that some members of that “List Of Faculty Expressly Resenting Success” (for example from $69,730/yr-fees Trinity College, CT) continue to publish in such rags as “Naked Punch” with a cover photo of Maoist terrorists standing at attention with modern weapons, training to kill Indian farmers, children and the policemen who try to protect them. Or in The Marxist Leninist, “A Revolutionary Communist Website” admiring the late unlamented Muammar Gaddafi, whom they consider to that great humanitarian. I am not aware of the Indian government putting any constraints on this. How did I know to look? Because I remembered from their antics from 2002. When they were writing in admiration of Pol Pot or Ho Chi Minh, and of how right the Taliban were to destroy the Bamiyan Buddhas UNESCO Heritage site in Afghanistan. Or admiring the UnaBomber on their faculty web pages. These people continue to visit India and be revered by their followers. The ones with the AK-47s and sickles and hatchets and butcher knives and acid bulbs.

    As an academic myself, I think I too have freedom to speculate and advance theories, as long as I stick to facts that I know, and their implications. Back in February 2002, something VERY bad happened in Gujarat, India, which had come through a huge earthquake a year ago and hence had few roads, even as the Indian army had rushed beyond the last river bridges to prepare to punish the terrorists in Pakistan. Someone stopped an express sleeper train by pulling the Emergency Stop chain inside. As the train stopped at a road crossing, a violent mob barred the doors from outside, then threw gasoline-soaked rags into a sleeper coach, and celebrated as 58 innocents burned to death. Rage at this incident, coupled with the inability to rush military reinforcements, allowed the ensuing riots to rage for some time. Over 200 Indian policemen died in bringing order. This horror has been misused for 13 years now to throw all sorts of political accusations, but the People of India apparently have investigated, the Supreme Court most definitely has, and decided on the validity of those accusations.

    But who exactly planned and executed the initial incendiary atrocity? The one sure sign is “those who seemed to know it was going to happen”. Within 2 weeks after that event, in an atmosphere of severe difficulties for air travel, an international conference was conducted at Oberlin College, Ohio, called “Siting Secularism in India”. The only record of any business conducted or papers presented, is a Resolution Condeminng the Indian Government For Genocide. Hello AAUP members, how long does it take you to plan and organize, how long a lead time to execute, an International Conference? Who funded that conference? Who attended, having made plans to attend months before (actually in October 2001, when it was evident that America would go to war against terrorism). I have academic freedom to speculate, do I not? Perhaps the evidence is still on the Internet. Some of the attendees, I believe, are on the List Of Scholars Expressly Resenting Success. You may see why I view their latest antic with skepticism.

    Thanks again to AAUP for keeping an open channel for discussion despite what must have been a shocking experience of how the outside world views their actions. For comparison, back in 2003-2004, the RISA (Religion in South Asia) Internet gang tried being “open” so that the rest of Humanity could benefit from viewing the exalted exchanges between their Scholars (most did not even have one degree, some may not have passed high school), although they did not allow comments by “Lay Outsiders”. Eventually they became aware of the widespread raucous laughter on the Internet citing their pompous nonsense. Unable to counter the truth, they then decided to go underground, whining shrilly about the error in allowing the Unwashed Extremists to view their discussions. As a senior American university professor with over 37 years of teaching and research experience, let me congratulate AAUP on maintaining open access to new ideas. Long may you continue this tradition. The alternatives in today’s open Internet world, are not conducive to growth.

    Now I realize that my post is what you will call “Polemic” if you are unusually kind. Yes. “Vituperative”, “Bile” if you are unable to rebut the truth and feel compelled to whine.

    But I write the truth as I see it. I provide clear evidence. I can leave the big words and elegantly forceful arguments in good hands now.

    Geeks like me, as I explained to Professor Juluri, are not equipped with the endless patience to keep explaining the truth to people who have no interest in it, and, in the immortal words of Bob Dylan, “Pretend Not To See”. I respect all fields of endeavor, so when I see people claiming exalted credentials in such fields and still spouting what are obviously lies and nonsense, it does not strike me as an occasion for continued patient explanation. Goodbye and All the Best. OLD n3

    • OLD n3,
      Since last few days that i have been following this series of acrimonious blogs, it became a pleasure to read your clinical and factual notes across all the posts. Such as i am eagerly searching your name in any new comment that might have been posted after each visit. Thanks for the brilliant analysis each time.

  6. Prof. Juluri,

    I am having a hard time accepting some of the claims in your essay because they are not substantiated. For example, you write:

    the academic consensus on India and Hinduism in particular was never decolonized from its old colonial-era Eurocentric, orientalistic assumptions…

    the same old assumptions remained…

    Most South Asia studies scholars … have failed to engage in open debate about these issues…

    As someone who is not intimately familiar with Indian politics, I am not sure what you are alluding to and need some examples.

    I was also surprised to read that “Narendra Modi’s election as Prime Minister is seen by many Indians as the return of an … pluralistic … aspiration”. Can the leader of the Hindu nationalist BJP really be pluralistic?

    There were some parts of the statement that seemed fishy to me such as

    “Modi was cleared by several investigating agencies of any complicity in the riots that broke out in Gujarat in 2002 following the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims by a Muslim mob”

    Which agencies? Were they neutral and objective or political and biased? The language in this sentence tries to blame the Muslims.

    You write “His recent visit to U.A.E. where he was received warmly by senior members of the government (who happen to be devout and proud Muslims) …” in an attempt to prove Modi and the BJP have good relations with Muslims. This proves nothing. Government to government relations do not usually hinge on domestic discrimination issues and professional diplomats don’t usually harangue each other unnecesarily. The Gulf states have relations with Israel which is hardly a model of tolerance. When do the Gulf states care about discrimination domestically or abroad?

    “The powerful endorsement Modi has received from two of the major institutions that govern civilized modern societies, law and democracy…”

    Which institutions? What do India’s minorities think about the BJP?

    “Their allegations that somehow academic freedom is under threat… are completely belied by the reality (that)…TV anchors, writers, journalists, columnists, and bloggers not only criticize Modi and his government, but often go so far as to promote baseless and sensational charges…”

    Actually, it is possible for the press to be free while academia is not. Why are the specific allegations of academic repression wrong?

    “We therefore reject the faculty statement against Modi in its entirety.”

    You are not even willing to concede that the critics might have some valid points? Is that likely?

    The emotional and defensive tone of your writing makes me question your objectivity.

    • Hi Edward,
      I prefer a bulleted approach for multiple questions

      1. Which agencies and were they neutral?
      The Supreme Court of India after multiple inquiries all when Modi was not under power!

      2. When do gulf nations care about discrimination?
      Valid. Much is touted about that visit but it was a pursuit against an international criminal – Dawood Ibrahim. It was punctuated with other factors such as a few billion in investments, a place for Hindu worship in their holy lands and a visit after 34 years by a national leader. That’s all business as usual. A distraction. He got what he wanted. Much of that criminal’s assets outside Pakistan haven been seized.

      3. TV anchors writers and journalists, columnists and bloggers !
      Think Fox News on every channel. That’s Indian media for you. Take a look at an article in The Daily Show with John Stewart exposing this hypocrisy by paying $1200 to a second page article in a leading newspaper professing the greatness of Jim Jones. Indian media has been on sale and that’s the only thing they don’t advertise on paper.

      Modi behaves with silly Gandhian ideals of first they will mock you, then they will…..etc. Sadly this behavior produces great leaders posthumously. We, in the south Asian community know that he faces unwarranted scrutiny only to be proved innocent every time. It puts us in a quandary waiting for the first faux pau.

      The academe blog was unwarranted. When he is embraced by business leaders from Google, IBM and Microsoft, it would sound archaic for the academe to pluck the strings from a nehruvian era from the 1950s.

      I hope this provides you the right insight in not answer to your questions.

      • Hi Narsi,

        Thanks for the response. Yes, numbering adds clarity.

        1. On the Gujarat anti-Muslim pogrom, I think that even if Mr. Modi was not directly involved, he was the governor of a police force that did not stop the massacre and a member of a political party, the BJP, whose anti-Muslim rhetoric contributed to what happened. So I think it is fair to criticize him over this massacre regardless of his involvement. Did anyone even go to jail after the pogrom?

        4. Are Mr. Modi and the BJP being treated unfairly? I think the reason the BJP is controversial is because of their intolerant politics.

      • Hi Edward

        1. Would you please care to check the news out, before asking “Did anyone go to jail?” Moreover, are you aware of the fact that the Govt got disdolved after the pogrom and got re-elected? Next, would you like to highlight the anti-mudlim rhetoric by the BJP, either in their manifesto or in their press releases?

        4. It is the non-BJP parties that started intolerance towards the majorities in India. Hatemongers like these leftist academicians added their bit. BJP’s intolerance is not even 10% of theirs.

      • Hi Varum,

        1. According to the wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002_Gujarat_riots) on the Gujarat massacre “…the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), as well as many politicians, including Modi, made inflammatory remarks and endorsed strikes, further stoking tensions.”

        4. I don’t know enough about Indian politics to argue this point. However, many of the comments on this blog have been of the variety “this BJP supporter is great, that BJP critic is defective.” I think the critics probably have some valid arguments and I would like to see the supporters address these. When I wrote “I think the reason the BJP is controversial is because of their intolerant politics” that was my guess as to their argument.

    • Hi Edward

      I am a lawyer and an observer of contemporary affairs. I do not agree with a few of the statements which Prof Juluri has made, nor for that matter, do I see Narendra Modi as any different from the ineffectual politicians who have preceded him.

      Yet, I have serious issues with the campaign of calumny against Modi and in general, the Hindu right, particularly on the issue of minority relations. In response to your questions, I will try to highlight a few points on the 2002 riots which might make you want to re-assess your estimate of it.

      1. Quite surprised that you are not aware that the trigger for the riots were a Muslim mob attack on a passenger train in which 58 pilgrims – men, women and children were burnt alive. There is no dispute regarding the nature and demographic of the mob, with some apologists even trying to invent excuses like ‘the mob was incensed because the pilgrims refused to pay a Mulsim vendor for tea and pulled his beard’.

      2. Fashionable to call it a pogrom in which 1000 Muslims died. However, the dead included over 350 Hindus and around 275 of the total were killed in police firing trying to disperse riotous mobs. While 100,000 Muslims took temporary refuge in shelters, around 40,000 Hindus from minority dominated pockets too became refugees. In short, it was not a pogrom but riots in between 2 communities. Victim count was obviously higher from the community which happened to be in a minority in that particular area.

      3. The riots started on Feb 28 and the army was called in to restore order on March 1. As per estimates of India Today, over 1,100,000 people ‘participated’ in the riots. With such magnitude, it would be some time before the situation was contained. The army doesn’t work under the command of the State Government. The agencies and courts which absolved Modi worked under a hostile Government and influence, if any, was just to the contrary – indict Modi at all costs!

      4. Many people have been jailed for their participation in riots. At the same time, many, like those who brunt the Hindu women and children alive, are still roaming free. This unfortunately, is a case of systemic failure of the legal system of the country.

      Could Modi have done better? Maybe. Was he inefficient? Maybe. But complicit? Unlikely. Over a decade of witch-hunt has not provided any evidence of his involvement. And inefficiency in any case is not a criminal offence. For all his Hindu Nationalist credentials, he failed to stop the killing of over 350 Hindus in the riots (that assuming he was interested that only Muslims be killed)

      As regards your comments on the validity of the critics’ stand against him. My humble submission is – there is no political leader in the world who commands absolute public support (other than dictatorial nations). People as respected as Gandhi, Mandela and Martin Luther Kind had their political opponents. Here, we are talking of someone who is but an ordinary politician who became the PM of India, inspite of sustained campaign against him. As regards minority support for him. Yes, it does not exist. Just how does that negate the mandate which other Indians have given him? Too bad but the truth worldwide is that, in a democracy, the minority don’t get a veto.

      In much of their criticism, the academicians are questioning Modi’s prerogative to govern in a way which is different from their world-view. Just what gives them, or any other party the right to believe that a party/leader who has been democratically elected, needs approval for each and every act, from the very same set of people who were defeated?

      Sorry but I detect a hint of bias when you say that BJP is controversial for its intolerant views. Can I dictate what the others’ views should be? Should I mould myself as per what others feel I should be like? No. Definitely not.

      • Hi Ankush,

        1. Actually, I am quite surprised that you are quite surprised, because the wikipedia article I linked to above offers several Rashomon-like explanations for the train attacks, from different investigating commissions:

        “Under controversial circumstances, four coaches of the train caught on fire, trapping many people inside.”

        “The government of Gujarat set up a commission to look into the incident… concluding that the fire was arson committed by a mob of 1000-2000 local people”

        “The Union government lead by the Indian National Congress party in 2005 also set up a committee to probe the incident, headed up by retired Supreme Court judge Umesh Chandra Banerjee. The committee concluded that the fire had begun inside the train and was most likely accidental.”

        “In February 2011, the trial court convicted 31 people and acquitted 63 others … saying the incident was a “pre-planned conspiracy”.”

        “The Concerned Citizens Tribunal (CCT), headed by Teesta Setalvad concluded that the fire had been an accident, stating that the attack by a mob was part of a government conspiracy to trigger riots across the state.[44][45] Several other independent commentators have also concluded that the fire itself was almost certainly an accident, saying that the initial cause of the conflagration has never been conclusively determined.[46][47] Historian Ainslie Thomas Embree stated that the official version of the attack on the train, that it was organized, carried out by people under orders from Pakistan, was entirely baseless.”

        5. “As regards your comments on the validity of the critics’ stand against him. My humble submission is – there is no political leader in the world who commands absolute public support .”

        I agree no leader will command 100% support. However, I was not so much affirming that the BJP critics are right and the BJP is wrong, but that the critics probably have valid arguments which need to be answered, rather then the critics dismissed as unreasonable people, which is something else. As a lawyer,I am sure you appreciate the fact that there are always two (or more) sides to an argument. Judging from the comments on this blog, people are talking past each other.

        6. “Sorry but I detect a hint of bias when you say that BJP is controversial for its intolerant views.

        I do have some preconceptions about the BJP, admittedly based on sketchy information. Once in a while I see an article about them (or the larger movement they belong to), starting in the 1990’s with reports about attacks on Mosques in India. What I was getting at, though, is: what are the charges based on and how does the BJP answer them? What other criticisms of the BJP exist, what are they based on, and how are they answered?

        7. “Can I dictate what the others’ views should be?”

        How do you have a discussion of an issue without promoting a view or opinion? I could accuse anyone who tries to tell me this is so or that is so of dictating to me.

    • Apologies for spamming

      The previous 2 responses are getting inadvertently edited while posting. Please remove those and publish only the one in this post

      Hi Edward

      May I suggest that you also look beyond Wiki (an open and eminently editable) source of information, particularly on such topics.

      I have little to argue when a historian quotes authoritatively basis his assumptions on what would have happened. As regards conspiracy theories, well, Wikipedia also mentions a conspiracy theory on man-having-never-landed on moon. There is an entire industry on how the holocaust did not happen or that the Sep 11 plane attacks either did not happen or were engineered by the US itself, that the attack on Pentagon was a US missile, yada yada.

      The government of Gujarat set up a commission to look into the incident… concluding that the fire was arson committed by a mob of 1000-2000 local people”

      Comment: Yes. These local people were Muslims

      “The Union government lead by the Indian National Congress party in 2005 also set up a committee to probe the incident, headed up by retired Supreme Court judge Umesh Chandra Banerjee. The committee concluded that the fire had begun inside the train and was most likely accidental.”

      Comment: The ‘findings’ of this committee were rejected by the High Court

      “In February 2011, the trial court convicted 31 people and acquitted 63 others … saying the incident was a “pre-planned conspiracy”.”

      Comment: Yes. It was

      “The Concerned Citizens Tribunal (CCT), headed by Teesta Setalvad concluded that the fire had been an accident, stating that the attack by a mob was part of a government conspiracy to trigger riots across the state.[44][45] Several other independent commentators have also concluded that the fire itself was almost certainly an accident, saying that the initial cause of the conflagration has never been conclusively determined.[46][47] Historian Ainslie Thomas Embree stated that the official version of the attack on the train, that it was organized, carried out by people under orders from Pakistan, was entirely baseless.

      Comment: Some of the above ‘independent’ commentators had even claimed that the pilgrims had conducted self-immolation to give Muslims a bad name and trigger riots

      Outside of a loony fringe, there is absolutely no confusion on the nature and demographics of the mob.

      Since you seem interested, may I suggest that you refer to newspaper archives of the day, leading papers like Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Indian Express, The Hindu and newsmagazines, Outlook and India Today (editions around 1st week of March). None of them are friends of the BJP or Modi. Read survivor accounts. I hope you will get enough material to convince yourself that the train was consciously set to fire by a Muslim mob.

    • ““Narendra Modi’s election as Prime Minister is seen by many Indians as the return of an … pluralistic … aspiration”.

      Rightly or wrongly, these many Indians see the mess that Pakistan is and that Bangladesh is, despite Jinnah’s August 11, 1947 speech (e.g., “We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. The people of England in course of time had to face the realities of the situation and had to discharge the responsibilities and burdens placed upon them by the government of their country and they went through that fire step by step. Today, you might say with justice that Roman Catholics and Protestants do not exist; what exists now is that every man is a citizen, an equal citizen of Great Britain and they are all members of the Nation.

      Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”);

      and despite Bangladesh’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s commitment to secularism.

      They conclude that though there is the common culture and languages with these countries, the difference arises from a civilizational value, which finds its current political manifestation in the BJP. They see the Fabian Socialist Congress, the Leftist parties, the Islamists and the Evangelists as fundamentally antithetical to this civilizational value.

      They also see that in the name of secularism, the Indian government has unprecedented power to interfere in Hindu religious institutions, while those of the other religions are explicitly protected from such government interference by the Constitution. For instance, allegedly, temple collections in Karnataka were used to subsidize the Hajj (and this is just one illustrative example from a book-long list of such things).

      As I wrote, rightly or wrongly, this is the perception. All human perception of very large scale complex human phenomena (how does one summarize 1.2 billion people?) takes on some of the attributes of a myth, even as does this explanation of mine. But I hope it promotes a little understanding.

  7. I agree with Vamsee Juluri. Credibility of South Asia faculty in USA is zilch with the types of faculty statements and responses issued. I say to the Hinduphobic: Do your homework, work for abhyudayam (general welfare) which is the raison d’etre of dharma. Jeevema s’aradah s’atam, may you live a hundred autumns. I fully endorse commemnts of oldn3.

  8. Situation like this always exposes hate mongers. They are so blind to reality that they end up digging their own grave. Typical of bull headed opinionated fear mongers with vested interests. I support Prof Juluri’s response absolutely without any doubt. I appreciate the service Prof is doing for the south Asian studies and American audience and India at large by exposing the propaganda and taking a bold stand to bring out the truth.

  9. Thanks for sharing your idea on positive side of recent Indian leaders. The letter writing professors have been generally anti bhartiya philosophy I believe. I did not see any letter from them to stop Sonia/Rahul whose party was responsible for Sikhs. These people did not blame Modi for Hindus also killed in the same riots in Gujrat but only lamented for other religion. The numbers they use is no match for the numbers given by Congress govt driven agencies. Basically they seems to be a bucket of people trying to be representative of Indian thought process but unfortunately they seems to be most naive about India and recent development. All the investigations by congress could not find anything against Modi, but they found against congress neighboring state govt, who refused to help Modi. Center did not provide center forces in time too. How can you make people fool once the facts are out. The only work these people seems to be doing is anti India in lack of facts or by bias.
    Thanks for your thoughts.

  10. Edward: “I don’t know enough about Indian politics to argue this point.” That’s why folks like you are the perfect audience for the so-called South Asian experts and intellectuals to dish out all kinds of nonsense.

  11. Western Academia’s role on issues related to India is Communally divisive, Politically partisan,Culturally anti-Dharma .But Most seriously, these academicians listed in Petition are anti-India and they contribute and help in ‘Atrocity Literature’ fabrication campaign by “Breaking India Forces” to undermine and demonize India and Indians via Global Press, Academic writings and Think Tanks.

    I hope sane people in Western Academia will do some serious contemplation and think of course-correction. Otherwise the day is not too far when ” Vigilant Youth of India” will rise up against Western Academic Establishment spewing venom against Indian Society. Its a question of safeguarding and defending India’s Integrity as a Nation, a Culture,a Civilization and an invaluable Heritage.

  12. I completely support this petition for warmly welcoming Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the USA and specifically to the Silicon Valley of USA, and I have signed the petition at Change.org

  13. I studied in the United States, have much of my family there and am amazed by the amount of Hinduphobia and barely disguised bigotry amongst many academics in the guise of objectivity. Whether its white privilege or plain and simple crassness, but its always amazing to me, how many western academics interject themselves into other country’s internal cultural debates, pretend to speak for it, tell it what is right or wrong, all the while, detesting it. Wendy Doniger, a lady with a clear penchant for sexual analysis, decided to interpret revered Hindu Gods and Goddesses in the most perverse way possible, deliberately choosing to pick the most offensive and gross misrepresentations. She is then aided in this august effort by marxist leaning Indian academics who detest hinduism and its culture, and also by those residing in the west and are fully beholden to the western establishment for personal benefit. The likes of Doniger can’t even participate in a single Hindu religious ritual or understand its true significance, they haven’t grown up in the milieu or even understand the nitty gritties of what it mean’s to live in a living faith that exists today, yet because of potty mouthed “books” put together with vague “research” citing equally dubious claims by other “western scholars” she is an authority on hinduism. Heck, my late grandma was a bigger authority than this lady ever was and she lived her life with far more grace and civility than this lot. I picked Doniger because she is exactly representative of a lot of the “South Asia humanities” types who neither understand a faith they are merely outside observers of, and in turn fail to understand or even be objective of a vast country that is linked together by that very faith, irrespective of the pastiche of western and other administrative structures that have basically been pasted on a culture that is thousands of years old, and has evolved in a complex manner so much so that as an Indian who has lived all over India, have a heritage that belongs to some 4 different Indian states even leaving aside my American and worldwide links, encompassing multiple languages and subcultures, I am still aware of and constantly get reminded of both the complexity and also the unifying factor Hinduism brings to the Indian cultural table and how many things are changing as we speak. Then I open a newspaper or a webportal, and yet again, there is some rancid commentary by (usually) a anglocentric gent/lady in the west, who neither knows even the basics about the culture or country they are talking of, but are “experts” and hence must be listened to. It would be hilarious but for the sheer pomposity and hubris displayed. In the comments above, some edward comments “oh professor jaluri, your comments are emotional, so they can’t be objective yada yada”. This is the same manner in which african american commentaries about their own people and race were dismissed out of hand by their self proclaimed “betters”, y’all are primitive, so emotional. The same manner in which folks tell the random token Asian today “oh but you are so eloquent” (subtext: the rest of you folks aren’t). The same chap knows nothing of Gujurat, probably can’t even speak any Indian language, relies on “Wiki” (oh great!), hasn’t even lived in India to actually experience the Hindu-Muslim dynamic in reality (as versus oh the poor oppressed Muslims caricature we see so often in western academia), and no wonder, he jumps in both feet in mouth to make pronouncements on a topic. But he does. The average Indian wouldn’t jump into a discussion on a Nigerian board discounting what one group’s experience is. They’d realize they lack the basis merely relying on Wiki and what not. But the Edwards and other “South Asian scholars” are all experts. They need not wonder. And of course, some Indian who needs a H1 or L1 visa but can’t finagle it based on actual work in a proper field, will be glad to play to the gallery.

    Heres the thing though, India is rising as a power and hence able to address its challenges on the basis of its STEM strengths, humanities studies in India are more and less regarded as worthless since those unable to do engineering, medicine or management or anything with the nose to the grindstone would take up these wishy washy assignments. I always thought it was an unfair assignment and stereotype. However given the manner in which most of these South Asian/XYZ studies jokers have discredited themselves and come across as nothing but rampant racists masquerading as academics, it quickly becomes clear that mediocrity is a given in this field. Mr Jaluri is perfectly right in that many Indians regard the entire profession and the “letter writers” who attacked Modi as a bunch of worthless sell outs without a shred of objectivity to their names.

    Anyone in India in 2014 would have seen how Modi conducted his campaign and what drove India to vote for him. A mix of disaffection for the blatant anti Hindu behavior of the Congress party, their toxic mismanagement of the economy and Modis own track record in Gujarat which Indians visit and know about, as versus bellyaching on the net about this indice, that indice quoted in Wiki.
    But hey, we Indians need not know all this. Our betters, the south asian scholars in the west, are telling us what to do.

    How AMAZING.

  14. The heartbreaking thing is… I can’t imagine a Black Studies professor being anti-black, a Jewish Studies professor being anti-Semitic, a Women’s Studies professor being misogynistic.

    Yet, “South Asian” professors are anti-India and Hinduphobic. And they thrive by expressing these attitudes. Because that is the prevailing culture in Leftist academia.

    • Yup you said it. Whats amazing is how this subculture exists as a mockery of every other field. Indians in STEM work with multiple cultures, across the world and get the job done on the basis of fact based analysis and unbelievable hard work. That’s what it takes to rise from a developing status to a developed one (and we have a long way to go yet in per capita terms). Then you see these hinduphobic folks sitting in ivory towers in academia and the sum total of their achievements over decades are rants citing each other and their screeds. When the Ayodhya verdict was recently noted by the Indian High Court a lot of these leftist scholars were really badly exposed by the court. Most had not visited the historic site, most had no clue of actual archaeology, most were busy citing each other (incestuous cross referencing) and were busy declaring each other as historical experts and discounting the state appointed Archaeological Society’s actual evidence which showed a mosque had indeed been built upon a Hindu temple, as the Hindu site had always maintained. Because the evidence was against them, they resorted to slander, diatribes and innuendo and then sought to convert all that into fact by publishing it widely and trying to make it the dominant story, while the dry facts uncovered would no longer be widely disseminated. This then is “progressivism” wherein facts don’t matter, “social justice” as determined by the clique (hindus bad) matters and that dominates anything. No matter the south asia studies group and the “liberal humanities” group is regarded as such a farce and as a bunch of double dealing hypocrites who’d sell out anything for a quick buck and a tenure in the west. Mr Jalluri was absolutely correct that many of us Hindus who’d usually be proud to be called liberal, now associate negative connotations to the term as its employed by these toxic leftists.

  15. Another thing. The average American, much like the average Indian is a live and let live sort, minding his/her own business and probably decent fun to hang around with (they’ll go out of their way to be nice to strangers and so forth). This is what America’s “image” to many Indians was. However, thanks to the non stop hate literature emanating from western academics on India and Hinduism, more and more, the US is seen as being janus faced. Completely oblivious to its own failings whilst name calling other nations and cultures non stop. The other day, a friend was told (after he discussed his recent US visit), hey so will you also start now looking down on us brown natives. Everyone laughed – but the subtext was unmistakeable, this is the behavior demonstrated by many of these “academics” when they preach to the Indian Govt and constantly berate, demonize the Indian public for all sorts of cooked up sleights. Yeah we get it, to secure your nice little perches in the US educational system you have to suck up to the leftist establishment and be good little boys (and gals), but seriously, at some time realize the manner in which you are poisoning the well of inter state, interpersonal relationships all because of your greed and lack of any objective moral compass.

  16. Pingback: Hindu American Foundation Statement | The Academe Blog

  17. Pingback: The 25 Most Read Posts to the Academe Blog in 2015 | The Academe Blog

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