Why is it so important to counter this cabal of intellectuals and scholars? What’s the big deal if the scholars like Pollock go on twisting the Indian classics unquestioned? First of all, when our traditional ideas are translated in the West, in most of the cases they are taken out of the context, totally disconnected from the source. There can be many reasons, but one of the reasons is that the scholars who are trying to study the Indian tradition, the Indian sanskriti, they use a totally different model. They use the same scholarly models they have used to study Greek and Latin cultures.
This is a small problem actually. The bigger problem is the way the entire Hindu community is being portrayed as a highly biased, repressive entity that thrives on exclusion and casteism.
We shouldn’t rescue Sanskrit from the clutches of American Orientalists simply because of its exotic value or because of a hollow sense of pride; it actually contains a wealth of knowledge, and this knowledge is already being mined by Western scholars to make it their own.
I will just add one comment. RM had cautioned against academics like Pollock long back in 2003 in this Rediff article titled Does South Asian Studies Undermine India? He wrote
Many eminent Indian-American donors are being led down the garden path by Indian professors who, ironically, assemble a team of scholars to undermine Indian culture. Rather than an Indian perspective on itself and the world, these scholars promote a perspective on India using worldviews which are hostile to India’s interests.
An academic chair is a knowledge production center of very high leverage, and has the potential to do a lot of good or a lot of harm … There is a strong case for independent external audits by the funding sources to monitor standards of rigor, objectivity and quality.
Of course, no one paid any attention in 2003 or since. But now, in 2016, this book is making waves. I think the difference is that now RM is not talking in general terms, but is illustrating the problem concretely by targeting Sheldon Pollock. One can get a very good idea of the whole kurukshetra by just studying Pollock. Kudos to RM on this tactical master stroke! But make no mistake that there are many more Pollocks out there (some listed in my other post on red flag personalities). I suspect that quite a few of them would provide enough material for many more volumes of The Battle for Sanskrit!
- One of the endorsement of the book that carries special significance for me is that by Bibek Debroy in this video –
- This is a review by another scholar – Koenraad Elst – who I greatly respect. At the JNU event of TBFS Koenraad Elst’s gave a powerful rebuttal [video] to Pollock’s claim of a divide between Hinduism and Buddhism.