Of Substance vs Technicality - The Campaign to Smear Rajiv Malhotra with Allegations of Plagiarism

  • By Kartik Mohan
  • 21 July 2015
  • 2640 views
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To  millions of self-aware, questioning Hindus who regularly mine the  vaults of the information age for clues about their long-suppressed  civilizational identity, Rajiv Malhotra needs no introduction. You  may have listened to his presentations and debates on YouTube videos,  read his articles at a variety of online venues ranging from The  Huffington Post to Niti Central, and perhaps become familiar with the  seminal, path-breaking ideas he has articulated in four books thus  far: “Invading the Sacred”, “Breaking India”, “Being  Different”, and “Indra's Net”.

Perhaps  you identify in his work the building blocks of the historical  grand-narrative we've all been searching for:  the ancient, authentic  story-of-ourselves that Indians were forbidden to express during a  thousand years of oppressive foreign rule, and that a powerful nexus  of left-wing politicians, Christian missionary organizations, and  Marxist academicsseek to bury completely even today. Or perhaps you  think he's too confrontational, too controversial, and his ideas too  antithetical to our gentle post-colonial ethos, dedicated to  maintaining a picture ofsuperficial coexistence at all costs.

Either  way, what is certain is that Malhotra is a fount of ideas whose time  has come, and that he cannot be ignored.  Nor can he be ridiculed  into submission; shrill, ad-hominemderision targeting his credentials  has previously been issued by a plethora of self-aggrandizing Twitter  loudmouths and professional name-callers, but to no avail, as his  ideas continue to be disseminated ever more widely.

Mahatma  Gandhi once said of his detractors: "First they ignore you, then  they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win."  Like  many oppressors of yore, the nexus of left-wing India Studies  academics and international Christian missionary organizations has  already made vigorous but ultimately futile attempts to silence  Malhotra with the first two of these tactics. Little wonder that now,  they're gearing up for a no-holds-barred fight.

The  circumstances of the ongoing battle, with highly dubious allegations  of "plagiarism" having been leveled against Malhotra by a  lecturer at a Christian seminary in New Jersey, beg the question of  why the forces determined to suppress his ideas have invested in such  desperate smear campaigns (with a concomitant squandering of academic  credibility, such as it ever was, on the part of their hatchet-men).  A brief review of his work should make the reasons clear.

In  "Invading the Sacred", Malhotra identified and took to task  the cartel of peer-review that rigidly controls discourse about  Indian cultural traditions, specifically Hindu religion, in the  American academy.  He wrote penetratingly of this group's penchant  for analyzing Hinduism with Western critical theories that represent  its traditional features as fundamentally oppressive and primitive:  the foundation of the "caste, cows, and curry"paradigm of  Indian religion that dominates the Western popular imagination.

In  tandem, Malhotra exposed the fact that generations of Western  scholars have been harvesting the wealth of Indian traditional  knowledge systems without attribution;appropriating Yoga, Ayurveda  and various disciplines of meditation for the innumerable benefits  they provide modern Western societies, without acknowledging the  origin of these products in the very same civilizational continuum  that religious studies academics workovertime to defame. His  identification of this process as "digestion" earned him  the ire of many powerful individuals who depended upon its extractive  mechanisms to thrive. At the same time, his questioning of the  official academic position on Hinduism as a primitive and  exploitative faith proved extremely inconvenient to missionary  groups, who rely on this representation to justify "saving"  the millions of dark-skinned souls allegedly chafing against its  shackles.

"Breaking  India" went a step further, explaining how false narratives  concocted under the aegis of long-defunct  and thoroughly baseless  race-theories, such as the "Aryan Invasion of India" and  "Dalit/Dravidian identity", were being utilized to foster  political destabilization of the modern Indian state. Worse yet,  these inventions had become the basis of atrocity literature  fabricated to compel the imposition of more sinister political  interventions, such as the threat of economic sanctions against India  by Western governments in the name of "human rights"; all  of this amounted to pressure tactics that would ultimately aid  Christian missionary groups in their efforts to reap converts from  amongst India's more disadvantaged populations.

If  Malhotra's first two books were long-overdue exposés of the  exploitative machinery deployed by certain Western interests against  Indian civilization, his third, "Being Different", sets  forth a positive formulation of Indian identity in the modern age. It  contrasts Dharma civilizations, which gave rise to Hindu, Buddhist,  Jain and Sikh belief systems, with Abrahamic civilizations rooted in  monotheistic faiths such as Judaism, Christianity or Islam,  highlighting certain features that make Dharma civilizations unique:   an emphasis on living systems of embodied knowledge rather than  privileged historical narratives as the basis for spiritual belief; a  comfort with ambiguity and complexity as opposed to the rigid  intolerance of perceived chaos;  a worldview predicated on existing  integral unity within the universe, instead of a synthetic unity that  human beings must impose upon creation; and a grounding in  non-translatable Sanskrit terminology that inherently resists  attempts at cultural digestion by enforced homogenization.

"Being  Different" analyses the identity crisis faced by modern-day  Hindus in terms of "difference anxiety":  a perceived need  to make oneself more acceptable to the Western other by explaining  one's identity in terms dictated by the framework of Western  universalism. The book advocates an alternative approach:  that of  reversing the gaze upon the West and insisting on a relationship  based on the recognition and acceptance of existing differences with  mutual respect.

If  the positive approach to self-identification detailed in "Being  Different" alarmed the nexus of interests determined to keep  Hindus on the back foot,  the thorough deconstruction in "Indra's  Net" of a highly motivated and specific distortion of Indian  civilizational narrative, championed by an influential section of  Western Indologists, must have seemed unbearably threatening. Here,  Malhotra directly takes on the peddlers of the "Neo-Hinduism"  thesis: the pernicious and entirely unsubstantiated notion that  Hinduism never existed as a philosophically unified "religion"  until the 19th century, when a group of nationalist Indian  philosophers (Swami Vivekananda among them) cobbled it together from  a diverse ensemble of essentially unrelated folk beliefs, spiritual  texts and popular mythologies originating in different micro-cultures  from across the subcontinent.

The  idea that Hinduism is a relatively recent and politically-motivated  invention is, again, useful to all groups of Malhotra's detractors.  Christian missionary organizations, whose claim to spiritual  authority lies in asserting the supremacy of the historical narrative  conveyed in the Bible, employ this false representation to  characterize Hinduism as an illegitimate religion. Professional  digesters, who have made their fortunes peddling ideas derived from  Yoga or meditation to Western consumers without acknowledgement, see  in it a ready-made excuse to avoid attributing the origins of such  knowledge within an effectively delegitimized tradition. Finally,  left-wing Indian academics, who enjoy backing from within the deep  state in many Western countries, leverage it as yet another  opportunity to undermine the very case for Indian nationhood.  With  its rigorous demolition of the Neo-Hinduism thesis, "Indra's  Net" deprives all these groups of aninvaluable source of  ammunition.

It  is the announcement of Malhotra's forthcoming book, however, that  seems to have goaded this nexus into precipitous action.  In this  publication, Malhotra takes on a group of Western academics (and  their Indian acolytes) committed to effecting the cultural genocide  of Indian civilization by wresting control of the very genetic code  in which its vast, rich and heritable legacy of knowledge  transmission is inscribed: the Sanskrit language itself. He exposes  the motivations implicit in the approach that its leaders, including  the highly influential scholar Sheldon Pollock, advocate towards the  study of Sanskrit: sterilizing its vast oeuvre of all the sacred  content it has produced; interpreting its literature with the  singular purpose of portraying Hindu tradition as oppressive and  inegalitarian; and entombing it within the confines of a conceptual  museum as a dead language, fit only for scholarly study, incapable  any longer of nurturing the great forest of civilizational traditions  that has drawn sustenance from it for thousands of years.

Pollock  is extremely well-connected, not only within Western academic  circles, but to numerous powerful individuals amongst the Indian  elite-- many of whom have staked their credibility upon backing him,  ironically enough, as a champion of Sanskrit "revival". It  is hardly surprising that, a few days after Malhotra offered a  preview of his forthcoming book at the World Sanskrit Conference in  Bangkok, the onslaught against him has been taken up from all  quarters.

This  is the context in which we must consider the barrage of internet  noise underpinning the indisputably flimsy allegations of plagiarism  that one Richard Fox Young has recently directed against Rajiv  Malhotra. The veracity of the allegations themselves has been  dissected and exposed in numerous other venues; I will not address  them here, other than to say that they only reveal how little  credibility Mr. Young had to lose when he made himself available to  conduct this unfortunate kamikaze attack in the first place.

However,  in a situation typical of the 24X7 news media age, the accusation  that Malhotra committed plagiarism has itself gained greater  prominence, through endless repetition, than the question of whether  there is any merit to the charges themselves.  In effect, the blurry  edge of the news cycle has been utilized to inflict a smear that  Malhotra’s antagonists hope will pre-emptively alienate his vast  constituency of potential readers.  During last year’s election  campaign in India, this tactic emerged as the preferred weapon of the  entrenched and morally bankrupt incumbents against the reformist  outsider, Narendra Modi.

On a thorough  reading of the allegations it becomes obvious that the nexus of  interests who collude to suppress the Hindu narrative, and foster the  perpetual colonization of the Indian psyche, is attempting to pin  Malhotra on a technicality.  While this does reflect their inability  to counter him with substantive arguments, it should not be lightly  dismissed; after all, the British East India Company’s use of the  Doctrine of Lapse demonstrates how a technicality could be leveraged  to annex a vast number of states and enslave our people.

To  all those Indian commentators who have seized upon the current fracas  as an opportunity to make sagely equivocal statements deploring the  alleged propensity to plagiarism amongst Indian writers, I would  offer this reminder:  if you let your opponent set the rules of the  game, you have only yourself to blame when you lose.

About  Author - Kartik Mohan is an executive in a tech firm in New York, with  extensive background in tracking Hinduphobia and fighting it for 20  years.

Also  read
1. Rajiv Malhotra speech at World Sanskrit Conference in Bangkok 2015
2. Circular  Firing Squad of Flying Attack Monkeys Target Rajiv Malhotra
3. Plagiarism  charge: Why Rajiv Malhotra is on the gunsights of western Indologists
4. Wendy's  revenge: Plagiarism charge against Rajiv Malhotra is a red herring
5. Fundamentalist  Cleric Throws Plagiarism Bull at American Author
6. When Caste was not a bad word
7. Freduian twists to Hindu myths
8. Why post-independent India is at odds with its true nature
9. Taking Sanskrit to the world
10.In  the  world’s largest Muslim nations Hindu epics survive and thrive
11.The modern revivalists
12.Foreign Funding of Indian NGO's