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Musings on Rajiv Malhotra’s “THE BATTLE FOR SANSKRIT”, Part 2: Did WhatsApp precede Twitter or vice versa?

In this second part, I muse on Rajiv Malhotra’s warnings about ceding control and authority on ancient traditions, to ‘outsiders’. He defines outsiders very carefully, not based on race, color, gender or national origin, but somewhat on inimical belief, inimical faith or atheistic arrogance, lack of immersion in tradition and very much on political antipathy towards the ancient traditions of India and their practitioners. There are certainly examples in my view and I am sure RM recognizes these too, of thousands of people born with no connection to India, who have become devout practitioners and believers in our traditions!!

One of the themes running through the book is his hard-earned certainty from decades of reading, watching and debating  (with which I agree 100%)  that far too many of the “outsiders” purporting to be deeply interested in studying ancient Indian traditions do so not out of love and devotion, but for the express purposes of enriching themselves at the expense of Indian tradition, while simultaneously destroying the traditions. They study the traditions of Sanatana Dharma as the ISIS studied the Yazidis of Iraq or the Christians of Syria. If you have any doubts on this account, or consider the above to be an extreme analogy, please take the time to read about, if not through (which is beyond the nausea-immunity of most decent people), the works of Professor Paul  Courtright of Emory University of “Limp Phaullus” fame, or Professor Wendy Doniger of U. Chicago (latest work ordered pulped by the Courts in India for violating hate-crime law), or their ilk. The writings of Harvard University Sanskrit Professor and Linguist Michael Witzel and his sidekick Steve Farmer at their “Indo-Eura(cist/sian) Research Forum on, say, Indian dance traditions and on young Indian women practising classical dance. Yes, there is a reason they hurl the hate-moniker of “Hindu Right” at any of us who dare stand up and protest these atrocities. That reason is that we are indeed Right, and they are Wrong. Hilariously if not hatefully wrong.

Now this is not to agree that particular faculty researching Indian traditions should be subjected to sweeping generalizations based on guilt by association – although that is, to make a sweeping generalization, exactly what they do to us – sweeping generalizations. I know enough to sense why Rajiv Malhotra set out to write this book. I have not read the book enough to see if there is enough damning evidence inside this particular book to prove the case about the specific entities about which he set out to report.

To give an example of a similar situation, we are sure that it is a crime against Humanity to deliver weapons and dollars to terrorist groups operating inside Syria and Iraq. But that is not to say that we have specific knowledge of the specific actions or the specific mental makeup of every terrorist who might be receiving such misguided largesse. Not, of course, to imply that there is any connection between American university furniture and terrorist groups operating in Syria or Iraq.

In other words, I am only up to page 32. 🙂

Samskrtam, not ‘Sans krit’!

The values of my tradition connect straight back to the Vamana and Parasurama Avataras. Our idolized and ideal King of the Malayalees was not born Kshatriya or Brahmana, He was just one heck of a ruler. He ruled by self-sacrifice (on his part, not the type that corporate and university bosses exhort these days), not by sacrificing his subjects. He ruled by fairness and kindness, not the sword and the chain and the whip. Our other hero Parasurama nearly annihilated the entire Kshatriya line through his military prowess, before he invented the term “buried the hatchet” in the ocean, creating my native land. These in no way detract from our devotion to Sanatana Dharma. So much for the Pollock/PRC Fallacies.

So I will state my small peeve with Shri Malhotra’s nomenclature in all due humility, though I completely understand the pressures that forced him to adopt it. The word is Samskrtam. The truncated ending preferred by newbies such as Hindiwallahs, is not the original. As Shri Rajiv points out accurately, the language known as Hindi derived from Samskrtam, corrupted (some would say ‘enriched’ which is often the same thing) by Persian influence. Why was Hindi called Hindi? Because it was associated with “Hind” the illiterate foreigners’ version of Sindhu, from Sapta Sindhu. The fashionable but uncivilized “Sans-Krit” means nothing. From here on I will call it Samskrtam, as it has been called in our society since long before the South Asian Faculty’s Martial Aryans came clanking down the Khyber Pass in their horse-drawn Portoilets and supposedly drove my ancestors down to our mountain-walled perch in the deep South. But I digress.

The Importance of the Non-Translatables

Reading on, a big concern is that ‘western’ or ‘outsider’ dabblers refuse to recognize the oral traditions of Sanatana Dharma and hence of Samskrtam. Malhotra refers repeatedly to the knowledge that only exists as “vibrations”, a non-translatable series of knowledge communication protocols that are nevertheless an utterly vital part of Samskrtam and our entire line of knowledge. There are non-translatable words denoting cultural concepts that  have no equivalent in English, and there are non-translatables that are simply not translatable into any language.

Just this morning I was studying a paper written by someone from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army on how to use millimeter waves focused on someone’s throat to detect and decode what they were saying. Speech decoding by vibration analysis. Come to think of it, that was 94 GigaHertz, a frequency that gets absorbed in the skin and causes extreme pain. So the subjects of that research, whose speech – probably screaming or 400% Voluntary Confessions – was recorded, may have been Tibetan Splittists or other Bourgeoise Revisionist Camp Followers of the Paper Tigers of Capitalist Imperialism, whom the PLA fights with its might to protect good People’s Politburo Members and their small trillion-dollar sweatshops in the Gobi Desert Re-Education and Rock-Breaking Resorts. Then again, I remember some of my friends who ventured out to see if the Vaimanika Sastra indeed contained detailed instructions on how to cut titanium and build hypersonic, VTOL amphibious transatmospheric  vehicles light and pretty enough to be called a Pushpaka Vimana, starting with dog-eared Xerox copies of Samskrtam verses.

All futile endeavors. The learning, what little we can achieve is in the studying and practice. Great minds regardless of geography, race, religion or epoch, have understood this.

“More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of”

as Alfred Tennyson imagined the dying King Arthur telling his grieving ale-sodden Crusader buddies.

This is the Faith part. The knowledge that each ancient sloka and rk  and oth convey is not necessarily in the words, nor indeed in acoustic signatures for translation. It is probably in the nonlinear system-level interactions that these have with the minds and bodies and the genes and the whole inner being of those transmitting and receiving them. Do you understand the psuedo-techno-gibberish I just wrote? It sounds good but I don’t. 🙂 And unfortunately, in my field, editors don’t publish papers unless reviewers can understand them 😦

I have tried to discuss what I can, from the 10 percent of my limited brain that I am supposedly able to use, to explain this concept, in the introductory book mentioned at the end of this post, so I will not belabor the point here.

While the great minds have understood this, inflated egos and university furniture are not necessarily in that category, their gifted minds are too clouded by pomp and power and pelf.

This sacred knowledge, as much as I can understand, is the crux of the ‘sruti’, entrusted from long before there were humans, through myriad generations and mutations and evolutions, to be transferred and preserved for posterity. As science advances, and human brains perhaps improve, perhaps those who follow us might make sense of more and more of this. Remember that the succinct Vedas, and particularly the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, were the devices to spread at least parts of the knowledge as far and wide as possible among humans, rendering it difficult for the Rakshasas to steal, hide and monopolize it. This is an exceptionally important point, very little appreciated by most of us because we take it so much for granted. But if you look at the first 2 or 3 Avataras, they were all about incessant struggles, wars, fought over thousands of years to recover and protect the knowledge base from the Rakshasas. A point that, with all veneration and humility, I would commend and emphasize to Their Holinesses at Sringeri and all other centers of study on Sanatana Dharma.

Malhotra points out accurately that entrusting translation and decoding of such traditions to outsiders is as smart as (my analogy, not RM’s: giving your AMOLED-screened Smartphone to very highly trained ourangutans to translate). Dear, energetic and intelligent creatures that they are cannot be expected to see much beyond the colors on the screen, send a few text messages, and that not for long before they smash it and move on to something new to mess up.


In particular, it is easy to understand the fundamental incompetence of the Marxist-influenced PRC and their fundamentalist counterparts in places such as Emory or U. Chicago or Princeton Seminary, in grasping or respecting our oral traditions. The Fundamentalists, the Marxists and the ISIS all go by The Book: either The Book (aka Bible or Holy Quran) or Das Kapital. All reduce everything to WRITTEN commandments. Let me paint a picture, with deep apologies for any sentiments I may offend unintentionally, but with a need to state a succinct point:

Moses came down from Mt. Sinai carrying a set of heavy stone tablets, not pieces of palm leaves with papyrus reed scrawls on them. Understandable. Had those instructions been oral, or scrawled, the Commandments might have got a bit confused. Imagine!

Moses, ol’ buddy, r u sure He didn’t say “Thou shalt Love Thy Neighbor/ Covet His Wife as Thine Own?” Did He say “Thou Shalt, or Shan’t Commit Adultery?” “Do or Don’t Take in Vain the Name of Thy Lord”?

No wonder those had to be written in stone. Fixed. Non-negotiable. Slam-dunk. Standard Operating Procedure. No thinking or debate tolerated. Duh! Soon after, the Christians started writing down their Testament, branching out from the Chronicles then available in the Middle East. The later belief system of Islam, likewise, got things written down in their Book, the Holy Quran. One is not allowed to post quotes from that gentle Religion of Peace, so I won’t.

So did Karl Marx, much admired at the PRC, come to think of it, write down precise procedures. To paraphrase and avoid morbid phrases:

“The Idol-Worshipping Capitalists Will Send Us the Donations With Which To Destroy Their Own Traditions”.

Did this solve their problems and get them to actually observe these Written SOP? Search Google with terms such as “Crusades”. “Inquisition”. “South American Genocide”. “Native American Genocide”. “African Slavery”. “Sir Francis Drake, Pirate”. “Bolshevik Revolution”. “Gulag”. “Shia-Sunni”. “Armenian Genocide”. “Tartar Invasions”. “Vijayanagaram”. “Mohammed of Ghazni”. “Islamic Invasions”. Oops! Now corrected in California’s textbooks, by the kind intervention of the South Asia Faculty, staunch supporters of the PRC and co-Petition-Signors of Dr. Sheldon Pollock to “Gentle expansions of influence into India”.

HD 4K or bust!

If you think a bit, you see that this was the natural progression of technology. My esteemed niece’s generation, for instance, abhors paper books, and believes nothing unless it is on Facebook, or sent as SMS, now via WhatsUp. A few years from now, with most ‘hardcopy’ libraries demolished or turned into video game arcades, their Great Historical Debates will be on whether WhatsApp came first, or Twitter. They will accept nothing that is not rendered in HD 4K, 3D. Paper books? Bah-Humbug!

So those brought up in Book-dictated, latter-day belief systems such as the Furniture at the PRC, cannot be expected to have any aptitude for accepting oral traditions. Q.E.D.

Stay tuned… I’m beginning to get the gist of this book…


Note: My serious views, and the very limited scope of my understanding on Religion are explained in my role as co-author of “Sanatana Dharma: Introduction to Hinduism”. Amazon.

On the other hand, I HAVE learned Catholicism from a Catholic Convent, St. Joseph’s of Gampola, Sri Lanka, nationalized in bloody riots the day I ended kindergarten and was passed harmlessly over the locked gates by the rival mobs who took a ceasefire to do that. I learned Islam for 5 years in an Islamic College, the #1 Ranked College in Gampola. And I have attended enough sermons in the Protestant Churches in America to know the difference in standards of religious understanding and acceptance: y’all in yore hi-falutin’  collegiate furniture and yore Vasco Da Gama costumes with dem frilled sleeves and powdered wigs, cyaint hold a candle to the gentle, civilized people of Gampola or Trissur of decades ago.




Musings on Rajiv Malhotra’s THE BATTLE FOR SANSKRIT. Part 1: Starting 2 Read

Preface & Disclaimer: No one paid me to write this Review. No one sent me the book: I bought it of my own accord, paying my money, straight from the Infinity Foundation. I have never written a book review before, and no one in their right mind would ask me to – please read on 2 c y. So this is certainly not a crisp, concise Review full of brilliant constructs and deep perspective. It is a rambling monologue. But that is my style of book reviewing, as I have just discovered.



My niece 199y giggled on the phone that a (namesake of urs truly) from Oxford, England, gave a lecture the other day at her Catholic-Church run college on the occasion of the 400th something of Shakespeare. Located in Atlanta, GA, I would not have heard that Sheikh Bill bin Speare was that old. But I knew enough about the history of Robert Clive starting his genocidal scams, and of Her Imperial Majesty ordering the fingers of North Indian silk weavers cut off to subsidize Sheffield and Birmingham products, to realize that 2016 had to be the death not birth centenary of the Sheikh. But let us ponder that for a moment, braving the shudders as I remember reading of P.G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster giving an Inspiring Lecture at a girls’ school. Obviously the College places much value on learning English literature and celebrating the lives of English writers – in fact an alumna neighbor famously asked decades ago “Why should one even converse in (her native) Tamil once one knows English?”

Is there anything wrong with the College’s emphasis? Compare it to New York colleges that even give out degrees to the semi-literate offspring of political leaders, or to the people who write for The Hindu. Parents scramble to get their daughters into this college for a superlative if somewhat West-gazing education. I can point to a galaxy of alumnae whose lives attest to the quality of that education. Are these alumnae somehow not quite Indian patriots? Were I to suggest that, I would be run off Facebook, besides the Fatwas flying at me next time I venture into my ancestral neighborhood.

I presume that I can point to numerous Indian colleges where there are Furnitured Professors delving into arcane aspects of Shakespearean or Dickensian literature. My own late grandmother, a pioneering post-graduate of the Madras Presidency College, used to reel off quotes, which is where I learned to sing the praises of so-called South Asian Faculty (‘When shall we three meet again, in thunder, lightning or in rain?”) So, would Her Majesty the Namesake of the Sheikh’s Patron, and the guardians of The Queen’s English, harrumph and snort at the atrocity of Indians in post-colonial “Injya” ‘stealing’ their precious language? Would they declare a Battle For English to be in progress? After all, today in the world, the majority of English speakers are of Indian origin, and this ‘normal’ English is what we speak: the others have strange and quaint accents: Bilayati, Scotch, Irish, Welsh, MidWest-American, Southern, New Yorkish, Australian, South African, French, North European, or Carribbean. The King’s English is dead, ta-ta. Hasn’t English been hijacked, what-what, I say?

On the other hand, I doubt that I would go to an American university to study Japanese literature and history. Or Chinese literature. Spanish in Brazil? German, or French literature in Moscow?* Argentina to learn Arabic? Or Beijing to learn Latin literature? I presume that better courses, better archives, better scholars and better authorities on each of these are found in the nations of origin of these languages.*To be fair, the owner of “Nikolai’s Roof”, the most expensive Russian restaurant in Atlanta, famously responded when cornered on the lack of Russian items on his menu: “The Tsar Nikolai preferred French cuisine!” Never mind, I couldn’t afford a glass of Bordeaux there, let alone Truffles a Vladivostok avec les Escargots Writhinges.

Let me stretch that thought. Would I seek to learn Authoritative Islamic literature at Donald Trump University rather than, say, in Riyadh or Mecca? Or Catholicism in Islamabad? Or in the Baptist Deep South of the USA? Protestantism in Rio? Judaism in Jakarta? Vegetarianism in Papua-New Guinea? Why then would one seek to learn Sanskrit, the language of Sanatana Dharma, in New York?

Ah! But the Quality of the Institution, you say. Let us subject that to some objective criteria. The US News &World Report, published from New York, staffed mostly with graduates from the Columbia University School of Journalism, ranks Columbia University #4 among the universities that they know. I doubt that many of them could get into an IIT IIM or NIT, let alone my niece’s College. In the days when I lived in my hometown, I too ranked the 4 Colleges in/around  my hometown within a radius similar to the distance from Manhattan to Boston, as the Best 4 In The Whole Known Dunia. Just like “The Masked Monster” was Ranked Number 1 in the (Georgia) World Championship Wrestling conducted every day at the Atlanta Omni Dome. My roommate in graduate school, now an anti-ballistic missile genius in the stratospheric layers of the DRDO or whatever, never missed a showing of that on Channel 17. If they manage to shoot down the next hydrogen bomb coming in over New Delhi, remember to thank me for not aiming a ballistic bowl of Narayanan’s Haute Cuisine Macaroni avec le Fromage  through that TV set.

But from the point of view of rich and successful desis in the US, fixated as most desis are on external Rankings and Accolades, it would be a coup de les coups to have Columbia University establish Adi Sankara Furniture in Sanskrit Studies. With no less than the most famous Sanskrit Professor in America, after Witzel and Doniger, hand-picking the chair-warmer from a well-lobotomized cohort of South Asia graduates from the above 3 entities. Ultimate recognition of authority and excellence, no, yaar? Naxal Ram would gush in The Hindu about how Hinduism had finally Arrived, best coup since Vivekananda spread his pearls of wisdom before a bunch of illiterate bigots wallowing at the Chicago World Parliament of Religions (run by predecessors of those who run Georgia World Championship Wresting, but that’s another matter). Gushing interview with Sheila Bhatt of India Abroad. Another slam at the unwashed Hindu Right on OutLook. Another exclusive to Tehelka slamming the Modi Government’s Genocide against JNU terrorist-admirers. Even a footnote on Page 23 of The Noo Yoik Crimes!

What is wrong with that? You won’t find the answer in the New York Times. You will find it in Rajiv Malhotra’s book. I was sufficiently intrigued to go and spend my own money, a well-spent $20 + shipping at the Infinity Foundation website for a 480-page hard-bound tome, surprisingly light and safe to read in bed with no danger of having one’s nose smashed. I have started reading it, but I read real slow. Stay tuned!


Apparently some desis decided that it would be a great idea to give a ton of money to Columbia U. to set up an Adi Sankara line of Furniture. Teach Sanskrit and make American students Sanskrit, meaning cultured. Might work wonders for the Protectors of the Proletariat at the People’s Republic of Columbia (PRC), as the University is lovingly described in America. And to head the Committee to pick the occupant to warm said Furniture, with the Donors being completely shut out of the process, the PRC appointed a certain professor who can read Sanskrit, himself warming some other Furniture. The name seems familiar – it may be because a former student of his – (which means a PRC alum?) was involved in some slimy deal where some fundamentalist cleric tried to accuse Rajiv Malhotra of ‘plagiarism’, trying to posture as a Princeton Professor, and after due investigation, was laughed off the Internet. Hmmm!!! Not a great endorsement for the PRC, that.

Mr. Malhotra appears to have reacted like my pet cat Snowy used to do when the neighbor’s mutt came by – and rightfully so. He seems to have got the Sringeri establishment to maybe half open an eye from their deep meditation, and pay a bit of attention before it was too late.

Having stated these things up front, Mr. Mahotra advises the reader to read the Conclusions before venturing deeper into the book. Suits me fine, this is exactly how I “read” technical papers. So far I have not been able to find any pictures in the book.

Now let us ponder for a moment whether there were/are good alternatives to this business of Setting Up a Chair and donating millions of dollars and lending an honored Name to a specific person at a specific university. Indians and Indian-Americans have discovered this great idea – the Stamp of High Society adopted by various super-rich Americans in the past.

What exactly is a University Chair?

Most universities provide a reasonably comfortable chair for each of their faculty offices. In some places, the Chair has to be purchased through the State Purchasing entity, where the boss may or may not have struck a deal with some local fly-by-nite outfit to provide lo-lo-quality at hi-hi-prices. The best deals, in  my limited experience, are the hand-me-downs through State Surplus where the State Government Administrators dump REAL high-quality chairs after a year or 2. In my office, I have the Komerath Chair. Back in 1991 or so, my old Navy Surplus chair developed a habit of leaving its castors behind when I tried to move. I conveyed this sad fact to the School Director (now they call that entity a Chair too), and he generously donated the nice, high-back leather chair that he had just discarded, with only a few tears where the hi-quality cotton stuffing can be visually and posteriorously experienced. I still have it. I put my 20-lb bookbag and rain jacket on it.

But I digress.

A few years ago I read in the Chennai newspaper about the Chancellor of a new Self-Financed Engineering College in Chennai. “My mother would be so proud of me!” His Excellency gushed. “For the first time in my life I am running a business that is legitimate!”

Besides being a legal way of making money, a private university is also a great way to, say, launder a name. Leland Stanford made his money, and his name, as a Railroad (some add “Robber” but I wouldn’t) Baron. Perhaps he had the ghosts of a few hundred Chinese and Indian workers haunting his home on the rare occasions when he spared a thought for that human cost of hammering a railroad through the Sierra Nevada or Rockies, building those dizzy viaducts and trellises, and carving ledges around terrifying cliffs. To be fair, the historical accounts now found at Stanford university claim that Chinese railroad workers were paid the same as Caucasian ones – as long as they survived. They just had to work about twice as long and hard, to pay the various baksheesh demands of the (Caucasian) supervisors etc. and maybe do some of the most dangerous work. There were Indian (I mean East Indian) workers there too, but I can’t find any writeup on them by the South Asia Furniture. Mr. Stanford then paid to build a university – and who can deny that this has done an immense amount of good? The key was, eventually, to hand over the key to trustworthy, super-able people to hire people who would turn into fabulous Star scholars – and not mess with the day-to-day administration and petty pompous griping of said Stars. “Spare me that!” He prayed. Leave that to the Deans whom I pay far more generously than I paid those workers, he wisely decided.

This is the well-honed American tradition of Endowing University Resources. Get the university/stadium/building/auditorium/classroom/faculty Chair named after you – or someone who will tell everyone that it is actually you who donated. And then sign that agreement saying that you cannot be sued when whoever was hired, was denied tenure or otherwise sued the university. The best deal would be an Anonymous Donor status – perhaps helps a lot with not unduly alerting the IRS, SEC and FINCEN as well.

What does the Chair do? The business plan is that you donate – starting price for a Full Professor Chair at a well-known university, rather than an Associate Professor Bench or an Assistant Processor Stool is $3M, up from $2M about a decade ago, but I have heard of Chairs as high as $7M. You take your tax writeoff. The university invests through its Foundation, buying stock in, say, BlackWater Security or Halliburton Reconstructions, or ENRON or American Airlines or Marlboro Cigarettes or Johny Walker Whisky, and, perhaps, your own company. The Chair is guaranteed, say, 2 percent on the investment ( in old days, it was 6 percent but now interest rates are dismal). The rest goes into the Foundation to fund worthy causes such as business-class travel and office renovations for the new Associate VP for Fundraising.

The above income from the Chair to the individual School makes its way at least in part to the control, not the wallet, of the person warming the Chair, to use as s(he) pleases, within the laws of the State. In public universities, that would pay for trips to conferences that externally-sponsored research grants would not fund (political conferences, for starters unless one’s grant is in politics). Host visitors from India for a short trip to discuss further funding. Etc etc. In private universities (I believe Columbia is one such), much of the faculty salary also comes from this income. That is the Self-Financed University model in the US. $69,048 per year in fees per undergraduate student doesn’t even begin to cover the expenses of a University in Manhattan, you know…

In public universities, the deal is simple: they use the carrot of a Chair to get someone to move there, and the Expectation is also very simple: the same as Endowing a Chair on the Lower Propulsion Deck of a Roman Galleon. Row, row, row, row! Bring in 10 to 100 times the money in external grants that the Chair gives you. Build up programs, visibility, or we will kick you out. The Endowers of the Chair are a distant memory in the daily grind.

What does this buy, as far as, say, the name of Adi Sankara? I don’t think Adi Sankara cares much any more, but some of us might, because He is such an important part of our tradition. Let’s muse on that. Papers on The Achievements of Adi Sankara? A conference on The True Meaning of Advaita? Maybe, though highly unlikely – they don’t sound Scholarly. BUT.. perhaps as RM hints, not to put words into his word processor, also “innovative” papers such as The Role of Hindu Propaganda in Suppressing the Rights of Dalits. Petitions to Ban the Chief Minister of Gujarat from Visiting the USA. Petitions to Deny Funding to the Kushta Nivaran Sangh (Leprosy Relief Organization) or the Vatsalya Trust Orphanage. Petitions to Condemn the Indian Government for Denying the Fundamental Right of JNU students to celebrate the Birth Anniversary of executed terrorists who murdered 6 Delhi Police personnel defending India’s Parliament. A book like “Ganesa, Lord of Obstacles” the obscene hate creation of Phaullus * Courtright, the (Endowed Chair) professor from Emory University. The hate-filled Nazi-like Indo-Eurasian Research Forum hosted by/for Michael Witzel, the Wales (endowed chair) Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University, the hate literature of (Endowed Chair) Professor Wendy Doniger of U. Chicago.

  • Note: As I found out from my Palestinian and Iranian classmates long ago, “Palestine” is an anglicized corruption of what real Middle Easterners call it: “Philistine”. Likewise, the name “Paul” is, from my deep psycho-linguistic analysis, an Anglicized corruption of the Roman Paulus, from the Greek-corrupted Paulose, from the original Middle Easter corrupted Ango-Roman corruption of the original Middle Eastern “Phaullus”. Thus psycho-analysis for once, convincingly gives a rationale behind the obsessive focus of research of some people.

And there is not a blessed thing that the Sringeri people can do about that, once they have signed over the name of Adi Sankara. Which is RM’s point.

Now are there other ways that generous Indian-Americans could support scholarship on our traditions? Absolutely, and they are smart enough to figure that out with no help from me. For instance, they could give out an ANNUAL award for excellence in scholarship, carefully selecting the recipient using a Panel that they establish, hand-pick (and monitor). This would bring His name to the front every year, and encourage real scholarship. Scholarships named after him, to a set of talented youngsters to pursue knowledge in the spirit and tradition of Adi Sankara, at various universities. The difference is that in all of these, the fundamental tenet is conveyed:

“Thou shalt not bite the hand that fed thee”

RM maintains that given the overwhelming dominance of entities inimical to Sanatana Dharma in the US academic establishment, funding a Chair at Columbia U. is as bad as airdropping anti-tank rocket launchers in Syria – in a region where the ISIS is bound to grab them. It matters little that the airdrop shipment says in big letters:

“To Be Used to Fight Against the ISIS Onlee Yaaar!”

I agree 100% with that concern.


Note: My serious views, and the very limited scope of my understanding on Religion are explained in my role as co-author of “Sanatana Dharma: Introduction to Hinduism”. Amazon.

Thanks! n.k.

What They Teach At The Theological Seminary. Part 2: Teaching Religious Intolerance

Many of us are brought up learning to respect all religions – at least I was. We hesitate to believe anything bad about those neatly-dressed, soft-spoken, authoritative-looking, sometimes scraggly-bearded Men of The Cloth. We are making the same mistake that millions have made before to their disastrous cost. Hundreds of thousands of young lives have been utterly and brutally destroyed in the process.

In Part 1, I just laid out some examples and excerpts from Methodist Emory University’s Professor Paul (“Phaullus”) Courtright, and the antics of his tribe of Emory faculty. Until their Religion Studies Department was revamped under the glare of public exposure as a bunch of p0rn-peddlers, probably even criminal child-p0rn peddlers. The “South Asia” part of Religion Studies was absorbed into the Languages department, hidden under the direction of an Indian-born English teacher and Member of the Emory President’s Panel, who, shocked by what she could no longer deny, told the administration that she could in no way support those sorts of obscene activities. Since then, Emory University has been relatively well-behaved, going on to hire Salman Rushdie and the Dalai Lama, and perhaps irritate the Islamists and the PRC’s Communists instead. We heard that a very senior dignitary visiting from India  asked the Emory administration flat-out what had happened with the obscenity-peddling enterprise, and they begged him not to raise the issue, as they were still traumatized by the experience. :LOL  Anyway, we as citizens of the Atlanta Community, have seen no reason to bother Emory University since then. Emory’s Medical School, Law School and Business School, as well as their joint BioMedical / Engineering school, are all highly respected. A few p0rn-peddling losers should not be allowed to pull down a great institution, as their President seems to have realized back in 2004.


So we get back to the root of the issue: What do these Seminaries and Divinity Schools teach, to make their faculty and alumni so so so filthy bad?

Here I am just going to direct the reader to a thoughtful article written by a good Christian: Frances Patterson. At “Rethinking”. Perhaps this article will give us a better understanding that just using words like “causus belli” does not make anyone civilized.


By Frances Patterson

Christian fundamentalist textbooks display a breathtakingly arrogant attitude toward other religions. ” \end{quotes}”

Just a couple of excerpts, PLEASE read the whole article: I cannot very well copy the whole thing here!  It looks at each region of the world separately. This plague is everywhere, perhaps even in Antarctica.

\begin{quotes}”In looking at the treatment of religion, I again studied three major textbook publishers for fundamentalist Christian schools and home-schoolers: A Beka Press, Bob Jones University Press, and School of Tomorrow/Accelerated Christian Education. I drew on a wider range of the textbooks and materials than in my discussion of politics and included substantially more material from world history and geography textbooks and, in some instances, from English literature texts.

Materials from the three publishers have a recurring theme: that the lack of material progress in various Third World countries and among indigenous peoples can be attributed to their religious beliefs. The publishers also share a tremendous emphasis on conservative Protestant missionary activity; approving passages abound about individual missionaries and Christian converts and the need for both historical and contemporary evangelism.

In one textbook’s discussion of India, for example, students are asked how Hinduism contributed “to this country’s sad fate.” Students are then encouraged to contrast India with the United States and told, “If we refused to kill disease-carrying insects, allowed filthy animals to roam around in public places, and refused to eat meat for nourishment, do you think we would be as prosperous as we are?” 3“\end{quotes}

… And let me post the final comments from Frances Patterson:



The materials’ attitude toward Roman Catholicism and non-Western religions raises serious issues that should be part of the public debate over the use of public funding for sectarian education. Two of the many questions raised:

  • How much respect for the rights of members of minority religions could ordinary citizens, elected representatives, and government employees, including judges, have if their educational background included a school curriculum based on these textbooks?
  • Is it fair to use the coercive power of the state to collect tax revenues that are then used to support educational institutions that malign the religion of the taxpayer? It is one thing to say, “This is what I believe.” It is something else to say, “Your religion is in error.”

It is surely far removed from the spirit of religious tolerance, however imperfectly applied in our nation, to make statements that encourage American children to despise the religion of their fellow citizens.”\end{quotes}

P.S. This blog post is dedicated to the eminent historian from the Princeton Theological Seminary, Dr. Richard Fox Young. Without his dedicated, tireless and hilarious struggles on Twitter, The Caravan and The Seminar(y) we would not have had an opportunity to revive these important issues from over a decade ago, and cast the bright light of reason and investigation into the recesses where fundamentalist abuses and abusers, and their obscene enterprises thrive.

Finally, let us note that Dr. Young continues to see absolutely nothing wrong with the writings of Courtright and Doniger and their ilk. Perhaps this is a case of one not being able to smell the fragrance because it blends so well with the ambience of one’s own base – the Princeton Theological Seminary?  Q.E.D.

Princeton Presbyterian (Still!!) Peeved At Protests Against Pr0testant P0rn-Peddling

A Presbyterian Crusado-Twitter at Princeton Seminary has been showing great excitement about the so-called “Atlanta Community” that was invited to a fact-exchange with a Panel appointed by Emory University’s President, back in 2004. From his fulminations onTwitter, we gather that he endorses the kiddie-p0rn writings that characterized Emory University’s Hinduism Studies, until the Religion Studies department was disbanded after the meeting with the Community.

The Princeton Seminary entity seems upset, claiming that the Atlanta citizens’ group “harassed” Courtright of Emory, or “tried to get him fired”. False on both counts, but that is not unusual for that Twitter account. We most certainly DID NOT ask for any job action against Courtright (come on! look how much fun it has been that students searching the web for Emory find out about these things!) We did ask that his practice of ‘teaching’ Hinduism by presenting videos of communal riots and p0rnography, stop forthwith. Emory did see the sense of that, within the first 10 minutes. The Panel’s white faces looked either red or deathly pale.

On the other hand, we specifically asked that Courtright **NOT** be present at this meeting. There is a simple reason for that. Common decency. Dean Paul (a Biblical name, as I learned from religious psycho-analysis, derived from the Romanized ‘Paulus’ version of the original Middle Eastern “Phaullus”) was a portly individual of ‘otherwise ascetic disposition’ (see below). Emory’s hospitality included sweets, cookies being provided. Put those facts together and imagine what might have happened otherwise if Courtright had seen the Dean showing an “insatiable appetite for sweets’!!! We were just trying to maintain a modicum of decorum.

But again, many today may not be aware of the facts from 11 years ago. So let me oblige them by presenting more of the news from back then: it is a different version of the journal article published at Swaveda in May 2004.

(Reproduced by the author’s permission and kindness of publishers from who archived it for over a decade)

Protestant Pedagogues Peeved at Protest Against P0rn-Peddling

By: Narayanan Komerath
(Indic Journalists’ Association International)
June 01, 2004

Here’s a test. If the following sample from Emory University Professor Paul Courtright’s book: Ganesa: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings” offends your sensibilities, you are “illiterate or worse” according to his friend, University of Chicago Professor Wendy Doniger.

“Although there seem to be no myths or folktales in which Ganesa explicitly performs oral sex, his insatiable appetite for sweets may be interpreted as an effort to satisfy a hunger that seems inappropriate in an otherwise ascetic disposition, a hunger having clear erotic overtones. “

Unlike Doniger’s colleagues in the “Religion in South Asia” (RISA) internet group, you cannot see why that constitutes “brilliant scholarship”. You wonder whether publishing conclusions sans data constitutes legitimate research. You point to the definitions of child p0rnography and pedophilia. The professors consider all that to be utterly “uncivil” of you – and claim to the media that you are a terrorist.

This encapsulates the controversy which pits alarmed citizens against entrenched academia. Hindus worldwide (except so far in India) are shocked at how Protestant-dominated pedagogues in academia caricature Hinduism as part of proselytizing, and then stifle discussion. Citizens cite the effects of such abuse in increasing bigotry and hate attacks – a Baltimore museum adorns a Ganesha exhibit with “explanations” from Courtright’s phallus fantasies, for example. The academics – far from being civil themselves – bemoan how “uncivil discourse” is “silencing” “scholars” (i.e., themselves). They claim “academic freedom” to write abusive fantasies about religions other than their own.

Petitions, Threats, Boycotts and Mobs              

Last September, citizens requested Emory University to stop using such texts. They were sent a condescending letter declaring that Courtright’s  “psychoanalysis” methodology was appropriate, and taunting them to argue the matter through journals. The Head of Religion Studies petulantly warned that Emory might stop teaching Hinduism.

A group of Louisiana students burst the academic balloon by posting an Internet Petition giving verbatim quotes – asking the publisher to withdraw the book. Emory’s Public Relations department, citing “threats”, tried to suppress the Petition – but not before the publisher withdrew the book, apologizing in shock and dismay. RISA called for a boycott of the publisher.

RISA members went to the “DANAM” (Dharma Association of North America) conference in Atlanta in November, excited that they would “communicate only with the most reasonable and civil of the Hindu lay Leadership” and have a “debate on the fundamentals of Religious Studies—that of hermeneutics and methodology”, for, “only then can we have a genuine yet civil debate on “method” rather than an uncivil one on “motive.”  Apparently, the debate did not go happily for them. RISA returned to the security of  habit – personal abuse  against those who tried to post contrary views.

In January, another American “history” professor, James Laine of Macalester College, gained name recognition with the claim that Maratha hero Chattrapati Shivaji was not his father’s son. Challenged, Laine admitted that his claim was without basis- a “joke”. The Sambhaji Brigade of  Shivaji supporters –  no friends of any “Hindu Nationalists” – ransacked the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) in Pune. The Maharashtra Government won Mumbai High Court approval to investigate Laine and Oxford Books for criminal conspiracy to incite violence.

RISA’s boycott fervour seems to have been dampened by Oxford’s withdrawal of the Laine book. But Courtright, and Washington Post writer S. Vedantam, have blamed the BORI mob attack on “Hindus”. Courtright’s article in the “Academic Exchange” e-zine, run by Emory’s  Vice Provost for Academic Affairs,  claims victimhood as a “scholar” facing terrorism – by association with Laine. He claimed that India is an increasingly dangerous place for scholars to visit. This occurred even as the National Congress government of Maharashtra – associated with the Sambhaji Brigade – was feting the visiting Emory University tourist team that included Courtright’s Department Head, Laurie Patton. Patton, in India all winter, gave a running commentary on RISA about events in Pune. Critics ask about Emory’s links to the BORI violence – and point to Courtright’s own usage of communal riot scenes to teach “Hinduism through films” at Emory.

Out of Context – or Outlandish?

The academics have tried claiming that the offensive quotes are taken out of context. They claim to be “visitors” to fields such as Hinduism, free, unlike believers, to follow wherever objective research leads them. They cite their great love for India and Indian history – and blame the growing criticism on political efforts to distort Indian history – and on prejudice against non-native scholars.

Readers retort that the criticism is about specific abusive writings and point to excellent scholarship on Hinduism at European universities. They cite the context of the offensive quotes, and the intent of the nude picture on Courtright’s cover, used to emphasize child-p0rnographic content. The premise of Courtright’s book is a 15th century Portuguese invader’s revulsion towards Indian icons. Critics compare this to using Heinrich Himmler as starting point for an analysis of Judaism, or analyzing Native American history from General Custer’s views. As for “objective research”, they point to unsupported hypotheses, incompetent methodology and outright bigotry being acclaimed as “brilliant scholarship”.  For instance, Courtright builds his “psychoanalysis”  on the idea that an elephant’s trunk is “limp” – an absurdity aggravated by his confusion about elephant anatomy. Doniger claims that Ganesa dictated the Mahabharata to Vyasa.  Courtright, in the space of a few pages, calls Ganesa an oral sex fiend, a homosexual, a mother-f0rnicator – and a eunuch – the “dregs of society”,  – a scatter-brained diatribe of bigotry and abuse. Critics question the quality of peer reviews which ignore such glaring illogic. Others cite Courtright’s ignoring the deep meanings of the Ganesha icon in favor of obscene interpretations, as evidence of sloppy, if not less than honest, work.

Classroom Reward Scheme?  

Another egregious example is cited below, from page 124 of Courtright’s 2001 edition:

.. Ganesa’s mother.. Offers the prize of a mango to which of her sons can go around the world first. Ganesa wins by circumambulating her and eats the fruit and then gets beheaded. …. The mango is a vaginal symbol. Hence Ganesa’s eating the fruit is an act of incestuous possession of the mother for which he is punished by beheading, symbol of castration, and his celibacy is his punishment for acting out his incestuous desires”.

Critics ask why he chose that, when he knew the mainstream legend, which he clearly knew [page 126]:

““She said to them .. ‘Your father will decide who I will give it to.’’ When Skanda heard this, he quickly went on a pilgrimage through the triple world, mounted on a peacock, but the wise pot-bellied one circumambulated his two parents. Then he stood there happily in front of his two parents, saying: ‘Give it to me..!” .. Parvati smiled and said: “All the pilgrimages and sacrifices are not worth a sixteenth part of  the worship of one’s parents. Therefore this son (I.e., Ganesa) is worth more than a hundred sons having a hundred virtues”.

Readers point to this twisting of a beautiful legend, obviously used to instill respect for parents, and ask sarcastically whether his obscene “interpretation” is based on what Courtright’s Protestant teachers and colleagues at the Yale School of Divinity, Princeton and Emory do in classrooms.

Death Threats or Red Herrings?  

Observers argue that the “threats” and “dangers” are red herrings aimed to deflect attention from analysis of the psychodynamics of such writings. While Emory University, Courtright and Doniger have complained about “well-funded” campaigns to silence academic freedom, citizens point to Emory’s own campaigns to malign them. Comments on Emory’s edited, moderated Emory Wheel website have called the student authors of the internet petition, “KKK”, “Hitlerite” and other names. The editors’ failure to remove these abusive posts, despite the postors being shown to be bogus, reinforces suspicions, formed by the Public Relations department’s role in the saga, about the origins of the “threats” on the Petition site.

Doniger apparently enraged a London audience with a pornographic interpretations of Shri Ram and Sita of the Ramayana Epic – ideals of family values to hundreds of millions of Hindus.  An egg apparently missed her, but the meeting organizers are reported to have manhandled a woman psychologist who asked if Doniger had herself ever been psycho-analyzed.

Religion Studies or Hate Propaganda?

Critics point out that Methodist Emory University, and Baptist-origin University of Chicago use their Religion Studies programs or interdisciplinary centers – which are affiliated with the Law or other schools – to demonize other religions such as Hinduism. Meanwhile they keep their real studies about Christianity – and Judaism in the U.Chicago case – safe from malicious “interpretation” in Schools of Divinity or Theology. Thus, the scholars on Christianity in the Theology/ Divinity Schools are practising believers; the “scholars” in the Religion Studies Departments are, as Courtright describes himself, “visitors” interpreting these religions. Equal respect for all religions is unlikely to result from this arrangement.

Emory faculty and officials have repeatedly claimed that the controversy is due to some sudden dredging of a 19-year-old book. The Editor of the Academic Exchange, in conveying that protestors were being prudes about a toddler’s picture in the buff on Courtright’s 2001 cover, accidentally exposed this lie – and in the process, confirmed Courtright and Emory knowledge that the subject of his pornographic depictions is a child – a toddler. Most interestingly, Courtright continues to claim that his critics have not attempted to engage the “intellectual” basis of his book – when numerous published articles have done precisely that – with Courtright not attempting rebuttal.

Comparative Sensitivity

This February, Emory Dean Robert Paul, acting on President Wagner’s orders, met with concerned community representatives for a 2-hour discussion. Though he professed himself educated on why people are outraged, and offered deep regrets on behalf of himself and the university, he insisted that the university held academic freedom to be sacred. Citizens pointed to the double standards at Emory, where a chance remark by a Professor of Anthropology in September 2003 offended African-American listeners, and triggered extreme administrative concern. Meanwhile, their own concerns about blatant hate-p0rn peddling were dismissed. They also point to the Bellesiles case, where a conclusion based on data which the author could not reproduce, was seen as sufficient evidence of academic fraud to have a prize withdrawn and the professor induced to leave. Courtright’s attempts to associate the protests against his book with “terrorism” in his recent speeches and articles, with the claimed “support” of the Emory administration, has served to vitiate the atmosphere further. Citizens see this as a show of poor faith while efforts were underway to conduct reasoned dialog with Emory.  Matters were not improved by the appearance of a one-sided Washington Post article – nor by Courtright’s article in Emory’s “Academic Exchange”. The Academic Exchange failed to even acknowledge receipt of a rebuttal to Courtright’s article – just as Vedantam has failed to acknowledge requests to correct factual errors in his articles.

Age of Terror – or Abu Ghraib of Religion Studies?  

While Courtright and Doniger frame the issue as “scholarship in an age of terror”, their critics see it differently.  They state that the issue is not about the academic freedom to publish scholarly deductions based on evidence and competent, objective analysis. The issue is about a powerful university propagating vile fantasies – whose obvious and predictable effect is to demean and humiliate. They aim to see Hinduism taught and learned with competence and empathy, rather than with sneering tavern-tale “interpretations” and vile p0rnography. They cite the right of Hindus, like all other people, to be treated with elementary human decency, to worship as they please, and not be subjected to vicious bigotry and abuse.

They cite the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, where 21-year-old military jailers are faulted for claiming ignorance of the need to be sensitive about human beings of another culture – and ask whether university professors should not be held to at least that standard.

Visitors and Civility

No resolution is in sight. The Protestant faculty are peeved at the rise of informed opinion, which hinders their “freedom” to write lewd fantasies about anything they choose to demean as “visitors” and tourists. Hinduism is a soft target. Writing such interpretations about Judaism or Islam is likely to bring extreme consequences – while there are enough Indian establishments which will continue to welcome “scholar” dollars, unaware of the nature of the scholarship conducted. After 19 years of such writings, the pedagogues do not appear to have anything to cite but a few hate e-mails or internet postings, and one missed egg, as signs of danger.

Sankrant Sanu frames the questions for Religion academia thus:

  • “Is the academic study of Hinduism in America, as it currently exists, a valid discipline in that it has some ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood, and between scholarship and fiction?” • “What does it tell us about the state of academia in Hinduism studies when a host of academic writing that is highly deviant from “emic” understanding passes off as mainstream scholarship, without any significant internal academic challenge?”
  • “Are the standards of sensitivity in dealing with religious symbols of Hindus in the academy lower than that for other religious traditions such as Islam, Judaism or Christianity? What part does this play in dismissing any Hindu protest as ‘fanaticism’?”

The Academy, while bemoaning the decline of civility in intellectual discourse, is in no hurry to examine the causes and sources of incivility – which might point straight at themselves. For example, Professor Antonio de Nicolas refuted the RISA claim of blanket “academic freedom”, pointing out  that  “the first responsibility of a scholar in describing, writing, speaking, and teaching other cultures is to present those cultures or the elements of those cultures in the same manner those cultures are viewed by themselves and by the people of those cultures. If not, then the scholar is using those cultures in name only and his goal is their destruction, if not in intention at least in fact.  A scholar who does not know how to present other cultures by their own criteria should not be allowed to teach those cultures.  His freedom of speech is not guaranteed by his ignorance.  His degree is a privilege of knowledge, not ignorance. Freedom stops here.  Opinions are not the food of the classroom at the hands of professors.  They guarantee knowledge”.

The moderator of the RISA forum apparently sent a threatening e-mail asking de Nicholas to “shut up”.

Courtright describes his own, his university’s and the RISA’s attitudes quite well when he says in a grand  Freudian slip, dispensing wisdom to Emory’s admiring student newspaper: “People who talk to themselves about themselves leave no room for discourse.”

Narayanan Komerath

P.S. Posted with deep gratitude to Dr. Richard Fox Young of the Princeton Theological Seminary for thoughtfully providing us the wonderful opportunity to inform and educate web/Twitter-savvy people of 2015 about these events from back in 2004, through his ceaseless Tweets and other verbal/acoustic emissions across the frequency spectrum.

What They Teach at Theological Seminaries and Divinity Schools

Recently, a ‘renowned Princeton histerean’ has hysterically exclaimed in horror that the Komerath blamed for a recent WordPress Post on Fundamentalist Clerics, may be related to a certain Komerath who was ‘Part of The Atlanta Community”. This is a truly brilliant historical deduction, linking events across more than TEN years, for an Associate Professor at the Princeton Theological Seminary. As it happens, (to ‘plagiarize’ and ‘distort’ Presidential Candidate Benson):

“I know both those Komeraths, they are good friends of mine and yes, you got something right for once”. Although most else in that Twit Rant #8463, was right along the Standards of Integrity of the Princeton Theological Seminary. 

Said “Komerath” was indeed part of The Atlanta Community, in the sense that he had, as he says below, lived in Metro Atlanta for over 25 years by the time he wrote this article that I found on the ‘Net. Must have been part of that huge Community of a million people that rides every day on Interstate 285. Or I-85. Or Peachtree Street where  Scarlett O’Hara of Gone With Da Wind ran all the way from Peachtree Industrial Boulevard to Old Peachtree Street to New Peachtree Road in Peacthree Corner Circles around Peachtree Corners to Peacthree City where Tara, her Daddy’s slave-labor cotton plantation was located, until Rhett Butler came by to say: “Frankly Mah Deah, Ah Don’t Give a Dam*!” Sending tremors through the gasping lily-white throats of the assembled Protestant audience at the use of such shocking language. That was long before they read the Princeton Theological Seminary Scholarly Twit Site, or the writings of the RISA.

It was published in ‘Swaveda’ which had a brief but illustrious career in the heyday of the RISA. Before RISA went underground. And people went away weeping at the sudden sense of loss that accompanies the Circus leaving town. Or, more accurately, at the end of a hilariously entertaining soccer match. Using RISA as the inflated leather bag.

I am going to reproduce below, the full text of what was published at Swaveda more than a decade ago. This is excerpted from an archive at .  I am not specifically asking the owner of that collection for permission, because I have no fear that he will stab me in the back as certain SUNY faculty might. You seem the term ‘integrity’ means something with the people who run that site.

Here it is, from the distant past, when “Twitter” was something associated with bird-brains:


Alerting Naked Emperors in an Age of Academic Arrogance
Author: Narayanan Komerath
Date: May 20, 2004

“Although there seem to be no myths or folktales in which Ganesa explicitly performs oral sex, his insatiable appetite for sweets may be interpreted as an effort to satisfy a hunger that seems inappropriate in an otherwise ascetic disposition, a hunger having clear erotic overtones.” [1]
That is a sample from Emory University Professor Paul Courtright’s book [1] – used to educate undergraduates in what Emory calls “Religion Studies”. Specifically, it is about Shri Ganesha, the child deity who inspires Hindu children, icon of excellence in writing and mathematics. Most of all, it’s about a child – a “toddler” [2]. Statements such as the above are at the core of the controversy about the obscene twisting of Hinduism in the guise of Western “scholarship” [3, 4, 5] – drawing impassioned defenses of what entrenched academia call their “academic freedom.” At the same time, these academics bemoan how “uncivil discourse” on controversial issues is “silencing” scholars – making one wonder if they have considered their own level of civility.
To people like me, who do have some knowledge of what is appropriate in education, that appears instead, to fit the published definitions of “child pornography” and “pedophile fantasy” [7,8]. Far from being appropriate in American classrooms based on my (20 years of) experience, these would trigger administrative intervention – or worse. Such things are indeed seen – usually scrawled on restroom walls or in subway tunnels. I had not realized that these inscriptions were journals of Religion Studies.
According to Courtright’s friends in the Religion in South Asia (RISA) forum [10,11] which dominates Religion Studies in the USA, if the above excerpt disgusts you too, that’s because we are all “illiterate or worse” [8] (certainly I am, compared to the erudite individual so described there). Lacking PhDs in Religion Studies, we do not make a sport of sneering at other people’s beliefs under cover of “scholarship” – or else we could convince ourselves that this constitutes “brilliant scholarship” [9]!
Driven by Prof. Courtright’s claim that critics were quoting him “out of context”, I forced myself to read his book. Until then I thought that respectable universities (and are there other kinds?) taught respect for other religions and cultures. I thought peer review rejected such egregious “conclusions sans data.” My education included meeting Dean Robert Paul of the Emory College this February with a team of concerned citizens [10]. Courtright’s recent article [2] in Emory’s “Academic Exchange” website, claims that what he is doing is “Studying Religion in an Age of Terror”, and he frames the issue as “Internet death threats and scholarship as a moral practice”. I have to comment in public on this.
My first observation is that the criticism of Courtright’s book is based – as one might expect – on the contents of Courtright’s book(s). There is no evidence to suggest that any “extremists” picked on Courtright as a “target” while he was innocently going about his job as a teacher, researcher and scholar-aspirant. His wild generalizations and desperate casting for red herrings, appear intended to deflect attention from the egregious nature of his writings – and from proper psychoanalysis of the mindset which motivates those writings.
Atlanta – City of the 1996 Olympics
Emory University boasts of its Methodist roots. I lived for 4 years – my entire graduate-student life – as a renter in the home of a (dear departed) Methodist lady. She treated me as “her #1 son”. She had common sense and grace, far more than any of the Religion Chairs, Thrones and other pompous academic furniture who appear to lead RISA and South Asia Studies in the US. From what I learned by observing her, and her social circles, I have nothing but good things to say about the Methodists’ beliefs – and the American Southerner’s gracious regard for all humans. The widow of a railroad worker, she did not have a college degree, and she had never traveled north of the “Mason-Dixon Line”. Obviously she did not miss much, if our RISA experts exemplify the products of the American Liberal Arts college education. Their writings remind me of her laughter as she would exclaim: “Lawd Aw’Mighty! Ain’t they too big for their britches”?
But – don’t generalize that wisdom to all of metro Atlanta – it’s a big place – a bustling, modern center of technology and business. We conducted the Olympics, remember? Our daily newspaper is grandly named the “Atlanta Journal and Constitution” (AJC) – a corporate merger of decades ago which means that a city of 6 million has a grand total of ONE monopoly newspaper, which ranks somewhere in the world’s top 1,000,000 in journalistic excellence. Its Religion section was highly pitched to me by an Associate Professor of South Asia Studies at Emory. Coincidentally, they had quoted said Assoc. Prof. recently as an “expert” on Hinduism.
Very nostalgic. For many years, this “Religion” section featured a big advertisement titled: “AND WHY DO THE HEATHEN RAGE?” As the controversy erupted, the AJC did what they do best: they published a sneering, ignorant, bigoted writeup, and censored out letters except ones which abused those who raised the issue. N. Ram’s “The Hindu” would have been proud of them.
AJC class shows. Bill Shipp, former AJC Editor, now writes for the suburban Gwinnett Daily Post. Shipp praised Emory President James Wagner [11] for putting down the Hindu complainers. Shipp also proudly cited Courtright’s claim, which confirms his place on a scale of 0-10 as a “vidya-vinaya-sampannah” scholar and teacher on Hinduism: “Do I have to ask 800 million Hindus to get permission to say something?”
On the other hand, I must emphasize that in 21st-century Atlanta, one ignores the negative and looks ahead – the “City that’s too busy to hate.” Easy, direct, friendly informality is the preferred mode of behavior – even during rush hour traffic – and it is by no means acceptable in any conversations or discussions to make the sort of grossly lewd interpretations of other people’s religions, in which Courtright wallows.
The AJC is appreciated for its grocery advertisements and used-car deals. Its few pages of non- advertisement are entertaining – the cartoons of Michael Lukovich and the dry humor of its “Vent” section are as hilarious as its Editors’ occasional efforts to be deeply insightful. An Editorial by prominent South Asia journalist Moni Basu after the Pokhran-II tests, bemoaning her Kolkatta friends’ potential inability to buy Revlon lipstick and Levi’s jeans due to imminent U.S. sanctions, comes to mind, followed by their ghoulish and ignorant sneering at an Indian-American astronaut’s credentials, in the wake of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
“Religious Studies” vs. Studying REAL Religion
Now, a word about “Religion Studies” as distinct from Studying Religion – a nuance that I have learned recently. Emory, for example, has a “School of Theology” and a Seminary – where REAL religion and worship are taught and studied the RIGHT way. From their website Mission Statement [12] we read:
“The Candler School of Theology at Emory University is grounded in the Christian faith and shaped by the Wesleyan tradition of evangelical piety, ecumenical openness, and social concern. Its mission is to educate–through scholarship, teaching, and service– faithful and creative leaders for the church’s ministries in the world… students … represent more than 56 denominations.”
In other words, every religion is well represented, as long as it is Christianity.
And then there’s the Undergraduate Religion Department. A unit somewhere between the School of Law and the Department of South Asia Studies – well separated from the Candler School of Theology, perhaps to avoid polluting its “shuddhi”. Their Mission Statement [13] is very interesting in contrast:
“…examine the role of religious traditions in shaping political and social institutions of diverse cultures and to explore religious issues involved in warfare and other political conflicts. The study of religion helps us to comprehend with greater sophistication and insight the faiths, world views, practices, and ways of life that have, both historically and in the contemporary world, shaped the actions and allegiances of human beings…”
Their Chair welcomes students thus [14]: “The study of religion is among the oldest pursuits in human intellectual history. The curriculum at Emory is designed to introduce students to the teachings and practices of the living religions of the world. Equally important, the University provides an important context for stepping back from particular religions in order to study aspects of religion comparatively and thematically across traditions, e.g., religion in public life, religion and gender, religion and culture.” 
Equal Respect for All Religions – Emory / U. Chicago Style
To put it briefly, this Department appears to be where one learns to preach “And Why Do The Heathen Rage?” – but in a manner deeply sophisticated, compared to the AJC. This is where all those pagan beliefs are “psychoanalyzed” as objects of mirth and contempt by “scholars” who consider themselves as “visitors” to those religions, per Courtright [2]. Hinduism Studies is in this category – it straddles the Departments of Religion and South Asia Studies. Thus, for example, it would be a horrible, blasphemous error to presume that Professor Courtright would contemplate applying that “psychoanalysis” about a child’s liking for sweets and his fantasies of oral sex, to the Gifts that the Magi brought to the Infant Jesus and His Holy Mother.
In short, “Studying Religion” is where one writes in flowery praise about one’s own beliefs. Apparently, Professor Courtright’s own PhD Thesis, done at some such School of Divinity, starts off with a deep acknowledgement of his Protestant beliefs, to which he dedicates his life.
“Religion Studies” is where one twists the innocent legends of other religions into the most gross sexual perversions, conveying that the believers of those religions are devoid of humanity, are morally depraved, and are completely violent and stupid – unless of course they See The Light and are Born Again, in which case their souls might be saved. It is where one learns to conduct this abuse – the “oldest pursuit” – with a veneer of intellectual sophistication. In this respect, the difference between Emory University and the Binori Madarssa would appear to be one of degree and perception – with Sheikh Osama bin Laden a “visitor” in psychoanalytical scholarship on the history and traditions of Christianity.
So the next time you read of these Scholars dispensing advice to us illiterate heathens on India’s Secularism being Under Attack, remember their own “secularism” and their concept of equal treatment of all religions. I have not checked where Catholicism and Judaism fall in Emory’s caste system, and I am certainly not going to comment on Islam.
The above arrangement is not unique. The University of Chicago, likewise, boasts a “Divinity School”. It is organized into Major Religions – Christianity and Judaism – and then all those Other Curiosities and “isms”. REAL religions are studied – entire courses on Luke:xx, for example. Pagan Cults are “interpreted” – by the likes of Professor Wendy Doniger, who “loves” India and Hinduism [15] because “you don’t have to make a choice at all between writing sex and doing scholarship” or something to that effect. If you haven’t heard of Dr. Doniger’s vast knowledge of Hinduism before, surely this should impress you: she wrote the Foreword to Paul Courtright’s book. She praised it effusively – especially citing how thrilled she was when she thought of “Ganesa” dictating the Mahabharatha to Vysasa.
Did a double take there, did you? No, you didn’t read it wrong. If you disagree with her interpretation, well, that’s because you’re “illiterate or worse” – a Hindu Extremist, untrained in civil discourse. Welcome to “Hinduism Studies”.
Tripping on one’s own li(n)es
Now let’s see about Courtright’s recent article in Emory’s “Academic Exchange” – a “journal” used by Emory faculty to enlighten each other. It is run by the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at Emory – as high as “scholarship” gets, there. The Pentagon of “Academic Freedom”. It is posted on the web so that the whole world can enjoy vicarious enlightenment – though we are apparently not allowed to comment there on what we read. I did not even get an acknowledgement when I sent a rebuttal – twice. It appears that Courtright’s article in the April-May 2004 issue is generated from a talk of the same grand title: “Scholarship in the Age of Terror” that he delivered at the Williams College in Massachusetts (where he used to work in the past) in March. To the right of his article was a headline in big letters on “Professor Courtright Featured in Washington Post Article” – citing Shankar Vedantam’s notoriously biased piece, which has been analyzed (and trashed) thoroughly on [18]. Again, the Exchange carefully avoids Sulekha’s error where it gave readers the opportunity to comment on Vedantam’s “reply” to Rajiv Malhotra’s critique of the Post article, causing Mr. Vedantam to pout off.
The Editor of the Academic Exchange got one fact right, when she wrote on top of the article: “..The reprint cover features the elephant god Ganesa as a toddler in a crawling position, sans clothing. “ Correct. Ganesha is a child deity – a toddler. Most us are able to distinguish between an innocent picture of a “toddler sans clothing” and the same picture used in apparent kiddie porn fantasies of the sort quoted at the top of this essay. It was the reprinted 2001 edition that triggered outrage – leaving no doubt on what the author intended to emphasize.
This of course debunks Courtright’s and Emory’s own propaganda, quoted in Shipp’s article [19] that the protests were about “a book …written 19 years ago”.
The Well-Financed Attack – on the Truth
What is Courtright’s basis for claiming: “These are increasingly dangerous times for scholars who study India”? As he was writing that, a team of Emory faculty and administrators spent much of the winter touring India. The Head of his department, Professor Laurie Patton has been posting regular reports on RISA from Pune – the only place with any cause to cite “violence against scholars”. Did Courtright study the number of muggings or hate attacks on Indian students and faculty in America this past year? Isn’t this another “interpretation” sans evidence?
His next statement is: “Well-financed and organized groups on the political and religious right want to control the memory of India’s past in ways that suit their own ideological agendas. Consequentially, scholars within or outside India who challenge those constructions become targets of attack.”
Isn’t that specious attribution of motives? I too am disgusted by the teaching of obscene fantasies as “scholarly interpretations”, but I am not “well-financed”, certainly do not belong to the “political and religious right” (or “wrong”), nor do I countenance physical violence. The vast majority of those who have protested his writings are people – like me – who assumed that religion, like any other subject, was being taught with some competence and empathy – and – like me – were shocked when they read the reality.
Courtright’s claim to be a “target of attack” is based on his claim of having seen bogus- named posts or spam emails – which Emory’s Public Relations department (that’s right – not the Security department!) used with amazing alacrity to suppress an Internet petition [20] that published exact quotes from Courtright’s book. The ancient test of “Qui bono?” points elsewhere – certainly more than it points at any “Hindu extremists”.
Obviously, getting that Petition removed was seen as a top priority in Methodist academia. I can’t fault their panic – I can imagine the reaction of decent Methodist mothers in Atlanta upon reading what gets taught at Emory. Remember that this is a place where the Abercrombie & Fitch clothing catalog is pretty-near banned – though it shows much less than what a casual walk down Peachtree street on a Summer day can show to the naked (oops! I mean “Ray-banned”) eye. A few years ago, copies of a textbook on teenage sexuality (devoid of any pretense of being a Religion text) were taken out of libraries and burned.
Motilal Banarasidas and Sons (MLBD), the Indian publisher of Courtright’s 2001 Edition, upon reading verbatim quotes in the Louisiana students’ internet petition, ordered the book withdrawn from bookstores in November 2003, and took out large advertisements in horrified apology [19] – pleading that they had not fully read what they assumed was a scholarly text, previously published by Oxford University Press. But that explanation was ignored by RISA – the publisher was assumed to have been “threatened by Hindu Extremists” to have withdrawn the book. (By the same token, I now assume that the Emory Academic Exchange has been threatened by Protestant Extremists to not acknowledge receiving my rebuttal of Courtright’s article). RISA members rose in uproar, threatening a boycott and withdrawal of copyright permission from MLBD – until Oxford Press withdrew Professor Laine’s history-revealed-as-joke book, and apologized.
At that point, a student member of RISA asked if they shouldn’t boycott Oxford as well – putting a damper on the boycott jihad. Perhaps, RISA is not having much luck breaking into the top-tier journals of their “oldest pursuit” – such as “Hustler” and “Penthouse”, so they still have to depend on Oxford University Press.
Courtright and $1.2Billion/yr Emory University have attacked Atlanta citizens, and the Louisiana students who posted the (vindicated) Petition. Sneering articles in the AJC, Gwinnett Daily Post, the Washington Post, the Berkshire newspaper, and the comments on Emory’s own edited, “moderated” EmoryWheel website, slandering the students who protested the book as “Hitlerite”, “KKK” etc. [20] exemplify the real hate campaign. Despite these being pointed out very emphatically to their Dean and President, there is no evidence that anything was done to put a stop to these – and Courtright [2] blatantly declares that the University is supporting him in his campaign.
Courtright is not alone, as he says – the attack on the truth is far broader. The Washington Post cites Prof. Wendy Doniger’s victimhood, where a flying egg, rotten or otherwise, is claimed to have missed her – at her lecture in London, UK. What the Post did not mention was the real violence at that event. IJAI has learned that many in the audience became upset at Doniger’s “oldest pursuit” of obscene, twisted references to Shri Ram and Sita – the central characters of the Hindu epic “Ramayana”, and the ideals of family values to many Hindus. At the end, a lady psychologist in the audience stood up to ask if Doniger herself had ever been “psycho- analyzed”. It is reported that she was shouted down, and physically manhandled by the organizers. RISA’s respect for Free Speech and Truth showed again.
Victimhood By Association – with the Attackers?
Courtright’s attempts victimhood by association with Macalester College History Professor James Laine. Laine, for those unaware of the scandal, wrote in his claimed “religion history” book that Maratha hero Shivaji was not, well, his official daddy’s son. Shocked Indian scholars questioned the basis of this claim – leading to Laine admitting that his claimed research revelation was in fact a crude “joke” he had heard somewhere, and Oxford Books to withdraw that masterpiece from circulation. Unamused, a mob of Shivaji-worshippers, the “Sambhaji Brigade” trashed the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) in Pune, citing perceived collaboration with Laine. Even less amused, the Mumbai High Court has recently permitted the State Government of Maharashtra to pursue an investigation of criminal conspiracy to incite violence, with the aim of getting Laine extradited to stand trial in India.
Courtright’s attempt to link this event to “Hindus” is especially instructive of his motives. Note that “visitor” or otherwise, he claims to be an expert on Hinduism. Alumni describe him as the Hinduism expert in Emory’s team-course on “Religion and Film” where, for example, the relevance of “Star Trek” to Christianity might be explored, conveying the ultra-modern relevance of Christianity. Apparently, not all American college courses demand such intense skill-mastery as the much-maligned “Basket-Weaving 101” . Courtright, according to alumni, uses clips of communal violence to teach “Hinduism and Film”. So well-informed an expert, and that too with his own Dept. Chair sitting in Pune, could hardly be unaware that it would enrage the “Sambhaji Brigade” even more to call them “Hindus”. Isn’t it surprising that the “well- funded” Hindu Extremist machine of Courtright’s imagination hasn’t got the Indian police on Courtright’s trail, given that his writings are far worse than Laine’s? Could it be because of two truths?
(a) Laine’s real problems are with the Law, not with any mob.
(b) The State of Maharashtra which is hunting Laine is ruled by the Congress Party – whose top leaders feted the visiting Emory Tour Group this winter. The Sambhaji Brigade is alleged to have close links to the Congress Party – which has now won an upset victory in India’s elections, along with their Marxist Communist coalition partners – all quite inimical to the “Hindu” lobby.
Thus, by Courtright’s own “logic”, one is forced to conclude that Courtright and Emory are in fact far more closely linked to the violence against scholars than any “Hindu” organizations have ever been! His Department Chair, Prof. Patton’s extended presence at Pune, possibly during, and certainly after, the violent events there, also raises curiosity.
Whining in lieu of rebuttal
Like most RISA members, Courtright is innocent of modesty when he presumes scholarliness:
“As scholars we have to own that integrity and do our work with as much clarity, resolve, and compassion as we know how….We have a duty to be accurate and put carefully thought-out ideas into the conversation for critical appraisal by our readers…”
It would appear that getting data before publishing conclusions is part of “integrity” – but hey, what do I know? But I do take utter offence at this claim:
“In my case, my attackers have not engaged the argument of my book—its intellectual substance—but have attacked me personally and called for public censure of me by my university. ..When others try to silence us because they claim to take offense and insist that their sentiments trump our pursuit of knowledge…. To write is to write back, against those forces that would take away power and agency from us.”
The Academic Exchange disappoints those who associated better standards of academic honesty with Emory, by publishing such nonsense. Ref. [21] is a partial list, compiled from the internet, of specific reviews and criticisms of the “intellectual substance” of his work, including specific attempts to engage Courtright and “Religion Studies” peers, in debate. According to someone who actually knows the subject, Courtright’s understanding of his chosen methodology of “psychoanalysis” [22], is not something to write home about, either.
He has not seen fit to attempt rebuttal, and I am not surprised.
Tavern-Tale Peddling in lieu of Scholarship
Several examples of Courtright’s obscenities are quoted at [10]. Consider this sample [26]:
“… Ganesa’s mother… Offers the prize of a mango to which of her sons can go around the world first. Ganesa wins by circumambulating her and eats the fruit and then gets beheaded…. The mango is a vaginal symbol. Hence Ganesa’s eating the fruit is an act of incestuous possession of the mother for which he is punished by beheading, symbol of castration, and his celibacy is his punishment for acting out his incestuous desires”.
That was his interpretation. The original legend, which he clearly knew [24] is:
“She said to them .. ‘Your father will decide who I will give it to.’ When Skanda heard this, he quickly went on a pilgrimage through the triple world, mounted on a peacock, but the wise pot-bellied one circumambulated his two parents. Then he stood there happily in front of his two parents, saying: ‘Give it to me!’… Parvati smiled and said: “All the pilgrimages and sacrifices are not worth a sixteenth part of the worship of one’s parents. Therefore this son (I.e., Ganesa) is worth more than a hundred sons having a hundred virtues.”
A beautiful legend, obviously used to instill respect for parents, is twisted into filth. Is this wild “interpretation” based on Emory’s classroom reward system, or personal experience, perhaps?
Freudian Slip : “Controlling the Past to Suit Ideological Agenda”
Courtright tilts at the diabolical “right wing extremist” windmills, accusing them of wanting to “control India’s past to suit their ideological agendas”. Who is trying to manipulate the past here? As Courtright says: “Religious stories and ideas are not private property. They belong to the public domain.” True. But stories twisted into child pornography and pedophilia and tavern-tales of incest and group orgies do not belong in undergraduate classrooms or religion library shelves, do they? Why ban XXX-rated websites from access by children, if this is the sort of stuff being peddled by Professors in Methodist universities – as Religion Studies?
Innocent – of Empathy
The same April-May 2004 issue of Emory’s Academic Exchange web page also ran several items micro-analyzing their Anthropology department’s “Speech Code” controversy where a professor uttered one phrase, which offended an African- American listener. In that case, the President called campus meetings, and sent the entire department into “sensitivity training”. Recently, Emory has also had to deal with the Bellesiles case, where a professor “left of his own accord” after irking the NRA. Someone challenged the data published by Prof. Bellesiles to prove that pre- Independence American farmers were not armed with guns. Bellesiles claimed that he could not find the data again – it was lost in a fire, etc – and this was deemed to be sufficient evidence of falsifying conclusions, i.e., not having enough data to back conclusions. A far cry from the standards in Emory’s Department of Religion, isn’t it? Is the irony (or is it “hypocrisy”?) so hard to see?
Deal Paul of the Emory College rejected all comparisons to such precedents at his meeting with us on February 18 – he went so far as to claim (consider this gem…) that racist statements uttered INSIDE a classroom – or written in an article – would have been fine with him.
Does Porn-Peddling Come Under Academic Freedom?
This is a painful issue on which to write. Many Indian editors and readers are brought up in such genteel and sheltered environments that they simply cannot bring themselves to use or even see words such as “p0rnography” – with the unfortunate effect of leaving the obscene writings of these “scholars” improperly characterized. This is a holdover of social superstitions which worry more about “log kya kahenge?” (what will people say? What happens to my Family Honour?) than about stopping abuse and caring for the rights and interests of victims. One finds the word “pornography” replaced swiftly with “inappropriate expressions” or “idiosyncratic expressions” – leaving the reader clueless about the true nature of the offensive writings. On one famous desi web portal, the overzealous editor kept censoring posts where we even tried writing “P….. aphy”. Child pornography is simply not even imaginable.
On the other hand, the RISA “scholars” have no such hang-ups – they specialize in the “oldest pursuit” after all, writing and peddling sex books. Their claimed mission is to bring out the “true meanings” of our religious traditions. The trouble with this claim, as seen from the excerpts presented here, is that there is absolutely no basis, reasonable or otherwise, for this pornographic twisting of religions traditions. I have presented just two examples in this essay – that is not for lack of numbers, but simply to avoid filling these pages with the lewd fantasies of these people, who have no lack of publication outlets themselves.
The RISA argument predictably finds sympathy with their colleagues in liberal arts university administrations, who see themselves as Defenders of Academic Freedom. The Managing Editor of the Emory Academic Exchange, operating from the Office of their Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, for example, wrote an impassioned outburst in 2002 against the “Silencing” of controversial intellectual debate by “uncivil discourse” [ ].
A quick survey of Courtright’s and Doniger’s comments about those whom they so casually offend, points to the source of the “uncivility” in this case. Most of those who have expressed themselves on this issue in public, are well-accomplished professionals, businesspeople or professors – in fields where smut does not constitute evidence of originality or excellence. They have made their sincere protests known, through the most restrained and quiet means – generally starting with a friendly letter to the author. The response, what little there has been from the RISA, has been shockingly rude and obnoxious. In most cases, they don’t exhibit the breeding even to acknowledge letters. In the rest, when they do respond, it is in a manner that puts to rest all doubt about their class – calling their critics “illiterate or worse”, “self-proclaimed pundits”, “terrorists”, “KKK types”, “Hitlerites”, “Fascists”, and, of course the all-inclusive “Hindu nationalists”.
Intellectual integrity demands no less than the complete withdrawal by Courtright, Doniger and their cohorts of their obscene and discredited writings. Their claim of being objective researchers flies in the face of the evidence, and their mutual description as “scholars” is hilarious. They have been shown to be systematically and deliberately twisting the most innocent of Hindu legends into lewd interpretations – with absolutely no basis whatsoever – even by their own admission. Whether they improve their mindset is up to them as full-grown adults – but it is clearly essential for the public to know exactly why readers are enraged by their writings. To-date, the response of these writers and their cohorts, especially of RISA, provides no hope that objective reasoning and basic decency will prevail in their circles without external intervention. Far from it, there is a mindless “circling of the wagons to shoot at the Injuns” challenging their invasion of our religious sensibilities and basic sense of decency. At the very minimum, their obscene products must be removed from classrooms – and moved from the “religion” sections of university libraries to the “pornography” sections if they must have those for their off-hours entertainment.
Laine’s backpedaling on the nature of his book is an example where these “scholarly works on history of religion” are revealed upon examination to be self-described “jokes” and utter obscene fiction. The reader will find that Laine’s book is still falsely advertised on book-peddling websites as “History of Religion’ when it is neither.
It is, most regrettably, not an option for civilized society to wait for the RISA academic community to grow integrity on its own – the pre-requisite of developing common sense might take decades if they start now.
In Conclusion: The Issues
This controversy is not about the academic freedom to publish scholarly deductions based on evidence and competent, objective analysis. The first issue in the controversy is about a powerful university’s arrogant propagation of vile fantasies – whose obvious and predictable effect is to demean and humiliate. These are certainly inappropriate in teaching. Their peddling probably borders on the criminal. Yet, the university’s response has been to attack those who patiently point these out.
These Protestant faculty (I use that adjective because they associate religion with everything we say) are peeved at the rise of informed opinion, which hinders their “freedom” to write lewd fantasies about our icons and beliefs – even about toddlers! They are clearly running a powerful campaign to demean us – and generate hatred towards us based on religious prejudice. They dehumanize us by casting our deities as immoral, perverse and violent. This bigotry has clear and present dangers to us – our children are assaulted by thugs in school on the “rationale” that they are believers in obscene customs – or that they are devoid of moral standards. Hate assaults against Hindus are on the rise in the West. Ignoring the source of the hatred is again, not an option for those of us who simply want to live in peace.
There has been no lack of effort to engage with these worthies in honest intellectual debate. My article is certainly not intended to be an intellectual exercise on religion – I have no credentials in religion – but it is based on the simple concepts of pointing out the facts and demanding basic human decency. But others such as Malhotra, Sanu, Agarwal, Balagangadhara and Venkat, to name a few, have done an exhaustive job of analyzing and rebutting the works of Doniger, Courtright and their cohorts with incisive intellectual arguments.
The RISA/ Emory response to all these efforts has been what Tagore would have called “Insolent Might”. The latest example is the Emory Academic Exchange’s failure to even acknowledge receiving the rebuttal to their publication of Courtright’s blatantly flawed article. In this I agree with what Courtright says, as quoted in another Emory article [[26]]:
“People who talk to themselves about themselves leave no room for discourse.” An accurate description of RISA and Courtright’s attitudes in this controversy.
To someone who sees matters from both sides of the academic walls with fairly old eyes, Emory university’s behavior in this issue is reminiscent of a rookie lecturer trying to gain control of an undergraduate class through petulance, unable to command respect. A panicked response which indicates that they are keenly aware of their untenable position. One hopes that sensible senior faculty and administrators at Emory will see the need to act in support of basic human decency first, because failure to do so is the surest road to the loss of the very academic freedom which all of us cherish. They must put their “religion studies” house in order, using adult common sense to override the pompous pseudo-intellectual mumbo-jumbo.
There are precedents aplenty for universities showing good sense in dealing with such matters – I need not list them here. There are also plenty of examples of excellent Hinduism research and study programs, for example those at the University of Heidelberg, for Emory and U. Chicago to emulate.
Our aim is to see Hinduism taught and learned with competence and empathy, rather than with these sneering tavern-tale “interpretations” and vile pornography. Hindus, like all other people, have the right to be treated with elementary human decency, to worship as they please, and not be subjected to vicious bigotry and abuse. We expect this respect for basic human decency even of 21-year-old military jailers – should we expect less of university professors?
[1]: Courtright, P, “Ganesa: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings”, Motilal Banarasidas and Sons, 2001, p.111.
[2] Courtright, P., “Studying Religion in an Age of TerrorInternet death threats and scholarship as a moral practice”. Including Editor’s Comment. Academic Exchange, Emory University, courtright.html
[3] Malhotra, R., “RISA Lila 2: Limp Scholarship and Demonology”
[4] Agarwal, V., Venkat, K., “When The Cigar Becomes A Phallus-Part 1”.
[5] Sanu, S., “Courtright Twist And Academic Freedom” column.asp?cid=305899%20
[6] Cornell Law School: ”child pornography” – .. depiction is of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; depiction .. created, adapted, or modified to appear that an identifiable minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or .. depiction is advertised, promoted, presented, described, or distributed in such a manner that conveys the impression that the material is or contains a visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.’ Excerpts from Cornell website on “Child Pornography”. 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 110 > Sec. 2256.
[7] Wikipedia: “pedophilia sexual attraction of an adult to prepubescent children.” Excerpt from “Wikipedia”
[8] Doniger, W.: “Malhotra’s ignorant writings have stirred up more passionate emotions in Internet subscribers who know even less than Malhotra does, who do not read books at all,” quote by Vedantam, S. in “Wrath Over a Hindu God” http://
[9] Conlon, F., “the book, taken as a whole, could not be taken by a reasonably informed reader, as anything
but a brilliant contribution to scholarship.” Post on the Religion in South Asia list, Nov. 3, 2003,
[10] Komerath, N., “Why People Are Outraged By Paul Courtright’s and Emory University’s Portrayal of Hinduism – Introduction to the Facts and Issues”. Presented at Emory University, February 18, 2004. Emory_intro_short.htm Also, Notes used to present “Why People Are Enraged..”: Narayanan Komerath
[11] Shipp, W., Shipp, W., “Adams can learn from Wagner”. Gwinnett Daily Post http:/ / article20DD10E2D0924096A99DEB0763. Excerpts:
[12] Emory University Candler School of Theology Mission Statement.
[13] “The Opportunities and Benefits of a Religion Major”. Emory University Department of Religion. benefits.html
[14] “Welcome from the Chair, Laurie L. Patton”. Emory Department of Religion,
[15] Marty, Martin E., “Scholars of Hinduism Under Attack”. Excerpt: “The Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School is pleased to announce the appointment of Wendy Doniger, Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions, to the directorship of the Martin Marty Center. An unparalleled presence in international religious studies in her over thirty-year career, Ms. Doniger’s recent works include Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India; The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex and Masquerade; The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth; and a new translation of the Kamasutra (with Sudhir Kakar).”
[16] Malhotra, M., “Washington Post and Hinduphobia”
[17] See Shipp, W., Shipp, W., “Adams can learn from Wagner”. Gwinnett Daily Post, above.
[18] Malhotra, R.., “RISA Lila – 2 – Limp Scholarship and Demonology” Sulekha, Nov. 17, 2003, quoting the text of the Petition by the students protesting offensive passages in Courtright’s book on Shri Ganesha. column.asp?cid=305890
[19] Jain, Rajiv: “ Ganesh”. Apology on behalf of Motilal Banarasidas & Sons, Nov. 3, 2003.
[20]: Comments posted on moderated, edited website of “EmoryWheel” regarding Courtright controversy. 07/3faa9d9806787
[21] Partial list of articles on the intellectual merits of Professor Courtright’s work, proving more than ample opportunities for him to respond/ rebut.
[22] Vinekar, S.S., “”Prof. Courtright’s Pseudo-psychoanalytic Depiction of Shri Ganesha: Authentic Scholarship or Bigotry? ” Proceedings of the Dialogue Between the Concerned Community and Emory University for Better Relations, Decatur, GA, February 18, 2004.
[23] : Courtright, P, “Ganesa: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings”, Motilal Banarasidas and Sons, 2001, p.124.
[24] Courtright, P, “Ganesa: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings”, Motilal Banarasidas and Sons, 2001, p.126.
[25] Adams, Allison O. “SILENCED: Is uncivil discourse quelling scholarship on controversial issues?” silenced.html

[26] Patel, D., “Academic freedom debated in wake of recent petition”. The Emory Wheel Online, Nov. 7, 2003.


Fundamentalist Cleric Throws Plagiarism Bull at American Author

Author: Narayanan Komerath

  1. The Mugging

It sounded serious at first glance. The Indian media clamored in chorus that a ‘renowned historian’[1] from a renowned University had accused an American writer in public of plagiarism, that Greatest of Sins. A Petition had called for an American publisher to withdraw two books already published, both rapidly rising in readership and impact. The ‘less mainstream’ media, which I have learned to check to find the truth and a bit of intelligence these days, was a bit less adulatory[2]. It was eerily reminiscent of thirteen years ago[3] when the humble couple who ran a charitable organization were accused in a hyena-pack attack by the same general entities of being ‘fronts’ for ‘hate’ and ‘genocide’. And that was what made me :LOL

I know of Harper Collins for one reason. They published “To Kill A Mockingbird”[4] – a novel graphically exposing the struggle for justice in the racist-terrorized American Deep South of the 1950s. Surely took enormous guts. Surely they must have faced strong letters, threats of boycott and much worse then – maybe dolts in bedsheets burning crosses on the company lawn? Papal Bulls? Inquisitions? They stood their ground. The book won a Pulitzer Prize and became a world-famous movie. Today, the Harper Collins company faces a much less scary storm of Open Letters and Allegations from the same general quarters. I hope their executives are at least 10% of the strength and integrity and insight of their predecessors. Today the issue is equally about the struggle of a simple people to get justice – and the hate attacks from the Established Authorities to continue slavery and oppression.

  1. The Assault

One Mr. Richard Fox Young had sent an Open Letter and posted the same on the Internet, accusing Mr. Rajiv Malhotra, author of ‘Indra’s Net’[5] among a quartet of excellent books, of ‘plagiarizing’ the work of one Mr. Nicholson. The cleric listed a few instances where passages from Malhotra’s book looked similar to those from something written by Nicholas. He claimed that these were not properly referenced, some even missing (horror of horrors!) quotation marks. And what did Mr. Nicholson think of all this? He claimed on a blog site[6] to be ‘pained’ that ‘his’ work had been thus used, and even ‘distorted’ (meaning to ignorant me, not being the same words or meaning as he intended). While generous with abuse, sneering and irresponsible allegations, it offered no specific points. Overall it sounded rather shrill and maturity-challenged, raising some concerns about the standards for PhDs in this area, let alone promotion to Associate Professor at SUNY[7] 9 years off his PhD. Mr. Nicholson’s biosketch at SUNY does show over 10 papers including 2 books with a new India-based publishing outfit. In real university departments, this might merit serious consideration for a fresh-PhD assistant professor post. A section titled “Publisher Permanent Black Adds” is, well, interesting. Readers can judge for yourselves, this is the Internet.

There is no evidence that all this came after other efforts had failed. Anytime someone finds insufficient attribution, one writes politely and privately first to the author and publisher seeking correction, since one is always mindful that one too is human, and makes errors. This is a curious point, and begs the question of intent on the part of the accusers.

  1. The Riposte

Mr. Malhotra’s riposte[8] was swift and pointed. He pointed out that

a. He had indeed used Mr. Nicholson’ work, as was evident: he had referenced him 30 (thirty) times in the book. Many if not most of those were in quotes; in other places, as reading clarity demanded, quotes were omitted but the source was clear to any intelligent reader. Perhaps there were a couple of places where quotes should be added, thanks for pointing that out, corrections were welcome and incorporated into the next printing of each book.

b. The usual practice for any such offended reader was to contact the author and point to the need for correction, and he was surprised at the absence of any such effort.

c. He wondered whether he had cited Nicholson far too often[8], and whether those were indeed the original ideas and work of Nicholson. He politely but publicly asked Nicholson to provide some evidence of actual original work.

  1. Independent Assessment: Point-By-Point Rebuttal

Knowledgeable readers did their own independent review and assessment of all the charges. The wonder of the Internet is that we do not have to assess that based on their credentials, race, color, age, gender or national origin: we can look at the evidence directly at this website[9]. In the technical parlance with which I am familiar, this is called a ‘point-by-point rebuttal’. Complete. With evidence and logic. No shrillness needed or appropriate. In the street parlance with which I am also familiar, this would be called a ‘butt-kicking’ or, in less genteel terms, an “ass-whupping”. It leaves little doubt that the allegations of plagiarism are without merit, and indeed, they are utterly incompetent and malicious.

  1. Background

I am aware of a few situations where one had to carefully consider the issue of plagiarism. One involved a student who had quoted extensively from a textbook in the Introduction to his PhD thesis, and had got the reference wrong. The new PhD had proudly sent his thesis to the author of the textbook among others with compliments. The issue came to light when the ex-student discovered at a conference that the textbook author was angry. The situation was rectified by prompt and thorough correction. All concerned were informed, the thesis was defended again, the published version was replaced. Dr XYZ was satisfied. The ex-student is now really internationally renowned.

Other stories involve students in courses. A good university has enlightened policies: There is a swift determination of the facts, intent and need for a lesson. Usually the result is a zero on the particular test or assignment. A good teacher may also turn around and provide a harsh additional assignment with ample opportunity for an educational redemption, and even a fair chance for a decent course grade. But this requires a decent administration, honest students, and honest professors as those students’ advisors – not a wise gamble these days. While cheating is not condoned or ignored, in no event does a civilized university go on a gleeful lynch-mob romp reminiscent of “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

Princeton University does have a particularly nasty reputation. A 1982 case reported in the New York Times[10] and as I recall, in TIME, concerned a young woman with a name clearly not WASP, at the end of a stellar undergraduate record. Her degree was suspended for a year and the law firms that had made offers to her were informed that this was because of plagiarism in a final paper in a Spanish class. The charge was that although she had cited a source 5 times, and made her professor well aware of her intention to use that source, that was not enough. When she sued, Judge William A. Dreier professed shock at “an overreaction” and ”at .. a knee-jerk reaction to the label plagiarism rather than looking at the circumstance of the situation.’‘ [10]. Princeton’s lawyers prevailed. The facts were never explored. The courts had to decide only whether they could get involved in the university’s decision making. Today the Federal Educational Right to Privacy law would nail anyone who revealed any such personal information to the outside world as Princeton did. But little else has changed from basically an Inquisition system, per the Daily Princetonian[11].

Princeton of course has different standards for its administrators and Trustees. The Dean of Architecture was eased out of Deanship[12] citing “lack of familiarity with Princeton’s plagiarism policy” after he submitted a ‘contribution’ to an international exhibition, taken verbatim from Wikipedia without attribution. Standards are different further up the food chain. The co-Chairman of Princeton’s Board of Trustees is the Governor of New Jersey, now running for the Republican nomination for President of the USA. In 2009, this former Attorney General allegedly used segments from a British show[13] without attribution in campaign ads.

In the case of other faculty, the charge of plagiarism can be career-ending. It is likely to result in suicide. Fierce and destructive law-suits can also result. Otherwise one is blessed like Princeton with the legal environment of the Colonial Carribbean in the movie “Lock Up Your Daughters”[14] that constituted my introduction to Western Culture as an undergrad in the IIT: “If she screams ‘rape’ then he must hang. If he was innocent, or she didn’t really mean it, then she must hang”. No other outcomes allowed. So a fair person does not make such a charge lightly. One thinks carefully: How deliberate was this? Did the person really try to pass off stolen work as his/her own? Why? Was there a monetary benefit? Was it out of laziness? Just to save effort – the reason for most student problems under severe stress of the end of the semester? Has public irrepairable damage been done? Is it just a matter of omitting some quotation marks?

The present charges fail all those tests.

Mr. Malhotra does not NEED to copy any of these people’s so-called ‘works’. He does not need knowledge from them. He is not in the business of inventing history or philosophy. He refers to them mainly to illustrate and expose the ignorance, and sometimes the debates within their community – which would be hard to do without quoting their statements extensively. His books are indeed ‘polemic’, not academic texts. He certainly does not quote them to save time – it would be much easier to not quote them at all. The most probable explanation for Malhotra’s 30 citations of Mr. Nicholson’s work is that he saw some hope of Nicholson being able to improve on the standards of the RISA. Mr. Malhotra was evidently wrong: Nicholson swears allegiance and adoration of his thesis advisor Sheldon Pollock, who (surprised?) graduated under the same advisor as Wendy Doniger. See below under “RISA” for the significance of those names.

In a field where original work is rare, and faculty spend their time on Internet blogs, Twitter and Facebook rather than writing research proposals, deriving equations or conducting experiments, and publish few papers, citations are the currency of bragging rights. Mr. Malhotra may have wanted to help out the young Mr. Nicholson, lately on the tenure track. Having got tenure, however, Nicholson declares that Malhotra does not know Sanskrit. The Independent Reader/Reviewer analysis shows clearly that there is absolutely no substance in the charges made. Which leaves only the one conclusion: the charges are malicious. Perhaps Mr. Malhotra should check the dictionary for a Hindi/Urdu term: ‘NamakHarAm’.

But come on! You might say. Why would these Academics stoop so low? I can help you there, because I can easily believe that they would. They are from the crowd that tried to put sand in the mouths, figuratively speaking, of leprosy patients. Of orphans. Of battered women. Of the poorest of the poor. Back in 2002. Several of us had to spend thousands of hours fighting that war [15-16]until they were run of town in laughter. So below, let us consider some other motives behind the “U-Turn” and Young’s media- coordinated gang attack.

  1. The RISA-Lila

Since retiring from business some 20 years ago, Mr. Malhotra focused attention on the abusive misrepresentation of Indian and specifically Hindu culture, religion and contributions. In 1999 he systematically exposed the bias in CNN’s reporting on India before and after the Kargil War. He then went on to study the RISA – the Religion in South Asia ‘scholarly’ group comprised of entities in US and some European ‘south asia’ and ‘religious studies’ schools. Stunned by the ignorance, he tried engaging some in debate, but found their web fora, let alone their journals, closed to contributions from so-called “lay” people – a silly arrogance that would be unthinkable in, say, engineering. For instance, so-called librarians from England, yoga instructors from Alabama, English teachers from Pakistan, and first-year graduate students were welcomed as Scholars on Hinduism and India, but knowledgeable and articulate people such as Malhotra were shut out, and even professors such as Dr. Balagangadhar from Europe were barely allowed to post. There was a good reason for the shyness of these people: they were plumb ignorant, some might say stupid but I am too well-brought-up to say so. Let me put it this way: if these people were in fact at the top of the SAT scores and their high school classes.. never mind. Its too far a stretch of reality.

In 2004, the RISA indeed encountered reality: they realized that the outside world was hurting themselves laughing using their deep ‘scholarly’ posts as soccer balls of ignorance to kick around. They decided to go underground. Some resurfaced circa 2006 as part of the herd of Top 100 Indologists led by Harvard Professor Michael Witzel and his faithful sidekick Mr. Steve “I have been learning Sanskrit for 3 months” Farmer, to try to deny Hindu children in California the right to an equitable existence. Of course they flunked there too, see “SAT scores” above. As devastating court judgements loomed in both the State Court (case filed by the Hindu American Foundation on procedural violations) and the US Federal Court (civil rights violation case filed by a determined group of parents, the California Parents for Equalization of Educational Materials) the California Board and Harvard’s battery of legal eagles, had to settle. In other words, after spending millions of taxpayer or Harvard Foundation dollars trying to stall the inevitable, they had to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars to both the HAF and CAPEEM. Of course they then claimed victory – as indeed they should, in the relief that they had escaped the long prison terms that loomed if the cases actually went to judgement.

Malhotra wrote two devastating exposes, titled RISA-lila 1 [17] and 2 [18] (a take on the phrase RAsa-lila denoting Sri Krishna’s youth), describing the inbred nature of RISA. RISA is dominated by PhDs from one particular group at the University of Chicago led by one Ms. Wendy Doniger, known for her pornographic representation of Hinduism. Hint: do not confuse this part of U.Chicago with the one that participated in the Manhattan Project or wins Nobel Prizes. All copies of her latest book had to be ‘pulped’ by Penguin executives in India in 2013 [19], faced with the prospect of jail under the laws against hate-inciting mischief and child pornography.

Denied access to the journals of the inbred American Academy of Religion, Mr. Malhotra took to the Internet at the height of the Internet boom. Karma. For the first time, tens of thousands of Indians and Hindus had equal access, time and connectivity to realize the scam that was being perpetrated by the Religious Studies and Divinity Schools. Mr. Malhotra’s name recognition grew, and even in India people started realizing that there was an alternative to currying favor with Harvard, Oxford and Chicago. Much has been written exposing the RISA’s trademark specialties [20].

  1. And so the Motive..

As realization has dawned slowly in the less Web-savvy communities of India, demand for Malhotra’s articles zoomed, prompting him to come out with published hardcover and softcover books. There are now four. The real topic of fear for the RISA appears to be the impending fifth. That is titled “Battle for Sanskrit”. It is expected to directly expose and focus on the activities of the group headed by Sheldon Pollock, Mr. Nicholson’s thesis advisor.

As a researcher, I know that someone who cites my papers 10 times without abusing me, is my friend for life. After all, one writes to be read and if possible, cited favorably. Mr. Nicholson’s ‘U-Turn’ (I am borrowing that term from Mr. Malhotra!) against someone who cited his own work 30 times, and apparently with approval not antipathy, raises some serious issues of motive, albeit an admirable sense of survival. His declaration of undying loyalty to his ex-Advisor is as touching as it is entertaining: he can kiss goodbye to promotion to full professor otherwise, and be like Mr. Young. Nah! Maybe it is just par for the course for the RISA.

  1. Why Do the Heathen Rage?

Rajeev Srinivasan succinctly describes the attackers[21]. They come from a lobby where three interests converge: First are the fundamentalist Protestant conversionist/ ‘evangelists’ out to Save the Souls of people all over the world, particularly India, by destroying their native culture and religions. The second lobby is the extreme-left combination of Marxist anarchists relevance-challenged by the demise of global communism, and the extreme-Islamists funded from the Pakistani/Saudi Wahabi cartels to destroy democracy. These are people who stand around in San Francisco or New York on July 4 and August 15 holding posters proclaiming “Death To Terrorist India and America!” or “Brick by brick, wall by wall, US Imperialism will fall!” (see [3]). The third are the supporters of the Indian National Congress party, who are now out of power and hate those who voted them out.

Mr. Richard Fox Young appears to be mostly of the 1st group, though with a following from the second and third. His specialty is best summed up as “Why Do The Heathen Rage?” as bellowed by Presbyterian and Baptist preachers every Sunday. He has written about the Resistance of Hindus to conversion and destruction of their religion, of the Resistance of the Buddhists in Sri Lanka and Japan likewise to destruction and conversion, and now is stunned by the resistance of the Hindus in the USA to conversion and destruction. Young is listed as an Associate Professor [22] 35 years after he got his PhD, 43 years after an MA, working at the Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS).

Interesting place, this Seminary. They claim to be part of the ‘Princeton Community’. PTS is located near but not affiliated with the University any more than the Princeton Wines LLC liquor store is part of the University.  Such differences are lost on attention-challenged and gullible Indian ‘journalists’, and the confusion has been used to cynical advantage. For instance Richard Land, an alumnus of the Seminary, was allegedly [23] caught confusing the two before he was eventually fired for his racist comments, and for plagiarizing a Washington Times correspondent in his radio commentary. Young’s feelings towards Hinduism are clearly displayed under his photo on Twitter, and leave no doubt that this attack has little to do with any objective concern about ethics: it is a coordinated attack much more like what Atanu Dey described [2].

9. The Investigation: 

One result of all this is that people have woken up, and Andrew Nicholson’s methodology has come under the scanner. Reading that shrill blog whine, it is hard to imagine any deep philosophy being present at its source. More than one knowledgeable person have identified one source of ‘his’ ideas as the Indian philosopher Surendranath Dasgupta. At this writing, his PhD thesis and later writings are being examined by experts. The indicators that I see being tossed around are quite disturbing.

At SUNY, the administration is more loyal to faculty than Princeton’s [24]. The chairman of their classics department was accused of lifting translations of Latin texts and presenting them as his own work. A SUNY professor investigated complaints from Italy and conveyed his shocked findings to the top Administration. The Italians asked again a year later. It was not until The Chronicle of Higher Education published the story even later that there was any action. So Nicholson should be safe, if indeed he has only taken knowledge from mere Indian Hindus. Maybe this is RISA-Lila, Part 3.

Satyam Eva Jayate.

[1] Historian Richard Fox Young Accuses Writer Rajeev Malhotra of Plagiarism., July 7, 2015.

[2] Dey, Atanu, “Circular Firing Squad of Flying Attack Monkeys Target Rajiv Malhotra”. July 17, 2015.

[3] Komerath, N., “Yesterday Once More: a FOIL Primer ”. Chapter 4 in Rajan, R. and Kak, K., Ed.,“NGOs, Activists & Foreign Funds: Anti-National Industry”. Vigil Public Opinion Forum, Chennai, 2006, p. 81-99.

[4] Lee, Harper, “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Harper-Collins Publishers, 1960.

[5] Malhotra, Rajiv, “Indra’s Net: Defending Hinduism’s Philosophical Unity”. Harper Collins, 2015. ISBN-13: 978-9351362449.

[6] Nicholson, Andrew J. “Upset about Rajiv Malhotra’s plagiarism, even more upset about distortions of my work”., July 17, 2015. . Also published as Advani, Rukum, with the same title and content at

[7] Andrew J. Nicholson. Associate Professor of Asian and Asian American Studies. Bishembaranath & Sheela Mattoo Center for India Studies, State University of New York. Viewed July 19, 2015.

[8] Malhotra, R. “Dear Andrew Nicholson..”. Rajiv Malhotra responds to Andrew Nicholson. July 18, 2015.

[9] Independent Readers and Reviewers: “Rebuttal of false allegations against Hindu scholarship: A review of allegations of plagiarism in: Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines, by Rajiv Malhotra (RM), Aravindan Neelakandan (AN), (Amaryllis, 2011), and A review of allegations of plagiarism in: Indra’s Net: Defending Hinduism’s Philosophical Unity, by Rajiv Malhotra (HarperCollins, 2014)”

[10] Kleiman, D., “Senior at Princeton Disciplined for ‘Plagiarism’, Sues for Libel”. New York Times, May 17, 1982. Viewed July 19, 2015.

[11] Cohen, L., “The Jury and the Prosecutors – Tape of hearing reveals that concerns over presumption of guilt continue to mar Princeton’s disciplinary process”. The Daily Princetonian, March 13, 2014. Viewed July 19, 2015.

[12] Mark, Laura, “Zaera-Polo Hits Out At Plagiarism Rumors Following Princeton Exit”. March 16, 2015.

[13] Edwards, D. and Tencer, D., “GOP Candidate Christie in Trouble With The ‘Knights Who Say Ni’ “. November 3, 2009.

[14] “Lock Up Your Daughters!” 1969. Viewed July 19, 2015.

[15] Rao, R. et al, “IDRF: Let the Facts Speak”. Morris Publishing, NJ, 2003. 213p.

[16] Komerath, N., “The Lashkar-e-Pinocchio Rides Again”, Chapter 5 in Rajan, R. and Kak, K., Ed.,“NGOs, Activists & Foreign Funds: Anti-National Industry”. Vigil Public Opinion Forum, Chennai, 2006, p. 100-115.

[17] Malhotra, R., “RISA Lila -1: Wendy’s Child Syndrome”. 2002. Viewed 87,855 times.

[18] Malhotra, R., “RISA Lila – 2 – Limp Scholarship and Demonology”., 2003. Viewed 39,518 times.

[19] Arora, Kim, “Penguin to Destroy Copies of Wendy Doniger’s Book, The Hindus”. February 11, 2014.

[20] Komerath, N., “Protestant Pedagogues Peeved at Protests Againt Porn-Peddling”. June 1, 2004.

[21] Srinivasan, Rajeev, “Wendy’s Revenge: Plagiarism charge against Rajiv Malhotra is a red herring”. Firstpost, July 18, 2015.

[22] Elmer K. and Ethel R. Timby Associate Professor of the History of Religions. Princeton Theological Seminary.

[23] Wikipedia, “Richard Land”. Seen July 18, 2015.

[24] Arenson, Karen, “SUNY Classics Professor Is Accused of Plagiarism”. The New York Times, February 22, 2002.

The State Department’s Role in the Arrest and Mistreatment of Dr. Devyani Khobragade, Foreign Diplomat, and The Predictable Consequences to America

Narayanan Komerath

January 25, 2014

Starting in 2012, the family of Mr. Richard, an Indian worker in the US Embassy in New Delhi, appears to have been enticed into a scam on the promise of US Green Cards. His wife worked as a domestic assistant to Ms. Uzra Zeya at the US Embassy in India in 2002-2007[1]. His son worked as a chauffeur[2] for the Mozambique Embassy in Delhi. The daughter-in-law, Sangeeta Richard, applied as a live-in maid for the Indian Deputy Consul-General in New York, Dr. Devyani Khobragade.

Dr. Khobragade is married to an American university professor[3], and a mother of two kids, 6 and 3 years old. She is a living counter to many stereotypes. She was born in a so-called “Scheduled Caste” (aka “Dalit”) Indian family. Her father started as a manual laborer, but earned an education and retired at the top of the Indian Administrative Service. Perhaps both father and daughter were helped by India’s Affirmative Action laws – that was certainly intended by the voters who approved those laws. She graduated as a medical doctor. She then sought to repay her nation, working in India’s Foreign Service, devoted to empowering women.  Before coming to the USA she was posted in Pakistan, hardly a luxury posting!  She was a friend that the US should have treasured, and an example of everything in which we Americans believe.  Clearly this made her a target for some people.

From all accounts, Ms. Richard who came to America as a domestic assistant2 in November 2012, was (a) trusted with all freedom of movement and association, (b) treated as a family member, (c) paid what she was promised and (d) paid well beyond the prescription of US laws.  In addition, she had complete employer-paid  healthcare coverage, on par with the diplomat herself. As we all know, this is a huge expense, and many employers of people in hourly-paid jobs in America do not provide that. The kids treated her with great affection and trust2. In addition to her US pay, and her life of comfort in the diplomat’s home, she was also guaranteed an after-tax monthly saving[4] of 30,000 Indian Rupees (then estimated at $573) deposited directly in India. Even in the wealthy suburbs of America, many of us are not able to put away $573 a month after taxes and all expenses from a single income.  A British newspaper [i] reports that she was indeed paid per US laws. Indian diplomats in the US, far from disregarding our laws, have followed them in letter and spirit trying their best to work with the State Department and local police.

[i] Saurabh Shukla, Documents suggest that Devyani ‘overpaid’ her maid Sangeeta. MailOnlineIndia, Daily Mail, UK, December 27, 2013. “  “Documents available with Mail Today show that Richards was getting more than the US-stipulated $1374.75 she was to be paid.”

Indian diplomats in the US, far from disregarding our laws, have followed them in letter and spirit trying their best to work with the State Department and local police. The hostility that elements of the Obama administration has used in targeting them, is out of all proportion to any perceived offences. It is clearly hostile propaganda, and its victims are all of us.

Most of us can agree that it is important to protect the civil rights of domestic workers. The law is clear on that too, and conscientious, thoughtful law enforcement should be supported and applauded. Cynically misusing law enforcement powers and access to public media on this pretext, and bringing our nation into disrepute, is quite a different thing.

A careful reading of the timeline and facts leaves little doubt that this was orchestrated from the start as a propaganda ploy, with no regard for the human costs. The high-profile ruckus was timed to resonate with the recent White House release of the Federal Strategic Action Plan[5] on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking.  This appears to be pandering to the worst xenophobic and racist sentiments that politicians  and their appointees solicit without any signs of introspection or parental guidance.

In March 2013 Uzra Zeya was appointed[6], acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, after serving as Executive Secretary to the State Department’s Accountability Review Board[7] probing the September 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack. In March/April 2013 Ms. Richard demanded to be allowed to work outside the Consulate on her “off days”, which is illegal for her visa status[8]. This should be compared to her later claim[9] that she had no “off-days” and was exhausted from over-work on her “on-days”. On June 21, 2013, the diplomat left her two kids in Ms. Richard’s care while she went on a 2-day trip. Ms. Richard chose this time to desert the kids and disappeared with money given for groceries and the diplomat’s cellphone. The disappearance was not discovered until the diplomat returned1 on June 23; a missing person complaint was eventually accepted by NYC police on June 25. An investigative report in the UK Daily Mail[10] details the clear, deliberate complicity of the State Department in ensuring that all efforts of the Indian diplomats to follow the law and cooperate with US authorities were ignored.

In mid-July extortionary demands were made, leading India to cancel Ms. Richard’s official passport and demand her return. In mid-September, responding to the State Department, the Indians pointed out that Ms. Richard was seeking to subvert both Indian and American laws.  In mid November, an Indian court issued an arrest warrant[11] for Ms. Richard. On December 10, the US BDS officials in Delhi violated Indian laws by acquiring tax-free diplomatic tickets[12], and American law by issuing “trafficking” visas apparently ordered (illegally?) by Secretary Zeya’s office[13], to Ms. Richard’s husband and children, and brought them to America to add to our numbers of illegal aliens. Compare this to the months that the US Embassy takes to issue visas to professionals to attend conferences in the USA!

Two days later, the diplomat was arrested in a publicity stunt that would put the Keystone Kops to shame, as she dropped off her kids at school[14], based on charges filed by an agent of the BDS[15].  They then proceeded to have her manacled, stripped and “cavity-searched”– Orwellian-speak for custodial rape – and tossed in jail, and their achievement  publicized[16].  I ask the same question that outraged villagers asked in the 1970s movie “Ryan’s Daughter” set in 1916 Ireland[17]: “Whose idea was the stripping up?”  This was much worse here, in 2013 America!

I have read the “indictment” that the US attorney’s office in New York appears to have railroaded through a Grand Jury[18]. With all due respect, it is asinine, describing the natural role of a live-in family member in a home with two small kids as “109 hours per week of work with no overtime pay” etc.  Any school-teacher, policeman and I am sure lawmaker, works even longer hours than that, because we care about those entrusted to us, and think about our responsibilities all the time! While looking after 2 school-age kids and keeping up an apartment are certainly full-time jobs, they are not slavery or abuse any more than “Alice” in the American Brady Bunch[19] TV show who looked after six children was a slave.

From the facts that I can ascertain[20], I assume that any reasonable US court will dismiss all charges against the Indian diplomat. The gratuitous brutality inflicted on her offends us all as human beings and makes me ashamed as an American that it was done in the name of my country by employees paid with our taxes.

After pleas to reason fell on deaf ears and inflated heads, the Indian government, responding to widespread outrage, is now proceeding to figuratively strip, expose and “cavity-search” our government’s duplicity and stupidity in no uncertain terms:

  1. They expelled the BDS official[21]. A Facebook search conducted by Indian and American kids revealed the shockingly offensive racist, bigoted and gratuitous public postings by the BDS official and his wife[22]. Note that India could easily have tossed them in jail to face non-bailable criminal charges for ticket and visa fraud, and offending religious sentiments. A senior US Congressman has aptly described[23] the couple’s actions as “offensive and moronic”, and pointed to the damage done to all the professionals in our Foreign Service.
  2. India requested details on how the US Embassy pays and treats Indian employees. Not surprisingly, our Embassy is foot-dragging on that[24], but the prognosis is bleak as Indian employees and ex-employees come forward with the truth. We wait to hear of the salary and working hours of the elder Mr. Richard.
  3. We now see that the American Embassy School, located on property provided to the US Embassy, has been deliberately[25] and systematically violating both visa[26] and tax laws for decades. Indian officials have cited this as “institutional fraud”[27] and I cannot fault that description. The State Department’s lame claim[28],[29] that the school is not run by the Embassy (with 2 Board members appointed by the Ambassador and many employees giving the tax ID of Embassy employees to deposit their pay) is further evidence of the lack of leadership.

More is to come, I am sure, and will not be pretty.  We as citizens would appreciate the leadership of the US Congress in demanding common decency and accountability at the State Department and the White House. Even school teachers know better than to post racist rants on Facebook pages. Is the US Bureau of Diplomatic Security headed by someone who is unaware of basic Internet common sense? Has he not endangered all our diplomats? Who hired this man? Was it the recent Presidential appointee famous for having (literally) shot himself in the foot? Who employed the BDS official’s wife as an expert on international community relations, given her gross lack of sense? Are State Department appointments now done on nepotism? How did the Board of the American Embassy School, with two members directly appointed by the Ambassador, allow and even order its employees to blatantly dodge taxes and lie on visa forms, and give false ID numbers to deposit salaries? Should these people not be prosecuted under US racketeering and money-laundering laws?

It is clear from the above that the purported basis for the prosecution of the Indian diplomat, is a grotesque and malicious distortion of the law set out to protect domestic workers from exploitation and virtual slavery. The law is well-intentioned and commendable, but in the hands of the cynical, the arrogant and the zealously thoughtless, as only government can be, it is been turned into a disaster for working mothers, children, domestic workers and the United States alike. New York set a minimum wage of $9.73, considering the plight of American fast-food workers who must pay to live 2 hours away and commute to Manhattan. Can the authorities not discern the difference from live-in nannies who are treated like family members in a luxury household in downtown with all her living expenses paid? The State Department decided arbitrarily that no in-kind payments could be subtracted from the $9.73, which may be admirable to prevent extreme cases where all of a worker’s salary may be deducted, but which was certainly not the case here. The prosecutor here has pursued a completely senseless interpretation of that law, taking cynical advantage of a situation where a woman diplomat with a clear record of taking active interest in the plight of women workers, went out of her way to treat her own domestic assistant as a family member in every way.  The Indian diplomat was targeted because this was a case of a woman living in a home with a woman boss and two small daughters: the nanny was clearly a member of the family with the full run of the household, and as such was naturally “on call” as much as a family member would be. By no fair standard was this person a victim of mistreatment or exploitation, it was the other way around.

In retrospect, the charge of “human trafficking” and bringing unqualified illegal aliens into the US, fits much more appropriately on those who misused the “T” visa by approving them for the Richard family, those who bought illegal tax-free diplomatic tickets for citizens of a foreign country and illegally “evacuated” them when there were charges pending in lawful proceedings against them, and those who enticed a foreign worker on a non-immigrant official passport, to jump ship. Were these done in good faith, or was the intent to bring cheap foreign labor to act as domestic help for US government officials? Where are the Richards today?

Is the New York Federal Prosecutor too competence-challenged to see this, or did he deliberately ignore the obvious, in pursuing his bungling? Why did he ignore the fact that there were complaints on both sides, the one against the maid for dishonesty preceding the retaliatory complaint by the maid and her gang of coaches?  In any event, we are left with a mess that makes people wonder if the United States of America, far from being a protector of the weak, is run by cynically hate-filled entities, intent on destroying alliances between free democracies. This calls for an in-depth Congressional investigation and accounting.

A few long-term consequences may be predicted:

1. Yes, foreign diplomats will be “sensitized” to the need to follow the letter of American state law in employing domestic assistants, whether imported or local. This outcome could have been achieved through far less sensational or clumsy means.

2. Most diplomats will decide not to hire anyone of the sort. Their children will either stay back, or they will get grandparents to accompany them. The net loss is to the American tax base, and probably to the quality of upbringing that these children will experience, a loss blamed on America, creating resentment against America.

3. Many foreign missions will simply choose to replace the domestic assistant headcount with other designations covered by full diplomatic immunity. The population of undeclared and declared foreign secret agents, media experts and trade coordinators in America may thus be expected to rise, and with it, foreign influence.

4. The arrangement to deposit part of the US-earned wages directly to savings in the home country, will be abandoned, and the assistants left to fend for themselves in saving for their families.

5. Families all over the USA will recoil from the reports of this incident, and from any plans to hire domestic help if they can in any way avoid it. News reports already cite the extreme difficulty that many Americans have in finding enough hours at the wages that they can command, to make ends meet. This will be aggravated. Childcare quality will also suffer.

6. Any prospects of “live-in” domestic workers will be greatly reduced, since those benefits are not counted in hourly wages. Workers will be forced to commute long hours, and pay for their own quality of life. Childcare quality will suffer.

7. Governments all over the world will re-examine the operations of the US Embassy and Consulates in their countries, for tax evasion, visa fraud, giving out trafficking visas illegally, and various other nefarious activities. The credibility of the United States has been crippled by the revelations from the American Embassy School.

8. Employers will respond to extortionary pressures  by cutting back the hours of hourly-paid employees to stay within their own fixed budgets, with negative results all round.  Dictating both an hourly wage and a regular guaranteed number of hours per week for these workers is going to fail in most cases. Further, categorizing any call on live-in workers beyond a fixed working day as overtime, when they have probably been idle most of the day, will only destroy prospects for live-in arrangements.  Children may now be subjected to different “specialists” coming for a couple of hours a day, instead of a caring, beloved person whom they remember as “aunty”  through their early years.

9. In 2011, American farmworkers, grocery store cashiers, park attendants etc earned around $1600 per month,  averaging around $9.3 per hour, from which they had to pay all expenses and taxes.What I do not see is the prospect of childcare/ domestic worker monthly income rising above that earned by these workers.  Perhaps the market for childcare/cooking robots will rise rapidly, if those robots can be imported from China to help the present administration destroy yet another caring human service in the USA?

[2] Arpita De, Times News Network, “Who is Sangeeta Richard?”  Times of India, online article December 20, 2013. “The whole family is very nice. I don’t feel that I am their domestic help. The children call me ‘tai’ (aunt)”

[7] US House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Chairman Royce Calls on State Department Inspector General to Focus on ARB’s Flawed Investigation of Benghazi Attacks. May 10, 2013.

[8] Imran Ahmed Siddiqui, How India left gates open for ‘evacuation’. Devyani filed complaint on July 3 but officials waited and did little to plug loopholes.” The Telegraph, Kolkatta, December 20, 2013.   “In mid-March 2013, Sangeeta asked Devyani whether she could work outside on her off-days, to which the diplomat told the nanny that her position as a domestic assistant on official passport with dependent visa did not entitle her to such work, according to the complaint.” ..”On June 18, Sangeeta went to Devyani’s office at the consulate-general of India for the first time and said that that she felt overburdened by work at home and would feel happy to stay and work outside her employer’s house from 7pm to 7am,” the complainant said.

[9] Dana Sussman, Safe Horizons attorney representing Sangeeta Richard, quoted in Time of India, Dec. 20, 2013. “She worked seven days a week with a few hours off on Sunday

[15], Dec. 26, 2013: Devyani Khobragade case: Screenshot shows US officials misread info The last question on the page is regarding the monthly salary of the employer and the screenshot shows the answer was given as USD 4,500. Based on the same information, however, the 11-page complaint filed by the agent of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security alleges that Khobragade promised to pay USD 4,500 to her maid. “The Visa Application stated that Witness-1 was to be paid USD 4,500 per month in US dollars,” alleged Mark J Smith, Special Agent of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.”  (Note: The State Department denied that there was any misreading)

[17] Wikipedia.  “Ryan’s Daughter is a 1970 film directed by David Lean. The film, set in 1916, tells the story of a married Irish woman who has an affair with a British officer during World War I”.’s_Daughter

[19] Wikipedia, “The Brady Bunch is an American sitcom created by Sherwood Schwartz that originally aired from September 26, 1969 to March 8, 1974 on ABC. The series revolves around a large blended family which includes six children.”

[21] Al Expelled US diplomat criticised for comments. US State Department distances itself from online remarks made by diplomat expelled amid row over Indian envoy’s arrest.

[23] Leslie Larson AND Corinne Lestch.  State Department removes 2 from posts in India after ‘vegetarians are doing the raping’ comment. New York Daily News, January 15, 2014. These social media posts are as offensive as they are moronic, and are in no way a reflection of United States policy or the dedicated employees of the State Department,” said a spokesman for Rep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”

[26] Sandeep Dikshit. American School e-mail raises suspicion of illegal postings. The HINDU, January 17, 2014.  “An internal e-mail sent by the American School to its teachers here, asking them to be economical with the truth about their visa status”…”So, if you are a teaching couple, we usually have the male spouse apply for the ‘employment’ visa and the female spouse be noted as ‘housewife’ on the visa application.

[27] “US Embassy School Under Scanner for Visa, Tax Violation”. Outlook India, January 18, 2014.

[28] Rajeev Sharma, US claims on American Embassy School in New Delhi are wrong. FirstPost World, January 25, 2014.