Murty library editor: Petition wants US scholar removed, cites JNU remarks

The petition also said that Pollock had been “a prominent signatory of several statements which are of a purely political nature”.

Written by Anushree Majumdar | New Delhi | Published: February 29, 2016 1:09 am
murty library, narayan murty library, pollock, sheldon pollock, murty library editior, JNU, jNU news, INida news Sheldon Pollock

Nearly six years after American scholar Sheldon Pollock was chosen to steer the course of the Murty Classical Library of India (MCLI) — an ambitious dual-language publication series brought out by Harvard University and the Harvard University Press — a group of 132 Indian academicians has signed a petition seeking his removal from MCLI as mentor and general editor.

The petition, to Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy and his son Rohan Murty, stated that Pollock had shown “disrespect for the unity and integrity of India” by condemning “actions of the JNU authorities and Government of India against separatist groups”.

“We submit that such an individual cannot be considered objective and neutral enough to be in charge of your historic translation project,” it added.

On February 26, K Ramasubramanian, department of humanities and social sciences, IIT Bombay, started the petition on, to draw attention of the Murthy family, which donated $5.2 million to Harvard University to establish MCLI in 2010, to Pollock’s “deep antipathy towards many ideals and values cherished and practiced in our civilization. He echoes the views of Macaulay and Max Weber that the shastras generated in India serve no contemporary purpose except for the study of how Indians express themselves”. The petition was later attributed to Ganesh Ramakrishnan, department of computer science and engineering, IIT Bombay.

The group of Indian academics who signed it include Madhu Kishwar (CSDS, Delhi), V Kutumba Sastry (president, International Association of Sanskrit Studies), Makarand Paranjape (department of English, Delhi University), N Gopalaswami (former CEC).

The petition also said that Pollock had been “a prominent signatory of several statements which are of a purely political nature”. On February 15, Pollock had signed a statement released by over 440 academics in the US, Canada, the UK and Europe, condemning the “police presence on (JNU) campus and harassment of students on the basis of their political beliefs”. Rohan Murty and Pollock could not be reached for comment.

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  1. Seren Ra
    Feb 29, 2016 at 3:58 pm
    Murthi family is doing anti-national activities. Government should involve in this issue and stop Murthi family work of translation by Pollack. Or we will go to court to stop this anti-national activities...
    1. N
      Mar 2, 2016 at 9:34 am
      "American indology" has mostly produced distorted misinterpretations of Indian texts. As Rajiv Malhotra explains in his book "The Battle for Snaskrit ", this has stemmed from many reasons, the primary being flawed scholarship due to ignorance about "adhyatma" and sacredness of the scriptures, which CANNOT be experienced/understood without going through rigorous "saadhana" under traditional scholars. Add to that the sinister colonialist hangovers and missionary tactics of denigrating non-Christian cultures. The bottom line is - current generation of Sanskrit scholars in India are fed up their literature being desecrated time and again by people who hold powerful positions in western academia and are completely detached with the real meanings of the scriptures. This w talk of bringing in JNU episode is bunkum - just ad-hominem attack to divert from the real reasons many Indian scholars don't want their heritage to be butchered by hostile academics. Just because some factually erroneous publication is criticized, you can not get away with labeling them by namedropping JNU here and there and avoid the real issue of external control over India's narrative. People should read Malhotra's book to see through the facade.
      1. Arish Sahani
        Feb 29, 2016 at 11:31 am
        Our rich and intellectual even after freedom carry a slave mind .While their forefathers were prisoners of these western ideas ,
        1. B
          Bijan Mohanty
          Feb 29, 2016 at 7:03 am
          Peion is based on misconceived notion about Pollock. Pollock has not done anything wrong. H
          1. Venkatraman Shenoy
            Feb 29, 2016 at 11:36 am
            This is what the great Indian scholar, rajiv Malhotra had to say on the views of Sheldon Pollock:"In my book. "The Battle For Sanskrit", I have a 21-page analysis of Pollock's views on shastra starting with his 1985 paper referenced below.​ ​ See pages 114-125 of my book, a section led "Rejecting the shastras as Vedic dogma". ​ Please note that I am not interested in defending the peion. But on the matter of Pollock's writings on shastras I do have a lot to say.​......................................................................................On shastras, his position is clear that: Shastras cannot deviate from Vedas, thereby making them incapable of new, creative, progressive ideas. In effect, shastras rehash whats in the Vedas - nothing new happens in them. The tradition does not (unlike in the west) utilize practical experience/empiricism of scholars - i.e. lack of agency. He mentions in ping that certain "advances" did take place in some disciplines, but that even there these were attributed to supernatural agency and not human agency. Hence, 1 - 3 along with his other writings make clear that the shastras are frozen. In fact, his main thesis is: that only kavya (which he elsewhere argues is separate/in tension with shastras) is the only place where history gets made. This implies that shastras did not make historical impact. (My concern: Are we to set aside all the history of Indian science/technology as useless?) Though in this paper he only partially sets up the case for political philology as the correct lens for interpreting Sanskrit texts, this notion comes in full swing in his later writings. #6 is, then, leads to his major thrust that Sanskrit and its texts must be processed for political insights into oppression in Indian society. In other words, his approach is largely shaped by this motive to seek political hegemony, domination, social oppression. My book gives extensive examples of Pollock making this case very centrally.
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