The organisers of the recent ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’ conference have now initiated a new movement to attack those who have dared to criticise their work. I am named their principal target, the culprit number one. They have announced a ‘Field Manual’ containing a timeline of what they call the “harassment of academic scholars” by Hindus like me. This manual presents a list of the main opponents of Western academic scholarship. The purpose is to provoke their young scholars to launch attacks against anyone who dares to criticise the high and mighty academicians.
In one sense, this is flattering because I am being hoisted as the most important Hindu scholar that their entire cabal should attack. One way or another, by hook or crook, lies and deceit, the desperate goal seems to be to intimidate me, discredit me, and somehow stop my work from further damaging the reputations of these emperors who find themselves with no clothes.
I want to use this opportunity to make a few points. First, their latest move highlights an inability to face criticism, especially since my critiques have always been presented in a systematic and scholarly manner, free of personal or ad hominem attacks. My record is open for anyone to examine and judge for themselves. I have published many books that became bestsellers. I also have nearly 1,300 video lectures freely available online for the public to evaluate whether my criticism is authentic and scholarly or deserves to be characterised as “harassment”.
I can categorically say that my work is research-based and is not about making personal attacks. Of course, I cannot be held responsible for other people's conduct. I can only be held accountable for my own utterances, which have been entirely scholarly. The difference between a scholar and an activist is precisely that the activist can turn emotional and start a mudslinging fight, something I do not relish.
The above-mentioned movement to hound me shows how shallow the claim of academic freedom really is. Academicians operate in cartels of like-minded teams that build on each other’s work. Only a measured amount of criticism is acceptable among themselves.
Also Read: Dismantling Global Hindutva
But I am an outsider to the cabal, not trained by them or at their mercy for professional, financial, or other needs. They are not accustomed to a well-informed Indian who speaks on behalf of the Indian tradition very assertively, with rigour, authenticity and clarity, and invites opponents to debate his research and argumentation. I am especially dangerous because I have developed alternative frameworks for thinking. My work does not consist of isolated criticisms here and there but offers a completely different framework. Such a person is intolerable to the academic community because he is not their typical “native informant” from another culture, nor available as a coolie or sepoy to work under them. Therefore, he must be condemned as a harasser.
Characterising my work as harassment would have been justified if I had criticised scholars for some trivial reason or tried to suppress their freedom of speech. But I thrive on public debate. Every time I have published a book, I have called on the academic community to have open debates. It is their side that has refused to engage as they cannot face their bias being exposed. They have always ignored my open invitations and decided to claim to be victims being harassed. This ploy no longer works because there is a large community of awakened people who have followed my work and are voicing their views audaciously.
Ironically, my critics have made me important. This latest development shows that they find me non-ignorable even though they do not like to show publicly that they read my books closely and secretly adjust their work to cover themselves. Numerous friends who work within the academic system keep informing me that my books are systematically taught in many universities, and students are asked to develop rejoinders.
Unfortunately, our supporters and Indian think tanks have done nothing to promote our serious work, though they borrow from my writings all the time. I seem to be more famous among my opponents than with my supporters. It is a badge of honour that academic scholars are studying my work over the past three decades because they find it important to counter.
The author is a researcher, writer, speaker and public intellectual on current affairs as they relate to civilisations, cross-cultural encounters, religion and science. Views expressed are personal.