Response to Brannon Parker's Message re the SACW Alert in Defence of Romila Thapar [See the Letter recieved by SACW ]
Dear Brannon Parker,
Thank you very much for your email. We are grateful to you for offering us the rationale behind your web petition. Certainly we do not intend nor did we attempt to slander you personally. The website you saw was set up to argue against the main line of argument in the petition which we saw as congruent, indeed along the grain of, hindutva fundamentalism. You are not a Hindutva fundamentalist, that may be as you say, and if you took this from the website, then we are sorry for you. However, the web petition you initiated against the appointment of Prof. Romila Thapar to the Library of Congress, adopts a distinctly Hindutva fundamentalist position that has been rigorously criticized in many other places for describing India's past as being monocultural and being excusively 'Hindu'.
The assessment of the petition as organised by Hindutva fundamentalists does not just rest on where the petition originated. The calls for collection of signatures on web noticeboards of Hindutva circuits, coupled with the rabidly chauvinist sentiments expressed by many of the signatories, suggests that Hindu fundamentalist networks have been mobilized in support of the petition.
We are of course quite startled and dismayed by your frequent claims about "Hindus" being disorganized, etc. There is a tendency toward racism in these remarks that you may want to reconsider. Are all "Hindus" unable to act, being bad organizers, and what not.
Of course you have the freedom of speech, but neither you nor we have the right to toss accusations around without a scrupulous discussion of facts. Let us take the few that you offer in your email:
You assert that a teacher mentioned that the idea of Kaliyug comes from Kali. Does Professor Thapar make this claim? We have not seen her make this statement.
(2) Origins of Hinduism.
You assert that a teacher told you that Hinduism comes after Buddhism. The verity of this claim depends on certain definitions. What do you mean by Hinduism? Is Hinduism always the same or does it also have a history? Certainly in the time of Ramanujan, drawing from Shankara, the various traditions that came before were radically transformed to begin the formation of what we know as Puranic Hinduism with the multiplicity of Gods, etc. This was around the 11th Century, when temple building emerges as an important aspect of Hindu practice. In the 19th Century, Dayananda Saraswati reacted to this form of Puranic Hinduism to refashion a practice he called Sanathana Dharma, a return to the Vedic Brahmanism of the ancient times. If you accord the Hindus the right to history, then it is arguable that Hinduism comes after Buddhism. D. D. Kosambi has a wonderful paper on the Bhagavada Gita that might be useful to you -- it shows how Buddhism impacted upon the text and how it was later added to the Mahabharata.
(3) India as a Civilization.
You assert that your teacher said that since there was no unified state there was no unified civilization. Again, I don't want to defend your teacher whose categories 'state' and 'civilization' are in need of analysis. You should of course know that the idea of an Indian civilization is not indigenous to the traditions of thought within India but it is a product of German Indology, drawing from Hegelian ideas of civilization. If you look at the Sanskrit corpus, there is no idea of a unity of civilization, only a vision of how to live in the cosmos. There is a European fallacy at work here: one that comes from Germany's own history of state formation out of the baronies, trying to forge a state to exercise the right of Germany to be a civilization. This problem does not appear in Indic texts, either in Sanskrit (for instance, the Arthashastra) nor in Persian (for instance, Ain-i-Akbari).
Professor Thapar is an esteemed historian with many publications that illuminate India rather than ridicule Indians in a racist manner for being disorganized, etc.
Harsh Kapoor & others
On Behalf of The South Asia Citizens Web
Letter recieved by SACW from the initiator of the petition against Romila Thapar [This letter is now also available on the internet one of the Hindutva websites]
From: Vrin Parker <email@example.com>
Dear SACW Members and Whom it Concerns,
Its truly amazing to see the accusations of slander and Hindu right wing fundamentalists conspiracy being applied to me.
I started this petition on my own. No one asked me to or even urged me to do it. I actually am amazed at how much credit is given to the Hindu activists.Fine people as individuals but in general, Hindus are very unispiring campaigners and activists.
I found out about the R Thapar appointment from a Hindu friend. It was his and the usual lack of an action plan that I see amongst Hindus that caused me to stand up and say," I don't have to accept this. I, for one, am doing something about it." That is the honest genesis of the petition.
The truth is, I am a white American who lived and studied in India and in the USA. After having been forced to learn a lot misinformation about India in American schools I became fed up. I proved to my teacher that it was innacurate info. Simple but false statements like Kali yuga is named after the horrific Goddess Kali. Buddhism predates Hinduism. India was never a civilization because they didn't always have a unified state.
Her response was," You will be graded on what is in the books, so I would focus on that instead of worrying about what Hindus believe about their own culture." I began my own research and soon discovered that it was the Indians themselves, esp Romila Thapar, who are at the root of all the nonsense taught about Hindus in the West.(Of course thats my opinion and I have a right to it.)
As an American, I am very discouraged by the US Library of Congress using American resources and prestige to bolster the inaacuracies of Romila Thapar's research. I take great offense at being labelled by your group as a Hindu rightwing fundamentalist.
In fact, I am a private US citizen, practicing my constitutional rights of legally appealing to my elected representatives and other US government bodies involved in this issue.
By labelling me as a Hindu Right wing fundamentalist and accusing me of slandering Romila Thapar you have committed a libelous act.
I would like an apology and a retraction of your statements. I would also like to see you remove your libelous statements form the internet.
I am sorry if you don't agree with me or my actions against Thapar. That does not give you a right to attack my reputation.
The fact is you are acting fanatically and your reaction is very revealing. How many times have innocent people been demonized by your inapropriate name-calling? Is this type of situation the basis of all the anti-hindu reports going on in the world media? Are there people with a vested interest in denigrating Hinduism based on a need to create a more conducive atmosphere for conversion to Christianity? More converts, more money? Whats up?
What ever is going on you are definately out of line when publicly labelling a private US citizen. As an American, I value free speech and the right to dissent. By trying to demonize me and label me you are attempting to throttle my rights to dissent. If you don't agree with my opinion, as stated on the petition, than be honorable and democratic about it. Prove me wrong by using factual information.
Regardless of Romila Thapar's anti-Hindu bias or lack of it, I do not support her as a good use of our American resources. I need no reason to be against her except my constitutional right to freedom of speech. I expect a prompt response and clarification of your public and libelous statements against me.