The News Minute| March 12, 2015| 12.00 pm IST
A petition against Subramanian Swamy and Rajiv Malhotra has been raised at change.org, urging the Oxford India Society (OIS) to cancel the invitation extended to them to speak on varied topics. According to the flyer posted on OIS’s facebook page, Dr. Swamy is scheduled to speak on the topic, “Economic development over the years and new reforms needed to take India forward.” Mr. Malhotra will present his views on the subject of “Rethinking India History based on the book Breaking India: Western Intervention in Dravidian and Dalit faultlines”. The talks are dated to be held on April 3.
The petition, which has collected 204 signatures at the time of writing of this article, states that Swamy and Malhotra “ought to be questioned and presented as they are - as bigots with extremist views- rather than exclusively qua professor, historian, or activist, speaking on “reforms”
Swamy dismissed the petition calling it trivia by people who preach freedom of expression for themselves and deny it to others. “I have a right to my views and I will exercise my freedom to share them with my audience,” he told The News Minute (TNM). He added he had not received the letter of invitation. “This comes from the same kind of people who campaigned against me at Harvard - free speech when they speak, and hate speech when we speak of our history.”
The petition says Malhotra is “known for his patently fanatic blogs and the book 'Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines'. The latter can at best be described as hate speech against all scholars who have ever attempted to criticize the caste system or other forms of social hierarchies and discriminations in India. His targeted vilification campaign against most American scholars, not to mention several Indians as well, especially Wendy Doniger, has breached the limits of propriety. His obsession with undivided nation with all its inequities intact, now being divided by scholars and 'activists' discussing and fighting them has only resulted in intemperate and bigoted rants that reveals a great deal of religious orthodoxy and fundamentalism.” A petition supporting Dr. Swamy and Mr. Malhotra's upcoming talk at Oxford was filed at change.org soon after. The petition has 117 signatures so far.
Malhotra responded to the petition saying that “it would be a blot on [Oxford’s] image to block free speech just because some individuals feel that free speech works only in one direction.” He says that “allegations made in their petition against me are utterly ridiculous and false; in fact, the book of mine they cite does not have any bearing on Wendy Doniger or reference to her, and yet they claim it has somehow harmed her. These individuals seem to be over-opinionated but under-informed.” Mr. Malhotra further stated, “I thrive on debating opponents and have numerous YouTube videos of such debates. I would welcome debating an opponent in Oxford, in a fair and neutrally moderated forum, with our cameras streaming it for viewers worldwide. If my opponents are clever, they should take me up on my offer to debate.”
The original petition seems to have had its effect in that soon after it was filed, OIS posted this on their Facebook page.
“In the past, Oxford India Society has invited several speakers that share views that may or may not resonate with every listener. However, as a society we do not endorse the views or the scholarly work of the speakers we invite. Specifically, regarding the invitation to speakers Dr. Subramanian Swamy and Mr. Rajiv Malhotra, they have been invited to participate in an academic discourse with the students of Oxford. There would be views, counter views, and we encourage all of you to engage in a stimulating discussion with our speakers during the event. We shall strive our best to keep this event lively, informative and holistic.”
Malhotra’s book "Breaking India" was first launched at NSA Ajit Doval’s Vivekananda International Foundation by Mr. Ram Jethmalani. On its back cover, the book carries an endorsement from former Foreign Secretary Mr. Kanwal Sibal saying that: “During my diplomatic tenure in some countries, I have had occasions to see operations on the ground of the kind that this book throws light on. But I did not have the data of the kind that this book presents for interpreting things clearly”.