Many students were kept in the dark about this until they saw a banner for the conference two days ago.

Rajiv Malhotras closed-door Swadeshi Indology conference at IIT Madras irks students
news Friday, July 08, 2016 - 13:36

 A year after the Ambedkar Periyar Study Sircle faced a ban at IIT Madras (which was later withdrawn) citing their strong political views, some students are irked at the use of campus auditorium to host a three-day conference on Swadeshi Indology.

Spearheaded by NRI Hindutva scholar Rajiv Malhotra, the conference aims to critique the lack of participation of Indian indologists and challenging "the limited, western mindset" of Columbia University professor and Indologist Sheldon Pollock. Some students have strongly criticized the invite-only event that involves many Hindutva and Sanskrit scholars. 

A copy of the event schedule available with The News Minute shows that the singular focus of the event is to counter Sheldon Pollock.

Some students who did not want to named also alleged that the conference is being given preferential treatment, as opposed to the Ambedkar Day celebrations earlier this year when several rules were imposed. 

When TNM attempted to contact IIT Madras, the institution said that the auditorium was simply open to private use and did not translate to tacit support for the views discussed in the conference. 

An abstract from the conference reads as follows: 

”The motives and intentions of many a Western scholar can be rather dubious, given their overt and covert political/religious/ideological affiliations. Attention has been drawn to specific instances of the biases and political petitions of specific academic stalwarts of the West. While they have every right to broadcast what they do, whether out of conviction or as mercenaries, Indians ought to get alerted when their heritage is being sabotaged, especially by cultural subterfuge. In order to nourish an indigenous Indology that naturally cares for the protection of its own cherished and valuable inheritance, a movement has to be started, albeit with humble beginnings. Several scholars and sponsors are coming together to initiate this movement.” 

 Apart from critiquing Pollock’s views on Sanskrit and the Ramayana based on 25-30-year-old articles, here is an argument in an abstract challenging Pollock’s views in his essay ‘The Death of Sanskrit”: 

“The essay published under this rather astonishing title by the Indologist Sheldon Pollock bids us to a dynamic re-examination and self-defense of our invaluable literary instrument. The most august, venerable and determinative creations of the Indian race have been written in Sanskrit and pronouncing death upon the language is tantamount to an inability in understanding the true role of this divine tongue. Pollock’s essay merits a clear understanding of the burden of his song. The motives for the author’s position and the method of his reasoning are studied, to understand why he would see efforts to promote the language as politically biased “exercise in nostalgia”.

Some students and some members of the APSC attempted to enter the conference venue but were denied permission. “This is a clearly an issue of Hindu propaganda, and seems like a blatant effort to impose Sanskrit. While the conference is all about cornering Pollock, it is a clear continuation of Rajiv Malhotra’s lecture in the IIT campus 3 months ago,” said a member of the APSC who wished to remain anonymous. 

Pollock is currently the director of the Murty Classical library which houses texts and scriptures of various faiths. “3 months ago, there was a petition signed by 132 Sanskrit teachers and academics to remove him from the position – 6 of which are from IIT Madras. You cannot get a venue for this conference without the influence of a professor within the campus,” added another student.

Many students were kept in the dark about this until they saw a banner for the conference two days ago. A student also recalls an instance when high security was provided for a lecture on Ambedkar day. “During Ambedkar Day celebrations, outsiders were not allowed, only students – despite the fact that many extended their support to participate then. An upper limit was ordered. No cars were allowed to park because of environmental concerns. However, during the Indology conference, cars were parked everywhere, outsiders who were invited were allowed. It’s clear there is a political mandate here and has more to do with a power structure than Sanskrit,” he says. 

Note: The report earlier erroneously attributed the quote of the student offically to APSC, the error is regretted. 

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