Are anthropological studies as carried out in the West a violation of Human Rights?

This post summarizes a thread on the Rajiv Malhotra yahoo discussion forum which asks some really valid and disturbing questions of the nature of anthropological studies on India carried out in the West, particularly in prestigious American universities.

Invading the Sacred is the first book by Rajiv Malhotra that deals with many distortions that are perpetuated by Indology studies carried out by Western scholars.

Here are two links to summaries of a couple of chapters/chapter sections available on this forum.

This link summarizes a victory that was achieved for Hinduism by challenging the distorted representation of the Hindu faith that was published in Microsoft Encarta. Microsoft eventually changed the section on Hinduism that they carried, as a result of this challenge. Read more about it here.

This link from the same book exposes the kind of scholarship Western scholars like Wendy Doniger indulge in to denigrate Hinduism on the one hand and project themselves as champions of the faith in public discourse. Read what she has to make of the spiritual practice of tantra here.

Back to the current thread.

Bhaskar wrote in with this:

I have heard Rajiv mention this a number of times but the following video really opened me up to the nonsense that gets studied under the subject of anthropological studies. In this video, the person talks about the Kamma caste in Andhra Pradesh. It is interesting to see how the discussion moves from Kamma pride to Kamma-Reddy rivalry to Hindutva to Narendra Modi to Dalit oppression. 

There is no subtlety in discussion of this topic - when does self-esteem change to pride to majoritarianism? Why does self-esteem be seen as a case for oppression of another? I am not informed suitably in academics as I am a routine professional but the nature of discussion and the quality of intellect is deeply disturbing even to an uninformed me. This is also an interference in the India affairs of the sort that is unfortunately not seen that way. This made me wonder whether the nature of anthropology studies by its very construct is actually a human rights violation since it thrives on increasing divides and create fissures where there may be none. How can one make a legal case against this very discipline of study? Are such studies only on India and its caste system? When such type of "informed" people write books which in turn influence text books which in turn get into the minds of people through media or education, the damage to our society in this way can never be repulsed.... 

Ananth replies:

Please see Message 6344 [of the discussion group] as to how Benbabaali obtained her material.

I wondered how a young woman in France had heard of a caste called the Kammas in far-off South India.  Her PhD thesis advisor is a colleague of Christophe Jaffrelot.  Jaffrelot has connections with Marxist professors and journalists.  So that must be how she landed up in Andhra Pradesh.  As soon as she had a thesis to publish, the Hindu had an article on her. (These Marxist intellectuals behave in the same hegemonic way as a dominant caste!)

IBenbabaali said that Kammas have small families in order to preserve their inherited wealth.  For that statement to qualify as an intellectual argument, she must consider alternatives such as:
  1. Kammas have small families because family planning is important in a heavily populated country
  2. Kammas have small families because all over the world, upwardly mobile people have small families.
She needs to say why she rejects Items 1 and 2, in favor of the statement that Kammas have small families in order to preserve inherited wealth.  But I doubt that at the age of 28-30 she would have the introspective self-honesty to ask herself such questions.  Even if she were to, her professors wouldn't let her publish anything.

To the above message Rajiv responded. He said:

Jaffrelot was discussed in his egroup earlier because he became adviser to Ashoka University in Gurgaon, in chrge of setting up their comparative religion program. Many of the trustees in this univ are proud Hindus and passionate about helping us. But they are utterly ignorant of such details and too proud of accepting my help.

Shashi chimed in:

The Kammas are about 5 % in combined Andhra. It is not by intelligent design. I belong to the kamma community and we have maintained healthy averages before family planning era. The average number of kids a couple used have were between 5-12. Now kamma couples have between 1 - 3 kids.
The second reason why kammas are less in number is that a sisterly caste called velamas branched out of the kamma root caste reason being There was a civil war in Andhra called Palnadu Yudham in 12th century. Now these two are 2 separate castes.

I wonder why she missed out this Significant Era of Andhra and Kammas and key personalities of that era. From 3rd Century she skips directly to Vijayanagar Empire.

The Purpose of the Study is to just throw mud at the "Kammas of Andhra". It is laced with a Marxist narrative. She Frequently uses the term 'Capitalist Caste' in the video.

Aurva brings in a very valid point highlighting why Westerners are able to exploit the faultlines in our system itself. He says:

Unfortunately, an average Kamma would feel pride that they are a topic of discussion in US ivy-league academia.

this is what I've seen among some Vaishnavites regarding Sheldon Pollock. the Hindu mind has been so thoroughly desensitized to the trauma of external intervention that we no longer even recognize it.

more importantly, we are taught a history that negates this intervention and teaches us to hate our own religion and Dharma. this merely hastens the departure of the Hindu mind from its senses.

The above observation from Aurva is clearly articulated in message 6344 and 6331 on the discussion forum where this issue was discussed previously too.

To follow this thread further please join up on the yahoo discussion forum. This thread can be found here on the group forum.

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