Ms. Shantipriya's response to Mr Nagarajan's article that appeared yesterday in Scroll
I am distressed to read the one-sided hollow rant of Arvindhan Nagarajan presented as a rebuttal to Rajiv Malhotra’s intellectually provoking talk at TISS in Mumbai last week. Scroll.in does not have space for reader comments. I request the editor to post my response to Nagarajan’s report.
Nagarjan’s intolerance to an alternate viewpoint is in full display at the very outset. He refers to Rajiv Malhotra contemptuously as being ‘a self-taught social scientist’ - as though that, in itself, is sufficient reason to shout him down and dismiss his ideas. After all, social science is not rocket science that one should have laboratory experience. In fact, social science is all about people and cultures, an evidence-based study, far better understood by observing the real world than merely sitting in the silos of Universities and applying general theories to fit all peoples and cultures. Remember how Ekalavya became a better archer than Arjuna through self-study, Mr Nagarajan?
Nagarajan and his friends, if they are serious students of social sciences, would have been open to new ideas, and eager to listen to this ‘self-taught social scientist’ who offers a different interpretation of the motivations for India studies in the West. Instead, they had come with a prejudice against the man. That is why Nagarajan feels Mr Malhotra’s talk “quickly devolved (sic) in to a hail of accusations at his audience”.
Nagarajan’s bias is one more instance of a growing body of evidence that academicians have created an ‘elite club’ which restricts membership to only those who toe its line. Indeed, the events at TISS are evidence of Mr Malhotra’s charge that our Universities have become knowledge gatekeepers that will permit only one particular thought into academic discourse. As a consequence, our students have not developed critical thinking skills. Their incomprehension and sense of insecurity, when faced with an alternative point of view showed up in their boorish conduct at TISS.
It is sad that Nagarajan, instead of presenting any concrete intellectual refutation, calls Mr Malhotra, ‘hollow’. To dismiss a man of Malhotra’s intellect and training - a man who has authored four best-selling books - as lacking in substance is intellectual dishonesty. Ironically, it exposes the very intolerant elitist arrogance which was the subject of Malhotra’s talk at TISS. I do not agree with or like the ideas of Amartya Sen and Sheldon Pollock. Would it be proper for me to characterise either of them as ‘hollow’?
Nagarajan accuses Mr Malhotra of not taking questions when Malhotra actually went out of the way to answer in great detail the charges of plagiarism levelled against him. Not surprisingly, Nagarajan suppresses the abominable behaviour of the young social scientists of TISS during the Q&A session. I urge everyone to visit
to view the event and decide for themselves.
Even the much-maligned Dronacharya gave Ekalavya the chance to display his skills before chopping off his thumb – a chance that would immortalise Ekalavya. Why is the academia not ready to debate Malhotra? Is Malhotra beyond the pale just because he is a ‘self-taught social scientist’?