The Battle for Sanskrit making waves in Indology lists

As expected, The Battle for Sanskrit has begun to elicit reactions from members of the purvapakshin's camp. Sheldon Pollock, Arvind Raghunathan Professor of South Asian Studies at Columbia University is the main purvapakshin of Rajiv Malhotra's latest book The Battle for Sanskrit (TBFS).

TBFS is gaining much traction among traditional scholars in India to whom it is mainly addressed. They have been exhorted to study Professor Pollock more critically when he advances theses on a civilization to which he is an outsider and they the insiders, the civilization in question being the Indian one. Rajiv has started the famed Indian tradition of purvapaksha by extensively analysing and studying Pollock's works.

The traditional side after reading TBFS, felt that there was a case to petition Shri. Narayanamurthy and his son Rohan Murthy who have pledged a huge donation to Pollock to translate 500 volumes from Sanskrit and various other Indian languages into English. This petition has been attracting a lot of signatories with almost 12000 people having signed this petition at the time of writing this.

Expectedly, the counter attack from the purvapakshin camp has begun. Ananya Vajpeyi, featured earlier also on this forum has been mentored by Professor Pollock. She writes thus in an Indology list group. A hard-hitting response is given by Dr. Nityanand Mishra.

Vishal shared Ananya's post:

Dear Colleagues,

As many on this list including Dominik Wujastyk, Matthew Kapstein, Madhav Deshpande and Tyler Williams, among others, have pointed out, the petition to remove Professor Pollock from the General Editorship of the Murty Classical Library of India suffers from either a deliberate or a genuine misreading of his writings and lectures. Moreover it is motivated not just by his vocal stand in favour of the freedom of expression and the right to dissent in India and elsewhere reiterated numerous times of late, but also by a desire on the part of the sponsors and writers of this petition to
generate some sliver of scholarly attention for Rajiv Malhotra's new book, The Battle for Sanskrit.

Apart from being a plagiarist, Malhotra is no scholar of anything, least of all Indology or Sanskrit. (I'm not even sure if any book by him can be accurately described as "new", given his record of plagiarism). His entire
strategy of calling attention to his publications, such as they are, is to make ad hominem attacks on bona fide scholars, especially Professor Pollock, and now almost exclusively him (though others of us have been
collateral damage in the past).

In my view, Malhotra's latest book deserves not one minute of our time, and is best left to rightwing propaganda publications like Swarajya, Niti Central and other blogs, newspapers etc. of that ilk to review (or not).
It's an echo chamber of Hindutva paranoia and self-congratulation, untouched by scholarship. Why spoil their party?

As for the 10,000 signatures on the petition, these things are easily managed by the cyber-machinery of the Sangh Parivar. Not for nothing are there entire dedicated cells of trolls and bots whose job it is to swell the numbers, as it were, merely the digital reflection of a larger ideology of majoritarianism at work.

I am assured by the concerned editors at Harvard University Press and by Professor Pollock himself that HUP and Harvard's legal and PR departments are well placed to handle this kind of -- well, whatever you want to call it -- provocation, irritation, distraction, or incitement. We really need not worry our heads engaging with these people as though they might actually know something about the classics, of any language, whether of
early or modern South Asia.

Goodness knows we all have enough on our plates, with JNU and other public universities and their students across India in dire need of our material and moral support at a moment of real political crisis.

In solidarity, and urging us all to #StandwithJNU,


Ananya Vajpeyi.

*Ananya Vajpeyi, PhD *
*Associate Fellow*
*Centre for the Study of Developing Societies*

Obviously such an uncalled for ad hominem has got Rajiv's online satsang buzzing.

Ranjith writes:

(...) The real thrust of her message is that she has Harward University Press on our side and so she does not have to bother. This divulges the secret as to who their handlers are - i.e. foreign nexuses. How long can they continue this without confessing?

If she can really afford to ignore Rajiv ji, she would have not even bothered to send a long email asking for NOT to waste even a minute. The fact is that they CANNOT IGNORE RAJIV JI ANY MORE. Height of hypocrisy.

Rakesh adds:

This is a very standard response from a stooge with a bogus Ph.D. For what ever reasons if Moorthy family does not change there decisions the insiders should start a parallel project do the similar translation. I am sure I am not the first one thinking along the same lines. I would like to hear from Insider tradition side how the synergies and resources can be put together to make it happen with leadership from Sri Rajivji.

Srinath chips in:

first thing came to my mind upon reading her immature reply - "jobless"
sad commentary on the kind of pathetic people who have filled the humanities void in JNU and elsewhere - trying to further their empty lives with imaginary problems, plus of course the obligatory servitude towards western masters.

still, without responding to this low level of so called "scholarship" on few blogs at least - cannot ramble on (to be fair)!

Sneha on the issue:
Another useful idiot SEPOY for anti Hindu army.

Anubhav adds:
I think we should be tactical and translate all available Sanskrit texts into Hindi and other regional languages and English. It could also be translated into Hindi first and then into regional languages. Sanskrit scholars can be roped in with financial incentives, Sewa or collective action to help the initial translation to Hindi. May be Sanskrit Bharti can help. Once translated it could reach Indians. Currently we are unaware of its legacy, greatness, practical application in various fields of life such as Medicine, Mathematics, Astronomy, Political Science and so forth.

Rohit comes in:
(...) Ananya says she would not read a word of Rajivji, yet she does not hesitate to comment on his work. Hmmm ... Speaks of your scholarship and methods at work Ananya.

To hear that sociology departments in JNU and other public universities wait in dire need for the likes of her to feed them what-ever says volumes about what "scholarship" is housed in these departments in India. (...)

Srikrishnan adds:
As Rajiv Ji expected and warned several times -- this kind of non sense is expected from LEFT/so called Self Proclaimed experts on Everything/ They Don't debate the Issues, digress, distort, attack the personality...spin it and our slave media will give a Political color.

Kunar writes:
(...) But to say such negative things about a very courageous man in such efforts appears to be as shutting down a strong voice for our causes. Unless you are pro-Harvard pseudo seculars who are spewing venoms in the disguise of intellects against India's integrety and hurting or religious process /faith (lime Shanatan Dharma)!! Why not allow us to tell everyone from our lense on issues that are being advertised by none other then Harvard Univ.
If you believe in "freedom of speech" and "freedom of response", then yu should not hurl such negative comments about Rajivji.

Dr. Nithyanand responded to Ananya on the indologist list thus.

Dear list,

While Niti Central (which recently shut down) and Swarajya are certainly pro-right/conservative magazines (just like The Hindu is left-leaning/liberal), but to describe them as ‘propaganda’ would be an exaggeration, just like calling The Hindu as ‘communist’ or ‘Chinese mouthpiece’ would be (in fact, the Friends of Tibet society actually calls The Hindu ‘a mouthpiece of the Chinese communist party’, this was covered by Pradip Ninan Thomas in his book ‘Negotiating Communication Rights: Case Studies from India’). In a recent article, the Financial Times described the Swarajya magazine as ‘conservative’.[1] Even Sreenivasan Jain, a journalist with the NDTV (whose political leaning are no secret), described the Niti Central as a ‘right-wing site’ in an article in 2013.[2] 

As for Mr. Rajiv Malhotra’s latest book, it has already received attention in India, in both the academic sphere and outside, way beyond websites like Niti Central and Swarajya. I shared a link to the review of the book by Bibek Debroy in the moderate/centrist OPEN Magazine. The book carries a quote by Prof. Arvind Sharma (Birks Professor of Comparative Religion, McGill University) on its front cover. 

It has earned praise from Mahamahopadhyay Dayananda Bhargava (renowned Sanskrit scholar), S. R. Bhatt (Chairman of ICPR), K. Ramasubramanian (Sanskrit scholar and signatory #1 on the MCLI petition), Roddam Narasimha (aerospace scientist), and Dilip Chakrabarti (Professor Emeritus, Cambridge) among others. Some leading educational institutes in India which have hosted Mr Malhotra since January include the JNU, Ramakrishna Mission (Chennai), Vedic Gurukulam (Bidadi), Art of Living Ashram (Bangalore), Chinmaya Mission, IIT Bombay, TISS, IIT Madras, and Karnataka Sanskrit University. 

As for attention outside the world of scholars, Mr. Malhotra's book was launched by very well-known personalities: Subhash Chandra (Chairman of the pro-right Zee Media) in Mumbai, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (eminent spiritual leader and humanitarian) in Bengaluru, and Dr. Najma Akbarali Heptulla (Minority Affairs Minister, Government of India) in Delhi. Prominent journalists and authors who have discussed his book include Madhu Kishwar (pro-right academic and author), Amish Tripathi (best-selling author), and T. V. Mohandas Pai (Chairman, Manipal Global Education). 

I need not add that the book is selling well (it is a category bestseller on Amazon India) and Harper Collins would be happy with their investment. 

I doubt if all this attention can be ‘staged’ or ‘managed’. There is an elephant in the room. Love him or hate him, Mr. Malhotra is becoming too notable to ignore. 

Regards, Nityanand 

[1] Amy Kazmim (February 21 2016) India divided over right to political freedom. Financial Times. [2] Sreenivasan Jain (June 29 2016). Response to Niti Central article on NDTV's Ishrat Jahan report. NDTV.

This is a thread which is likely to see many more responses and this post will be updated as the responses keep adding up.

Dr. Nityanand Mishra replies to Ananya Vajpayee on TBFS, Pollock 


  1. views without facts and evidence is nothing but propaganda. Ananya is nothing but a sepoy who provides no real arguments but clearly shows that every thing is kosher which comes from Harvard or their PR department does. In other words- I am fully colonized and support what ever my akka says. Her attack on Swarajya and Niti central also lacks any good arguments shows how hollow is her knowledge base- calling every thing is propaganda but has no evidence of it. In facts she should know that Edward Barneys Propaganda is what american institutions follows every where. Now exposed -she is crying foul.

  2. Says a lady who married a muslim and is now objectively commenting on Hinduism.....Moron....LOL

  3. This merely shows the fear. The Sanskrit require Sanskriti. Not this ASanskriti

  4. Looks like a typical attempt to completely side step and disregard a counter to the prevalent "intellectual" point of view, if you are so confident of your liberal ethos and so firmly believe in it then I guess the right thing to do is to have a discussion on the topic.
    If what you say about rajiv malhotra is true, then I am sure he would not be able to stand a minute in front of your sensible, cohesive and intelligent arguments. Else what you are doing is advertising that this territory is only a fiefdom of the mighty and at the smallest show of dissent can lead to the nasty treatment on a personal level.

  5. stupid rantings of deepstate sepoys. keep repeating plagarism plagarism but never file a law suit against rajiv ji bcause thier these deepstate agenda "intellectuals" will be destroyed there and will end up paying large amount of compensation for maligning rajiv ji
    but they continue to keep harping on plagarism bcause our own indian scholars and general public have a white skin fettish and infiriority complex which these US scholars know and they use thier charges as propaganda which they know will be taken as truth by naive colonized elites who R the real target of this deepstate hinduphobic propaganda machinery
    and it is a kind of astheticisation of power by these agenda evengelicist intellectuals

  6. After reading the letter of Ananya Vazpeyi, above, I am shocked to see How superficial she is in her mental make up and knowledge . She could not even give a reasonable rebuttal and a single valid argument to the Petition asking that Prof Sheldon Pollack , be removed from the chief editor ship of The INDIAN classics translation from Sanskrit .
    Obviously She is placed her personal gains over the heritage and legacy that she is born into which is noble and infinitely enlightening , without doubt.
    I want to condemn her stooping to such low level writing , and is a disgrace to the greatness and nobility of Hindu civilization . She is obviously with colonized mind set and with tremendous inferiority complex which Sri Rajiv Malhotra is fighting to root out from the colonized minds of INDIANS.

    Ananya Vajpeyi is a blot on Hindu civilization.

  7. Then why we are allowing such persons who are full of colonial mindset to study hindu civilization. This must be stopped to save our culture