Tuesday October 24, 2017

For the first time, World Indology Conference to be hosted in Rashtrapati Bhawan


New Delhi: The study of India by outsiders dates back at least to Megasthenes (ca. 350–290 BC). Indology is the academic study of the history and cultures, languages, and literature of the Indian subcontinent.Study on classic and modern Indology is quite popular in the western world, so our participation as Indians in such occasions is imperative.

A three-day World Indology Conference will be hosted for the first time at Rashtrapati Bhavan from November 21 in collaboration with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), deliberating on various topics related to Indian culture and philosophy.

The five academic sessions of the conference will witness detailed discussions on topics such as ‘Indological Studies in Historical Perspective’, ‘Sanskrit Literature – Past and Present’, ‘Sanskrit Drama – Theory and Practice’, ‘Indian Philosophical Thought’ and ‘Indian Art and Architecture’.
“This is a first of its kind event where around 21 eminent Indologists from across the world will live in Rashtrapati Bhavan (including in the prestigious Guest Wing of Rashtrapati Bhavan which normally hosts visiting leaders) along with eight scholars from India,” a Rashtrapati Bhavan release said.

‘Distinguished Indologist’ award will be presented by President Pranab Mukherjee to Heinrich Freiherr Von Stietencron from Germany on the occasion. The award is being instituted for the first time by the ICCR.

The idea of Rashtrapati Bhavan hosting such a conference emerged during the visit of President Mukherjee to Russia, the statement said.

Following a meeting with leading Indologists in Moscow, President Mukherjee announced that he would be happy to host an international conference on Indology in Rashtrapati Bhavan and directed ICCR to make suitable arrangements for it.

The conference will commence with an inaugural address by Mukherjee on November 21. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and ICCR president Lokesh Chandra will also participate in the function.

Sushma Swaraj and the ICCR president will chair sessions on the opening day.

The conference is a unique platform which will bring the best scholars from across the world and India to discuss the present state of Indology, its relevance and also the challenges faced by them in India and abroad, the statement said.


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Why Does 45th Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra Need ‘Z’-Category Security of Armed NSG Commandos?

Jjustice Depak Misra, who had been recommended as a successor by Justice J.S Khehar in July, becomes the 45th Chief Justice of India and was administered the oath of office by President Ram Nath Kovind.

Chief Justice of India.
The swearing in ceremony of Justice Dipak Misra as the 45th Chief Justice of India. Twitter
  • Justice Dipak Misra was sworn in as the 45th Chief Justice of India
  • His tenure will span for the next 14 months until his retirement in October 2018
  • Justice Misra is the only CJI to have armed protection of black commandos

New Delhi, August 29, 2017: The Chief Justice of India (CJI) J.S Khehar demitted office on August 27. The next in line was Justice Dipak Misra, who was sworn in on August 28 as the 45th Chief Justice of India at a ceremony held at the Darbar Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

President Ram Nath Kovind administered the oath taking ceremony of Misra, who had been recommended as a successor by Justice J.S Khehar in July this year.

In his career spanning 40 years, Justice Dipak Misra ventured into most realms of the law- civil, criminal, constitutional, revenue services and matters concerning sales tax, proving his grit to take over the new position. But that is not the only intriguing aspect of his career.

Justice Deepak Misra is the first ever Chief Justice of India to have a ‘Z’-category security cover.

The 45th CJI was provided with an upgraded security cover in 2015 after he had received a death-threat letter from terrorist organizations.

Why Would A Supreme Court Judge Need Security Cover?

On July 30, 2015, Justice-Misra headed the three-judge bench in a hearing when Yakub Memon, convicted in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, pleaded for a 14 days’ stay on his death penalty just hours before he was to be hanged. The pleas were starkly dismissed in an incomparable 2:30 am hearing and the judgment went on to become a landmark in the Indian legal history.

However, shortly after the hearing, an anonymous letter enclosed in an envelope threatening Misra of dreadful consequences was delivered at his official residence following which he was provided with a ‘Z’ security cover which remains till date.

ALSO READ: Threat letter to judge who rejected Memon’s mercy plea

A protectee under ‘Z’ category gets security cover from armed commandos of the National Security Guards (NSG) along with an escort vehicle and a pilot vehicle, each having three armed personnel, for the protection of his official vehicle.

Today, Justice Misra is the only top judge to ever use a bullet-proof ambassador car supplemented with a police escort.

Chief Justice of India
CJI Dipak Misra, seen here with Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, President Ram Nath Kovind and PM Narendra Modi. Twitter

However, death threats never stalled the 63-year old Justice Dipak Misra from taking monumental judgments and he has been at the forefront of some of the landmark judgments in the recent history. We take a look at the highlights from his career,

1. In May 2017, Justice Misra doctored the long-awaited landmark ruling and confirmed death penalty of the four convicts in the monstrous 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape that shook the entire world.

2. Justice Dipak Misra also headed the bench that mandated to play the National Anthem in cinema houses before the start of every movie for which he received a lot of flak. He also ordered for the viewers to stand up in “committed patriotism and nationalism” every time the National Anthem and/or the National Flag are featured in the theatres.

3. One of the most noteworthy decisions by Justice Misra include directing all State and Union Territories to upload all FIRs registered on their websites within 24 hours of registration at the police station. The move has made the entire process transparent, allowing the accused to download complaints and seek redressal of their grievances.

4. Justice Misra was also one of the seven judges of the special bench set up by the Supreme Court for a contempt of court hearing against Justice C.A Karman who had levied corruption charged on 20 judges of the High Court. The bench defended the constitutionality of the 150-year old law on criminal defamation and sentenced Karnan to six months in jail.

5. In 2015, a Justice Misra-led bench stayed the Maharashtra government’s ban on dance bars that had mushroomed in Mumbai and other parts of the state during the 90s. However, it maintained that the government must take steps to protect and uphold the dignity of women who performed at these bars.

6. Justice Misra is also known for his strict stand against frivolous litigations. He previously rejected one such appeal that had objected to the use of the term ‘Dhobi Ghat’ in a film’s title and had warned the petitioner.

7. He was also part of the bench that rejected the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to allow for reservations in promotions and asserted that this can only be allowed if there is sufficient supportive data and evidence to justify the decision.

8. Holding chair as the executive chairperson of the National Legal Services Authority, Justice Misra introduced the facility of Legal Assistance Establishment or Nyay Sanyog in states to simplify activities to provide free and faster legal aid to the deprived people.

9. Justice Misra also headed the three-judge bench that instructed the Centre in April 2017 to conduct NEET examination in Urdu from academic year 2018-2019 onwards. NEET examinations are held for students who wish to pursue a graduate medical course or a post-graduate medical course in private or government colleges.

Justice Dipak Misra’s tenure as the 45th Chief Justice of India will span for the next 14 months until he retires in October 2018 and is expected to see judgments in some high-magnitude issues like the validity of the Aadhaar card, the special status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir and the Ayodhya land dispute.

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Indology Debate: Insider Vs. Outsider

Statue carved on the wall of a temple, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India

By Nithin Sridhar

Indology, especially, Hinduism studies has come under a lot of criticism in the recent past- be it the withdrawal of Wendy Doniger’s ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’ by the publisher, after the book was widely criticized for its inaccuracies, bias, and sexual connotations, and a court case was filed; or the sharp critique of Sheldon Pollock’s work on Sanskrit by Indian American author Rajiv Malhotra in his recent book ‘The Battle for Sanskrit’.

These western Indologists have been criticized for showing utter disregard for how Hindu practitioners themselves perceive their religion and traditions, and for superimposing their own biasness and worldviews on Hindu practices in the pretext of presenting an objective view. Sheldon Pollock, for example, and scholars subscribing to his school of thought, try to portray Sanskrit language and literature as being political and oppressive, as against the insider’s perception of Sanskrit being a ‘Divine language’, that caters to both mundane and transcendent.

This attempt by the ‘Outsiders’ to hijack the narrative about India and Hinduism from its indigenous practitioners and then project their own biasness and superimpositions as ‘Objective’ and ‘Authentic’ interpretation of Hinduism is at the heart of the debate raised by Rajiv Malhotra in his book. This insider vs. outsider, technically referred as ‘emic’ vs. ‘etic’, debate is not a new development. This could be traced back to at least the second half of the 18th century, when the British Orientalism started. This is not to say that there was no outsider’s account of Indian society before that period. We have extensive accounts left by the Greeks, Chinese, Muslim, and Portuguese travelers and chroniclers. But, it is only after the arrival of the British, do we encounter a serious and systematic examination of Indian traditions and practices by those who were outside the tradition.

These attempts of the outsiders (mostly perspectives rooted in Abrahamic worldviews and/or Western philosophical worldviews) to hijack Hindu religion and practices, appropriate and digest elements perceived as useful, and demonize elements, which does not fit their worldviews, and finally regurgitate back the digested, secularized, and demonized version of Hinduism as the ‘authentic’ and ‘objective’ Hinduism, have pretty much become mainstream today. And academia and media, both in India and the West, more or less accept this regurgitated Hinduism as the mainstream narrative on Hinduism. As a result, the outsider’s view on Hinduism has gained legitimacy, whereas the insider’s view has been sidelined, and painted as being backward, superstitious, and irrelevant.

To understand this global Kurukshetra in the academic field of Indology, it is imperative, that one recognizes the fact that ‘Outsider’ is not a homogenous entity or school of thought. One can easily classify ‘Outsiders’ into various categories based on their location, time-period, methodology adopted, etc. Secondly, the terms ‘Insiders’ and ‘Outsiders’ is not a geographical reference as such. It is a reference to the worldview a commentator on Hinduism adheres to. Anyone who is trying to present the Dharmic perspective is an insider, and anyone who is using Abrahamic or Secular worldviews is an outsider.

Let us now look briefly into various categories within the Etic tradition of Indology:

European Orientalism/Colonial Indology

Indology as a systematic study of Indian history, culture, and languages, with special focus on Sanskrit and Hinduism, started with the arrival of the Europeans, especially the British. This European Orientalism has been described as a beginning of “European enterprise with Indians as objects of Knowledge” (Gyan Prakash, 1990). In other words, its primary purpose was to assist the British to further strengthen their control over India by creating narratives of Indian history and culture that would justify European colonialism. These colonial narratives also served the cause of Christian missionaries, who used these narratives to harvest the souls.

In fact, European Orientalism could be broadly divided into two categories: Early Orientalists and Anglicists. The former, like William Jones and James Prinsep, who were influenced by rationalism of the 18th century are often considered as being more sympathetic to Indians than the latter, like Charles Grant, Thomas Babington, Macaulay and James Mill, who were influenced by evangelism and who considered India was ripe for spreading Christianity. In any case, the agenda of European Orientalism, which was dominated by German Indologists, was to justify the British colonialism, establish the superiority of the Europeans, and dismantle the Indian and Hindu society, so as to open it up for Christian soul harvesting.

Charles Grant, for example, perceived Indian society as barbarian and considered English education as the only way to plant Christianity in India. Similar views were held by Macaulay and Max Muller. The complete dismantling of the indigenous education system and their replacement by English education; the creation of the narrative of ‘Caste’, which was extracted from the European racial division of ‘Casta’ and then superimposed on the Indian society by misrepresenting scriptural Varna and the indigenous groupings of Jati and Kula and amalgamating all of them under a single racial ‘Caste system’; and the creation of the ‘Aryan invasion’ myth, which continues to divide Indian society even today, are the few examples of Colonial narratives that were created to further the cause of British colonialism.

Apart from these Academic orientalists, there were Christian missionaries, who created books and pamphlets demonizing Hinduism and Hindu practices, and used various academic productions to further their proselytization.

American Orientalism

Just as Europeans created colonial Indology to serve as aid to further their hold on India and in the words of Macaulay. “to create a class of people, who were Indians in blood and color, but, European in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect,” in the last few decades there has been newer attempts to hijack Indology and Hinduism studies from their Indian contexts, and secularize Hindu literature and practices by uprooting them from their sacred traditions. But, this time, it is the American academics, whom Rajiv Malhotra has rightly called as ‘American Orientalists’, who are calling the cards and driving the secularization project.

On the one hand, American academics like Wendy Doniger, Paul Courtright, Jeffrey Kripal, and Sarah Caldwell have created a new genre of scholarship wherein they use Freudian Psychoanalysis and project a sexual meaning and interpretation of Hindu Gods and symbols. Paul Courtright, for example, has described Lord Ganesha’s trunk as a limp phallus and Lord Shiva as a notorious womanizer. Similarly, Sarah Caldwell has described Goddess Kali as a ‘mother with a penis’, and Jeffrey Kripal has written a book describing Ramakrishna as being a homosexual and a pedophile.

On the other hand, American academics like Sheldon Pollock have portrayed Sanskrit as a political, oppressive, and a dead language. They have further attempted to secularize Sanskrit language and literature, by uprooting them from their Adhyatmika (spiritual) and Paramarthika (transcendental) foundations. They also contend that Hindu literature, especially Kavyas including the Ramayana, have been used as tools for imposing political hegemony and are inherently oppressive and discriminatory towards women and Dalits. Then, there are other Western Academics like Michael Witzel, who still propound the Aryan migration theories into India.

Indian Leftist narrative

Since India’s Independence in 1947, Indian Academia, especially in humanities department, has been slowly taken by the Marxist/Leftist historians and scholars. Indian textbooks, for example, still teach Aryan invasion/migration theories as the absolute truths, though a large number of counter evidences have been discovered in the last few decades. These Left-leaning scholars like Romila Thapar, Satish Chandra, AK Ramanujan, etc. whose narrative had aped Colonial Indology before, now imitate the narratives created by American Orientalism.

The Western narrative about Indian history, culture, and religion has become mainstream in Western and Indian Academia. Even those, who are otherwise neutral in their political outlook, tend to adhere to Western narratives regarding Hinduism, or at least use the western ‘rational’ lens to analyze Hindu culture and society. Hinduism is often abused as anti-women, and anti-Dalit, and Hindu practices are often branded as superstitions, without caring to examine the Dharmic traditions on the basis of Dharma. The narrative of Aryan vs. Dravidian, Brahmin vs. Dalit, Sanskrit as a dead language, there was no Hinduism before the British, etc. are continuously propagated in the Indian Academia.

Need for Swadeshi Indology

In one of his lectures, Rajiv Malhotra speaks about the need for creating, what he terms ‘Swadeshi Indology’ i.e. the study of India, its religions, culture, and philosophies, in short the whole Sanatana Dharma on its own terms, using its own worldviews.

It is not that there has never been any counter to the misrepresentations presented by the orientalists. Many people like Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, etc. had effectively countered the Colonial narratives on Hinduism. In recent times, many people like Ram Swarup, Sita Ram Goel, Subhask Kak, Rajiv Malhotra, David Frawley, Nicholas Kazanas, etc. have countered the mainstream misrepresentations of India and Hinduism. Some people have used the western narratives and logic itself to refute the assertions the American Orientalists, and some others have tried to bring forward the Indian worldviews.

But, many of these attempts at creating a Swadeshi Indology have been scattered, and from people who are mostly outside the Academia, with an exception of few like Professor S. N. Balagangadhara. More importantly, the Hindu tradition itself has failed to create a critique of the Orientalism, both European and American. This was partly because, the British dismantled the Hindu traditional centers of education and partly because Indological narratives are produced in English language, using academic jargons developed in the West. The traditional scholars, who have extensive knowledge in Indian knowledge systems- be it Tarka, Visheshika, Mimamsa, Vedanta, Dharmashastra, Yoga, or Tantra, they are all trained in Sanskrit language and Dharmic technical jargons. Therefore, owing to their lack of knowledge of English, and their lack of training in Western Academic methodologies, the traditional scholars are unable to express the Indic worldview in the language of Western academia and critique the Western narratives of Hinduism.

Therefore, it is the need of the hour to rejuvenate the Indian traditional centers of learning (i.e. pathashalas), and then mainstream them by including them in the Indian Academia. Also, a mechanism to train few interested traditional scholars in the methodologies of the Western academics must be created. More importantly, traditional scholars and scholars trained in Western methodologies must be brought together to collaborate and create Swadeshi Narratives of India and Hinduism, so that the Emic/Insider view on Hindu traditions and practices can stand on an equal footing as Etic/Outsider narrative in the global stage.

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Indology can help counter terrorism impulses, says President


New Delhi: A three-day World Indology Conference was inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, where he stated that terrorism impulses and mankind’s potential for hatred could be battled by Indology.

Indology falls into the subdivision of Asian Studies, and is the academic study of the language, literature, history and cultures, of the countries constituting the Indian subcontinent — India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal Pakistan, Bangladesh, and eastern Afghanistan.

“We are, today, witnessing events without precedent: when the world is struggling to deal with the worst impulses of intolerance and hatred that mankind has ever witnessed,” said the President. “At such a time, there can be no better recourse than to remind ourselves of the high values, written and unwritten sanskaras, duties and the way of life that is the essence of India,” he added.

The President said that the study of Indology had for many years “contributed to the understanding, propagation and promotion of the Indian knowledge system in countries far and wide.” He also remarked that any question that a human mind could come up with had a solution in Indology, and this is what contributed to its wide scope.

The first ‘Distinguished Indologist’ award was given by the President to Federal Republic of Germany Professor Emeritus Heinrich Freiherr Von Stietencron.

“Prof. Stietencron’s work has added quality and substance to Indological studies and will go a long way in encouraging future efforts in this direction. Indology is the pursuit of a major component of human knowledge; it is the understanding of the evolution of human civilization and a science for the diagnosis and mitigation of the complexities of human life,” said President Mukherjee.

“Ancient Indians had left no stream of human consciousness unexplored – whether it was deeply delving into religion and philosophy or cracking the medicinal secrets of food. They studied, in fascinating detail, and wrote very succinctly, incredibly profound treatises on medical science, state craft, law, social science, metallurgy, language, grammar and aesthetics,” he added.

Watch the entire video of the inauguration here.