“Mahabharata / Gita incites civil war”- says Sheldon Pollock, hero of Narayan Murthy: A comment

                     By: Megh

The below analysis was added as a comment under this Outlook article, by Megh. We are reproducing it here with suitable edits for easy and wide readability.

The comment contains an analysis and some counter questions to 5 statements in the Outlook article. The commentator has raised these issues based on statements in this petition and two video interviews given by Sheldon Pollock to Tehelka here and here.
Extract 1 from the Outlook article.
‘“We do not find him petitioning against his own US government’s authoritative policies within its borders and around the world. Thus, it is crystal clear that Pollock has shown disrespect for the unity and integrity of India. We submit that such an individual cannot be considered objective and neutral enough to be in charge of your historic translation project.” The political line there being obvious enough.’One key point (Focus) from the Extract 1
The political line there being obvious enough.Excerpt from Sheldon Pollock interview/Petition relevant to Focus
Transcript from Video 2 of Tehelka interview on Hindutva and the Life and Death of Sanskrit: (Timestamp: 01:34-01:46) Sheldon Pollock says “I wrote an article once called the “The Death of Sanskrit”, and it was meant to be provocative; you know I am very impatient with the sort of BJP/RSS/Hindutva kind, the whole alphabet soup of forces that celebrate a certain kind of partial view of Sanskrit (sic)”Key counter point (question) to Focus
Professor Sheldon Pollock stated “I am very impatient with the sort of BJP/RSS/Hindutva kind”…Would authors Ajay Sukumaran and Stuti Agarwal use the same words “The political line there being obvious enough” in assessing Sheldon Pollock?

Extract 2 from article
“The gripe about Pollock from the opposite camp is that he doesn’t have a ‘rigorous understanding’ of Sanskrit…Any accusation to the contrary is based either on ignorance or wilful distortion of facts….”

One key point (Focus) from the Extract 2
The gripe about Pollock from the opposite camp is that he doesn’t have a ‘rigorous understanding’ of Sanskrit…Any accusation to the contrary is based either on ignorance or wilful distortion of facts.

Extract from Petition:
“However, such a historical project would have to be guided and carried out by a team of scholars who not only have proven mastery in the relevant Indian languages, but are also deeply rooted and steeped in the intellectual traditions of India. They also need to be imbued with a sense of respect and empathy for the greatness of Indian civilization.

We would like to bring to your notice the views of the mentor and Chief Editor of this program, Professor Sheldon Pollock. While Pollock has been a well-known scholar of philology, it is also well-known that he has deep antipathy towards many of the ideals and values cherished and practiced in our civilization.
..There must be a written set of standards and policies for the entire project, pertaining to the translation methodologies, historical assumptions and philosophical interpretations that would be used consistently in all volumes.

For example:

How will certain Sanskrit words that are non-translatable be treated?
What will be the posture adopted towards the “Foreign Aryan Theory” and other such controversial theories including chronologies?
What will be assumed concerning the links between ancient texts and present-day social and political problems?
Will the theoretical methods developed in Europe in the context of the history of ancient Europe, be used to interpret Indian texts, or will there first be open discussions with Indians on the use of Indian systems of interpretations?”

Key counter point (question) to Focus
Where in the petition have the petitioners claimed that Secular Sheldon Pollock (SSP) does not have a ‘rigorous understanding’ of Sanskrit? In fact, does the petition not include “…Pollock has been a well-known scholar of philology”. Through the petition statement “However, such a historical project would have to be guided and carried out by a team of scholars who not only have proven mastery in the relevant Indian languages, but are also deeply rooted and steeped in the intellectual traditions of India.”, is it, as alleged, that their gripe is about SSP’s “‘rigorous understanding’ of Sanskrit” or is it about his credentials (or lack of it) about being “deep rooted and steeped in the intellectual traditions of India”? Such credentials are what Shri Rajiv Malhotra terms as an eligibility criteria for “Insiders” of Sanskriti, in his 2016-Amazon-Bestseller book “The Battle for Sanskrit”.

Extract 3 from article
“There’s even a Sanskrit new­s­­reader and an ISKCON man in the mix.”

One key point (Focus) from the Extract 3
There’s even a Sanskrit news reader and an ISKCON man in the mix.

Excerpt from Sheldon Pollock interview/Petition relevant to Focus
Excerpt from Video 1 on Hindutva and the Life and Death of Sanskrit: (Timestamp 06:31-06:36) Sheldon Pollock says “The Mahabharata is the most dangerous political story, I think, in the world because it is this deep meditation on the fratricide civil war”.

Key counter point (question) to Focus
> A Sanskrit newsreader perhaps benefits from Sanskrit for a living and perhaps uses it actively; is he/she not a relevant stakeholder in a conversation about the author (Sheldon Pollock) of a paper named “The Death of Sanskrit”?
> Is an ISCKON man, who is also an Indian and ‘not-necessarily-BJP/RSS affiliated’ but sensitive to human rights of Hindus, not a relevant stakeholder in discussions where the Bharatiya epic Mahabharata is discussed? This timeless epic includes what many consider as Sacred, Living and Liberating – the  Shrimad Bhagavad Gita. When such a work is reduced to, in Sheldon Pollock’s words, “the most dangerous political story”, is the ISKCON man not entitled to question it? Moreover, do a Sanskrit newsreader and an ISCKON man not have same freedom of speech guaranteed by the Indian Constitution as Pollock does?

Extract 4 from article
““No scholar I know has greater regard for the achievements of classical Sanskrit learning than does Prof Pollock. Any accusation to the contrary is based either on ignorance or wilful distortion of facts.” Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi, a professor of history at the Karnataka State Open University, who was Pollock’s student between 1995-2005, says he found it interesting that only a few signatories of the petition were language professors, linguists or historians; many were mathematicians and scientists.”

One key point (Focus) from the Extract 4
…only a few signatories of the petition were language professors, linguists or historians; many were mathematicians and scientists.

Excerpt from Sheldon Pollock interview/Petition relevant to Focus
Excerpt from Video 1 on Hindutva and the Life and Death of Sanskrit: (Timestamp 18:16-18:27) Sheldon Pollock says “I have to say I am a very secular person and my interest in India has always been a secular interest”

Key counter point (question) to Focus
If being a language professor, linguist or a historian is the “eligibility criteria” for a comment on Sheldon Pollock to be considered credible, by the same logic, given Sheldon Pollock’s own admission to being secular, would Ajay Sukumaran and Stuti Agarwal be open to objectively evaluate Sheldon Pollock’s “eligibility criteria” to comment on what is considered Sacred (not Secular) to millions of Indians?

Extract 5 from article
“The petition initially carried extracts from Pollock’s 2012 talk at Heidelberg University, which ran contrary to the complaints against him. This part was later dropped in a revised version of the petition when the fallacious argument was pointed out!”

One key point (Focus) from the Extract 5
This part was later dropped in a revised version of the petition when the fallacious argument was pointed out!

Excerpt relevant to the counter point
Harvard Law School scraps official crest in slavery row (Source:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-35726878)

Key counter point (question) to Focus
Harvard Law School just “dropped in a revised version”, its long-standing (from 1930s) logo! What would the authors have to say about the relationship of that act to what Harvard Law School stands for.

Advertisements

Leave your reply:

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: