Scholarship of Equine Posteriors – Har(vard)appa Style – Part I

published on December 3, 2005

 

 

[Besides being a distinguished scientist and academician, Narayanan Komerath is a prolific writer on current political, religious, ethnic conflict and has contributed to numerous web sites and publications of wide international readership.  He has graciously granted  permission to publish this brilliant piece on Haindavakeralam site for the benefit of our discerning readers.  Due to its complexity, depth, and the multiple references in his analysis, Haindavakeralam has decided to post this article in two parts. Part II is forthcoming]



12/1/2005






 


Scholarship of Equine Posteriors– Har(vard)appa Style – Part I


 


Narayanan Komerath


 


“Textbooks should instill a sense of pride in every child in his or her heritage” California State Board of Education Guidelines http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/cf/documents/socialcontent.pdf


News flash:  Indian-American parents have been working with California School authorities and textbook publishers for some years to improve what their kids are being taught about their heritage. In early November, they had just completed a set of small corrections to middle-school textbooks, when the whole process was derailed by a dung-throwing mob attack by so-called “Prominent Academics” The duly-appointed committee, guided by the “CRP” Professor- Emeritus Bajpai, were tossed out and superseded by a secretly-appointed “Super-CRP” consisting of persons of blatant bias and hatred against the community.  


That textbooks should instill pride in one’s heritage, would seem to be simple, clear and obvious to anyone older than 3, outside the Ku Klux Klan or Taliban. So how did a sincere co-operative effort by community members and School Board professionals to get beyond the “Cow, Caste, Curry, Communal Riot, Taj Mahal” school texts on India, meet with such mudslinging? The following is an extract from a letter bearing a blood-red Crusader shield of Harvard university.


“I write on behalf of a long list of world specialists on ancient India – reflecting mainstream academic opinion in India, Pakistan, the United States, Europe, Australia, Taiwan and Japan – to urge you to reject the demands by nationalist Hindu  (‘Hindutva’) groups that California textbooks be altered to conform to their religious-political views… the proposed revisions are not of a scholarly but of a religious-political nature, and are primarily promoted by Hindutva supporters and non-specialist academics writing abut issues far outside their areas of expertise. There are ill-concealed political agendas behind these views that are well-known to researchers and tens of millions of non-Hindu Indians, who are routinely discriminated against by these groups.


In conclusion: the proposed textbook changes are unscholarly, are politically and religiously motivated, have already been rejected by India’s national educational authorities, and will lead without fail to an international scandal if they are accepted by California’s State Board of Education.”


M. Witzel, Wales Professor of Sanskrit, in letter on Harvard letterhead to CA Board of Education proporting to be from 47 (now 50)  â€œProminent Academicians”.


 


Obviously, one must not allow “religiously and politically motivated groups who routinely discriminate against ”anyone, to dictate what is taught to youngsters. So why is the Witzel mob allowed in here?


 


“Many of the alleged endorsers of the Witzel letter are members of a yahoogroup called Indo-Eurasian_Research (IER) which has stated that it is a political-group. “


– Letter from an Indian-American to the CA State Board of Education.


 


 I checked the veracity of that. Apparently he meant YAHOO! Group, not a group of yahoos – a small distinction. He was right about their political nature.


 


“The orientation of Indo-Eurasian_Research is politically progressive, international, secular, and scientific. List discussions of political-religious developments are encouraged insofar as those developments affect research or issues of humanistic concern in the regions studied by core List members.” Excerpt from an overview/ mission statement of the Indo-Eurasian_Research Yahoo! group, signed by Michael Witzel, George Thompson, and Steve Farmer on April 5, 2005.



So there is substance in what the Indian-American wrote. Read on.


 


“We annex extracts from the Last Minute Memorandum of 8 November 2005 submitted to Members, SBE to show that the Witzel’s letter does NOT refer to any of these specific recommendations for edits /corrections and makes only a blanket accusation that these changes are unscholarly, and politically or religiously motivated : 


http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/ag/ag/yr05/documents/bluenov05item05.doc


 


Rather obvious. The full letter from the Prominent Academics is linked here. The letter demonstrates zero knowledge (or care) about the precise changes suggested, nor their merits. Instead, it is full of pompous declarations of expertise, and sweeping hate attacks on the Indian-American community. This, as I discovered, is SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for Witzel and his cohorts, whose own area of expertise appears to be vicious ad hominem attacks on mere mortals, particularly sneering at the Hindu Faith. An example, from Witzel and Farmer’s November 11 posting:


 


“Advisors of the Hindu Education Foundation include none other than the infamous David Frawley and S. Kalyanaraman, two of the most active Hindutva supporters.” (Witzel’s arithmetic is commensurate with the rest of his Indology competence: the HEF website lists nine advisors..)


 


“We would, also urge that policy guidelines be reviewed to provide for re-writes of sections and to incorporate key sections to explain and portray fairly and truthfully about issues such as: hindu heritage, meaning of dharma, yoga, medication, ayurveda (indigenous health systems), status of women in hindu society, the social organization based on varna and jaati and the contributions made by hindu civilization to science and technology. Such a fair and accurate representation will help instill in the children a sense of pride in the hindu heritage.”


 – From one of many letters sent by Indian-Americans pleading with the California State Board of Education to observe their own rules. 


 


How can a person of such obvious bias and immoderation as Wtizel, who makes such wild sweeping rants abusing the community, have any credibility as a fair adjudicator of the need for changes? Wonder why citizens have to remind California bureaucrats in 2005 that they need to follow their own rules? For the same reason, I guess, why schools in the USA remained segregated based on skin color as recently as the 1960s. But this is 2005, right? Is California today no better than 1960s Alabama, nor Harvard University  than Kandahar 1999?


 


And then there was this clincher that leaves no room for doubt that the Witzel mob are the ultimate in Scholarship on Sanskrit and ancient India:


 


“I know a great deal .. of literature in Indian studies ( in translation – but I have been hard at work for many months in Sanskrit”)


          Post at the Indic Civilization Yahoo! Group on 10/29/2000 by “Steve Farmer”, proclaiming his expertise as an Indology scholar. That requires no further comment except a rolling of the eyes.


 


What is the current California School Textbook debate about?


Indian-American parents who grew up reading 3 languages and learning by age 5 that all religions and cultures must be respected, no ifs and buts about it, have started wondering about what their own kids learn in school. Their shock has turned into a determination to clean up the sewage that is being dumped on their kids, demeaning their heritage, condemning them to grow up feeling like second-class citizens, encouraging the bullies that are increasingly targeting hard-working, high-achieving Asian-American children with hate crimes. For example, while the Iliad and Odyssey are described as “epics”, the Ramayana and Mahabharatha are “Hindu stories”. “Hinduism taught that women were inferior to men” (discrimination against women is absent in Christian and Islamic history, not to mention the modern US of A in 2005, right?). Asoka’s “tolerance” in allowing Hindus to practice their religion was “unusual for the time”. From a 6th Grade text: “Indian society divides itself into a complex structure of social classes based particularly on jobs. This class structure is called the Caste system” (Yes, that’s in the present tense!)


 


Hence the move to examine and correct California textbooks. Several dedicated, knowledgeable Americans have been working for years to find and fix the abuse, the sneers, the ignorance. Realization of the importance of “getting it right” appeared to be dawning on School administrators, who worked patiently and diligently with these citizens. And that is how they developed a list of very precise, very well-considered modifications to require of textbook publishers.


 


The process was well on track until November 5, when an email went out purportedly from “Arun Vajpayee”, described by IER as a “brave graduate student”. It was an SOS, expressing desperation that The Enemy was close to getting several changes made in the textbooks.  Subsequent events stink of bad faith and insider sneakiness, with the “Arun” identity being a poor cover to bring in the mob. The Witzel letter, by any reading of the rules of the CA Board, should have been tossed out immediately as a rabid hate attack with no intellectual substance. It wasn’t thrown out.  Instead, Witzel and 2 assistants were appointed as a “Super” board to overrule the lawful process. I can see why Witzel refers to Pakistanis in his group – this was vintage Rawalpindi in execution.  The California Curriculum is now in the hands of the IER, and it’s MotherShip, the RISA.


 


Who are the RISA?


 


The RISA is a closed group of self-anointed “scholars” on Religions in South Asia.  A retired Indian-American corporate executive and philanthropist, known for his articulate, well-researched writings and leading campaigner for reform of India-related studies,  is not admitted to RISA – and why should he be? He’s a “non-scholar” who “writes far outside his area of expertise” in Witzel’s definition. But a yoga instructor who used to be an assistant librarian in some British village is an esteemed RISA administrator.


 


What is RISA’s record of respect for open intellectual debate?


The Yoga instructor explained this to me in mid-2004, about their creation called ‘OpenRISA’[1].  OpenRISA was not RISA being open. It was a special forum, the equivalent of an outhouse set up by racists who used to post “No dogs or Indians” on restaurant doors. OpenRISA, per the Yoga instructor, was a forum where “non-scholars” could post their opinions and have the benefit of discussions with RISA ‘scholars’ who might participate. A feeding trough for Untouchables. A few desis actually took up this demeaning offer, but RISA closed OpenRISA quickly when they saw the performance of their “scholars” in debate, and the laughter on the internet. In a typical example of RISA debating standards, now exemplified again by Witzel and his Mob of 50, RISA “scholar” Marty M. came on the ‘BeliefNet’ forum to defend Courtright’s porn-peddling, and, faced with precise links to facts, pouted off shortly thereafter, whining about ‘Hindu extremists’ and ‘academic freedom’. Exposed by readers in 2004, the entire RISA forum scampered underground where they belong, to protect their discussions from the eyes of  ‘non-experts’.


 


What is their record of accuracy and fairness in representing Hinduism and Indian culture?


 


Examples of RISA Scholars are P. Courtright of Emory University, famous for peddling his “Limp Phallus” school of (child pornographic) thought, and W. Doniger of U. Chicago, famous for claiming to have been missed by audience feedback expressed as a flying egg, and for calling the Bhagawad Gita a “dishonest book”. They specialize in contortions of logic, trying to outdo each other in presenting Hindu deities and Gurus in the most obscene abuse imaginable by people with really sick minds. Rice University professor and RISA star Jeffrey Kripal is known for portraying Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa as a homosexual child-molester.


 


Some years ago, at least two of the signatories on Witzel’s “list of prominent academics” signed their own and their institutions’ names to another so-called “South Asia Faculty Letter”. They did so out of desperation to stop the exploding laughter and outrage against a “Comprehensive Report” generated by a gang of their Communist buddies – the Forum of Indian (or Inquilabi) Leftists. This report had attacked an Indian-American charity, making vile accusations of complicity in violence without a shred of evidence, and using blatant, ludicrous intellectual dishonesty. This provided a classic study on their modus operandi. When their political grandstanding positions were rendered untenable in the face of facts, logic and informed public opinion, they resorted to the cowardly “You Must Believe Us Because We Are Scholars” theme. Some of them are on record as saying that votes by the general public and especially mere Indians, are of no significance compared to votes by them – food for thought for people who teach children about the Constitution of the United States or of India.


 


The Report endorsed by these self-proclaimed Sanskrit Scholars, tried to con Americans by claiming that any organization with a Sanskrit / Hindi name including “Sangh” (organization) or “Parivar” (family) was a political “hate-mongering” organization. Thus they described the “Kushta Nivaran Sangh” (Leprosy Patient Relief Organization), the “Krishi Prayog Parivar” (Agricultural Practice Club – a team who passed tips on agriculture from the internet to poor farmers) and the Vatsalya (affection) Trust (a world-renowned orphanage) as Hindutva Hate-Mongering Organizations. They counted on us being ignorant and too lazy to check their ‘data’. As usually happens to con artists, they also declared the “Meeraj Medical Center” – a beneficiary of the same Charity, as a Hindu hate-mongering institution. This hospital is run by an affiliate of the Presbyterian Church of North America. The letter signed by the South Asia Faculty endorsing the report, came after we had clearly pointed to this blatant folly. As such, their endorsement was an inexcusable example of dishonesty. Witzel’s portrayal of these signatories as “world experts” under Harvard letterhead, speaks volumes on his own, and Harvard’s, ethical standards.


 


The RISA fought tooth and in nail when Hindus in the U.S. became aware of the appalling pornographic abuse inside a book by “Scholar” Courtright about our Deity Shri Ganesha. It is painful to me to repeat those slurs, but let me cite the gist of the decision that California parents face, with RISA/IER in charge of the curriculum.


 



  1. Do you want California children to be taught that if a child loves sweets, that is a clear sign that the child is asking for oral sex?  The RISA attacked those who protested that utter filth, as “academic terrorists” using precisely the sneering language that Witzel now uses. Witzel’s Harvard university teaches courses where the book that makes this claim is a cited reference.
  2. Do you want children to be taught that if a mother gives a ripe fruit to a son as a reward for a smart answer to a question that showed his deep respect for his parents, that is a “vagina symbol” indicating sexual intercourse between the mother and son? Those whom Witzel calls ‘scholars’ gave awards to the author of that – citing some tavern ‘scholar’ as the source, in a book published by Oxford University Publishers (OUP) – after peer review and praise by the same RISA mob.
  3. Do you want Hindu culture taught with Doniger’s accuracy? Doniger personally endorsed the above child-porn book, stunning us with her deep knowledge of Hindu epics, as in ‘Vyasa transcribing the Mahabharatha dictated by Ganesha’.  Her own specialty is the notion that writing books on Hinduism achieves the dual purpose of getting the smut-peddling counted as scholarly work by the University of Chicago.
  4. Do you want your children to learn Indian History, not to mention ethics from Mr. Laine, author of a book advertised on Amazon.com as “history”?<SPAN style="mso-spac

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