Volume V, Issue 1 -- February, 2004
James Laine’s Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India
and the attack on the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute
Background - Chronology - Reactions
For more information, please also see in this issue of the crQ:
- James Laine’s Controversial Book by Bhalchandrarao C. Patvardhan and Amodini Bagwe
- Attacking Myths and Institutions: James Laine’s Shivaji and BORI
- the Editors, the complete review
IntroductionOn 5 January 2004 a group calling itself the Sambhaji Brigade attacked the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) in Pune, in the state of Maharashtra, India. There was considerable damage done to the holdings of this significant cultural repository, including to irreplaceable and unique objects of historical and literary importance. While not on the same scale, it was a catastrophe comparable to the recent destruction and looting of libraries in Sarajevo and Iraq, or the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, a devastating blow to contemporary civilization and to the preservation of what remains of previous ones.
The attack was the preliminary culmination in a series of increasingly disturbing and destructive events that were triggered by the publication of James W. Laine's Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India (Oxford University Press, 2003). Laine's book sparked controversy in India, leading Oxford University Press India to withdraw it from the local market in November 2003. This did not sufficiently appease those upset by the book. American professor Laine had done some of the research for his book at BORI, and he thanked the institute and some scholars affiliated with it in his acknowledgements; the institute and its members were then targeted by those angered by the book. In December 2003 one of those thanked by Laine, historian Shrikant Bahulkar, was assaulted, his face blackened by Shiv Sena activists. Then, in January, came the attack on the institute itself.
While the attack was widely condemned, and over 70 of the participants were arrested, Laine and his undertaking continue to be denounced. Shivaji has now been banned, and Laine has been charged by the authorities and appears to be subject to arrest if he returns to India. Laine and his book -- and BORI -- continue to be used in what appears to be an increasingly politicised debate.
These events are particularly disturbing because, unlike most other recent incidents of large-scale cultural vandalism, they occurred in a country at peace, and in a democracy -- a system that depends on a tolerance for a plurality of opinions and on free expression to properly function. Also striking -- and worrisome -- is that the conflict has been framed as one centred around questions of historical (in)accuracy and and (ir)responsibile scholarship, but there has been little interest from many of those challenging Laine's book to debate these questions, as they have answered them with mob-rule and violence instead of counter-argument.
There has been much discussion about these events in India, but, despite the supranational issues at stake, as well as the roles played by an American professor and the world's largest -- and one of the most respected -- university presses, international press coverage has been very limited. The conflict is a complex one, and it is both politically and religiously highly charged, centred around an historical figure -- Shivaji -- who is not well known outside India.
In this introductory overview we try to present the necessary background information to allow some understanding of the events that have taken place. Other pieces in this edition of the complete review Quarterly devoted to the subject are Bhalchandrarao C. Patvardhan and Amodini Bagwe 's essay on James Laine’s Controversial Book and our commentary, Attacking Myths and Institutions: James Laine’s Shivaji and BORI
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A guide to what's at issueShivaji
Chhattrapati Shivaji Maharaj (also known simply as Shivaji or Sivaji) lived 1627/1630 to 1680. A Maratha leader, he was fiercely opposed to the Mughals that at that time controlled much of what is now India, and was instrumental in establishing Marathi independence. Crowned the first Maratha king in 1674, he is a founding-father figure who is still highly revered in India, especially in the state of Maharashtra (major cities: Mumbai (Bombay) and Pune); see, for example the official Maharashtra state site, where a page is devoted to Shivaji: the Maker of the Maratha Nation
Shivaji is also perceived as a specifically Hindu hero, having established a Hindu empire in opposition to the Mughals (who were Muslim, and foreign). While widely revered in India, Hindu-nationalist groups have been particularly vociferous in allowing no criticism of the man, his accomplishments, and the legends around him.
His name, of great symbolic value, is often invoked, especially in recent years as a Hindu-focussed nationalism (and political polarization) in India has been resurgent. So, for example, Mumbai (formerly Bombay) airport has apparently been re-named: Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.
For additional information, see:
- Chhatrapati Shivaji - The Legend
- Shivaji at Wikipedia
- Shivaji at Freeindia.org
- The Complexities of Shivaji by Vijay Prashad, at Proxsa (also at HVK.org, where -- scroll down -- there is a response from Bhalchandrarao C. Patwardhan)
James W. Laine
James W. Laine is the Arnold H. Lowe Professor and Chair of Religious Studies at Macalester College; see his faculty page. He got his B.A. from Texas Tech, and his M.T.S. and Th.D. from Harvard.
James Laine's Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India
James Laine's Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India was published by Oxford University Press; see the complete review's review. It apparently appeared in the US and the UK in early 2003, and was then published in India in the summer of 2003.
In describing the book Oxford University Press writes:The legends of his life have become an epic story that everyone in western India knows, and an important part of the Hindu nationalists' ideology. To read Shivaji's legend today is to find expression of deeply held convictions about what Hinduism means and how it is opposed to Islam.They also suggest:Different sub-groups, representing a range of religious persuasions, found it in their advantage to accentuate or diminish the importance of Hindu and Muslim identity and the ideologies that supported the construction of such identities. By studying the evolution of the Shivaji legend, Laine demonstrates, we can trace the development of such constructions in both pre-British and post-colonial periods.It appears that Laine's focus on a shifting legend -- rather a fixed-in-stone image of the man some groups insist upon -- and the notion that the legend has been adapted for other purposes is among the aspects of the book that has proved most controversial. (Ironically, reactions by some groups that tolerate only their current notion of the legend would appear to support at least Laine's underlying thesis.)
The statement in the book that appears to have provoked the greatest outrage is the mention that it has been suggested that Shivaji's father was not Shahaji, Laine writing: "Maharashtrians tell jokes naughtily that Shivaji’s biological father was Dadoji Kondeo Kulkarni" (quoted, for example, in The Telegraph, 18 January). This statement -- indeed, even the mere suggestion -- is apparently considered an outrageous insult and defamation of Shivaji, Shahaji, and Shivaji's mother, Jijabai (all highly revered). The claim is also widely considered unfounded and gratuitous; apparently this particular 'naughty joke' is not familiar to most Maharashtrians (or at least none appear to have come forward acknowledging that they've heard this sort of banter).
In his acknowledgements Laine thanked numerous people, writing also:In India, my scholarly home has been the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune, and there I profited from the advice and assistance of the senior librarian, V. L. Manjul. I read texts and learned informally a great deal about Marathi literature and Maharashtrian culture from S. S. Bahulkar, Sucheta Paranjpe, Y. B. Damle, Rekha Damle, Bhaskar Chandavarkar, and Meena Chandavarkar. Thanks to the American Institute of Indian Studies and Madhav Bhandare, I was able to spend three productive periods of research in Pune.Laine's thanks were apparently interpreted as a declaration of scholarly complicity, and those named were among those targeted by the groups opposed to Laine's work -- despite the fact that several scholars attached to BORI distanced themselves from the book and were among those demanding that OUP India withdraw the book.
Laine's Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India has not been widely reviewed (in part likely because it is a scholarly work of the sort generally mainly reviewed in academic journals, many of which take longer to review titles than the mass media does). Among the few reviews is V.N. Datta's in The Sunday Tribune (7 December), An image that might be disturbing
For additional information see:
- The OUP-USA publicity page ((Updated - 29 March): The book is no longer listed in the OUP-USA catalogue)
- The OUP publicity page ((Updated - 29 March): The book is barely listed in the OUP catalogue)
- A sample chapter
- V.N. Datta's review, An image that might be disturbing (The Sunday Tribune, 7 December)
- Danny Yee's review at Danny Yee's Book Reviews
- To purchase Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India
Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute
The Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute is located in Pune. It was founded in 1917 and is a leading repository of Indological manuscripts and a renowned centre for scholarship.
For additional information see:
A small, previously little known group affiliated with the Hindu-nationalist organisation, Maratha Seva Sangh
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Chronology(Based on Ketaki Ghoge's chronology in his article, Rape of culture leaves city in shock (Indian Express, 5 January), and other mentioned sources. See also Anupama Katakam's article, Politics of vandalism in Frontline (issue of 17-30 January) for a good overview (and pictures).)
- June, 2003: James Laine's Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India published in India by Oxford University Press India.
- November, 2003: Scholars affiliated with the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI), historians (including Jaysinhrao Pawar, Babasaheb Purandare, Ninad Bedekar, and Gajanan Mehendale), and others (including city MP Pradeep Rawat) called for the withdrawal of the book. (See Scholar destroys own work on Shivaji, Manjiri Damle, Times of India, 27 December)
- 21 November 2003: Oxford University Press India apologised and withdrew the book from the Indian market. (The book continued to be listed in the OUP India catalogue until mid-January, but has since been removed. The book remains in print and available outside India.)
- 22 December 2003: Shiv Sena activists confronted and attacked scholars attached to BORI over their role in assisting Laine with his book. Sanskrit scholar Shrikant Bahulkar was physically assaulted and his face blackened (an act meant to shame him). (See Scholar destroys own work on Shivaji)
- 25 December 2003: Gajanan Mehendale, who had previously called for the withdrawal of Laine's book, went to the Shiv Sena offices to demand an apology for the assault on Bahulkar. When none was forthcoming he destroyed several hundred manuscript pages of his own unpublished biographical study of Shivaji. (See Scholar destroys own work on Shivaji)
- 28 December 2003: Shiv Sena leader Raj Thackeray personally apologised to Bahulkar. The Times of India reported (29 December) that:Raj assured Bahulkar that such incidents would not be repeated and that Sena activists would have to get a "clearance" from the toprung leaders before embarking on such "aggressive campaigns" in the future.
- late December, 2003: James Laine faxed a statement apologising to some Pune scholars. The Times of India reported Laine says sorry for hurting sentiments (30 December), quoting:"It was never my intention to defame the great Maharashtrian hero. I had no desire to upset those for whom he is an emblem of regional and national pride, and I apologise for inadvertently doing so," he said in a faxed message to some city scholars. "I foolishly misread the situation in India and figured the book would receive scholarly criticism, not censorship and condemnation. Again I apologise," the American author said.
- 5 January, 2004: Over 150 activists from the Sambhaji Brigade attacked BORI, ransacking the building, defacing books and artworks, and destroying property. The extent of the damage is not clear at this time -- especially regarding the irreplaceable manuscripts and historical artefacts -- but appears to be considerable . Seventy-two of the hooligans were arrested. (See also: 'Maratha' activists vandalise Bhandarkar (Times of India), Helping Laine: Books, powada, poem (Express News Service), and Mob ransacks Pune's Bhandarkar Institute (Rupa Chapalgaonkar, Mid-Day))
- 6 January: Mid-Day published Pune institute's desecration shocks author, in which Laine comments on events and explains, inter alia:My goal was not to establish my version of the true history of Shivaji, but to examine the forces that shaped the commonly held views. In so doing, I suggest that there might be other ways of reading the historical evidence, but in making such a suggestion, I have elicited a storm of criticism. I am astonished.
- 7 January: In the Indian Express Shailesh Gaikwad reports MSS chief’s clout keeps govt away. Illustrating the government's disturbing priorities (and a continued interest in appeasing populist elements) State Home Minister R.R. Patil is quoted as saying:We condemn the attack and also distorting of the history of Chhatrapati Shivaji. The government is seeking legal opinion to ascertain if any action can be taken against the author and also whether the book can be banned.
- 9 January: At a press conference Sambhaji Brigade spokesman Shrimant Kokate is reported (in the Times of India) to have expressed pleasantries such as:"In fact, scholars should be happy that Bori is still intact," he remarked. Kokate said that the brigade was "most unhappy" that scholars who had helped Laine were "still alive" and demanded that they face an inquiry or be handed over to the Brigade. Kokate expressed his displeasure about the fact that the media had labelled them as goons. "We will deal with the media later," he threatened.In another report (Express News Service) he is quoted as saying:Those who fed him [Laine] with the offensive information should be hanged by the government. If the government is unable to do so they should be handed over to us.Kokate was apparently not arrested for these inflammatory remarks. Instead:
- 9 January: Charges were filed against James Laine and OUP India by the Deccan Gymkhana police. The charges are registered under Sections 153 and 153(A) of the Indian Penal Code. (As A.G. Noorani notes in Chhatrapati or bust (Hindustan Times, 27 January), Section 153A has frequently -- but selectively -- been invoked over the past decade and more, writing: "Section 153A is not invoked to suppress the VHP or the Shiv Sena’s hate campaign but to suppress scholarly books unacceptable to them.".) These sections read:153. Wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot (...)(See also Case against Laine, OUP (Express News Service) and Pune police book American writer Laine (Times of India))
153A. Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony
- 12 January: James Laine published a commentary piece, In India, 'the Unthinkable' Is Printed at One's Peril in The Los Angeles Times; it is, unfortunately, not freely accessible on the Internet. In it he describes his interest in Shivaji, his book, early reactions to it, and then the events that unfolded. He relates how, initially, the book "even ranked up with Hillary Rodham Clinton's in the local list of English-language bestsellers in Pune", and mentions:Back in Pune this summer, I saw a couple of bland but positive reviews in the Indian papers. I thought, "As long as they don't get to the last chapter."He concludes the piece:The vast majority of Indians are appalled at what happened in Pune. And yet no one has stepped forward to defend my book and no one has called for it to be distributed again. Few will read it for themselves. Instead, many will live with the knowledge that India is a country where many thoughts are unthinkable or, if thought, best kept quiet.
- 13 January: Mid-Day reports -- in an article with a very understated headline -- OUP asked to shut Pune office. As the article explains:Maratha organsisations supporting Sambhaji Brigade have now forced the Oxford University Press showroom in Pune to down shutters. (...) They told the employees there that (...) they should down their shutters or else face consequences.No arrests were reported.
- 14 January: Despite the fact that OUP had already withdrawn Laine's book from the Indian market two months earlier, the Maharashtra government moved -- eventually successfully -- to have Laine's book banned, again citing Sections 153 and 153A of the Indian Penal Code. (See reports from the Times of India (14 January) and Reuters (16 January).)
- 16 January: Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee admirably spoke out against the book-ban. The Times of India reported PM shoots from the hip, upsets Shiv Sena, NCP, and quotes the Prime Minister as sensibly stating:He said the "right way" to express disagreement was through discussion. "Countering the views in a particular book by another good book is understandable," Mr Vajpayee said, adding that he did not approve of the ban on Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India by American writer James Laine.The Express New Service report, PM flags off Mumbai campaign, opposes ban on Shivaji book, had it a bit differently, quoting the PM as saying:"If you do not like anything in a particular book, then sit and discuss it. Banning a book is not a solution, we have to tackle it ideologically ... If differences of opinion remain after a issue is discussed, the best way would be to come out with another good book on the subject"As the Times of India report also notes: "Ironically, the PM made this observation at a function to unveil a majestic statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji in the Sahar airport precincts."
Vajpayee's comments were immediately denounced, including by groups allied with the PM's party. Indifferent to principles, at least one person shifted the focus to what is really at issue:"He should have kept mum, especially since elections are round the corner," a senior Sena leader present at the function told TNN.(See also PM not happy with ban on book on Shivaji in Mid-Day)
(Updated - 29 March): Unfortunately, once election time rolled around, Vajpayee began singing a different tune; see entry of 20 March.
- January 18: Politicians continued to seek to outdo one another in their defence of Shivaji. Express News Service reports Antulay calls for legal action against Laine (17 January), as senior Congress leader A.R.Antulay attacked Laine, "urging the government to take all necessary legal steps to punish him." He is also quoted as saying:"How can a dialogue be held if somebody is abusing your father and mother ?" Antulay asked. (...) He said Shivaji was the pride of India and Indians should not tolerate any humiliation of their heroes.Meanwhile, The Hindu reported (18 January) that Chief Minister Sushilkumar Shinde: "said it was 'not fair' to write such 'bad things' about Shivaji."
- 19 January: The Times of India reported (20 January) that MSS threatens more attacks on BORI: apparently the Maratha Sewa Sangh warned that: "the ‘Sambhaji Brigade’, would resort to more attacks if students were made to collect money for rebuilding Bori." Despite such threats, no arrests were reported.
- 21 January: The Times of India reported that Maratha group flays Sambhaji brigade, describing a newly-formed group, Maratha Yuvak Parishad (MYP), opposed to the use of Shivaji by activists "to further their own political ends".
- 22 January: The Times of India reported that Maratha outfit files petititon against BORI. Maratha Vikas Sangh has apparently set its sights even higher, having:filed a petition in the Bombay high court demanding that all documents at BORI be seized by the union government. Refusing the let the James Laine controversy die down, MVS has also demanded censorship on all books that would be written on historical figures.(This demand for a quasi-Soviet approach to ensure that the historical record is kept ... straight apparently has not been widely embraced; nevertheless, despite suggesting such a thing, the MVS is, amazingly, still taken seriously.)
- 28 January: The Times of India reports 'Silent’ majority lodges protest at BORI:On Republic Day, inspired by a chain e-mail circulated over the last two weeks, citizens made a beeline for the institute to register a silent protest against the vandalism. This, despite a police warning against gathering at the institute on R-Day. Every protestor dropped a rupee coin in specially placed urns, as a token contribution towards the restoration of the institute.
- March: Oxford University Press apparently withdraws all references to Laine's book from all its online catalogues (previously information had been available both at OUP-USA and the main OUP site). It is unclear whether this is a move to remove the book from the market entirely (including the US and the UK), or merely a defensive legal maneuver (to preclude any liability claims).
- 16 March: Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani bravely maintained: "that he was against banning any controversial publication". (See Advani against banning controversial books (The Hindu, 16 March) and Advani against ban on Laine's book on Shivaji (at NDTV).) This, of course, led to:
- 17 March: The Times of India reported of the Uproar in house as DF defends ‘Shivaji’ ban:Proceedings in both houses of the state legislature were stalled for over two hours on Wednesday after the opposition Shiv Sena-BJP members objected to the ruling coalition members’ suggestion that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister K Advani should apologise for disapproving of the state’s ban on the controversial book Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India, penned by American scholar James Laine.
- 20 March: The pressure -- and election politics -- finally got to Prime Minister Vajpayee as he kicked off the BJP election campaign in Maharahstra, as he suddenly decided the government ban on Laine's book was a pretty darn good idea after all. Not only that: he also felt it necessary to assure his listeners: "We are prepared to take action against the foreign author", and that this was "a warning to all foreign authors that they do not play with our national pride".
See reports in Mid-Day (Shivaji is my ideal, says Vajpayee) and Newindpress.com (Vajpayee kickstarts campaign with warning to foreign authors).
- late March: Seeing how well the fervent pro-Shivaji attitude played to the crowds, and seeking to outdo all those who were satisfied with merely bashing James Laine, state BJP president Gopinath Munde decided he could profit by going after bigger fish closer to home and:demanded a ban on Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s classic Discovery of India on the ground that a 1986 edition of the book contains remarks highly derogatory of the Maratha king.(See Ban Nehru's Discovery of India: State BJP, The Times of India, 19 March).
Unfortunately, the overeager Munde apparently never looked at the book in question: as The Times of India reported (21 March), Nehru's book: "contains no such derogatory remark."
A few days later even Munde had to admit as much -- excusing his zeal on the grounds that: "I am a politician and not a scholar". But, just so nobody would think he was going soft, he added: "there is no change in my party’s stand -- it will not tolerate any insult to national heroes like Shivaji". (See: Munde wriggles out of Nehru gaffe, The Times of India, 25 March).
- late March: Another crowd-pleasing, debate-stifling stunt: Pune police commissioner D.N.Jadhav:told reporters today that he was writing to Laine to summon him to India for questioning. If Laine refuses the "request," the police chief plans to move court. And if Laine ignores the summons, the police will seek the help of CBI and Interpol, Jadhav said.(See Day after showing off liberal face, Cong hounds US professor, The Indian Express, 23 March.)
This at least got some international attention -- see the BBC's report, India seeks to arrest US scholar -- and again seems to have played very well in India, where everybody seemed to get really excited about possibly involving Interpol (despite the fact that Laine's whereabouts are well-known); see, for example, State to seek extradition of Shivaji author (The Times of India, 23 March)
Unfortunately, as Vijay Singh noted at Rediff (27 March): Bringing Laine back: Easier said than done. (In fact, it is clear that Laine has not been charged with any extraditable offense.)
As usual, there was far more bluster than action: by 25 March the headline was: No letter to Laine as yet (Indian Express, 25 March), as (sensibly):Police Commissioner D N Jadhav today said the police will not be sending a letter to James Laine, the author of Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India asking him to come to India till April 5 since a petition has been filed in the Bombay High Court.See also: Criminal action stayed against Laine (Mid-Day, 27 March).
- 9 July 2010: As widely reported, the Supreme Court in Maharashtra denied a state government plea to ban the book; see, for example Laine’s book on Shivaji okay: SC in The Economic Times.
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ReactionsAlmost no attention has been paid to the controversy surrounding Laine's book or the attack on BORI outside of India. Laine's opinion piece, In India, 'the Unthinkable' Is Printed at One's Peril, in the 12 January issue of The Los Angeles Times, and an article by Martha Ann Overland ("Vandals Attack Research Center in India in Retaliation for Help It Gave to American Scholar") in the Chronicle of Higher Education (issue of 23 January), neither of which is freely available on the Internet, and a Star Tribune article by Mary Jane Smetanka, Macalester professor's book incites a riot a world away ((Updated - 29 March): now only available at WCCO), were among the very few mentions in the American press.
((Updated - 29 March): With the calls for Laine's arrest at the end of March there has again been some international coverage, most notably Scott Baldauf's article, How a US historian sparked calls for his arrest - in India, in the Christian Science Monitor (29 March). See also Sara Rajan's A Study in Conflict (Time (Asia), 5 April).)
What reactions there have been in the academic community do not appear to have made any impact or found any resonance outside those limited circles. There also appear to have been no calls to withdraw Laine's book, or ban it, anywhere outside India.
In India , the attack on BORI has been widely (though far from universally) condemned. The destruction of property, especially that which is unique and of historical significance, and the threats against scholars have been denounced in the press and in public. Prime Minister Vajpee's approach, as reported in the Times of India, seems to be the preferred one: "He said the "right way" to express disagreement was through discussion" -- though even some of his political allies denounced him for these statements and his opposition to the book-ban.
Disturbingly, a significant minority has been willing to excuse even the attacks on BORI as justifiable under the circumstances, and while 72 of those responsible were arrested and charged, there have been continued threats (both legal and physical) against BORI, scholars associated with it, and against author James Laine.
As Laine noted in his 12 January piece in The Los Angeles Times:The vast majority of Indians are appalled at what happened in Pune. And yet no one has stepped forward to defend my book and no one has called for it to be distributed again.Indeed, most of these events took place after Laine's book had officially been withdrawn from the Indian market, i.e. essentially no longer existed. The banning of the book and the attacks on BORI and various scholars were thus clearly aimed not only at this specific case, but at the whole enterprise of scholarship, and of freedom of expression. Concerns about this have been raised in the media, but Laine's book has received little support: there still appear to have been almost no calls for it to be made available in India again.
Surprisingly, there has also been almost no criticism of Oxford University Press' self-censorship and withdrawal of the book from the Indian market. A rare mention can found is in the "Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)", People's Democracy, who properly note (25 January):The media have criticised the Shiv Sainiks’ pranks but not the hastiness of the Oxford University Press in withdrawing the book even before the matter became public or the government for banning the book even before the matter was discussed in public fora.There have been numerous opinion pieces regarding these incidents. Among the disturbing trends they make note of is the uneven use of Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code to limit expression, and the politicising of what should be academic debates.
Among the opinion pieces are:
(Note that in considering reactions in India we are limited to English-language material that is freely accessible via the Internet. It should be clear that this material may well not be representative of broader opinion, or even of media opinion. The Hindu and Marathi language press may well have responded entirely differently.)
- Dileep Padgaonkar on Myth against history (Times of India, 25 January), who finds these events: "drive home the point yet again that in this country it is myth, not history, that ignites popular imagination."
- A.G. Noorani's Chhatrapati or bust (Hindustan Times, 27 January), where he writes of what happened: "It was not an aberration. It is part of a practice, connived at and condoned, during the past decade and more."
- Ananya Vajpeyi's Everything Foul and Unfair (The Telegraph, 19 January), where he suggests the most critical question is: "(A)re we prepared to defend acts of violence perpetrated in the name of our identity, our beliefs and finally, our sentiments ?"
- An editorial in The Indian Express (7 January), in which the authors argue: "We cannot have the mob write our history for us. Every time we compromise on this principle, every time a publishing house allows itself to recall a book, every time the authorities fail to punish the vandals, every time politicians seize such issues for narrow political gains, every time the barbarian at the gate is accommodated, we fail not just our academics but our historical legacy of open scholarship."
- Rajeev Dhavan's Burn, Burn, Destroy (available at the Outlook India site, 23 January), where he notes: "In the last decade or so, new emerging patterns of social censorship seem to have eclipsed the framework of legal censorship that has been bequeathed to India by the British."
- Nalini Taneja on Politics of Rightwing Sectarianism (People's Democracy, 25 January), arguing: "In what has been happening today by way of policing and censorship of culture, and to history teaching and research, by way of verbal and physical attacks on democratic expression, our state and media have a very definite role to play."
- Sandhya Jain on Demeaning Shivaji, denigrating dharma (The Pioneer, 27 January, published here at HVK.org), who finds: "Having purchased and read James Laine's Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India only after it was officially withdrawn by the publishers, I cannot view the events at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) as totally unjustified."
- Swapan Dasgupta on Reclaiming the Hindu Gods (The Telegraph, 30 January), who reports that: "Beginning sometime last year, American Hindus have mounted a spirited attack on the bastions of Indology in the North American universities" and believes: "The battle to reassess Indian heritage in keeping with the achievements of Indians involves a long haul. It will not be won by bans on offensive texts or McCarthy-ite purges of the infuriatingly perverse. It has to be fought with civility, argument, rigour and a sense of strategy."
- Manu Dash, wondering: Feel-shame factor, anyone ? (The Statesman), noting: "Our country has time and again failed to stay true to its credential of tolerance."
- Vaishnavi K. Sekhar finding: Historians rue attack on freedom of expression (The Times of India, 24 March), noting that: "The casualty of cultural censorship may be scholarship".
Bhalchandrarao C. Patvardhan and Amodini Bagwe's piece, James Laine’s Controversial Book, published in this issue of the complete review Quarterly, offers a somewhat different perspective, focussing on what exactly it is about Laine's book that many find so upsetting.
There has also been some coverage of these events on weblogs, most notably at Kitabkhana and Ryan's Lair (as well as at the Literary Saloon).
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