• Statement from the Indian Writers’ Forum on Sheldon Pollock

    March 3, 2016

    T._V._Venkatachala_Sastry_with_Indologist_Sheldon_PollockSheldon Pollock (Right) with T. V. Venkatachala Sastry
    Photo courtesy commons.wikimedia.org

    3 March 2016

    We are worried and angered by the campaign by some self-styled scholars and academics to remove Sheldon Pollock, the well-known scholar on South Asian studies, as the General Editor of the Murty Classical Library of India Series. The academics in question seem to have misunderstood (or deliberately misrepresented) Pollock’s criticism of Western Universities that ignore South Asian knowledge traditions as a criticism of South Asian traditions. Pollock has established himself as one of the finest Sanskritists and philologists, and his department in Columbia University has enhanced its reputation through its association with him. The petitioners say he is ‘culturally not rooted in the Indian tradition’ as if those who are born in India are naturally endowed with an understanding of Indian knowledge systems and knowledge of Indian texts, and as if such knowledge cannot be acquired by someone who is not born here. We have examples of any number of scholars from the West who are among the tallest in their fields, whether it be the study of Kabir and Bhakti traditions, the Ramayanas, Kalidasa and Bhasa, Buddhism, the Vedas and Upanishads, or Indian poetics. Attaching ethnic origins to the acquisition of knowledge is divisive; it is also detrimental to the very idea of scholarship.

    The petitioning academics complain that Pollock has signed certain petitions and statements "against the Government of India". Such an argument – that showing solidarity with large numbers of intellectuals and academics in India in their criticism of a particular government action would make a person anti-Indian – would mean  diminishing the support of world scholars including Noam Chomsky to the support of democracy in the JNU campus to being ‘anti-Indian’. We condemn this ill-motivated attack on Sheldon Pollock and appeal to all concerned to ignore a protest orchestrated by vested interests.

    K. Satchidanandan, Writer
    Romila Thapar, Historian, Emeritus Professor, JNU
    Nayantara Sahgal, Writer
    Shashi Deshpande, Writer
    Kiran Nagarkar, Writer
    Shyam B. Menon, Vice-Chancellor, Ambedkar University Delhi
    Githa Hariharan, Writer
    Anuradha Kapur, Former Director, NSD
    Gulammohammed Sheikh
    Uday Prakash, Writer
    Ranjit Hoskote, Writer
    Prabir Purkayastha, Chairperson, Knowledge Commons
    Ranjith Raj Vasam, Research Assistant & Teaching Assistant, IIIT Hyderabad
    Shashikumar J, Publishing Professional and Researcher
    A. Sunil Dharan, Assistant Professor, Delhi University
    Narayan Hegde, Professor of English
    Anil Pannikker, Consultant Psychologist
    Manu V Devadevan, Assistant Professor of History, IIT Mandi
    Keerti Ramachandra, translator and editor
    Purushottama Bilimale, Professor of Kannada
    Atlury Murali, Professor, Dept. of History, University of Hyderabad
    Geetanjali Chanda
    Usha Ramaswamy
    Amrita Bhalla, Associate Professor in English
    Jaishree, Misra Novelist
    Gayathri Sreedharan, Researcher, Writer. Coordinator, IWF.
    Muraleedhara Upadhya Rt professor , Department of Kannada, Poornaprajna College, Udupi
    Malu Gazdar (retired), Special Education Teacher
    Poile Sengupta, Author
    Souradeep Roy, Editorial Collective, Indian Writers’ Forum
    Ravi Kumar Editor, Manarkeni – research journal in Tamil
    Saikat Majumdar, Writer and academic
    Oyndrila Sarkar, PhD Scholar
    CK Mathew, Retired
    Dipesh Chakrabarty
    Richard Young Faculty, History of Religions, Princeton Theological Seminary
    Vaasanthi Sundaram, Author, journalist, former editor of India Today, Tamil edition
    Basavaraja Kodagunti Asst. Professor
    Amritjit Singh, Langston Hughes Professor of English
    Kapil Chowksey
    Adil Jussawalla, Writer
    Chukka Srinivas
    Sudeshna Sarkar Professor, IIT Kharagpur
    Ravish Choudhary
    Anjali Monteiro Professor, TISS
    Mona Das, Assistant Professor
    Akshay Bakaya, Auteur, Professeur de hindi, Inalco, Sciences Po Paris
    Padmini Mongia, Professor
    Rasika Kaushik, Research Student
    Shabana Parveen, Senior Consultant
    Vishwanath Bite, Assistant ProfessorRani Innes, Teacher
    Rani Innes, Teacher
    P A Krishnan, Writer
    Kanishk Tharoor, Writer
    Aditi Roy Ghatak
    Ratna Raman, Associate professor
    Kuldeep Kumar, Journalist and Hindi poet
    Dhruv Jain, PhD Candidate, York University
    Sonja Chandrachud, Author
    Jonathan Gil Harris. Professor of English and Dean of Academic Affairs
    Ethan Kleinberg, Executive Editor, History and Theory; Professor of History and Letters
    Kalpana Sahni, Academic
    Meena Alexander, Distinguished Professor of English, City University of New York
    Probal Dasgupta, Professor of Linguistics, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata
    Gayatri Chatterjee, Teach at Symbiosis Liberal Arts College
    Uday Ratra
    Tushar Ghose , Retd. City University, Hong Ko
    Aijaz Ahmad, Professor, University of California, Irvine



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