Statement on the removal of Sheldon Pollock by MCLI

Photo: Gajendra Yadav/Indian Express

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