A limited assessment of and response to some statements of Professor Tyler Williams

On 2016 April 15, in a talk at Columbia University by Shri Rajiv Malhotra, a member of the audience, introduced himself as “…Tyler Williams…I am a Professor of Hindi and Urdu, I also teach a bit of Sanskrit, bit of Persian, I also teach about Bhakti, teach about Indian religion…” (Video time stamp (VTS): 54:29-54:37) and  curiously, chose not include in his introduction, the name of the university he taught at.

In what was meant to be a question, Tyler Williams (TW) made a few statements, which can be called misrepresentations and/or allegations. This short piece highlights 2 such statements (in italicised-blue below) and evidence from Shri Malhotra’s scholarship as to why these statements can be called misrepresentations.

Tyler Williams’ (wilful or otherwise) Misrepresentation #1‘Insiders and Outsiders’ related

Tyler Williams said (VTS 56:04-56:10)) the schema that you have given, that I am outsider and they are an insider, the white students are outsiders 

Evidence (from RM’s scholarship) on why TW’s statement is a misrepresentation:

Evidence 1:

I also wish to clarify that I do not consider all Western scholars as ‘outsiders’, nor all Indians or Hindus as ‘insiders’. These are provisional terms to get the conversation started. My suggestion to the reader is that s/he should first read the Conclusion chapter that concisely articulates the final takeaway message of this book. It lists a set of debates I want between the insiders and outsiders on a range of issues raised in this book.  (Source: Rajiv Malhotra, The Battle for Sanskrit, Introduction, Hard Copy version Page 28, Kindle Location 508-518) 

Evidence 2:

My book frames these issues in terms of two opposing lenses: the lens of insiders, who are those with loyalty to the Vedic worldview, and lens of outsiders, who are those who dismiss (or at least marginalize) the Vedas and look at the Sanskrit texts primarily through Marxist and postmodernist theories of social oppression and political domination.

Adopting the insider perspective, my main objections to Pollock and other outsiders concern the following methods and views:

•The methodological separation between the secular and the sacred in studying Sanskrit tradition;

•The claim that racial and ethnic oppression, class discrimination and gender bias are intrinsic to Sanskrit and its conceptual matrix in the Vedas;

•The side-lining of the oral tradition as a dynamic part of Indian history and thought;

•The politicizing of the genre of kavya;

•The outright dismissal of the positive value of shastra;

•The insistence on a dramatic split between Sanskrit and the vernaculars;

•The determination to show maximum split between Hinduism and Buddhism;The distortion of the Ramayana as socially abusive and as harbouring anti-Muslim rabble rousing (Source: Rajiv Malhotra’s blog Insiders Vs Outsiders: Who speaks for our heritage?

Tyler Williams’ (wilful or otherwise) Misrepresentation #2: ‘Dalits’ related

Tyler Williams said (VTS 56:04-56:10) “the idea that Dalits are outsiders to the Hindu community” (Video time stamp 56:13-56:16)

Evidence (from RM’s scholarship) on why TW’s statement is a misrepresentation:

Evidence 1:

In 4 of out 5 books which Shri Rajiv Malhotra has authored, the string ‘Dalit’ appears over 533 times (book-wise detail included below).

Book

Number of occurrences of the string ‘Dalit’, as part of the word ‘Dalits’ or as stand-alone word Kindle version location number
The Battle for Sanskrit (Is Sanskrit Political or Sacred, Oppressive or Liberating, Dead or Alive?)

20

456, 1143, 1211, 1258, 2241, 2250, 2273, 2334, 2702, 2711, 2892 3560, 3685, 4479, 4605, 4785, 5550, 6104, 8046
Breaking India (Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines)

> 500; The word ‘Dalits’ appears 152 times

Too many to list
Indira’s Net (Defending Hinduism’s philosophical unity)

10

659, 894, 2316 (twice), 2566, 2619, 4500, 6436, 6530, 6801
Being Different (An Indian challenge to Western Universalism)

3

6296, 6298, 6301

Where exactly, in any of these 533+ locations  specified above (or for that matter anywhere else), has Shri Malhotra propagated the idea “…Dalits are outsiders to the Hindu community…” as alleged by Tyler Williams?

How can anyone who has actually read Breaking India (which has the word Dalit in its title sub-text: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines) and Indra’s Net, logically allege that Mr. Malhotra considers Dalits are outsiders to the Hindu community?

Evidence 2:

In fact, the opposite of Tyler Williams (Dalit-related) allegation is perhaps closer to the truth, evidenced by Mr. Malhotra’s thesis (in his words) pitted against the ‘Neo Hinduism’ thesis, from the book Indra’s Net (Defending Hinduism’s philosophical unity).

From Indra’s Net->Part 1 PURVA PAKSHA->Summary of both sides of debate->Tabulation (9 of 10)

Neo-Hinduism

Contemporary Hinduism (My thesis)

Hinduism is inherently oppressive of minorities such as Muslims, Christians, Dalits and women. It forces others into its own homogeneity for gaining political control. Hindutva is its later incarnation and its goal has been to impose homogeneity Contemporary Hinduism renews the coherence and unity of diverse Indian traditions. It does not harm their diversity, and has, in fact, the most open architecture among the main faiths of the world. Its lack of historical absolutes (in the sense of Abrahamic religions) accounts for these extraordinary qualities)
 

‘My thesis’ above refers to Rajiv Malhotra’s thesis

Of course, the above misrepresentations could have been reconciled to atleast some extent had Tyler Williams said he had not read Shri Rajiv Malhotra’s books. One could perhaps then rationalise and allow for a benefit of doubt about Tyler Williams position (and/or complicity in furthering a separatist propaganda) in view of not having read Mr. Malhotra’s scholarship.

However, does Tyler Williams allow room for such a benefit of doubt to be extended given his:

> claim “…I have read your book” (VTS 56:46-47; 58:18-23) and yet misrepresenting (evidence provided above), all this despite being a “Professor”, of whom the expectation of correctness , atleast in the academic way of referencing, would normally be higher than a lay man

&

> false (implied) allegation that Shri Rajiv Malhotra may tarnish TW’s name like that of he did of TW’s colleagues (VTS 54:44-54:47), while what he actually did could be construed as attempting to tarnish Shri Malhotra’s name, by bringing up plagiarism allegations, which have been comprehensively addressed at various levels, including clarification between related publishers

(To read a comprehensive analysis of the plagiarism allegations, refer here: https://traditionresponds.wordpress.com; To extend your support to Rajiv Malhotra, sign this petition: https://www.change.org/p/publishers-of-rajiv-malhotra-s-books-do-not-yield-to-mafia-pressure-tactics-that-seek-to-compromise-intellectual-freedom)

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