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Rebuttal To Mihir S Sharma

 Rebuttal to Mihir S Sharma

The original article of Mihir S Sharma is titled “The Rajiv Malhotra issue is a cautionary tale for publishers”. Mihir’s original is in bold followed by my rebuttal.

Rajiv Malhotra, who writes angrily from New Jersey about American attempts to monopolise the conversation about India and Hinduism, is in trouble. True to form – he is, after all, more loudly Indian than anybody else, especially anybody else not in New Jersey – the trouble he is in is that quintessentially desi problem, plagiarism.

Mihir does have a problem with anyone claiming the Indian identity and has problems with anything. All the positive attributes must be washed away from anything desi and all things negative must be attached to it. Here too he displays his inherent pride that plagiarism is a quintessential desi problem. So too he expects Indian Americans to proudly support Bobby Jindal who has washed away all his desi identity as he is ashamed of it. As can be seen below:


But when Jindal makes any comments that springs from his Chrisitian identity, that too must be fixed to his desi identity you see


The facts are these. Richard Fox Young, who teaches at a seminary in Princeton, New Jersey, released a series of passages on Twitter from Mr Malhotra’s books, Breaking India and Indra’s Net. In some cases, Mr Malhotra appeared to have lifted whole passages from various academic books without sufficient attribution – particularly from Unifying Hinduism by Andrew J Nicholson, published by Columbia University Press in 2010. 

Let me elaborate on the facts. Richard Fox young teaches at a seminary in Princeton, and is closely linked with the Afro-Dalit project. He is classic good cop appearing to look good in front of Hindus but works in wide missionary activities to convert Hindus. His personal page can be found here

He works to fragment India and produce hate-mongering ground level individuals all the while maintaining a clean and nice face in the front. It can be seen from the below video where RFY is among the audience and is a mentor of this hate-monger.

Coming to Mihir Sharma where he says Mr. Malhotra appeared to have lifted whole passages from various academic books without sufficient attribution. His sloppiness in original review is very clear here. He says it “appeared” and says “various” academic books while there were only 2 books that he is accused of drawing from.  One by Orlender and one by Nicholson. Both have been cited several times and in some notes Malhotra explicitly states “this section draws heavily from Orlender.” So Mihir is happy re-iterating views from other posts without personal review.

This is no coincidence, but it is gently ironic: Indra’s Net makes the argument for Hinduism’s philosophical unity, precisely the kind of effort that Prof Nicholson examines in Unifying Hinduism. In addition, Prof Young points out how Mr Malhotra sometimes uses plagiarised passages in completely different contexts – an impressively complex feat of intellectual deception.

It is clear Mihir has not read Indra’s net. Rajiv takes on the opposing scholarship that attempts to show Hinduism as divided on multiple fronts. Rajiv takes on each scholar he disagrees with and dedicates whole chapters for each of them right from Halbfass, Ursula King, Paul Hacker, Bharathi to Rambachan and argues each case independently. He addresses each topic raised by them and addresses them to conclusion. Hence claiming that Rajiv is just merely making the effort of Nicholson is on poor ground. Furthermore the Indian scholars like Vijnanabhikshu, Haribadra and Appaya Dikshitar have already synthesized various schools of Indian thought and have grouped most schools in astika. Hence an integral unity was already present much before Nicholson and the likes came into the picture. Rajiv’s thesis is that the integral unity and unifying spirit already existed which was against the opposing thesis. Hence Mihir is drawing statements from thin air.

Mr Malhotra’s response, when it came, was instructive. As detailed by Shoaib Daniyal on the web site, Mr Malhotra – who tends not to deviate from his pet passions – denounced Western standards of referencing as unnecessary for Indian scholars. In other words, quotation marks are a despicable Macaualayite imposition on India’s ancient civilisation. I wish I was making this up, but I don’t have the imagination. This is Mr Malhotra’s direct quote: “Sanskrit language has no quotation marks, yet scholars cited others for thousands of years. Western standards not the only way to acknowledge.”

This was not the only response that Malhotra gave. His first response was to give a detailed explanation of the end notes and references. Also there is a detailed rebuttal of each plagiarism claim of Richard Fox Young as shown below:-

His section was replete with references all over. The question at hand was lack of quotation marks etc. To this is what Malhotra argued that this is a matter of convention. Plagiarism requires an intent to hide sources. No sane plagiarizer would cite the sources where he is plagiarizing from. That would defeat the entire purpose. It must also be noted that it is precisely due to these end notes and references that Richard Fox Young could find the source to accuse him of such copy editing errors (and call it plagiarism!). Though Mihir pours in a lot of rhetoric into his writings, what Malhotra says here has some standing. Hindu civilisation is known for its rigorous scholarship where scholars regularly cite each other. Malhotra’s contention was that his opponents are being nit-picky to silence him rather than debate him on issues.

In effect, Mr Malhotra has accepted Prof Young’s charges of plagiarism, but denied their importance. Good for him. I look forward to a bright future – 25 years on, as Amit Shah assures us – when we will never need to use quotation marks at all. Think of the time saved on tiny phone keyboards! If only the iPhone could make copying and pasting a bit easier for us desis, we could really conquer academia.

Blatant lies! Malhotra has never once accepted Young’s charges of plagiarism. Another lie is that he has denied the importance of plagiarism! Its a shame that he descends to the level of lying to tarnish Malhotra’s credibility. Mihir must apologize to Malhotra publicly for such blatant lies.

But Professor Young’s accusations create a somewhat difficult predicament for Mr Malhotra’s publishers, Harper Collins. I assume Mr Malhotra sells well – his are the kind of books loved by engineers who possess an inchoate anger and disdain for the humanities. Somebody within Harper Collins will be saying: look, we’re a business. We are not an academic publisher. So we must not be held to the standards of peer review and referencing that such publisher must perforce follow. We really have one major constraint: profitability. Can we shut down Mr Malhotra, who makes money for us, because of academic nit-picking about plagiarism? (Not to mention the fact that, were Harper Collins to let Mr Malhotra go, he would unquestionably send his millions of devoted fans on jihad against his unfortunate ex-publishers.)

Seems Mihir has a problem with Engineers who are informed about the misdeeds of such intellectuals as himself and biased scholars. He must have been feeling the heat from them. Surely their objectivity and rationality must evade him. Malhotra himself being from a science background works with objectivity and rationality without the rhetoric being poured in like Mihir is doing here. About the nit-picky part, Mihir makes the case against himself except when he makes it about plagiarism. Nit-picky and plagiarism don’t go together. But then again, this seems too heavy upon the mind of Mihir. His conclusion of what would happen if publishers withdraw the book is in very poor taste. He says Malhotra will send his fans on “jihad” against the publishers. This is an insult both on Rajiv Malhotra and many of his readers. It is of extremely poor taste. Mihir must show when has Rajiv ever called for any such Jihad that he predicts such a response. This is in absolute disdain to maintain any moral standards in expression.

And we reach, thus, a deeper question. To what degree can we trust “serious” works of non-fiction from non-academic presses? To be frank, few publishing houses, here or abroad, can afford the kind of reviewing and editing that comes up to the standard of, say, the average academic journal. Academic presses come somewhere in between. I think they would at least ensure that referencing and footnoting was clear and accurate. Recently one of our finest public intellectuals told me that, in the end, he was unclear what advantages an academic publisher would have for non-fiction over a trade publisher. I think I now have an answer to that question. Mr Malhotra would have found it more difficult to get away with this apparent intellectual dishonesty in an academic publisher.

Here Mihir is trying to diminish non academic scholarship. This is to ensure that any voice outside academia is tarnished so that they can continue gate-keeping. Precisely the kind of situation Malhotra opposes with his books and research. All non-academia research is threatening as they have no control over the discourse to continue their missionary agenda. By saying that Malhotra would have not got away with his “apparent intellectual dishonesty”, Mihir is reinforcing that copy edit errors constitute intellectual dishonesty though Malhotra’s work is replete with citation. He also makes 9 copy edit mistakes look like Malhotra’s entire work doesn’t meet academic standards. All this is sly rhetoric laced with verbal gymnastics to establish false notions among his readers.

This is the correct context in which to view the constant, irritating whine from India’s social conservatives that they have been excluded from academia. (A whine that is used to justify all sorts of saffronisation and interference.) There is more to the story than just the unscrupulous Marxists and post-Marxist domination of academic institutions – after all, this domination has not stopped a strong liberal grouping from developing within Indian history, political science and economics. No, this incident underlines the true tragedy of Indian social conservative “scholarship”: that most of its critics are right. The authors who write the “path-breaking” studies that “Western-style academia doesn’t want you to read” are in fact, most likely, peddling outlandish work that would easily fail the standards that the existing body of work has had to meet. The Shrikant Talageris and the Michael Daninos of the world, like the Rajiv Malhotras, are online heroes rather than respected historians or linguists because their work just doesn’t match up. The endless ways in which the “new Hindu right” uncovers ways in which caste and external migrations were invented but the Saraswati was not are not being suppressed because of a giant Western conspiracy; they simply don’t meet the academic standards required to conclude that they’re not just a bunch of crackpot theories dreamed up by nativist bigots.

Funny that Mihir is referring to interference. He has proved his double standards as shown below.


So interference is fine and can be over-looked just when it suits them. This hypocrisy is increasingly evident. The same group that were frothing in their mouths when Mr. Batra resorted to courts are now signing online petitions to put pressure on Malhotra’s publishers to withdraw his books! This is the shameful level to which academia has descended to. So no matter how much the likes of Mihir disdain Malhotra’s contention of a monopoly on dsicourse in Hinduism, the facts show that that is precisely the case. No self respecting academician signs petitions to put pressure on publishers to withdraw books especially the ones central to Malhotra’s scholarship. So “crackpot” theories as Mihir may call them are in fact not crackpot theories. Mihir claims a strong liberal group developed in study of Indian History, political science and economics. What he fails to catch is the absence of such a voice in the Humanities, Social sciences and Liberal arts. He is also wrong about an adequate voice in Indian History. He drags in Srikhant Talageri and Michel Danino to tarnish any out-of-academy voice available. He is also in need to re-iterate Aryan invasion theory. No crackpot would continue to hold value to such bogus theories, but somehow Mihir continues to. When he starts accusing alternative views as “failing to meet the standards that the existing body of work has had to meet”, is he shifting from accusing Malhotra of plagiarism (as this article was intended) to his view of Rajiv’s thesis. If that is the case he must argue his thesis with facts. He cannot collapse copy edit errors to “thesis that lacks standard”. Mihir being quite ignorant on the scholarship of Malhotra here cannot make such sweeping statements without giving evidence or objectively arguing his case. He seems to jump from talking about oranges to apples and with zero objectivity or evidence. As a conclusion I would re-iterate the need for a public apology for his lies as stated above. All of Mihir’s work is plain rhetoric!

Author: Akash Ravianandan

Published: July 15, 2015

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