Conference Highlights: –
The first swadeshi Indology conference was successfully conducted at IIT Madras from the 6 th to 8 th of July 2016. It was a closed door conference only for scholars and those presenting papers. The first conference was exclusively focused towards conducting a thorough analysis and presentation of Sheldon Pollock’s work (purvapaksha) and a partial rebuttal to the same (uttarapaksha). This will be followed up by future conferences wherein further analysis will be carried out and responses provided.
While a primary requirement for the statement of purva-paksha is a sound knowledge of English (given the convoluted and pedantic English of Pollock which has to be figured out, and the need for clarity in expression), the requirement for the uttara-paksha is a good knowledge of Sanskrit and a fair knowledgeable appreciation (not an emotional admiration, that is) of the spirit of our tradition.
In light of this Professor Kannan had selected the following four positions of Sheldon Pollock for purva-paksha in the first conference:-
1) That Sanskrit is dead.
2) On Shastra
3) On Ramayana used as a political tool
4) That Sanskrit was responsible for the
Reading material was provided on each of the four topics to those scholars interested in participating. Scholars were invited to submit abstracts for papers on the above mentioned topics. These were then passed through a review panel consisting of eminent persons well versed in the field.
Twenty papers were presented in the conference which will be collected, edited and published as a book. The conference was attended by luminaries like Prof. V N Jha, Former Director, Centre of Advanced Study in Sanskrit, University of Pune, Prof. Makarand Paranjape, Professor of English, JNU, Prof. Ramanujan, at CDAC Bengaluru, Dr. Koenraad Elst, well known Indologist and Sinologist, Shri. Nityananda Misra, eminent Sanskritist, who chaired the different sessions during the three-day schedule of the conference, and Prof. Madhu Kishwar, founder of Manushi. The stage is now set for the building of an Indian narrative driven by well-informed stakeholders who have an innate understanding of India’s culture, literature, philosophies and practices. This effort is but a stepping stone towards a bigger objective of establishing a credible and responsible academic aegis for Indian Indology.
Rajiv’s closing remarks on the first Swadeshi Indology Conference
Rajiv was very happy with the proceedings of the conference and the output from it. He sees it as a continuation of a long journey by himself and his companions. Rajiv made it clear that there are certain opinions that were common to all participants of the conference. These are that:-
1) There is a Kurukshetra of ideas.
2) The need for Intellectual Kshatriays to conduct purva-paksha and Uttara-paksha
3) The Intellectual Kshatriays must not be scattered individuals but rather a home team with team work.
4) The individuals must participate as their svadharma and not for any purposes
like advancing their career etc. The yajna is the collective aspect of the svadharma.
Having sponsored hundreds of conferences Rajiv asserts that the Swadeshi Indology series is meant to be very specific where a single target is selected each year. This will bring direction and focus rather than being vague and fuzzy. Swadeshi Indology (S.I.) will perform both aspects i.e. disruption as well as construction. Rajiv for the first time stated that he doesn’t feel alone anymore unlike the past where he was always deserted when he was attacked after every book he published. Unlike during the purva-paksha of Wendy Doniger, where Rajiv left that battle field to move onto new areas of inquiry, he recognizes that a home team is required to continue pursuing that front of the battle field that he opens up through his writings. Rajiv stressed that due to action being due to one’s svadharma, all considerations of career or prestige must be left aside. Though there are advantages of being within the academic systems, there are several advantages of being outside it too. Case in point is that majority of the papers were from those of STEM (Science Technology Engineering Medicine) background rather than the humanities which in fact should have been the one championing post-colonial scholarship. He says that the system of social sciences and humanities must be critiqued as a whole and must be dismantled as it is a huge source of colonization. The myth that theories can be produced to study people and cultures objectively is a failure. Rajiv dismissed the idea that a paper in prestigious journals would make more impact than all this effort by pointing out the scanty readership that academics draw in comparison to lakhs of people on social media. Rajiv asks as to what is “post-colonial” about “post-colonial studies” when it is in fact a re-colonization.
According to him the whole intellectual establishment has just taken a whole new set of social theories from outside and not one of them have ever critiqued Pollock. In fact Pollock has more collaboration with Sanskrit scholars in India which is lacking even among the Humanities and Sanskrit. Rajiv was very happy with the kind of work done and quality of papers presented in such a short timeline. He ended by announcing that there will be another conference in 6 months and thanking all those who put in hard work to conduct the event.