Recent events in India, Harvard and now Oxford make it clear that academic freedom, and freedom of expression in general is a white privilege that may be denied on a whim to non-whites.
There was hue and cry over restrictions on a highly insensitive treatment of a gruesome gang rape and murder crime by a self-styled documentary maker called Leslie Udwin who went on to sell its screening rights in the U.S. and U.K. The Indian Home Ministry and the courts have chosen to examine the so-called documentary for possible violations of Indian law, especially those relating to the right of the victim and her bereaved family.
There are questions about her and her fly-by-night outfit called Assassin Films that seems to have been hastily put together by her and some of her Indian stooges just for sensationalizing this gruesome crime and gain from the publicity.
When the Government imposed some restrictions on its screening there was a hue and cry in the media, beginning in the West but predictably picked up by the Indian media including newspapers that there should be no restrictions on freedom of expression. There were even editorials that Indians could and should learn from the wisdom of this white woman’s sadistic-pornographic venture.
As often the case, the strongest protests came from Udwin’s Indian admirers to whom a white skinned person can do no wrong.
But curiously within weeks of this episode, Oxford university cancelled lectures scheduled to be delivered by two well-known Indian intellectuals—the economist Dr.SubramaniamSwamy and the author Rajiv Malhotra. The topics they were supposed to speak on were strictly academic: India’s Economy and Revisionist History. No reason was given beyond the vague statement:
“Following a series of meetings between prominent and influential members of Oxford University’s academic faculty and members of the Oxford India Society, it was decided to cancel for logistical and other internal reasons.” (See the statement in bold below.)
Oxford University bars Dr Subramanian Swamy& Rajiv Malhotra – Cancels lecture on “India’s Economy” & “Revisionist History”
The Human Rights Act 1998 incorporates Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
‘We are stunned that a leading British University that should be championing free speech and freedom of thought, has taken such a cowardly decision. We cannot allow the appeasement of extremists to stifle cherished values and I fear this decision will reflect very badly on Oxford University and their much publicised “free rigourous thinking” credentials.” Satish K Sharma, General Secretary, National Council of Hindu Temples (UK)
Following a series of meetings between prominent and influential members of Oxford University’s academic faculty and members of the Oxford India Society, on Friday 20th a decision was taken to cancel the above lecture, citing “logistical and internal issues”. We have asked for further clarification as to the reasons and justification and await clarification. In light of this very significant development, Shri Rajiv Malhotraji who had been battling health issues to ensure his participation at the events, has now bowed to his physicians recommendation not to travel, and will be participating fully in all of the remaining events by live video conference. Dr Subramanian Swamy remains undeterred and unsurprised and will be present and will join the other speakers at the remaining events as planned.
From this surprising cancellation, effectively banning Dr Swamy and Shri Malhotra from speaking at Oxford University, we might reasonably conclude that the faculty of Oxford University, tasked with the responsibility of educating young impressionable minds, are incapable of communicating by personal example, the fundamental need for observance and protection of Human rights, especially the right to Freedom of Speech. A statistical review of who has been barred and who has been welcomed may reveal an uncomfortable correlation and point to a persistent phenomenon concerning the clarity of vision and “discrimination-free” credentials of the senior members of the Oxford Academic Faculty, particularly it would seem when the rights being trampled underfoot are those of “brown skinned Hindus”. It must be asked whether we are to conclude that in Oxford, Hindus are most welcome as long as they adhere to and preserve the underlying subliminal “colonial Christian supremacist” ideology and contribute generously to the coffers of “Eurocentric perspective fixated” colleges. The evidence before us may indicate that when this dominant theme and the western world view is challenged by any academic Hindu of stature- unfettered racism and religious discrimination seem to arise and completely obscure the otherwise pristine vision of the principles of “freedom of speech”. Is this merely the latest expression of a residual bigoted, deeply anti Hindu strand of the colonial psyche, a psyche which has overseen the destruction of all other indigenous religions and cultures and now appears to have its focus on India and Hindus?
Oxford University’s reputation as a bastion of unemotional reasoning coupled with fearless, rigorous academic interrogation has suffered a possibly mortal blow, and as for being the pinnacle of learning and wisdom and guidance on the application of these highest human values in times of turmoil, those Oxford University’s faculty members responsible for this decision risk tumbling to join the ranks of closet religious bigots and racists such as Wendy Doniger and her ilk; peddlers of simply old fashioned white supremacist rhetoric masquerading as erudition.Recent persons welcomed to speak or given a platform at Oxford University include Marine Le Pen, Wendy Doniger, Tony Blair of WMD fame, Gerry Adams, David Irving- Holocaust denier, Dr ZakirNaik – Extremist Muslim preacher.
Only two weeks ago a statue of Mahatma Gandhi was unveiled in Parliament Square as a celebration of the triumph of the Truth and the power of “Freedom of Speech” over prejudice and racist, colonial oppression and as an act of tacit recognition that the British oppression of the Indian, predominantly Hindu, nation was a gross crime against humanity. The very same Mahatma Gandhi ji stated “Many People, especially ignorant people, want to punish you for speaking the truth for being correct, for being you. Never apologise for being correct or for being years ahead of your time, If you are right and you know it, speak your mind. Even if you are a minority of one the truth is still the Truth”
It would appear that it may take another 50 years for the Mahatma’s message to travel from Parliament Square to the hallucinating spires of Oxford University. Until then – freedom of Speech RIP…. brings back fond memories of the old notices declaring “Hindus, Irish and Dogs – not allowed”.
All other events will be proceeding as planned!
Comments in the petition supporting the Lecture… all of which appear to have fallen upon deaf ears..
This will convince no one. It is not hard to guess that political pressure must have been brought on the organizers by Oxford authorities to deny a platform to these highly qualified but controversial scholars known for expressing unpopular views.
This is far from an isolated case. A couple of years ago Harvard University succumbed to political pressure from left-wing academics to cancel economics courses scheduled to be taught by Dr.Swamy in the face of protests by the Economics Department which wanted him to teach the courses. The pretext was an article he had written in an Indian newspaper criticizing Islamic terror that had appeared some months earlier.
Though Oxford has not given any details, one may surmise that the same forces have put pressure to have their lectures cancelled. But no such restrictions are placed on speakers and faculty who criticize and even abuse India and Hindus as has been the case with the likes of Wendy Doniger (who made pornography part of religious studies), Martha Nussbaum and Michael Witzel.
Witzel is notorious not only for his espousal of anachronistic (and scientifically discredited) views on Aryans and hatred of Indians, of Hindus in particular of which he has made no secret in his writings and conduct. When I drew attention to his unsavoury activities to the Harvard President (not the current president but her predecessor Lawrence Sumner), I was advised that Witzel was protected by academic freedom. Apparently it is not extended to non-whites like Dr. Subramanian Swamy.
This freedom of expression of which academic freedom is part is limited to white-skinned people like Leslie Udwin and Michael Witzel but not Indians like Dr.Swamy or Rajiv Malhotra. It is disappointing to see the Indian media also toeing this racist line.
Racism has moved to India
Based on my four decades of experience in the West, especially the United States, I am sure that such a racist attitude against non-whites would not be permissible. It would get persons like Witzel in serious trouble. He wouldn’t dare write about Jewish-Americans or African-Americans the way he has written about Hindu-Americans.
There are two basic reasons for it. First, the Civil Rights Movement sensitized peopleto prejudice and racial stereotyping. No less important, there are watchdog bodies like the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and the Anti-defamation League that keep a watch on and even prosecute violators of these norms. As a result, officials in academia and the media are very awareof the negative reaction such stereotyping can have on their organizations. In addition to litigation, the bad publicity from being branded as prejudiced can do serious damage to institutions and organizations. Some high profile figures have had their careers shortened because of the taint of prejudice and racism.
There are no such safeguards for Hindus in India. As a result, hate-filled academics and media figures feel free to target Indians and Hindus, a term known as Hinduphobia. Far from fearing any reaction, such characters as Leslie Udwin and Michael Witzel and their ilk find the Indian media being hospitable to their outpourings in the name of liberalism.
Further I have noticed a level of indulgence of white scholars in India that I did not find in twenty years as a U.S. academic. In fact there are no standards for white-skinned scholars in India which some have learnt to take advantage of. In effect it gives them a free hand to impose rules on Indian researchers that have no standards of any kind. I can cite two examples from my own experience.
It is widely known that I have been at the centre of the academic debate over the Aryan invasion theory (AIT) and have written numerous articles and a few books refuting it, providing the political background to its genesis and growth. But some Western scholars and their so-called Leftist followers in India have attacked me as a Hindutva advocate instead of refuting my arguments. I have repeatedly pointed out that these scholars have never defined what an Aryan is.
I soon found out they often use the term “Western academic” to mean ‘white.’ When I submitted an article showing that the Mahabharata connects the Harappan iconography and Vedic literature— its editor, a fringe figure complained that for all my experience I did not seem to know the standards expected in Western academic publications. By Western, he didn’t of course mean African-American or Hispanic-American but white European. (It may be noted that I am myself a Western academic, having been a student and later a professor and researcher in the West.)
This license given to white academics and others dealing with Indian subjects has been serious lowering of standards. I already gave the example of Aryan theories which has permitted near illiterates (like Steve Farmer and Edwin Bryant) to pose as experts on Indology (a colonial concoction to begin with). I can cite one more example from personal experience.
Ten years ago, the late Natwar Jha and I proposed a solution to the vexing problem of the language and writing on the seals of the famed Harappan civilization of the Indus Valley civilization. Our conclusion was that the language was related to Vedic Sanskrit and the writing the ancestor of the Brahmi script used most famously in Ashoka’s rock edicts.
This is of course a serious claim that called for academic debate and possibly a conference or two (which did happen a decade later). But what happened was something quite different. There was a media campaign against Jha and me accusing us of Hindutva propaganda and the fabrication of a horse image on the seal by modifying a unicorn—something totally irrelevant to the problem at hand. But it received prominent notice in the Indian media because these charges came from white-skinned Michael Witzel and his henchman Steve Farmer.
Of course, one is free to accept or reject our claim. But the point is neither Witzel nor Farmer nor their Indian followers like RomilaThapar had the competence to critically evaluate our work. Worse, they and their colleagues have failed to come up with any standards that would allow one to examine the validity of a claim. In short there are no standards. It is only question of influence and prejudice which they term consensus. In nearly a century these scholars have not come up with any guidelines that tell us when a solution is deemed acceptable.