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November 09, 2005


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Sam Singh

Is the relationship between the Hindu Right and the expatriate community that complicated? My evidence is purely anecdotal but of what I have seen, the immigrant community in the US are apologists for the Hindu Right. During dinner parties, my parents' friends exalt Indian culture and disparage Indian Muslims. They generally characterize the BJP as unfairly maligned and believe the Congress party to be too weak in its internal dealings with Muslims. Maybe a scholarly treatment would reveal nuances that I as a layman overlook. And it may be the case that my parents and their friends are not representative of most immigrants. However, I'm willing to bet that a more rigorous study of the matter will only bolster my anecdotal evidence.

J Lathani

Ms. Nussbaum is to be commended for bringing light to an issue ignored by the American press, and by some in the expatriate community. She does a service in helping to rid India of the VHP. And she is right that many expatriate communities support the VHP, but many other expatriates actively work in NGO's and contribute to other charities that help to create a more inclusive India.

The expatriate community is analogous to Jewish-Americans who support the right-wing Likud faction in Israel. But just as there are many Jewish-Americans who don't support the right-wing faction in Israel and who are working to create a more just Israel, there are many expatriate Indians working to create a more just India.

My only complaint would be that Ms. Nussbaum paints too broad a brush. She could do more to separate Hinduism from the Hindu right, which is a small but very vocal minority. She is writing to an audience that has limited exposure to India and to what it means to be a "Hindu." Reading her posts, one gathers that most Hindus in India are fanatical.

Regardless, more of her worthy writings regarding Gujarat are linked below:



Siva Vaidhyanathan

Bravo, Martha. This has been a subject of great frustration for me my entire adult life. My family refuses to recognize the connections between expat fundraising efforts and the murderers and rapists in India. The situation is even more complicated for those of us with roots in Tamil Nadu.

Thanks for writing about it. I wish I could.



For a different perspective on Hindu-Muslim relations in India:



Further counterpoints to the mapping of a Freudian framework onto Hindu mythology, which is the reason why many laymen and scholars object to Doniger, Nussbaum, and their ilk. Nussbaum fails to articulate why she and Doniger, and others that practice their form of scholarship, are received hostilely. She is not an innocent scholar advocating the rights of oppressed women; she has an agenda and believes she has the truth, damned be anyone who disagrees with her methodological approach.


"Criticism of crude academic writing on Hinduism is coming from the community because it is not present in the academy. The Christian or Jewish community need not overly concern itself with psychoanalytical fantasies about Moses or Jesus because there is a vast body of scholars within the academy who would take this on. A Courtright-like narrative with far-fetched psychoanalytical interpretations would be marginalized in the study of Jesus or Moses. Not so with Hinduism, where such interpretations form part of the mainstream narratives by “authorities” like Doniger. Those who object are likely to be marginalized instead.

The balance of power within the academy for the Judeo-Christian traditions is vastly different in the case of Hinduism. Apparently, no one in the academy has even bothered to check the references of Courtright’s “well-received” book on Ganesha in the 20 years that it has been out, let alone write a critique. This would be unimaginable in the case of a similar work about Jesus or Moses or even the Prophet Mohammad. And this is why the ideas of Courtright, Kripal, and Doniger can be put forward as mainstream interpretations of Hindu thought, unlike the alleged homoeroticism of Jesus."

More counterpoints:



Sorry for the multiple posts, but I have to counterbalance Nussbaum's perspective. Ms. Nussbaum and her colleagues (notably Wendy Doniger) have the financial backing and lifetime tenures afforded by universities. Her advocacy on behalf of women in India is admirable but she is not being forthcoming in her posts.

She does not acknowledge the reasons why she and her colleagues generate controversy. She is a respected scholar, rightly so, but she approaches the Hindu world from a distinctly Western academic perspective, yet fails to recognize the limits of her presentation.

She writes:

"My friends in religious studies sought a peaceful scholarly life focused on spirituality; they are surprised, wounded, and utterly unprepared, when politics reaches into their lives. So it seems appropriate that I should step in and shoulder a part of the burden that so many now bear who are more deeply at risk."

That's at best a dishonest statement. And highly exagerrated. Wendy Doniger is not seeking a peaceful scholarly spiritual life when she says:
"The Gita is a dishonest book; it justifies war."
Philadelphia Inquirer, November 19, 2000, "Big-screen caddy is Hindu hero in disguise" written by David O'Reilly

Imagine the response of laymen Christians or Moslems if Western scholars were to map a Freudian framework of sexuality onto the Koran or the Bible.

Further, Nussbaum describes scholars such as, presumably, Doniger, Paul Courtwright, and others, as follows:

"someone who writes about mythology or ancient history in ways that contravene the new orthodoxy." They don't contravene the "new" orthodoxy; they contravene non-Western and non-Freudian approaches to Hinduism studies. Doniger's approach is "mainstream" only in Western Indology departments.

Certainly there is value in an approach that seeks to unmask the sexual metaphors in Hindu mythology. But Western scholars apply only this methodology and fail to articulate other "truths" present in the mythological literature or other approaches to understanding the Hindu world. It becomes a cycle where grad students are exposed only to this approach and thus further only this methodological approach.

Further counterpoints are presented below:




Get over it. Here's a counterpoint for you:


"It is crucial to keep in mind here that the great majority of my Christian students, exactly like the great majority of Indian students in America, are not the least bit offended by the critical study of religion or the "obscenities" of gender studies. Interestingly, some of the most appreciative and enthusiastic responses that I have ever received in the classroom come from American students of Indian descent. And why not? They see clearly that I love their traditions, and that I can offer them radically different ways of looking at them, ways that they deeply desire and need. They, after all, have been raised in a Western culture and are now trying to make some honest forthright sense of it all. Consequently, they understand and so deeply appreciate what so many of us try to do in the classroom every day, that is, think across cultures.

Which is all to say that Rajiv's vision of the American religious studies classroom is as inaccurate as every other part of his essay. In actual fact, the only things such a classroom endangers is fundamentalism, ignorance, and xenophobia."


I was pointed to this blog by a friend and have found Dr. Nussbaum's article quite interesting. What would be even more interesting is, if she responds to some, if not all (and there are quite a few pertinent one here), issues raised in the comments section. I mean, what is the point of having the section, if you choose not to reply to any of the comments posted. I look forward to Dr. Nussbaum's rebuttal in her next piece.


Professor Nussbaum,
Your comments do illustrate some of my problems with your tolerence of organized religion and liberalism (and its unfortunate bastard cousin, class society). While I still adore you for keeping the pomo left in line, I've never felt that you've ever adequately addressed basic Marxist concerns about the psychological effects of class society, of bounded freedom and self-realization in "free" market economies. I do not think you can ever wltimately reconcile your liberalism with social justice, as religious fundamentalism, and fear of the other, seem to thrive in cultures free enough to distribute wealth inequitably.
Your humble servant,

Jayant Bhandarkar

What about the Maoists and the Marxists that have made violence (http://communismwatch.blogspot.com/2005/04/communists-snatching-democracy-from.html) a routine in democratic India? You seem to have a political stand whereas the truth is you dont even known the definition of "Indian Secularism". I challenge you to define it correctly.


"the Hindu right has a powerful and wealthy U.S. arm, which both funds suspicious activities in India, possibly activities associated with Gujarat’s genocidal violence, and foments discord here and in Britain."

Yes it is very "suspicious" to teach students how to learn. http://ekal.org. Yes, it is very suspicious to teach students that there are some christian who are out to tell them that they are lost and they need to be "rescued".

You don't even seem to have basic knowledge about Hindu Right in US. FYI, most of the people who do make up this movement are immigrants. Do you think in their right mind they would do something that would jeoperdize their stay in US???? They are some of smartest people, who have graduated in the top to their classes in Indian Universities. They are smarter than to support "suspicious" activities that will get them kicked out of US.


>>Although I myself have been verbally attacked at times, and although my Dean had one phone call saying that I had no right to teach, the odd thing about the nature of these attacks in America is that a person like me who writes about a genocide today, saying that the Hindu right is complicit in the murders of thousands, is less likely to be targeted than someone who writes about mythology or ancient history in ways that contravene the new orthodoxy. Part of the story of my book on this subject will involve unraveling the complicated connections between the Hindu right in India and the expatriate community in the United States, which surely need careful scrutiny and further inquiry. whatever one’s political and religious views may be.

Oh the white (wo) man's burden must be so terrible, now?

You come from a country which has killed more people in the name of nebulously defined ideals like "freedom" and "human rights" than the Hindu nationalists ever did.

You come from a country which sends forth missionaries who preach a brazen religious belief that outcastes anyone who is a non-believer, thereby destroying longstanding cultural ecosystems.

You come from an academic culture whose edifice was constructed during the Cold War, and which studies cultures not to further objective understanding, but to superimpose western intellectual constructs onto native traditions, thereby distorting the tradition in the process. They are lividly composed caricatures, with an Enlightenment contempt for the coolies just beneath the veneer.

You come from a culture where, despite all the noble rhetoric of Civil Rights, is deeply stratified and segregated.

You have the temerity to demonize a micro-minority of a community in the United States with no political power and little social capital. Are you laying the groundwork for our genocide?

The BJP was voted out of office and went with a whimper, if you hadn't noticed. India's democratic intitutions are doing fine. Thank you for taking the trouble to look.

Sachin Kumar


Being someone who teaches in University, a little bit more honesty and open mindedness was expected. Its like you haven't been paying attention the news.

Its a bad way to try to sell your book which otherwise I think even your family and children won't read. No wonder you got eggs to show on your face for your intellectual capabilities. Everyone in America seems to come out suddenly with 'explosive' stories to tell, just when they are about to have their book published. Please give a page or two to explain this phenomenon too.

Before you go back to teach in your class again, also please do tell us what you have been smoking. This will help us explain what made you hellucinate and how long the symptoms would last.


Dear Martha,

I guess its far far easier for you to write on Hindu right, India, Hindu men's emasculation complex (in Gujarat) than it is to right about Islamic right, or Israeli men's emasculation and castration complexes (vis-a-vis their actions in the occupied Palestinian territories, Pakistan's patriarchal and military culture, Islamic fundamentalism and Saudi Wahabi petro-dollar exports world wide, or the treatment of women, minority and sexual deviants by the mullahs in Iran or even the sexual perversions of your own country men and women now (in Iraq) and before (Okinawa).

India has always been a soft target precisely because its majority the Hindus are too tolerant, too affable, too self-effacing, and of course a cheap and relaxed country to take holidays in, every now and then, where you get to be feted by our own 'gender experts' and pseudo-secularists.

But, unfortunately, though we will keep granting you a visa, your 'scholarship' has already been unmasked and you have no credibility in the country.


The biggest problem with India is corruption rather than communal violence.
Its the country's leaders who instigate this and innocent people are targetted for their own personal benefits.


Deepak Chughani

Doniger's & Wendys childrens interpretations of Hindu Mythology are more a reflection of their own perverted minds, and have nothing to do do with the more finer qualities and real lessons of Hinduism.

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