A Lecture in Defence of Hinduism, FIR Filed!
Can philosophy expect the same protection that is due other disciplines? What or whom is freedom within a university posing a threat to? These are questions that V Sanil asks in a Facebook post while lamenting the silence of academic philosophers at the treatment meted out to a former Philosophy professor of Delhi University for presenting a paper at a seminar.
Delhi based labour historian Dilip Simeon writes in his blog:
The latest example of the sheer idiocy of the ruling dispensation may be seen in this police case filed against a philosophy professor. What was he trying to do? He was attempting a philosophical defence of the Hindu tradition against some scholars whom he believed to be misreading it.
In order to refute their arguments, he quoted what they had written. He upheld the time-honoured practice of presenting the opponents’ viewpoint (poorv-paksh) before refuting it. This itself has been taken as a sign of blasphemy by the Hindutva brigade. It is difficult to believe that an academic may be charged with a crime for presenting his arguments in a seminar, and that too, arguments in defence of the Indic tradition.
He goes on to say:
Truly, we are faced with an assault on the mind itself. These people are not opposed to this or that idea, but are alarmed at the fact we have any ideas at all. They actually take pride in their mindlessness. Should academics now seek prior approval from the PMO before attending seminars or entering their classrooms? If this is what the RSS/BJP and its supporters think will make India ‘great’, all we can expect is the complete degradation of scholarship and education.
The Sangh Parivar should understand (if they retain the capacity to follow an argument) that they are not defending Indian culture but destroying it.
Rajasthan government orders FIR against Ashok Vohra
The issue at hand is an FIR registered, under orders of Rajasthan government, against Ashok Vohra, a retired professor of Philosophy, Delhi University, for allegedly insulting the gods and hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus. He had presented a paper in an academic seminar at the Mohan Lal Sukhadia (MLS) University in Udaipur wherein he referred to a few foreign scholars’ view of the Hindu gods and goddesses.
The seminar on ‘Dharmik Samvad: Adhunik Anivaryata’ (Religious Dialogue: Need of The Hour) was organised by the philosophy department of MLSU in collaboration with the Indian Council of Philosophical Research on December 3. In his paper, Prof Vohra had attempted to explain alleged “distorted views” of western scholars about Hindu gods and rituals.
Media reports quoted the former Head of the Philosophy Department at Delhi University as saying, “I referred to the writings of few foreign authors who have analysed Hinduism from their perspective, which I think is the wrong way to look at Hinduism. I quoted the authors to explain their view of the religion, which included the sexual references to Lord Ganesha, Shiva, and Goddess Lakshmi [among others].”
“However, they misinterpreted the references as my thoughts, which is wrong,” the professor said.
Apart from the fact that the FIR was filed under orders of the Rajasthan higher education minister Kalicharan Saraf following representation from right wing organisations ABVP and RSS, what is conspicuous is the total silence of the academics, philosophers and the Indian council of Philosophical Research which has not seen fit to even issue a note of protest or concern.