Caste Reverberates on TISS Campus, counter allegations against Dalit student made

Through January 2016, the campus of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai  was reverberating with slogans against Brahminwaad, and the allegedly highhandedness of the Ministry for Human Resources Development (MHRD ministry and the administration of the Hyderabad Central University administration as were and are campuses all over the country. Suddenly, in the midst of this, on January 25, 2016, posters and banners of an event by Rajiv Malhotra titled ‘Sanskrit and Sanskriti’ appeared on the main campus gate of TISS, announcing the event.
On January 26-27, 2016, students at the TISS, received an email invitation to a talk organised by ‘a group of students’ titled ‘Breaking India: Return of Colonialism inside India through Intellectual Elite’. Neither the banners nor emailed event posters mentioned the name of the organisers or the moderator for the event. No invitation was sent to the TISS faculty. This was unusual; there was no agenda for academic discussion or engagement.
On the website of Rajiv Malhotra, in the section that announced his India itinerary, he had declared that he had been invited to the TISS by the Students’ Union. This has been officially denied by the Students’ Union subsequently. The Director, has been quoted on Malhotra’s blog site as having given permission for the event to a group of students, clarifying that it was not organised by the Students’ Union.
Most of the attendees to this event reportedly consisted of outsiders. Several outsiders and uniformed policemen were posted outside the venue doors at the time of the event.
The speaker spoke at length about America and what he described as American Orientalism. He spoke of how British orientalism has been replaced by American orientalism although the period of colonialism was officially over. The speaker did not allude to any Indian context of his theory, or his latest book titled ‘The Battle for Sanskrit’ or about Indian philosophy.
At the end of the lecture, several students raised their hands to ask questions. One of these raised the issue of plagiarism having been proved against the speaker. The lengthy response to the plagiarism issue (by the speaker) included justification: his wanting to keep intact his good relationship with his publisher, the mention of the plagiarised author 32 times in the text instead of 35 as should have been done and the inadvertent disappearance (of the author’s name) while formatting/cut-pasting pages of his book before he sent it to the publisher. This was on January 29, 2016.
On January 30, 2016, around 3 am, TISS faculty received a mail from a Dalit student forwarded by a faculty member at TISS, with the accusation that participants from outside who were present at Rajiv Malhotra’s event passed casteist remarks to the effect that his way of questioning was clearly that of a lower caste (SC). The student sought intervention from both the faculty of TISS  and its administration.

 Source: From Rajiv Malhotra's Facebook Page, India Intinerary

In this letter, the Dalit student has drawn attention to the allegedly false complaint of molestation being made against him. In this communication, the student states that on the day of the talk by Rajiv Malhotra , that is on January 29, 2016, an incident took place during the talk organised by the few students at Old Conference hall, main campus Mumbai. Dr. Rajiv Malhotra, a self-acclaimed right wing writer, delivered a talk on the topic "Breaking India: Return of colonialism inside India trough Indian Intellectual Elite". The majority audience (of the audience) were from outside, few of the TISS students also attended the talk. The student in question also attended with a few of his friends.

During the talk he (the Dalit student) had some questions. When he asked the question a lady sitting beside him allegedly asked. “Why you are asking questions with such energy.” The student  didn't pay much attention to her. Then she asked, "What is your caste? You must belong to lower castes (SC)".  Still he states that he didn't say anything to this lady and moved further and started asking his question. Then she started shouting at him saying that "You lower caste people are bull-shit who always shout, you do not have manners of how to behave in academics' spaces".
After that, allegedly when the students were walking away from the hall, one of the other students asked that lady, “Why were you shouting and asking about the student’s caste?” She did not reply to that. Then our students started shouting slogans, “RSS go back.”  This was due to the ongoing controversies and the organisers attitude within the hall. Soon after that, the RSS workers who had participated (from outside TISS) started shouting slogans of “RSS Jindabad! RSS Jindabad!” Again some students responded, “RSS go back.”

During this entire exchange, one of the students from the organising team was taking a video of and another student asked that boy to stop taking same. At the time, the Dalit student in question was standing there. Thereafter the Dalit student (name with-held) learned that a girl named from the Women Centre Social Work TISS Mumbai has filed a complaint in the Trombay Police Station under section 354 alleging molestation against the Dalit boy.

The Dalit student has stated in this communication that he does not even know that girl, had never spoken to her, nor had any interaction. During the sloganeering and counter slogans, he had not seen her there.

Meanwhile, the social media pages maintained by Rajiv Malhotra and his supporters have accused the Dalit TISS student of manhandling a fellow TISS student during the event. Refuting these charges the Dalit student has tried to draw the attention of the TISS faculty and administration to the incident of caste abuse that he had to face at the event and how a false case of molestation has been filed against him.  On Malhotra’s facebook page he says, “ Leftist goons at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) filing false complaint against student who moderated, as revenge for woman filing complaint for being manhandled.”

Background on Rajiv Malhotra:

Author of several books from 2011 to 2016, two of these have been mired in controversy. Indra’s Net: Defending Hinduism’s Philosophical Unity and Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines have drawn sharp criticisms of having plagiarised content. Andrew J.Nicholson (publisher Permanent Black) had agreed with the criticism of plagiarism and had further noted that Malhotra not only had plagiarised his book, but also "twisted the words and arguments of respectable scholars to suit his own ends." Permanent Black stated that they would welcome HarperCollins "willingness to rectify future editions".

There have been other serious academic criticisms against the author including those made by Martha Nussbaum, Jonathan Edelmann among others. But it was in May 2015 that even another Hindu-American scholar, Ananatand Rambachan took exception to Malhotra’s understanding and representation of classical Advaita. According to Rambachan, Malhotra's understanding and representation of classical Advaita is incorrect, attributing doctrines to Shankara and Swami Dayananda which are rejected by them.



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