Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Witzel at Madras
Sad day for the University of Madras
Seshachalam Dutta, Ph. D.
Edited and modified by Shree Vinekar
Despite the protests of several Indian scholars, controversial Sanskrit professor Witzel was received with jubilation and ceremony at Madras University and at Kuppuswami Shastri Research Institute at Madras in the usual servile Indian tradition. The behavior of the Sanskrit Scholars in these two institutions was disgraceful and betrays racial inferiority before a “white man” who simply happens to have learned Sanskrit. The very fact that he devoted his time and energy to study Sanskrit and Rig-Veda is enough to arouse awe and high regard for his achievement in an average Indian who carries an inferiority complex. Iravathan Mahadevan of Kuppuswami Shastri Inst. was reportedly instrumental in arranging the reception of Witzel. In response to protests, he vowed that he would fast unto death if the program was cancelled! Why would he commit hara-kiri or suicide over such a trivial issue? Obviously, when Iravathan visited Harvard University, Witzel helped him to publish his book on Tamil Epigraphy, so he was obliged to reciprocate the favor. It did not matter to him that this conceited Harvard Professor had openly insulted Indians in general and Hindus in particular for many years with utter contempt and disdain.
It was reported that the audience, a very slim one of less than 50, were told by Iravathan not to ask the guest speaker any questions. Police were called in by him to protect the speaker as though he was in physical danger from the scholars in the audience! What makes Witzel’s reception so odious to the scholars, as well as bizarre and undignified, was the documented history of racist and contemptuous remarks made by Professor Witzel about the Hindus, and all Indians, of their religion and culture. Furthermore, his active association with “Dalit Freedom Works” a radical evangelical group in Colorado entirely organized and funded by Evangelist Americans dedicated to conversion of Hindu Dalits has been revealed in a recent law suit filed by Hindu Parents in California.
First about the behavior of scholars at Madras:
To summon the police giving the impression that the speaker would be physically harmed is beyond anyone’s imagination. Iravathan Mahadevan reportedly told the audience that Witzel was their guest and he should be treated with respect “atithee devo bhava”; the guest is like a god. And, therefore, no one should ask him any questions. Then, a Sanskrit scholar and a functionary of the institute, Shankaranarayana read a poem attributed to eulogize Max Muller with a slight modification to attribute it also to Witzel. The invocation calls Max Muller as Moksha-Moolara. Did he consider what the Mumukshu Muller said about Vedas and its religion? Swami Prakashanada Saraswati of Barsanadham of Austin, USA has investigated Max Muller’s speeches, and letters to his wife and mother, and documented his attitude towards Vedas and Hindu religion. Here are some excerpts from his recent book:
“The Vedas are twaddles of idiots and the ravings of mad men. Their downright absurdity can hardly be matched anywhere.
“The Vedas contain a great deal of what is childish and foolish.
“The Vedas are intended from the beginning for an uncivilized race of mere heathens and savages.”
On Yajnas: “Sacrifice was the natural occupation of for the Vedic savages.”
He expressed contempt for Sayana saying that the latter "made up things to cover-up the absurd, with no literary basis." There is much more, which the reader may read from Prakashananda Saraswati’s work.
The behavior of Madras Sanskrit Department was no better. The sacred precincts of the university are dedicated to the ideal noted by the dictum ‘discovery of truth and dissemination of knowledge’, facilitating free and unfettered debate. Here again police were called in to protect the slimly attended meeting, the questioner was shouted down by the members of the department acting like goons. One wonders who needed protection, the speaker or participants. The Chair closed the meeting for further questioning. The hosts forgot that the invitees were “atithees” too.
In contrasts with the professors of Madras, Witzel came out trifle better for a change. He humbly invited questions at the end of his speech in the best traditions of academia in America. The motley crowds in this case were Indians. It seems to justify Witzel's deliberation that Indians (Hindus) do not accept a debate and never are willing to change their mind when they are wrong, because of the belief that if they lose the debate, their heads would break (see Witzel's Deposition in CAPEEM case, Page 149). Notwithstanding the scene at Madras, Witzel was wrong.
Don’t we Hindus have an ancient academic tradition for free and unrestricted debates?
Bhagavat Gita admonishes not to accept anything blindly without questioning what comes from a Guru, although you respect him and serve him. “….Pariprashnena, Pranipaatena Sevayaatatvadarshanah.” The great Ramanujacharya disagreed with his guru on the interpretation of the phrase in a mantra of Chandogya “Kapyasam pundareekam”. Also, Adi Shankara begged for Vada Bhiksha to debate with the famous Buddhist Scholar, reportedly, Mandana Mishra. In the assembly of scholars no one is greater than others; there is indeed academic equality. That is expressed in the invocating mantra of Kathopanishad: "Sahana-avatu…….maa vidvishaavahai.” Let there be no jealousy or enmity among us.
The caricature of present day Hindus and the Vedic literature by Witzel is no less uncharitable than that by Max Muller. This is well documented in the deposition Witzel was compelled to give in the lawsuit filed for his role in making demeaning and insensitive additions to textbook revisions that he incorporated in California elementary school textbooks relative to the social customs of Hindus and their religion. A few examples cited below will suffice.
He calls Hindus of North America—“HINA”- knowing fully well what the word HINA stands for, lowly, lost and abandoned; he calls the “NRI”s… “Non Returning Indians,” “building temples and conducting Sunday religious classes. They send their girls to learn Indian Classic dance—an occupation of prostitutes in India.” (I wonder what the Sanskrit scholars in Madras think of this, if any of their daughters were learning Bharata Natyam.) Then he goes on to say that Hindus “cling to their hoary past” (Deposition pp-139-148}
Attorney Balasubramaniam was questioning him on these broad generalizations:
Attorney: Did you conduct a survey in North American to reach such conclusions?
Answer: No, I did not; I am not a social scientist.
Q: On what do you base your conclusions ….?
Answer: This is based on my personal impressions, or the expression of Hindus in North America, blogs newspapers, et cetera.
California education official, Tom Adams asked him to identify some Indian scholars in India to help in the revision of California text book contents relative to Hindus. Witzel identified for him two including one Trilok Pandey, a faculty member in the University of California. He wrote in correspondence with Adam that “Pandey, from his name is a Brahmin from UP and UP Brahmins can be proud and empty.”(Page 96 of his deposition).
Attorney: What is the basis of your statement that Pandey can be proud and empty?
Answer: I said he can be. He may not be.
(He thinks that the use of the word "CAN" will absolve him of the intended insult.)
Q: What makes you say that people of UP can be proud and empty.
Answer: I said they CAN be, they don’t have to be. I am not claiming 150 people, I said they can be. (Note: He meant to say 150 million people and he was so shaken up, he said 150!)
Q: In your e-mail you stated that Pandey has a Brahmin name, what has it to do with his scholarship?
Answer: I don’t talk of his scholarship. I talk of his background.
(What is the background of having a Brahmin name to do with his suggestion to select him for his team of consultants or is it that he wanted an "empty" Brahmin to endorse his views or being empty not be a good adversary?)
Since the reception he received in Madras was by Tamil Brahmins, what does he think of the Tamil Brahmins? Docile? Obsequious? Ready to honor him although he insulted his hosts for sending their daughters to learn "Bharata Natyam dance", "the occupation of the prostitutes?"
In this deposition he went on to defend his remarks on “OM”, revered as “Om ityekaksharam Brahman” in Bhagavat Gita, and also in Kathopanishad, as we know it also as “pranava.”
Wise Witzel says in his usual contemptuous manner, “OM is nothing but a way of calling one’s wife or a goat. Also “Hym” is “hai—hey”, a way of calling one’s wife or a cow. (Page 146).”
Another jewel of his presentation at the deposition relates to his deep (!) insight into the fear of Hindus to debate.
“You have to win your argument, otherwise you might lose your head, as the Upanishad says. It is a 3000 years old tradition.”(Page149)
Witzel further went on recounting the plight of Dalits in India. He had personally “seen a Dalit servant who had to clean the toilet with her bare hands.” He saw it. Obviously according to him “it was with bare hands”, not with any broom this poor woman had to hold with bare hands to clean. He should have been asked to shut up, then and there, by the attorney and asked how dare he accuse Indians? He forgets that he lived in a country where, until, 1965, the blacks, who were called “Negroes,” were --let alone not allowed to eat at the same lunch counter-- they could not urinate in the same toilet or drink water from the same water fountain or use public restrooms used by the whites. How dare this man born in Nazi Germany accuse Indians of ill-treatment of Dalits knowing all the atrocities committed on the unwanted or rejected classes by the majority in the Europe he came from by extruding and cruelly eliminating them? What moral ground does he have to stand in judgment on other cultures he does not understand or can view in historical perspective in merely discussing what should be appropriate for presentation to school children without injuring their self respect. Would you teach all German children in elementary school what Witzel would want to hide in the real history of social evils of his father land, Germany, around the time he was born? What about the treatment of the Turks and Poles he witnessed in Germany while he was growing up?

Sad part is that this old man Witzel wasted good part of his precious life studying Sanskrit and Rig Veda: and learned nothing positive to present to the world; neither did he acquire any common sense. This reminds us of the famous saying;
Yasya nasty nija prajna, kevalam tu bahushastraah, na so janati shatraartham darvee supeparasamiva
Meaning : Whoever reads only many books (shastras - scriptures), but has no insight (prajna) of his/her own, would not grasp the meaning of scriptures, like a ladle in the soup. (The ladle in the soup turns the ingredients but would not know the taste.)
For all those who are writing letters to Harvard University President, my advice is that they need to write to the Vice-Chancellor of Madras University instead to ask him to clarify what is the concept of academic freedom in the Madras University. Is it acceptable behavior to muzzle the critics in a scholarly forum? Harvard has made its policy clear: Witzel can say whatever he wants at Harvard like a garrulous alcoholic because he has academic freedom — but that does not mean that he can get away with it in India and that too in Madras where there are real Sanskrit scholars who can see through his pretenses, see the holes in his knowledge of Sanskrit, leave alone accept his fraudulent touting himself as a “research scientist” without any training in Science or scientific methodology or experience in scientific research, emerging purely from humanities background.

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