OPEN LETTER TO THE PROVOST OF UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
URGENT FOR YOUR PROMPT PERUSAL
URGENT FOR YOUR PROMPT PERUSAL
This may be of interest to you. This is not spam and is presented to you for serious attention and contemplation as this episode reflects University of Chicago can be viewed as an inadvertent accessory in this ani-Hindu and anti-India endeavor and some day will go down in the history as nurturing and supporting such efforts.
On Saturday, March 22, 2014 1:31 AM, Shree Vinekar <>wrote to leaders of AAS.planning to invite Wendy Doniger as their keynote speaker.Dear Brothers and Sisters:You are all academicians and I address you respectfully as a fellow academician, a retired Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, who has authentic knowledge of Hinduism and also of Freudian Psychoanalysis. I have served on IRB for more than 12 years.Utmost respect for fellow human beings and their religious sentiments is expected in conducting any research on human subjects and also that extends to addressingresearch on any specific "other" populations.I have thoroughly read Wendy Doniger's book, "Hindus : An Alternative History" and written a long article objectively analyzing her thesis.What I would like to bring to your attention is that if her work deserves to be considered to have academic excellence, it needs to have endorsement from Hinduism experts who are practicing Hindus and who are also scholars and academicians in their own right. I have not seen one such who has thoroughly read her work coming to her rescue.Likewise, as she claims her analysis of Hindu mind ( an innovation in itself) is based on her psychoanalytic understanding, mainly Freudian, one would expect that at least one reputable Freudian medical analyst would endorse her book as representing authentic applied Freudian psychoanalysis, its theory and practice. I have not seen any such endorsement and approval of the contents of her book by either category of experts mentioned above.(Sudhir Kakar, a lay Indian analyst of repute has come to her defense only as regards to her academic freedom but his endorsement has no reflection of his reading the contents of her book in any depth. He was analyzed by a lay analyst and with all due respect lacks the medical background and clinical research background to assess issues related to ethics in research and communicating the research findings to the human subjects and "other" populations.)Given the above facts, her harping on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech are smokescreens and mirrors to distract the attention from the real issues pertaining to hersloppy understanding and treatment of the subject matter, and her hateful attitude towards the population which she claims to study. This makes her dishonest in my opinion.Most of you like myself hold the American values as dear to us and myself included with almost all Hindus (Hindus as a culture encourages freedom of thought and expression) value freedom of speech and academic freedom. However, Wendy is barking up the wrong tree.She is covering up the infuriating insults to a culture she assaults and attacks with sarcasm under the rationalization of freedom of expression and denigrates the culture in a demeaning pejorative manner almost on every page by pleading academic freedom.Freedom and liberty have some concomitant decency expected in all cultures, and civilized people do not consider urinating on the flagpole and desecrating it as an exemplary behavior of the "free" and the "brave."In choosing Wendy Doniger as your keynote speaker you are losing sight of this crucial issue and are inadvertently endorsing and rewarding such base behaviors under the disguise of scholarly work. Plenty is written to show how her work is neither scholarly nor does it represent any authentic research. It comes under the category of the early writings of Adolf Hitler and his anti-semitic cronies before the holocaust, although she herself claims to have the Jewish lineage. You may be starting a new trend of reveling in anti-Hindu and anti-India tirades in the similar vein in this country by selecting Wendy Doniger as your keynote speaker.Publicly calling pejorative names to those cultures that you do not understand fully well in spite of scholarship and sincere efforts to understand is an indication of frustration and humiliation she feels, which then is converted into hostility. Misrepresenting facts, making hyperbolic statements, exaggerating half truths and distorting the original writings are not scientific academic traits but fit yellow journalistic writings. Wendy's book on Hindus falls into this category."American Pictures" were quietly censored and the photographer was deported from this country which upholds freedom of speech so dear to its society. On the other hand, Wendy's book was not banned, nor censored in India, but for four years she was given examples after examples of her shoddy scholarship. She could have agreed to revise the book. There is no blasphemy law in India as erroneously repeatedly alleged by her but inflammatory literature that can incite hostility towards the minority or majority is subject to judicial scrutiny as per a law that is on the books to be enforced as drafted by the British to keep peace in the country where multiple religions coexist. Wendy's book did not pass such scrutiny by the knowledgeable Indian judiciary and it was the decision of her publisher in the interest of good business to withdraw the book before the judicial verdict. By inviting her as the keynote speaker you are buying into her thesis that her book was simply "controversial" and not "hate speech" directed at the majority of the host country where Penguin published it and publicized it widely.Hers is not the only one that was so deemed to be inflammatory and likely to lead to public unrest, ethnic and inter-group enmity, but in the last 60 years several books have received such treatment in India. What works for the US does not work too well for India and as a sovereign country it has the right and responsibility to maintain law and order with means that its government and judiciary deem appropriate. Wendy Doniger is a poor looser and fails to admit that her book in question was not just merely "controversial" and benign in the Indian context. One cannot enjoy the freedom or exercise it even in this country to publicly demean any religion, gender, race or culture and get away with hate speech under the constitutional protection provided by the first amendment in the US Constitution. There are many examples but I will cite only a couple.Therefore, the title of her talk in your conference itself is misleading and is a reflection of compromise of integrity.If all of you as academicians divorce the academic ethics and integrity in favor of spurious academic freedom and freedom of expression, the history will reflect your ganging up against the minority Hindus in the US and one billion Hindus in this world and yours will be a repetition of the debates held in the 18th century on the topic : "Does Negro have a Soul?" Such retrogressive academic endeavor is not becoming for august academic body like yours. University of Chicago will not permit such debates now in the 21st Century under the disguise of academic freedom.I respectfully submit that you seriously consider disinviting Wendy as your keynote speaker and that should not be your defiance of the principle of free speech or academic freedom but an act of not rewarding "hate speech" dishonestly covered up as "controversial."It is not as "benign" a matter as you all know if you do the same thing to other religious groups like the Muslims, Christians, or the Jewish, etc. It is a shame that University of Chicago permits it, if not encourages it, as an academic pursuit. Even the President of Harvard could not defend himself under the principle of academic freedom after he made a disparaging comment about the fair sex. You know the history of the limitations of academic freedom in this country.More than the principles, an unintended consequence of anyone that demeans specific populations and uses derogatory generalizations like Wendy does is to incite or instigate racial and ethnic conflicts and innocent people can suffer unnecessarily. Your proceeding to go ahead with your agenda of giving Wendy Doniger a pride of place in your annual meeting will mean that you are oblivious to the consequences of the literature like hers and her ilk's. Hindu children already face harassment in schools like many Jewish children in Christian majority schools, African American children in white majority schools, and many Christian children in Jewish majority schools face when such prejudicial literature and attitudes are promulgated.May I therefore humbly request you to reconsider your decision and not build up Wendy Doniger misleadingly as a victim of Indian laws or victim of Hindus when in actuality she herself has been the most vicious aggressor and hateful attacker of Hindus with her pen. Any reasonable Hindu who reads her book will come to the same conclusion. Her readers do not need to be Hindu fundamentalists as she claims her critics are (an oxymoron for Hindus as there are no "fundamental" books for Hindus). She certainly has the freedom to write what she wants to write and has her "academic freedom" and she is not deprived of it in this country, nor in fact in India, but institutional support of her writing needs to be withdrawn just like Harvard let its President go for offending all women. You could do the same and follow the example of Harvard University which has set the precedence.Respectfully,Shree Vinekar, MD, DLFAPA, DLFAACAP, MACPsych