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Are Brahmin Women Of India Really Taught They Are Better Than Everybody?

Author: Avatans Kumar
Publication: Indiacurrents.com
Date: May 12, 2022
URL:      https://indiacurrents.com/why-is-upenn-professor-amy-waxs-anti-india-rant-making-the-airwaves/?s=03

UPenn Professor Amy Wax’s anti-Indian rants make the airwaves

When UPenn Professor Amy Wax found an opportunity to indulge in her racist and Hinduphobic opinions on an episode of Fox Nation, host Tucker Carlson did nothing to challenge her remarks. Instead, he remained a willing participant.

Among other denigrating comments, Wax called India a “shithole” country. She  went on to claim that “the role of envy and shame in the way the third world [sic] regards the first world […] creates ingratitude of the most monstrous kind.” She also said that ‘Brahmin women’ of India are taught that they are better than everybody.

Wax, the Robert Mundheim Professor of Law at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania  Law School,  is no stranger to controversies. In a 2018 podcast, Wax reportedly claimed that she had never seen a black student graduate in the top quarter of the class and rarely in the top half. Wax said that the US was “better off” with “fewer Asians” on another podcast.

Earlier this year, UPenn’s Ted Ruger, Dean of the Carey Law School, announced that he would initiate a peer review process against Wax. The “review” could result in a reprimand, suspension, or termination of employment.

India is only about Caste, Cows and Curry

One can assume at least theoretically, that Wax’s outburst against India had roots in her education, interactions with people on campus, and her exposure to India via media. To some Americans, India is only about “caste, cows, and curry,” to steal a phrase from one of Jeffery Long’s talks.

It’s no secret that the perception of India in Western culture, texts, and traditions is at odds with the ground reality. The overriding Orientalist and colonial discourse about India fosters a dubious and distorted “outsider” narrative at the cost of an authentic insider one. This perspective has permeated deep into the Western consciousness and manifests in academic and popular presentations.

From grade school textbooks to popular bestsellers and academic writings, information about India burgeons with biased inaccuracies.  In California’s school textbooks, the chapter on Hinduism for example, had a picture of cows eating trash. A discussion on the Mauryas, one of the world’s greatest dynasties, pictured laborers working alongside monkeys.

Indian-Americans have fought hard to rid the textbooks of these distortions.

South Asia (SA) centers and the departments of Indology worldwide have produced an enormous amount of India-related literature. But few do justice to presenting India truthfully. In the US they view India as  “populous but poor, largely democratic but politically fragile” (Nicholas B Dirks, Chancellor, University of California, Berkeley.)

Blame ‘Atrocity Literature’ for distorted views of India

Independent researcher Rajiv Malhotra condemns much academic writing on India as “atrocity literature” that shows the target non-Western culture committing horrors on its own people, and hence “in need of Western intervention.” Understanding of the Devi-Devatas has been distorted by the twisted interpretation of influential academics.

US media outlets are equally to blame. During the pandemic’s peak last year, the American press was obsessed with burning pyres of the dead Indians. This news probably got higher coverage in the media than the dead bodies in refrigerator trucks in New York. The American press often features stereotypical information about caste and cows without any nuanced understanding – see Reza Aslan’s ‘Believer’ on CNN. How much do educated Americans know about India’s contribution to science, mathematics, art, architecture, language, literature, or philosophy?

One could argue that the institutional presentation of India has shaped Wax’s understanding of the country. If so, why haven’t representative elites from the Indian diaspora – the academics, authors, artists, high profile CEOs, and media personalities – ever challenged Wax on her views?

Left -leaning ‘Rudalis’ should counter biased views on India

A significant contingent of Indian-American faculty, including those from the Indian diaspora at many prestigious US universities, are left-leaning. Ania Loomba, a liberal arts faculty at UPenn, successfully campaigned against inviting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address the Wharton India Economic Forum. Cancelling Modi’s speech was a gross violation of freedom of speech at a renowned US campus.

Some “English-educated elites” are contemptuous of India, Indian culture, Indian texts and traditions. Linguist and Indologist Kapil Kapoor calls them “Rudalis”  (professional mourners)  who constantly whine about everything. For example, Indian-American elected representatives like Ro Khanna, Pramila Jayapal, and Kshama Sawant, sometimes indulge in India-bashing. Last year, Indian-American scholars organized the “Dismantling Global Hindutva” conference, using the forum to demean Indian culture and religion. The Conference was an attempt to weaponize academic enterprise to bully and silence Hindu students and scholars.  

Whatever the source of Wax’s contempt for India, representative elites of the Indian diaspora have failed to counter her perspective with an authentic and positive image of India.

And that means we everyday folks have our work cut out for us.


-Avatans Kumar is a columnist, public speaker, and activist. A JNU, New Delhi, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign alumnus, Avatans holds graduate degrees in Linguistics. Avatans is a recipient of the 2021 San Francisco Press Club’s Bay Area Journalism award.

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Author: Alka Dhupkar
Publication: The Times of India
Date: May 2, 2022
URL:      https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/loudspeaker-lessons-for-india-from-a-maharashtra-village/articleshow/91259002.cms

The villagers of Barad have passed a resolution to stop the use of loudspeakers

Barad shows that strong-arm tactics are not needed to curb noise pollution; a simple matter of sitting across a table and discussing can do wonders

Barad is a biggish village in Nanded district of Maharashtra with a population of around 15,000. It is roughly 20km from Nanded city. Over time, the village has prospered and places of worship, among other buildings, have been renovated.

The village has 15 religious places — 12 Hindu temples and a place of worship each for Buddhist, Jain and Muslim communities. In some neighbourhoods, these religious places are in close proximity. No problem there.

It was only when these places started using loudspeakers to broadcast sermons, aartis and bhajans that the problem started. It became a veritable Tower of Babel — all noise and confusion.

“Since five in the morning, we used to play songs. In some places, one couldn’t hear the other’s songs or for that matter what was played in our temple,” says Suresh Deshmukh, a trustee of the local Hanuman temple.

For days on end, farmer Sharad Kawle’s 80-year-old grandmother couldn’t get a peaceful night’s sleep because of the rampant use of loudspeakers in the village.

But all this is in the past now. In charged times like these, Barad stands out as a model of communal harmony. Back in 2018, the villagers unanimously decided to remove loudspeakers from all religious places.

So, what happened in 2018?

According to deputy sarpanch Balasaheb Shankarao Deshmukh, sometime in December 2017, a Ganesh temple was using loudspeakers to broadcast maha aarti and a Buddha vihar nearby was playing religious songs. This went on till late at night.

“Groups from both sides started raising voices against each other, asking that the volume be lowered. Harmony in the village was completely disturbed,” he says. “Somehow we managed to cool tempers, but the tension simmered.”

But this wasn’t the only incident. A local school kept complaining about noise pollution to the Shiva temple trust and others in their area. The students couldn’t concentrate on studies because there was a kind of competition in using loudspeakers till late night and early mornings among all the religions.

The villagers were fed up. Some of them met after the tension escalated between Buddha and Ganpati followers. During a meeting with the local police, they discussed the proposal of removing all loudspeakers.

Thereafter, the villagers held a meeting with all the religious groups separately. Everybody accepted that the use of loudspeakers was a cause for concern and social discord. The religious trusts said if it was mandatory for all religious groups then they would also stop using loudspeakers.

After the consultations, a special gram sabha was called and a unanimous resolution was passed.

The villagers agreed to use sound boxes instead of loudspeakers. The only caveat: the volume of the sound box should be maintained at a pre-mandated level so the sound does not go beyond the walls of the holy place.

The gram panchayat has already installed around 40 small sound boxes for local announcements such as deaths, vaccination or other government programmes.

After the noise, peace

Yogesh Ratnparakhi, who runs Om Sai Coaching Classes in Barad, says, “In my centre, there are around 100 students and I can’t tell you how happy we all are that the loudspeakers have finally stopped. Earlier, students would use unending noise as an excuse not to study. Now, they properly focus on studies.”

Kiran Mahajan, a trustee of Chandra Prabhu Digambar Jain temple, says, “Ours is a private temple that is open to the public. We too had installed a loudspeaker because others installed it too. But after the removal of loudspeakers, we didn’t lose any devotees. Loudspeakers actually don’t matter.”

Sharad Kawle, the farmer, says, “Many of us in this village are followers of the Varkari bhakti movement. I believe that your religious activity should not disturb others. Keep it personal, so we all supported this proposal.”

His views are echoed by Sardar Sattar Khan Pathan of Jama Masjid in Barad. “We respect festivals of all communities. The kind of communal harmony we have maintained would not have been possible with loudspeakers at each religious place in the village.”

According to Vasant Lalme, a trustee of the Shiva temple, loudspeakers are not essential for singing bhajans or kirtans. “Devotion is a very personal feeling. It can be attained without loudspeakers. We have proved it.”

Model village

Deputy sarpanch Deshmukh, however, is disappointed that his village has not been given due recognition for the innovative solution to the menace of unchecked loudspeakers. The village doesn’t encourage the use of loudspeakers even for political rallies, weddings or other celebrations.

In other ways, too, Barad can be touted as a model village. It has received state awards for cleanliness and drinking water distribution management, open defecation-free status, success of ‘tanta mukti’ yojana (a scheme to clear local disputes at the village level) and other achievements.

The village has 20 CCTV cameras, which have helped curb theft, sexual harassment and other crimes. The village has developed a proper watershed system; a dormitory near a rural hospital is a unique feature of the village. It has also built a hostel for girl students, it has a zilla parishad school, multiple anganwadis, among other facilities.

As the noise over the use of loudspeakers at religious places grows louder and various state governments are using strong-arm tactics, perhaps it is Barad’s use of consultation that stands out more than its other achievements.