Murty Classical Library and Sheldon Pollock

Sometime back when I had learnt about the announcement of Murty Classical Library(MCL), it was seen as great news for Indian intellectual tradition. Despite efforts of various organizations in this regard, there was still a huge gap and lot was desired to be done. I know organizations such as Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute(BORI) being on such organization. It was also delightful to see folks who have been pioneers of Indian IT industry giving back to the society in this way. It is now very well know that Rohan Murty developed interest in Sanskrit and other Indological aspects during his study days at Harvard. There are many like him who have started this journey of discovering, re-discovering India’s past, specifically in intellectual tradition. I have talked of my own association and journey in this field which started about a decade back. I have been writing on this blog on those topics.

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I am part of a Google group called Indian Intellectual Tradition which is started by Prof V N Jha sometime back while he was director at Center for Advanced Studies of Sanskrit in University of Pune. The other day I was surprised to see plethora of emails and message flooding the group message board on the topic of MCL and someone named Sheldon Pollock who was appointed as head of MCL. Members were protesting the appointment sighting background of Sheldon Pollock. I spoke to Prof Jha on this topic and also researched a bit about Sheldon Pollock. It seems that his views and approach towards Sanskit language is debatable and biased. So these members and experts were concerned about the quality and authenticity of the translations which will get produced.

Experts also have been not quite happy about the MCL being setup outside India. The logic is simple. India is a place where you will find experts in the field for which the MCL wants to work, plus it would be lot cheaper to do it here in India. As some one said, this exactly opposite of the reasons of why Indian IT industry flourished which was to bring in the cost advantage. So why not ride on that and set up the MCL here in India. We keep seeing western Indological experts getting caught into debates once in a while due to radical views, research, book they publish. Incidents involving authors such as James Laine, Wendy Doniger, are still fresh. Sheldon Pollock case seems different. Instead of opposition from some political or religious faction, the opposition is coming from research community in India. There petition filed against this which I have signed. I request you to take a look at it and consider signing it.

What Harvard educated Rohan Murty did by donating and funding a center at Harvard, is something many other Indian western educated entrepreneurs have done in the past-way of giving back to USA for their success. We see many doing same for Indian universities also, like donations by first generation Indian-American entrepreneur Kanwal Rekhi to IIT Bombay. But MCL was different case, as it involved work in the area of Indian intellectual tradition which can be naturally be done best by Indians. Not doubt, in this world of globalization, experts are available all over. The approach could have been to involve them, but under expert and head from India, with neutral and unbiased approach. As Prof V N Jha says many time, Indian intellectual tradition is characterized by inclusiveness, difference of opinion, deliberation, debates for advancement. Why not follow that when we talk of work involving preservation of the same?

 

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