Since the last few days, social media has been buzzing with the news of Dr. Makarand Paranjape, author and Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University being stopped from attending a video recording at Carleton University in Canada by Dr. Chinnaiah Jangam, Assistant Professor at the university. The news was originally carried as a Press Release by Overseas Friends Of India, Canada. A Twitter account in the name of OFI, Canada was created in May and this Press Release and Prof Paranjape’s talk were tweeted from this account. Dr. Paranjape also wrote an open letter to the President and Vice-Chancellor of the Carleton University about the incident. The news of Dr Paranjape’s recording being cancelled at the last minute “at the instigation of Assistant Professor Chinnaiah Jangam who aggressively bullied the university authorities” was also carried in Swarajya magazine.
“I found his letter (to the president) as well as the statement released by ‘Overseas Friends of India’ completely untrue and misrepresentative of what actually happened”, said Dr Jangam in an email to Alt News. “Since the last couple of days, Dr Paranjape and the belligerent Hindu right-wing websites have been carrying out a malicious campaign against me. I was contacted by many people to put forward my side of the story. I have written down what exactly happened that day and also the reasons behind my concerns about Dr Paranjape”, said Dr Jangam.
The full text of Dr Jangam’s response is reproduced below.
Are you Stating Facts, Dr. Makarand Paranjape?
Chinnaiah Jangam, Department of History
Swarajya: Read India Right, a Hindu right-wing news website, published a statement issued by an Ottawa based organization Overseas Friends of India (Canada) accusing me of “stopping” Dr. Makarand Paranjape from recording and “browbeat[ing] Carleton University to cancel the event.” It might be noted that the twitter account of this organization Overseas Friends of India (Canada) was launched on May 6, 2017, seemingly with the intention of publishing this statement and publicize this issue. Dr. Paranjape also wrote an open letter to Carleton University president, Dr. Roseann Runte complaining against me and claiming that he and his host, Dr. Harsha Dehejia, a medical doctor and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Religion at Carleton University, were bullied by me. First, let me make it clear that I did not even have a word with Dr. Paranjape and his accusation of bullying is a complete lie. Here are the facts that I would like to elaborate not only to correct the false accusations against me, but also to expose his dishonesty.
Dr. Paranjape tweets every day about his tours, writings and lectures. He has been on an overseas tour on the invitation of the organization “Indic Book Club” and has been publicizing his talks regularly on Twitter. On May 2, 2017, he tweeted “Next stop: Carleton U, with Dr. Harsha Dehejia (with a picture of Dehejia), speaking on “Drishti: Is there an Indian Way of Seeing,” to be recorded for CU TV.” This recording was nowhere announced officially on Carleton University website and I called Carleton University Television Studio (Media Production Centre) officials on May 3, morning to find out about it. The Supervisor, Lisa Lunge-Faubert confirmed that the recording was scheduled for 1:30 pm on the same day. I asked her whether she knows anything about the guest who would come to the studio. She said the host Dr. Dehejia did not even give the name of the person he was bringing in, and she had no information about him, nor of the course for which the recording was to take place. I told her that it was Dr. Paranjape from India and he had already tweeted about the scheduled recording. Lisa was surprised to hear that the information about the recording being tweeted as it was not a public event, nor was it an official invitation from Carleton as the tweet seemed to suggest. I also informed her that Paranjape is a controversial Hindu right ideologue who uses his academic affiliations and institutional relations to promote Hindu right ideology. I told her I was a faculty member in the Department of History and teach Indian history and that I follow the developments in India keenly. I informed her that the invited guest to the studio does not stand for the Canadian values especially Carleton’s values of inclusiveness, tolerance and diversity. Moreover, I also said that if it was an openly publicized talk, I would not have any concerns, and would have publicly brought forth my objections (as was done during the talks he had given in the UK and US in the past several days). But as a faculty in the institution, I do not support the secretive use of our campus name and legitimacy to promote this recording as an achievement of his political campaigns on social media.
Lisa wanted evidence to substantiate my claims and I took print-outs of the tweets and writings of Dr. Paranjape and showed her. Lisa was disturbed with the revelations and took me to her director. I again explained my position to him too. However, they both told me they cannot cancel the recording. I told them that it was not my intention to cancel either but I was there to inform them about the speaker and to voice my concerns about the speaker and the nature of the event. They told me that I should speak to the host Dr. Dehejia. They asked me to wait and speak to him directly.
As I was still in conversation with Lisa and the director, Dr. Dehejia, along with his wife and Dr. Paranjape arrived. The studio administrator Lisa took me to Dr. Dehejia and I greeted him. Lisa told Dr. Dehejia that I have some concerns about the invited guest. She took me and Dr. Dehejia to a board room. We sat together and I calmly explained to Dr. Dehejia about the politics and writings of Dr. Paranjape in the last one year and showed him his tweets and writings. Dr. Dehejia expressed ignorance about the politics of Paranjape and he questioned me in what capacity I was speaking to him? I told I was there as a colleague and as a specialist on Indian history. I explained to him how the Hindu right majoritarian supremacist politics in India was fomenting violence against Muslims and Dalits. I also reminded him that Canada and Carleton University do not stand for the kind of divisive politics espoused by RSS and we should not provide any semblance of legitimacy to them as responsible academics.
Dr. Dehejia said Dr. Paranjape is a well-known academic and published extensively and he would become the director of Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla soon. I agreed that he is an academic who has published extensively — I do not dispute it. However, the politics he espouses and endorses now are not good for any society. Especially, in the last one year Dr. Paranjape has been writing against the affirmative action for Dalits (untouchables in India) and his open espousal of RSS ideology and his endorsement of anti-Muslim and anti-Dalit ideas and violence were serious concerns for me (See the link below to the recent indictment of Indian government by UN Human Rights Panel). I told him I was not against Paranjape’s visit to campus and if it was an open lecture I myself would have attended and asked questions. But I do not support this secretive claim of legitimacy and would like to register my protest.
At no point did I ask him to cancel the recording. Dr. Dehejia himself said that “[he] was in a fix and he did not know how to convey this message to Dr. Paranjape” He asked me if he could tell Dr. Paranjape that the event was cancelled because of my objections. I told him that I did not ask to cancel the event but I did have objections against the misuse of the Carleton’s name and academic legitimacy. Only when he asked me what I would do in his situation, I said that if I were in his situation, I would cancel it. However, most importantly, I also told him if he wanted to record Dr. Paranjape despite my concerns, he should go ahead – it was not in my position to stop him. At that point, Dr. Dehejia said “as a member of Carleton University, [he] stands by the values of liberal and tolerant society”, and would go and convey this to Dr. Paranjape. Throughout the conversation, Lisa was present. In the end, we shook hands and left. Therefore, the allegations of brow-beating, hurling abuses, and forcibly stopping Dr. Paranjape from recording, are all lies.
The statement of Overseas Friends of India, and Dr. Paranjape’s assertion (in his open letter and again in his incessant twitter posts) that he and his host were bullied, is part of a malicious campaign against me with manufactured lies. (The fact that Dr. Dehejia, after claiming to stand by the liberal and tolerant values, in front of me and the recording studio official, went ahead to hastily organize a talk by Dr. Paranjape in a restaurant following this incident, also demonstrates dishonesty.)
While I am very familiar with the false Hindu right propaganda, I did not expect a university professor who claims to be an intellectual, to be so dishonest even in a foreign land. I demand Dr. Paranjape to tender an unconditional apology for the lies and distortion of facts, as well as for instigating other fellow right-wingers to publish unsubstantiated, slanderous articles about me in rightist websites – articles that Dr. Paranjape is re-tweeting and spreading around.
Also see below a paragraph elaborating my concerns (with evidences) about Dr. Paranjape’s alignment with organizational values that foment violence, hatred and divisiveness. These values are contrary to any institution which stands for liberal values and strives for a tolerant and diverse society without any discrimination based on race, religion, caste, gender and ideological preferences.
The Overseas Friends of India represents privileged upper-caste Hindus (note that their twitter page — https://twitter.com/oficanada — cover photo is that of a Hindu temple as they are part of the current majoritarian politics that conflates Indian identity with majoritarian Hindu identity, thereby marginalizing the Muslims, lower castes, and other minority communities) who benefit from Canadian values of liberalism and diversity but openly back Hindu fundamentalist organizations in India claiming to represent their culture and civilization.
My Concerns about Dr. Paranjape
It is true that I am acquainted with Dr. Paranjape’s prolific writings and scholarship and briefly interacted with him when he was in Carleton in 2015, even if we do not agree on several fronts.
However, since the last one year or so, he has aligned himself more openly than ever before, with the Hindu nationalist right-wing politics in India, especially with the RSS. He is seen as one of their primarily intellectual spokespersons and has publicly articulated against Muslims, against affirmative action for Dalits, against student resistance (including in the institution he teaches in, JNU, which also happens to be my alma mater). He has been an apologist for right-wing politicians and spokesperson of the government which has been violating human rights with impunity in the past few years. Find here news on the UNHCR report from last week. It is no wonder that he has been chosen to lead the Institute of Advanced Studies in Shimla, a plum post as Dr. Dehejia reminded me on May 3. Please see this article on how he was also shortlisted, among few other RSS-backed candidates, as a potential VC of Nalanda University last year. Also this article from last month about his participation in a closed-door RSS seminar, attended by none other than the RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat, underlines his proximity to the offices of highest power within the far-right RSS.
In this article Paranjape denounces secularism, says India is ‘not a secular country’ (which is unconstitutional!) and calls for taking India back to its ‘moorings after a secular interlude’! Even in his book The Afterlife of Gandhi on the assassination of Gandhi by an RSS activist, he says the accusation towards the RSS is ‘best described as political’ and in his discussion on medieval Indian history Paranjape says, ‘Muslims should realise and admit the wrongs perpetrated under the Islamic rule.” He continues, “Nothing of the sort has, of course happened. There is no Indian equivalent of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa, which helped to heal the wounds of apartheid after the collapse of the latter. Such a process has never happened between Hindus and Muslims in India.”
With the political power in the hands of BJP in the centre along with several key states in India, the RSS, its ideological mentor, is playing an unprecedentedly decisive role in governance and social policies. From cow vigilantism to demonization of and violence against Muslims and Dalits, they have been undermining the secular traditions of India and conflating Indian nationalism with a dangerous version of majoritarian Hindu politics.
Their regressive ideas about society and social engineering that is persisting even today is also apparent in this recent issue. Please also see this article which exposes the right-wing priest-politician and his views on Christians and women — a politician who Dr. Paranjape praises in the article quoted before.
In short, the regressive, undemocratic, non-secular values of the RSS, an organization with which Dr. Paranjape has clearly aligned himself, are against the basic Canadian values of equality, secularism, and humanism. It is with that conviction I went to ask Dr. Dehejia before the recording, if he was acquainted with Dr. Paranjape’s recent political leanings, and to register my objections — not with the objective of stifling his voice.
Links to related Twitter Feeds and Articles (As provided by Dr. Jangam in his response)
- https://twitter.com/MakrandParanspe/status/856545092852699138 (Martial Law in Kashmir).
- https://twitter.com/MakrandParanspe/status/856461034248437760 (Anti-South India/ Dravidians and Muslims as anti-Indians).
- https://twitter.com/MakrandParanspe/status/856410139955298304 (Anti-Muslims)
- https://twitter.com/MakrandParanspe/status/855619083215282176 (Hindutva)
- https://twitter.com/MakrandParanspe/status/855285830948069377 (Anti-South Asian Academics).
- https://scroll.in/article/836506/india-must-end-its-doublespeak-on-human-rights-at-the-un (UN Human Rights Panel Indictment of India).