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Ashoka University slammed for teaching ‘anti-Hindu, anti-Brahmin’ book

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Right-wing activists & trolls have targeted Ashoka University & a professor there for teaching the graphic novel ‘Gardener in the Wasteland’.

New Delhi: Ashoka University has found itself in the crossfires of Hindu outrage.

Aparna Vaidik, an associate professor of history at the university – located in Sonipat, Haryana, just outside Delhi – is being targeted by Right-wing activists on Twitter and Facebook for teaching the graphic novel ‘Gardener in the Wasteland’ by author Srividya Natarajan in her ‘Great Books’ foundation course.

On Monday, French political writer and author François Gautier — whose Facebook cover-photo advertises his own book ‘In Defence of a Billion Hindus’— used the social media platform to call the book a “falsehood and pure anti-Hindu anti-Brahmin poison that kids are being taught at an impressionable age by teachers”.


“Unless you counter such hateful material your next generation kids will suffer a very bad fate as history as taught us,” he wrote, adding that “This is exactly what happened with the Jews of Europe & Hindus of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kashmir etc. Violent extinction.”

His post was shared over 340 times and gathered more than 500 reactions.

Also read: New JNU honorary prof Rajiv Malhotra’s CV: Charges of plagiarism & whole lot of Hindutva

Discrimination against Brahmins

This isn’t the first time that Hindu outrage has compared its plight to the treatment of Jews under Hitler’s Germany.

Soon after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was photographed with a placard that read ‘Smash Brahminical Patriarchy’ in November, author Advaita Kala’s view that “this constant hitting out against Brahmins” is comparable to “what Nazis did to Jews” was echoed by many people on social media.

Screenshots of the current text in question, which claims to be based on Indian reformer Jyotirao Phule’s 1973 seminal book ‘Gulamgiri’, were tweeted to show panels referring to 8th-century Indian theologian Adi Sankara as a “devious brahman scholar” who used “his twisted intellect to re-establish brahman domination in the 12th century”.

In the comment sections of Gautier’s post, user Amrita Bhattacharyya called for the author Natarajan, professor Vaidik and the university administration to “immediately be charged with sedition for spreading hatred against a particular community”.

Another user named Girish Venkataramanan asked for Natarajan to be arrested.

Apart from the hurt caused to Hindu sentiment, Twitter and Facebook users also pointed towards historical inaccuracies in the text, least of which is the incorrect century of Adi Sankara’s lifetime.

On 10 December, the same day, a tweet by Twitter handle @AhmAsmiYodha condemning Vaidik and the university was retweeted by Swarajyacolumnist Shefali Vaidya — who has 291 thousand followers on Twitter.

The posts, which shared the professor and the Ashoka University chancellor’s email ID, resulted in Vaidik and the university administration “getting so much hate mail, that she had to temporally deactivate her email ID”, Young India Fellow from the batch of 2018, Surya Harikrishnan told ThePrint.

Students battle social media trolls

In response to Vaidya’s endorsement of the criticism on Twitter, at least 20 Ashoka University students have emailed her asking her to ‘Get Well Soon Shef’.

The email campaign, as first suggested by third-year student Sparsh Agarwal on a private Facebook group of undergraduate students, took inspiration from the Gandhigiri style of protest as shown in the movie Lage Raho Munnabhai.

“If the ultimate end is to attract BJP and RSS supporters for dialogue, then anger is not going to be a good tool to engage with them. Instead of retaliating with hate and abuse, we wanted to show her that ‘When you go low, we go high,’ Agarwal told ThePrint.

ThePrint has reached Shefali Vaidya for comment. This report will be updated when she responds.

Further, students like Harikrishnan and Agarwal also took to Twitter to reply to individual comments.

Harikrishnan said that he was forced to report a tweet after it threatened him with physical violence. In an email sent to the former Ashoka student, Twitter removed a tweet by @haggsqaut that said the “Only solution to fools like you is a one on one fight till the end.”

For Varnika Gangavalli, a first-year student of Vaidik, “The Great Books course was about historical oppression, and it altered my worldview in a significant, yet nuanced way.”

“But I can’t say that we were being indoctrinated,” she added.

Also read: Diktat for teachers at central universities like JNU & DU: Can’t criticise govt

‘Freedom of academic thought’

Not every student, however, can say that with the same certainty. 

Second-year student Aditya Agarwal told ThePrint that he is someone “who proudly believes in the ideology of Hinduism,” and on reading the book “certain things shifted the balance”.

People who firmly believe in Hinduism and Adi Sankara are going to get triggered,” he said, adding that “While it depends on the person reading the book, I believe a student will form an idea instead of actually engaging critical thinking about the subject.”

In an official statement to ThePrint, Ashoka University maintained that the “The university faculty are free to use a diverse range of materials to catalyze thinking.”

“It is the hallmark of a mature education that students confront a diversity of arguments, including some uncomfortable ones. The university aims to ensure that students are equipped to think critically about issues and form their own views. Ashoka University is committed to freedom of academic thought, without bias of any kind,” the statement said.

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    • They will kill and burn those who criticise islam. What happened to Kerala teacher? Hands chopped. What happened to journos of Charlie hebdo france? As hindus r soft, abuse hinduism.

      • Brahmin had done more killing in physical and mental to Dalits then any other in this world( I think more then Stalin and hitler combined) . Isis peoples don’t have brain so they come out in main stream more but Brahmin used their brain to Manipulate which peoples don’t see in open world because many peoples don’t understand anything how and when on based level

  1. Every Indian should read this report by the British way back in 1835, before they created a false propaganda of severe caste-divide with their colonial agenda:
    Our universities should teach us this too, but the left-liberals thrive on dividing India on caste lines, unfortunately. (Adam’s Reports on Vernacular Education in Bengal and Behar (Calcutta, 1868)
    It says:
    In Medical Science, the share of the Brahmin scholars was only 31 out of a total of 190. The rest belonged to the Shudras and “other castes”.”
    W. Adam’s Report of 1835 commissioned by the East India Company and a mammoth survey conducted over the entire region of India with focus on Bengal and Bihar.
    This, with another one in 1868, throw light on the myth that British “got” us education and education was only available to “upper caste men” in medieval India.
    The report clearly states that education was very universal with high rates of primary education and was available to all castes and women before the British destroyed it, with their own colonial agenda and created a false propaganda of severe caste-divide.

    Before they started writing atrocity literature to change narrative and impose their system here is what they had to say after conducting the largest ever formal scientific survey “In the five districts he investigated, the total number of Hindu students was 22,957. Out of these 5,744 were Brahmins, or about 25%. Kayasthas were about 12%. Students belonging to 95 castes find representation in his Report. It includes 66 Chandals, 20 Muchis, 84 Doms, 102 Kahars, and 615 Kurmis. There were 100,000 indigenous elementary schools, or one school for every 31 or 32 boys of school-going age, as the author calculated.”

    The Madras Report which was the most comprehensive showed that there were 12,498 schools containing 188,650 scholars. During the same period, schools of a similar nature were found scattered throughout the Bombay Presidency too. Leitner found that 8000 pupils still received their education in the indigenous schools of Punjab inspite of “the 26 years of repressive education of the Educational Department”,

    Certain regions like Malabar and Joypoor in Vizagapatam made a better showing then other areas. In these regions, we also find that the Shudras did better in the matter of female education than the upper class Hindus including the Brahmins. In the Punjab, according to Leitner, “female education is to be met in all parts”. According to him, the Punjabi woman has not only been “always more or less educated herself, but she has been an educator of others”. He tells us that even before the annexation of the Punjab, six public schools for girls in Delhi were kept by Punjabi women.

    There is a popular notion that education in India was monopolized by the Brahmins; but the data destroys this myth completely. But the data reveals a different story. It tells us that out of the total number of 175,089 students, both male and female, elementary and advanced, only 42,502 were Brahmins (24.25%); 19,669 were Vaishya students (about 11%); but 85,400 were Shudras (about 48.8%); and still 27.516 more were “all other castes”, meaning castes even lower than the Shudras including the pariahs (15.7%). Thus the higher castes were only about 35% and the Shudras and other castes were about 65% of the total Hindu students. If we also include the Muslims who were about 7% of the total Hindu and Muslim students, then the share of the Brahmins was even less.

    We have a table showing the caste-wise division of all male school students, both in absolute numbers and in percentage, of all the 20 districts of Madras Presidency. The data shows that the share of the Brahmins in certain areas was indeed very low. For example, in Seringapatam, it was only 7.83% in Madura 8.67%; in North Arcot, Brahmin boys were 9.57%, while the Shudras and “other castes” were 84.46%.

    Even in higher learning, non-Brahmins were not unrepresented. In Malabar, out of 1,588 scholars of Theology, Law, Astronomy, Metaphysics, Ethics and Medical Science, only 639 were Brahmins, 23 Vaishyas, 254 Shudras and 672 “other castes”. Only in the Vedas and Theology did the Brahmins have a near-monopoly, as the Shudras and the “other castes” had in other branches of advanced learning like Astronomy and Medical Science. In Astronomy, out of a total of 806 scholars, Brahmins were only 78, Vaishyas 23, Shudras 195, and other lower castes 510. In Medical Science, the share of the Brahmin scholars was only 31 out of a total of 190. The rest belonged to the Shudras and “other castes”.
    According to the Survey of Indigenous Education in the Province of Bombay (1820-1830), Brahmins constituted only 30% of the total scholars in that province.

  2. While students should be exposed to different points of view, putting out a book with historical inaccuracies is misleading because then you are promoting an inaccuracy.
    Let the students learn about caste oppression. But let them also know about the great scholarship that India has had, Adi Shankara being one of them.
    If they do this, then their stand is vindicated.
    Well . . . I do wonder though!

  3. Just a short response to your small comment. Why does the university in the first place introduce a book that portrays information incorrectly? Where is their due diligence? Is the university so stupid that they will prescribe anything without worrying about the accuracy of its contents? Whether the students are matured or not and whether they would be influenced by this nonsense is another matter.

  4. Just a small comment to put things in perspective. These “impressionable” kids are of legal voting age.
    Ashoka university isn’t a kindergarten. If you are mature enough to vote, I guess you are mature enough to not get carried away by a comic.

    • Just a short response to your small comment. Why does the university in the first place introduce a book that portrays information incorrectly? Where is their due diligence? Is the university so stupid that they will prescribe anything without worrying about the accuracy of its contents? Whether the students are matured or not and whether they would be influenced by this nonsense is another matter.

        • Hey cynicalStoic Jackass,
          If you have something sensible to say or maybe have some answers to the points raised, say it.
          The types of you neither posses any IQ nor the ego that will prepare you for any debate.
          Don’t embarrass yourself with these stupid one-liners.

    • Since its a liberal arts college why not also teach Islam Unveiled book. I m sure they are mature enough to know the meaning of Jihad. It won’t make them Islamophobic.

    • Why do the left and left-leaning educational institutions always keep fanning hatred towards and target Hinduism alone by spinning false narratives? Can they publish a report on what other books they have introduced that critique other religions as well? What would your reaction be if someone writes a comic book on how kids are beaten up at Madrasas and how women are ill-treated under Sharia / Nikka halala and there is an uproar about it? First of all, will there ever be an uproar about it by these leftists and pseudo secularists? These are real stuff happening in Islam. The book under question written by Srividya Natarajan portrays incorrect information. I think you need to develop a better appreciation of the problem on hand.

  5. One more reason that I am glad that my son has applied to Ashoka University. All points of view are important. If something makes one uncomfortable, then we need to introspect and see which of our insecurities is threatened by that view.
    I am neither pro, nor anti Brahmin. Although I abhor the whole care system. But there are certainly oppressive practises that need to be questioned, and called out.
    We don’t pick what we are born into, but we are certainly answerable to what we do with it.

    • Agree Madam,But the source & content should be authentic.The fact about adi-shankaracharya is historicaly incorrect.

  6. This country can progress only if Brahmins are driven out of this country like the Dravidian movement did in Tamil Nadu.

  7. I am disconcerted by the fact that an anti-Hindu book is causing such an uproar, particularly in an environment that is blatantly espousing Hindutva. I may not agree with what the book espouses, but it’s a counter viewpoint that needs to be addressed, not at an emotional level, but with acceptable, well-researched and comprehensive retorts. In a democracy, it’s important to state all viewpoints. We need to develop thicker skins if we wish to become a true secular country. We comprise many religions and must make this our strength. Discourse on issues such as these should help us become more tolerant and not weaken the diverse fabric of our country.

    • Counter viewpoints must be respected,but it should be authentic.The facts about adi-shankaracharya is historicaly incorrect.Rational thinking doesn’t mean to teach fake narratives.Its very important that the books must contain factually correct stuffs.But trolling is not the solution rather engage with the university to bring out the truth.Just imagine if somebody teaches how Prophet Mohammad was violent & cruel while destroying the pagan culture of Arab…would it have been acceptable?

      • Couldn’t agree more. Spinning false narratives to influence one’s thoughts and beliefs is unacceptable. None of the stuff in the book is accurate. Everything is completely made up by the author. It is filled with hate and the book must be taken down both from the university as well as circulation. Books presribed in universties, schools and colleges should first be vetted for historical accuracies. The objective of this book is to create a civil disorder within the nation which would suit the left-leaning agenda. Young and gullible minds are being influenced by this nonsense. Making the students read different viewpoints about something is one thing. But one cannot distort history and then say that it is an opinion and therefore acceptable. For instance, you simply cannot demonize Adi Shankara and that say that it is an opinion. The author conveniently sits in Canada and makes money by writing and selling books that spreading hatred. The objective no doubt ( as seen from one of the other commenters in this forum) is to kindle a discussion and start a war to drive out Brahmins. This must be stopped. The Govt. and courts must intervene.

    • First of all, stop thinking that all Hindus understand and want Hindutva. Majority of the Hindus don’t even care about Hindutva. This issue is not at all about Hindutva or the so-called saffron brigade taking an issue with what’s happening. We are just Hindus who are upset by what this author has published and the university prescribing such a book. Why do you feel that an anti-Hindu book spreading canards and spewing hatred should not cause an uproar? Would anyone be quiet when someone insults their mother? Would Muslims and be quiet if there is a book saying something about the prophet or the Bukhari? None of these social keyboard warriors came to the forefront demanding rights to critique Islam or the Bukhari or the prophet or when there was a certain drawing that came out insulting the prophet. When people in a media organization in France were murdered for publishing the drawing in their magazine, these left-leaning pseudo secularists did not write a darn thing about it. Why then do you guys think it is OK for someone to write nonsense about Adi-Shankara and feel that it should be acceptable by the masses? Why can’t the university in question come out with a clear report on what other books have been prescribed as part of the same course that espouses how women are to be treated according to the Bukhari or women’s rights in as stated in the Bible? I think they should do that before the kids start trolling people who question this hideous act in Francois Gautier’s facebook page. In the absence of none of the supporting points, promoting the use of the book (piece of crap ) will NOT be considered acceptable.

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