Sunday, July 7, 2013

Stalked by a "John Hopkins"

(Browsing through my extant articles in the computer, I ran into an unpublished testimony I jotted down in early May 2006. The Ayub Khan referred to as criticizing me has been answered in a chapter of my book The Problem with Secularism, Delhi 2007. I publish it here just for archival reasons.)

In the present case, I didn’t think Ayub Khan’s hostile but predictable and inconsequential attack on me warranted the effort.  However, my hand has been forced by the intervention of a certain “John Hopkins”, also operating through a variety of other false identities.  As per the search engines, none of these have ever been associated with any intellectual project or book publication worth mentioning.  But what I did find is that he has been advertising himself as an “esoteric consultant”, “intuition trainer” and “clairvoyant” in Germany, Austria and Thailand.  I surmise that the contradiction between his money-making status as an occultist and his aspirations to be acknowledged by academics as a serious researcher explains his attempts to cover his tracks by means of pseudonyms. 

The fellow also advertises himself as a trainer of meditation teachers.  Mind you, not just a meditation expert, not just a teacher of meditation, but a teacher to aspiring teachers (i.e. experienced practitioners) of meditation.  That should conjure up the image of an accomplished yogi, dignified, cool, with a radiant peace of mind.  In the reality of our internet discussions, however, he turned out to be just the opposite: immature, chaotic, spiteful, obsessed, hyper-aggressive and simply nasty.  Maybe it really is the same person, but once sober and once on drugs.

In April-July 2005, this character made a series of appearances on the internet discussion list, distinguishing himself by a diarrhoea of insinuations, insults and nonsensical jumps in topical focus, all in unfinished sentences in ungrammatical English, and either unsigned or signed with false names. “John Hopkins” also briefly tried his luck on the academic list, where the august professors gave him the cold shoulder when he tried to derail a discussion of Indo-European origins into a political discussion of the New Right, one of his obsessions. 

His main obsession, however, was Nazism, which may be understandable in a German or Austrian, so in every corner he tried to see Nazism, a topic quite unrelated to Indian civilization.  He was extremely self-centred and held it against people as a serious ground for suspicion if they hadn’t read and approved the latest book that he himself happened to have read.  Because of his impolite and destructive conduct, he was repeatedly barred from further participation on the IndianCivilization list, but came back, twice through a new name and address, once through the address of what is probably a really existing other person, though again I can’t be sure it wasn’t yet another alias.  The latter person unsubscribed himself when the moderator asked him to come clean about his identity. 

His presence soon became a crusade against Hinduism and Hindu self-defence as well as against me personally.  On his labyrinthine website, now defunct, he posted some interesting and decent articles about European or general religious history, but when it came to India or Hinduism, he merely reproduced all the worn-out secularist hate rhetoric.  Typically, he tried to reduce colonial-age Indian religious and political phenomena (Arya Samaj reformism, organized Sanatani traditionalism, Gandhism, Hindu nationalism, etc.) to the impact of Western occult movements and secret societies like Theosophy and Freemasonry, thus combining a still-common Eurocentrism with his personal penchant for the occult. 

In the rare instances of original research, there was reason to suspect cheating.  Thus, in a purported field report from Orissa about Hindu-Christian tensions there, he made an alleged RSS spokesman say that his chief worry was Dalit assertiveness.  This is something which Christians always allege of the RSS, viz. that it’s an upper-caste movement whose animus against Christian missionaries is but a cover for the desire to keep the low castes in bondage; whereas RSS men are trained to ignore caste (when you ask their caste, they say “Hindu”), and whereas no upper-caste chauvinists, RSS or non-RSS, would ever use the intrinsically anti-Hindu neologism Dalit (which, like Adivasi or “aboriginal”, is a falsely native-sounding recent Christian coinage) nor declare himself opposed to the advancement of the lower castes.  So there we have an RSS crown witness speaking totally out of character but perfectly acting the part which the enemies of Hindu society always impute to the RSS; and this with no name or otherwise verifiable reference given.  I think it’s safe to surmise that such a “testimonony” has been made up.

It is common enough even for normal and well-meaning intellectuals to switch to the hate mode when discussing Hindu revivalism.  The reason is simply that people mainly go by the information that has been fed to them.  Life is short and there’s only so much information that you can go and check at the source, and few people care to do so in the case of a seemingly unimportant topic like Hindu politics.  Since the concert of anti-Hindu reporting is rarely interrupted by a corrective voice, you can spend a career parroting anti-Hindu “information” without even realizing that something is amiss.  But if you then do get to hear such a corrective voice, you may feel highly embarrassed for having been fooled all this time by your trusted “secularist” sources.  At that point, you can either revise your position, thus putting yourself in the despised camp of the objective reporters, routinely denounced as “Hindutva apologists”; or you can cling to the more profitable dominant camp and try to stamp out the dissident voices.  It seems that, after having encountered my criticism of the secularist make-believe discourse somewhere, John Hopkins has made his choice and reconfirmed his adherence to the anti-Hindu camp.

In a grotesque application of the “straw man” technique of argument distortion, “John Hopkins” frequently attributed political opinions or associations to me which weren’t mine.  Thus, from the fact that I had attested that Georges Dumézil’s theory of “Indo-European trifunctionality” had gained wide acceptance, against his own uninformed claim that it had been generally rejected, he somehow deduced that I share any and every position ever taken by Dumézil.  When refuted, he simply levelled yet another claim about my supposed viewpoints, then another, and yet another.  Clearly, his crusade by then was not so much against a scholarly theory or political ideology, but against my person.  Let me tell you, it’s no fun being stalked by such a deranged character.

Among his personal attacks on me, he repeatedly included the claim that my “research methodology had been discredited”, with link to the electronic version of Ayub Khan’s review of the book based on my doctoral research.  Poor John clearly wasn’t familiar with the academic procedure which yields the doctor’s title of which he himself seemed so envious.  Mutual criticism is normal between researchers, and a doctoral defence in particular typically contains fierce criticism of the promovendus’s methodology by at least one of the jury members,-- who nonetheless adds his signature to the doctoral diploma.  Outsider Hopkins himself, by contrast, considered criticism as something extremely dramatic.  His own bad conscience seemed to make him panicky at the very sight of criticism, as if it reminded him of the possibility that someone may expose his own frauds. 

In conclusion, let me say that I greatly regret the personal animosity between this multi-masked character and myself.  After all, I too have on occasion been guilty of rhetorical excesses, and the topics that interested John Hopkins are or have been topics of interest to me as well.  In better circumstances, we might have been friends.  The record shows that I have done nothing whatsoever to provoke his ire, and that I have maintained a correct debating style long after his own lapsing into smears and insults.  It was his own fancy to attack me in reaction to my publicly known positions on certain philosophical, historical and political topics.


American said...

KE - I discovered your work and this blog few months ago. I read all of it. I find it factual, honest and well researched - in other words, scholarly. It shouldn't matter, but I too have a Ph.D. from a U.S. campus that is consistently ranked in the top 3 worldwide, and staffs many Nobel Laureates.

One of the issues with India and Hinduism is the dearth of facts, scarcity of verifiable+reputable sources, and lack of data on contemporary Hindu society and Hinduism. Another issue is the lack of accurate translation of authentic verifiable historical records. Poverty, poor infrastructure and diversity of languages in India adds to the difficulty, in reaching rural India and much of urban India, to get the facts, unbiased broad surveys and meaningful data.

This leads to the situation that some fools are trying to fit some theory/equation when only one or no data point is available - in which case any and all speculative and silly but wrong theories fit. In worst cases, foolish interviews of one person or a crime spin story from a news media is extrapolated into a stereotype, adding to noise, worsening the signal to noise ratio. India may be one of the least understood and most misunderstood nations.

All of this leads me to question: do you have or know of any list comprising of good, thorough and facts-driven scholars on Hinduism and India? in India, USA, Europe and elsewhere?

Julian said...

American, I suggest you check out:

To a lesser extent you may also check out Rajiv Malhotra (has some good ideas but I feel he is mistaken in some fundamental assumptions of his).

Hope that helps.

American said...

Thanks, Julian.

I glanced at the first two. They are blogs. The second is by someone named Sarvesh Tiwari. Who is the author of the first one?

I like the third source - a good collection of books. KE mentioned Rajiv Malhotra in some of his blogs - I traced RM and have been reading his commentaries; I particularly liked his phrase: "under-informed and over-opinionated". I feel KE has a fair assessment of RM.

What would really help me is a list of Indologists and active scholars/authors who scribble less opinions, present more information and data on India and Hinduism, and analysis thereof, along with primary reputable sources and data that can be verified. The scholar's focus can range from India's history to sociology to scriptures and related topics.

In case you or other readers here are wondering: why do I ask? Answer: To help philanthropically sponsor/fund some of these folks, and thereby help in a small way a better understanding of India, its history, and its religions.

desicontrarian said...


I believe there is a site called Wikipedia that has loads of things called Indology, Caste, Curry, Ashwamedha, Wendy Doniger, Koenraad Elst and Aryan Invasion Theory. Apparently it is famous for objective descriptions of pure facts. Anybody can edit anything, if they know the rules.

Otherwise, how about some introductory Sanskrit literature? Lots of links there.

The 2 blogs that Julian told you about are in fact excellent, though they have a strong POV.

American said...
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American said...

Thanks desicontrarian.

Wikipedia articles on India and Hinduism and history, are for most part poorly written and flawed. Wiki articles are a good example of "under-informed and over-opinionated". Just like environmental pollution caused by free-for-all unregulated operations, wikipedia quite often reads like an example of information pollution caused by free-for-all unregulated cyber-operation. Many wikipedia articles lack citations, sound like someone's opinion or personal reflection; and a lot are loaded with propaganda and misinformation.

Wendy Doniger is another example of flawed, poor scholarship. While reading Rajiv Malhotra, I came across Michael Witzel's critique of Doniger. Witzel's 1995 constructive comments are persuasive on Wendy Doniger. As Witzel writes, Doniger O'Flaherty "translations" are unreliable. Her analysis is worse.

Yet, this is a great example of how scholarship enables further scholarship, where even flawed scholarly efforts go through a cycle of publication, study, peer verification, cross-examination, critiques, revisions, and so on to the state where more truth comes out and our knowledge continues to evolve.

History, sociology and religion are slower and more challenging fields of study, because unlike math and physical sciences, objectivity and verifications can be more difficult. In social sciences and analysis of religions, personal views prejudice data and observations more readily, both ways. Emotions and personal attacks are historically common in these fields, regardless of society or region or religion studied. Further, as anthropologists remind us: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, an insight that both makes this field more challenging and opportunity-filled for dedicated and patient scholars.

Thanks for the Sanskrit Literature blog lead. I will check it out. Any others?

Julian said...

"Who is the author of the first one?"

I believe he is a research biologist in the US. He knows Sanskrit & is a serious practitioner of rituals enjoined in the Veda and Tantra.

Don't know much more than that but his blog is very scholarly and covers a wide range of topics from geopolitics to human evolution to hindu philosophy & history to european & other paganism etc.

Take these as samples of what I am talking about:

Far better than any Indologist IMO.

Karthikrajan said...

Having decided to establish your career in this field, people like john Hopkins should have hardly bothered you. I don’t understand why you felt un-nerved by his stalking. All the same you should feel happy that this ‘university’ flopped. Rhetorical excesses ? Perhaps we can find an example in this blog itself when you mentioned that hindus fritter excess money in building temples to bribe the gods !!