Rajiv’s Debate with Swapan Dasgupta
Since Swapan insists on continuing his twitter debate with me, I shall set the record straight going back to my first dealings with him.
1) Until the book “Invading the Sacred” came out I did not know much of him except tangentially. When ITS was about to get released, I wanted endorsements, reviews, articles, etc. So I asked Swami Dayananda Saraswati for advice, because he had been very supportive of my decade long debate with Wendy’s Children and the book ITS that resulted from it. At a meeting in Delhi where a few of his followers were present, I asked for his guidance: I wanted to prevent the book being either slammed in a one-sided dismissal or simply ignored.
Swamiji named Swapan Dasgupta as the right man to do a detailed review. In front of me he called Swapan on a mobile phone and introduced me to him and asked that he help us. I held the mobile and set up a meeting with Swapan. He did not sound very enthusiastic, but complied with Swamiji’s request to meet me to learn about the book.
I met Swapan and went through the history of what ITS dealt with. Swapan was non committal. He said generic nice things about wanting to help, but nothing concrete.
I then went back to Swamiji and mentioned Swapan’s lukewarm response, which surprised swamiji who saw him at that time as a solid Hindu voice. But some individuals close to Swamiji felt that Swapan was in the midst of career upheaval as he had left one top media slot but not yet landed another. So he was being cautious about avoiding controversy. The bottom line is: there was zero coverage of ITS by Swapan.
But he cannot pretend that he never heard of the book, as he was among the first to receive a copy of it when it came out. (Just for the record, it was Tavleen Singh who first wrote a detailed article on ITS and her meeting with me — it came in India Today. She was very courageous and clear.)
Sometime later, Swapan became a TOI op-ed contributor. My hypothesis is that he was negotiating something with various media houses and did not want to rock the boat by writing on ITS.
2) All these 7 years since ITS there has not been any direct interaction between Swapan and myself. But we follow each other’s work. I do not have any gripes against him whatsoever. Indian journalists tend to be superficially educated and busy recycling hearsay especially when it emanates from Westerners. They thrived on one-liner wisdom long before there was twitter. (Colonial rulers destroy the leadership competence of people they subjugate and this means breaking up the mental capacity to think strategically on large complex matters that are multi-layered. Such people depend upon brand value,slogans, consensus among opinion leaders, opinions without facts…)
3) In my recent twitter debate with Darlymple (on my assertion that intellectual discourse forums were biased against Hinduism; the context being his support for Wendy Doniger), Swapan suddenly sends a tweet basically supporting my side. He said that Jaipur Lit Fest is biased. Then Swapan stopped tweeting and some others continued the debate. (My conjecture is that someone approached Swapan privately to discourage him — see below.)
4) Suddenly, several days later the following exchange took place which I will copy below just to make this account complete.
Swapan dasgupta wrote (http://www.swapan55.com/2014/03/take-offence.html):
“I was slightly taken aback at the venom that was recently poured on the writer William Dalrymple, who I like to describe as Delhi’s ‘White Moghul’. Apart from the familiar charges of racism—an occupational hazard for anyone who is a co-organiser of the Jaipur literary jamborree—and being anti-Hindu, which too is becoming distressingly routine, Dalrymple’s histories have been debunked by those Arun Shourie taunted as the “eminent historians.” The reasons for their hatred of this genial Scot are three-fold: Dalrymple writes readable narrative history; his books sell and has made him a celebrity; and in burrowing through dusty archives for untapped sources, he has exposed the inadequacies of the tenured cretins.”
Rajiv response: Lets get some facts straight – which Dasgupta being a participant in the Twitter debate cannot pretend not to know:
1. In this twitter debate it was Darlymple who first introduced the terms “firangi” referring to himself and “desi” referring to his co-founder Namita. But Dasgupta faults us for “charges of racism”.
2. The issue that was at stake in that twitter debate has been totally sidelined by Dasgupta. The issue was in the context of the Doniger saga wherein Darlymple has been an ardent supporter of her side of the story while trivializing ours as “throwing eggs” and being “Hindu nationalists” who want to censor free speech. In fact, Dasgupta uses the same style of journalism as Doniger supporters: in which party Y is blamed for responding to X, but the journalist is silent on the instigation by X that started the whole affair.
3. Dasgupta’s list of 3 reasons many people have so-called “hatred” for Darlymple (who Dasgupta calls “genial”) ignore the reasons that started this twitter debate. My reasons had to do with — please get this Swapan — asymmetry of discourse in forums controlled by Darlymple. I repeated this phrase many times in the course of my tweets. But Dasgupta is catering to a different audience than we…
It is clear that someone tapped his shoulder to remind him where his limits are in criticizing a westerner who controls prestigious Indian forums.
5) Since he persisted tweeting in inconsistent and random ways, I sent the following: @swapan55 love for “genial Scot” ignores that @DalrympleWill is big fan of Aurungzeb. http://dharmanext.blogspot.in/2011/05/aurangzeb-was-like-shakespeare-william.html …
I posted the link to Francoise gautier’s article exposing this side of Darlymple. Many twitteraties like ZhoomIndiaMedia & JalanSahib jumped in and Swapan found himself having to defend Aurungzeb’s fan.
This is when Swapan showed his predicament and tweeted that he is stuck between two sides (Leftists and Hindus).
I truly sympathize with him. It happens when someone is opportunistically oscillating between two sides and not genuinely grounded in either. So I tweeted: I sympathize plight of @swapan55 for oscillating to prove neutrality. Solution: 1) Find your true ground. 2) Project outside fearlessly.
In other words, he needs to be first internally rooted and grounded securely and only then should he articulate any positions publicly, or else he will blow randomly with the latest direction of the wind. This requires sadhana for years and no amount of hobnobbing in public can suffice.
6) Swapan once again changed the subject. He tweeted that I was “reducing a larger discussion on Indian sensitivity to foreign criticism” by discussing the JLF (i.e. Darlymple). Another attempt to deflect attention away from Uncle William! So I responded that each of my 4 large books deals with this issue of the West and hence he cannot say that I have been reducing it to JLF only. (The fact that Swapan was party to my involvement in ITS many years ago, as explained in point (1) above, means that he cannot pretend that I have reduced all these problems merely to JLF.)
7) Swapan’s tweets today show desperation once again. He tweets that Rajiv “deals with the issue in US academia. Seen from India, many different perspectives are in order.” This is yet another over-simplication by him and use of “selective” facts. My book “Breaking India” is not about US academics and it shows the sepoys at work in India under the supervision, funding, training and protection of Western nexuses. I deliberately avoided mentioning old issues already covered in prior books to force my readers to understand this problem INSIDE India.
Clearly, Swapan wants to slide the troubling things about sepoys under the rug — by deflecting attention towards US academics.
The whole point of Breaking India and now Indra’s Net is to show how all this is global discourse and what starts in one place impacts everywhere else. Swapan cannot isolate “US academics” from their direct impact in India. Few Indian public intellectuals like him today are sufficiently educated on Indian civilization to be able to assert positions without the backup of what Western scholars feed them like pets being hand fed.
He must appreciate that I am one of the foremost persons at this time going to the ROOTS of certain biased discourses (wherever in the world these roots might lie) and then tracking from there all the way to the public square in India where the impact is real, serious, and largely unchallenged. All attempts to deal with symptoms of the disease or isolated instances of it will contnue to fail until first there is clarity on the pathology and physiology of the disease and its end-to-end systems functioning. My goal is to research, articulate, debate and train supporters on this very deep situation. This is personally taxing on me, risky, and consumes my entire life …
A) I want to hold Swapan in high regard and give him the benefit of doubt regarding good intentions. I also sympathize his plight having to oscillate just to prove he is not a “Hindu radical”. Such are the times.
B) My real targets are twofold:
(1) the Western nexuses of various kinds of specialties – several of which I have targeted in my separate books and more of them will be targeted in forthcoming books.
(2) the Indian sepoys (of various sorts, various levels, in various capacities) who serve as the ones carrying out the same kind of work as the sepoys who fired in Jallianwallah Bagh under General Dyer’s command.
C) Therefore my criticism of sepoys, potential sepoys, and fence-sitters is for the following objective:
(1) Expose those who are solidly entrenched in the Sepoy Army, especially in influential positions. Let Indians beware and not get duped.
(2) Warn those who are fence-sitters that social media is disrupting the cushy & unchallenged positioning enjoyed by such forces, and there is a price to pay if they sell out.
(3) Pressure those who are duplicitous and who pretend to be on the side of Dharma Civilization while enjoying the patronage-funding-protection-direction of the foreign nexuses. I want such persons to make a clear choice and not thrive on mumbojumbo, hocuspochus doubletalk.
D) I wish Swapan the very best and hope he will make choices based on loyalty to his dharma more than to his short-term career opportunism.