This is in response to the review of our book, Invading the Sacred, by Vineeta Kalbag (July 8). She claims to be ‘worried’ about the motivations of the authors and launches into considerable speculation on this. Our motivation — clearly laid out in our introduction — is to restart a dialogue on how the West constructs biased images of India. As to the point of the book, this is also clearly laid out: there is a powerful wing of the American academy that demonises Indian culture by presenting opinion, fantasy and unverifiable information as ‘fact’ about India.
As the book demonstrates, with telling evidence, these factors have led to a dumbing-down of the discourse on India, and have led to the trivialisation of Indian cultural and religious icons. The review also misses the point about Sankrant Sanu’s essay that changed Microsoft Encarta’s essay on Hinduism. Encarta replaced Doniger’s article, one it had published for many years without change and without any challenge from other ‘insider’ academicians in religious studies, only after Sanu, an outsider to the academy, wrote the critique.
The review’s final point, mixing up artistic and academic freedoms is pernicious. Our book is a call to restore academic freedoms which have been curtailed by the hijacking of the peer-review process by a group of powerful and interconnected scholars.
Antonio de Nicolas,K Ramaswamy and Aditi Banerjee, USA.