Setting records straight
Deccan Chronicle| u sudhakar reddy
With his latest book, Rearming Hinduism, Vamsee Juluri hopes to counter the emerging Hinduphobia in Western academia and media.
Vamsee Juluri, author
Hyderabad-born Vamsee Juluri, a full-time professor of Media Studies in the University of San Francisco, has launched an intellectual tirade against anti-Hindu myths in Western academia and media. While his book Rearming Hinduism has emerged as a perfect answer against Hinduphobia and has given rise to serious debate among intellectuals in India and abroad, Vamsee has also started a movement against deletion of "India" and replacing with "South Asia" in California history curriculum.
Explaining his roots, Vamsee emotionally says, "The name is Telugu, because I am Telugu, and a proud son of Hyderabad. I studied in Hyderabad Public School, grew up in Hyderabad at a time when its magnificent rocks still existed everywhere, and used to come home from the US to see my parents twice a year. You might say that I remain very attached to India, in name and form."
Vamsee Juluri received his PhD in Communication from the University of Massachusetts in 1999. He is the author of four books, Becoming a Global Audience: Longing and Belonging in Indian Music Television; The Mythologist: A Novel; Bollywood Nation: India through its Cinema; and Rearming Hinduism: Nature, History and the Return of Indian Intelligence.
Vamsee says it has been a natural progression and not a disowning of any sort at all. Explaining his transformation, Vamsee reveals, "In media studies, we learn to recognise and fight stereotypes and misrepresentations. There has been a lot of research done on media bias and depictions of various groups like Latinos, Asians, Arabs and others, but virtually none at all on India and especially Hinduism. Over the years I could see how the kind of things being written about Hinduism in media and academia were so far-fetched and hateful that they would have been roundly condemned had they been written about any other community."
"Gandhi of Hind Swaraj" remains essential to his understanding of the modern world and Hinduism’s place in it. Vamsee’s petition against the changes in California textbooks has gathered over 20,000 supporters till now and the board which oversees the changes has made some course corrections and the final decision will be made in May.
Vamsee says, "It is all fine to use the phrase ‘South Asia’ where appropriate, but the changes proposed by a group of South Asia studies was extreme and unjustified in my view." Vamsee strongly believes that Leftist-dominated NCERT history books resulted in systematic Hinduphobia in Indian history textbooks too.
Explaining Hinduphobia / Indophobia, Vamsee says it is a peculiar thing in that it does not usually operate in an overt form of hatred in everyday life.
"It does exist, however, very deeply in institutions like media and academia, where the most vile and baseless writing too is deemed acceptable against Hindus (see the recent article in the well-known American liberal blog Daily Beast which blames Brihaspati, Vishnu and other Hindu deities for rapes in India)."
Vamsee Juluri explained Hinduphobia using several examples ranging from movies like Indiana Jones and Slumdog Millionaire to New York Times’ coverage of 26/11 attacks and Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History.
Vamsee clarifies, "I do not see Rearming Hinduism as a right-wing argument against Left and Dalit intellectual thought, but as a nascent Hindu-Left-leaning argument against colonial-orientalist-racism that has grown unchecked for several decades now in academia. We need to respect Dalit and subaltern positions outside of the orientalist colonial Aryan sort of myths that surround them at the moment."
While refusing to identify with the RSS, he feels that RSS remains one of the most unfairly misrepresented and demonised organisations in India. "It is appalling that Irfan Habib and Ram Guha have compared RSS to ISIS, for example."
Calling upon academia to be more honest in their understanding of Hindutva at the moment, he said, "Left academics seem to be wildly labelling anyone who rejects the Aryan Invasion Theory and believes in the indigeneity of Hinduism as Hindutvawadis."
Talking about how Rearming Hinduism changed his life, he says, "It has made me part of a popular intellectual movement that I feel very honoured to have played some role in supporting. I must have spoken before hundreds of readers in India and the US, and there were periods when I was travelling so much that I was living out of suitcases for weeks on end, all a new experience for me. I think the most important thing about Rearming Hinduism is that I have heard the words every author hopes to hear: young people saying ‘this book changed my life’." He hopes that many more voices will rise and speak for what is right in the world.