Then there’s Vamsee Juluri in the Huffington Post. He seems to be very annoyed, so annoyed that he’s not altogether clear.
He’s annoyed because Doniger’s book has mistakes, and because there are many books about Hinduism in India but not so many in the US.
But it is in America, this bastion of privilege, and possibility, this dream of the world, that the real consequences of misrepresentation play out. You will find in all your bookstores and journals and hallowed pulpits, that “alternative” story, often becoming the only story. There is no room here for Hindus, only an “expert” on “The Hindus.” Look at the India shelves. Look at the op-ed pages of the papers of record. You will see no Hindus except by token of name perhaps. You will find top of the line seculars who will equate any critique of racism and orientalism against Hindus with Hindu fundamentalism. You will find, reflected back and forth in the words of the four or five authors who have been chosen to portray 1.5 billion people to America, the same malignant fantasy as the old colonizers about Hinduism. It is mitigated, perhaps, by a streak of anti-colonial idealism, a great anguish for the poor, the minorities, the oppressed of the world. But their view of Hinduism is limited. They either did not know it in their lives, or knew no affection for it. They hallucinate a bogey-man in it and blame it for all of India’s ills, with a straight face. They think that when Hindus get angry it is because of their “mythology” and when others kill people it is because they are poor and oppressed. They think that Hinduism has nothing good in it, just borrowed from other faiths. They think that Hinduism has been responsible for every bad thing in India, and then also think that Hinduism doesn’t really exist. They have no clue. And if they did not have the privilege that Hinduphobic orientalism has given them, their lack of academic depth and integrity would have been called out a million times over by now. There is no mainstream history of “The Hindus” in hegemonic center stage in North America. There is just one “alternative,” which makes little sense, frankly, even as an alternative too. It is just an old hegemony by a disingenuously counter-hegemonic name, and has nothing to with Hindus.
But those who are today merely silenced and fantasized about as The Hindus will one day have their history, and their own alternatives too. For the Hindus already have their own liberalism, secularism, and pluralism, way beyond the watered-down double-standard versions offered by the self-appointed prophets of the same. They will welcome debate, dissent, and a reasonable criticism of their own ways, from within and without.
Except, of course, for the ones who won’t.