I am hearing a lot about Vishwa Adluri nowadays and I can see that the Hindus are visibly impressed with this professor from Hunter College, New York. The first of his writings which I had read was ‘Pride and Prejudice’ in which he had endorsed the essay ‘Deep Orientalism’ by Sheldon Pollock, which sought to draw a connection between Brahmanical scholarship and Nazism. So obviously I became curious by all the attention the Hindus were lavishing on him and all the rave reviews his interviews had garnered on the Hindu social media and I wondered if I had missed something. So I read his essay ‘Frame Narratives and Forked Beginnings: Or, How to read the Ādiparvan’ and that was expectedly disappointing. But it also made me feel concerned about the Hindus who, I think, are easily susceptible to being led by the nose by anyone who speaks favourably of their tradition.
I want to reflect a bit on this malaise that afflicts the Hindu mind before returning to Adluri because, as a Hindu, I do fully sympathise with their predicament. With regards to an intellectual understanding of our cultural heritage, we are in a very vulnerable position at the moment. For two centuries, we have witnessed our intellectual traditions getting browbeaten by Western scholars of various persuasions – academic, political and religious – and their venomous critiques thoughtlessly interiorised by our own elite. Through this relentless onslaught, we have zealously clung on to the faith that our intellectual heritage is of tremendous value, the product of a glorious civilization, and that these scholars have misunderstood, misinterpreted and misrepresented it, either intentionally, because they wanted to destroy it, or unintentionally, because it was simply beyond their capacity to fathom it.
It is also our cherished view that the intellectual heritage of India, far from being an object of criticism and ridicule, deserves to be presented fairly on the international stage so that the whole world can benefit from it. What is worse, reared in a Western education system and governed by political arrangements based on the Western ideals of liberalism, we are ourselves getting more and more estranged from our intellectual traditions and need to reconnect with them in ways that makes sense in the contemporary world. Who can accomplish this twin goal? It is beyond the scope of both the Hindu pandit and the Western scholar. It requires someone who is well-versed with the Western intellectual systems and yet also possesses adequate knowledge of the Indian cultural heritage that he can effectively translate the wisdom of the latter into the idiom of the former. Such a person is virtually impossible to find and therefore when someone like Adluri comes along, who apparently fits this role, one can hardly blame the Hindus for getting their hopes up.
I fully subscribe to the dilemma of the Hindus that I have just described but at the same time I think it is important not to be swayed by speeches that merely hit all the right notes that we want to hear. My critique of Adluri’s essay ‘Frame Narratives and Forked Beginnings: Or, How to read the Ādiparvan’ I will publish separately. Here, I want to focus on two recent interviews given by Adluri, one to Srinivas Udumudi in Swarajya and the other to Rahul Pandita in Open the Magazine. In both cases, I thought the questions were brilliant and properly convey the anxieties of the contemporary Hindus but the responses were unsatisfactory and not cross-examined further. The purpose of this essay is to explain my disagreement with some of the topics that were addressed by Adluri.
I should confess right at the outset that I am a software programmer by training and profession. So I don’t really have the credentials to sit in judgement of a reputed scholar like Adluri who has decades of philosophical research behind him. My point, however, is that we should not just uncritically swallow whatever is proclaimed by experts in the field just because it sounds favourable to our cause but develop our own research and validate that knowledge in the process. What I am sharing here is my own critical reflection on some of what Adluri has said in these two interviews. I will restrict my discussion to six topics:
- Historical-critical method
- Protestant theology
- National Socialism
- Becoming otherwise (or the Mahābhārata as an ‘art object’)
- Hindu assertiveness
A denunciation of the historical-critical method lies at the heart of Adluri’s critique of Indology. As he correctly explains, it puts emphasis on the literal meaning of the text, the historical conditions in which the text was written and rejects traditional reception. Adluri argues against this method: “How do we know what the texts mean if not for the exegetic, commentarial tradition that hands them down to us?”
This is a fair point but think over it. There are, for example, several commentarial traditions on the Vedānta which contradict each other. How are you possibly going to decide between them unless there is some way for you to know the root text over and above its commentaries? I have no problem in admitting the priority of commentaries in the reading of ancient text for I myself understood the Bhagavad Gītā only after I had read Ādi Śaṅkara’s commentary on it. But reflect a bit on what it means to regard a commentator like Ādi Śaṅkara as your authority in the interpretation of the Gītā.
Consider, for example, the concept of loka-saṅgraha which most modern Hindus understand as ‘welfare of the world’. Ādi Śaṅkara, on the other hand, glosses the term as:
प्रारब्धकर्मायत्तस्त्वं … लोकस्योन्मार्गप्रवृत्तिनिवारणं
as subject to your prārabdha-karma (the karma which has led you to this birth as a kṣatriya) and having regard also to the purpose of preventing the masses from resorting to a wrong path (trans. Alladi Mahadev Sastri).
Some modern Hindus would have no problem with this notion. For example, Rajendra Prasad, in A Conceptual-Analytic Study of Classical Indian Philosophy of Morals (p. 111), has explained:
The Gita does say that he is to act for lokasaṅgraha but lokasaṅgraha does not mean lokakalyāṇa (others’ welfare). For an individual to act for lokasaṅgraha simply means to act in order that he be rightly taken, or understood, by the people, by the common man.
But I am sure many modern Hindus would be disappointed, especially in light of the persistent charge made by Christians that Hindu thought is lacking in concern about social welfare. I am not saying that the Christian view is right and I also think a commentary like one written by Ādi Śaṅkara is essential for an understanding of the Gītā. But bear in mind that just as a commentary can be your defence against those who misinterpret the root text, it is also likely to undermine your own assumptions about the root text.
Secondly, the commentarial tradition is not an alternative to studying the historicity of the root text, as Adluri appears to claim, for both the root text and the commentaries can be viewed as historical products and this can enhance our understanding of them as well.
Consider, for example, Ādi Śaṅkara’s commentary on verse 2.16 of the Gītā tasmād yudhyasva bhārata “Therefore, O Bhārata, you fight!” Śaṅkara is very particular to emphasise to the reader that yudhyasva, though it is inflected in the imperative mood, is not a command i.e. Kṛṣṇa is not commanding Arjuna to fight. As a kṣatriya, Arjuna had come to the battlefield of his own accord but he was overcome by sorrow and delusion. All that Kṛṣṇa is doing is helping Arjuna to tide over this obstruction so that he can proceed with his natural way of life as a kṣatriya.
Now why would Śaṅkara belabour this point? Quite simply, because, his historical audience, who were mainly the Mīmāṃsakas, would interpret verbs in the imperative mood, in accordance with their hermeneutical theory, as commands and thus read the Gītā as suggesting action i.e. the performance of dharma as leading to liberation. But according to Śaṅkara, self-knowledge alone, with renunciation of action, was the basis of liberation. Hence, the particular gloss to clarify that yudhyasva is not a command. But this becomes evident and, indeed, it enriches our understanding of Śaṅkara’s commentary, only when we take into account the historical debates between karma and jñāna as the means of liberation, which were taking place in his time and to address which, he wrote his commentary.
The same is true of the root text i.e. the Gītā, as well. What historical problem was the Gītā composed to solve? In light of the text itself and from what we know of the history of Indic thought in general, this would be the devastating realisation that only sannyāsa led to liberation while performing dharma in the world bound the individual to the pleasant or unpleasant fruit of action and thus led to rebirth. This is a dilemma because the world will end if everybody takes sannyāsa and nobody will bother with dharma if it leads to bondage. The solution the Gītā has proposed to this dilemma is that if you perform dharma without hankering after the fruit of action, then you will not be bound and once the prārabdha is thus taken care of, liberation will follow.
However, all of this makes sense only if we bear in mind the historical debates that form its context. But then what about the Gītā as an eternal text? Well, inasmuch as the problem it has addressed is an eternal one, the Gītā is very much an eternal text. But it would be most foolish of Hindus to go around saying ‘one should act without hankering after the results’ as if that is a meaningful statement in itself. Only a person who wants you to work for free would say such a thing and only one willing to offer his services for free would listen. Others might try their hand at the “intrinsic joy” of work as an end in itself or other such inanity. The problem is that once you rip a text out of its context and separate it from the other conversations happening on the same subject in history, it is very difficult to make any sense of it.
For all these reasons, I think studying a text in its historical context is important. We need not dispute that German Indology may have misinterpreted ancient Indian text by applying (or misapplying) the historical-critical method and terrible consequences followed as a result. What we, as Hindus, need to ask is whether in our own study of the ancient Indian texts, should we take the historical conditions of their composition into account? Yes, such a scholarly analysis may often lead us to an understanding that challenges the received wisdom about the text in a tradition which has never undertaken a historical investigation. But is that such a bad thing? In my own research, in case of both the Gītā and the Pañcatantra, reflecting on the historicity of these texts provided me with insights that I would have never obtained otherwise.
Of late, it has become fashionable to reveal the Christian origins of Western ideas such liberalism, secularism, democracy and so on. During the colonial period and even after independence, the Indian elite had imbibed these ideas and heavily promoted the social sciences on the assumption that they were worldly, humanistic and rational. To expose them as Christianity in disguise is therefore a quick and easy way to debunk them. Adluri brings the same genetic fallacy to bear upon the historical-critical method, claiming that it is rooted in Protestant theology and that, of course, is sweet music to Hindu ears for what has emerged therefrom can be tossed straight into the dustbin without further consideration.
However, I wonder, what is really wrong with the historical-critical method as an “innovation within Protestant theology”? For anyone interested in studying this hermeneutical method, I would recommend The Historical-Critical Method: A Guide for the Perplexed by David Law. It explains that the historical-critical method of studying the Bible emerged with the realisation that while the Church reserved for itself the sole and ultimate authority for interpreting the Bible, its teaching did not really agree with the actual text of the Bible. Furthermore, people began to take seriously the discrepancies they found in the text of the Bible itself. Thus, it is simply misleading on the part of Adluri to suggest that in the view of Protestantism “the old must be critiqued simply because it is old”. The old was critiqued because there were problems with the old – both with the text of the Bible and its interpretation by the Catholic Church.
What I like about the historical-critical method is that because it prioritises a literal interpretation of the text, it gave the Protestants, and it gives all of us as well, a level-playing field when it comes to interpreting texts. Basically what it says is that you can’t just make up stuff – whatever fanciful interpretation you are coming up with, it must agree with the literal meaning of the text and the literal meaning is something that all of us can understand.
So consider, for example, Adluri’s essay ‘Frame Narratives and Forked Beginnings: or, How to Read the Ādiparvan’ whose detailed critique, as I have said, I will publish separately. It contains an allegorical interpretation of the Pauṣya-parvan, as a philosophical process from worldly becoming to true being:
Three ‘sacrifices’ structure the Pauṣyaparvan: the sacrificial session at Kurukṣetra where Saramā appears and warns Janamejaya of an unseen danger (adṛṣṭam; 1.3.8), Janamejaya’s conquest of Takṣaśilā, and the snake sacrifice. These three form a series: at the conclusion of every sacrifice, a person appears and interprets the sacrifice, while triggering the next one. Saramā appears during Janamejaya’s first sacrifice and warns him that he has not overcome his mortality. Her warning sends him in search of fame and conquest through conquering Takṣaśilā, the next ‘sacrifice’ in the series. While historical fame grants a limited form of immortality, it cannot lead to true salvation. For this reason, following Janamejaya’s conquest of Takṣaśilā, a further interpreter appears. Uttaṅka criticizes the king for his conquest of Takṣaśilā, and urges him to perform the third sacrifice. Janamejaya finally gains salvation through the third sacrifice with the appearance of Āstīka, the savior. Saramā’s warning of an unseen danger (adrṣṭaṁ) sets in motion a series of events that results in the appearance of being itself.
Now, as I said, Adluri is a well-reputed, well-credentialed scholar of the Mahābhārata. If you privilege the method of allegorical interpretation to reveal the allegedly eternal, hidden meaning of the text, not immediately apparent in the word, then who am I, a mere auto-didact, to dispute his awesome philosophical model that projects the reader, in the form of Janamejaya, being edified from becoming to being? But if the literal meaning of the text matters, as it turns out to be the case in the historical-critical method, then I can protest:
Look, Sir! What you are saying does not agree with the text at all. Saramā’s curse led Janamejaya to appoint Somaśravas as his purohita and not to the conquest of Takṣaśilā, which is mentioned as a separate event. The text neither refers to that conquest as a ‘sacrifice’ nor suggests that Janamejaya engaged in it to attain fame to overcome his mortality. Further, Āstīka got Janamejaya to abort his ‘third sacrifice’ so it is impossible that he could have gained salvation through it. In any case, Āstīka arrived not to save Janamejaya but Takṣaka, the serpent lord, who was about to be slain in the sacrifice. Thus, what we have here is a remarkable human drama, a literary narrative, possibly with some basis in history, and you have ruined it all just so that you can mis-represent it as a philosophy.
Now it is not a matter of coincidence at all that Adluri, who employs the allegorical method in his interpretation of the Mahābhārata, should vehemently attack the historical-critical method for there exists a natural enmity between these two methods. The allegorical method wants interpretation to break free of the constraints of the text while the historical-critical method wants interpretation to be tied down to the text as far as possible. If the knowledge that the historical-critical method developed within Protestant theology was ground-breaking, then here is a second epiphany: the allegorical interpretation was the method used by the Catholic Church! In other words, what have we really achieved by tracing the origin of the historical-critical method to Protestant theology, when its alternative, the allegorical method which Adluri employs in his own interpretation of the Mahābhārata, can be traced to Catholic theology?
Furthermore, you may be surprised to learn that there is nothing so foreign about these debates between literal and allegorical methods of interpretation for they are to be found even in the great hermeneutical traditions of India such as Mīmāṃsa and Kāvyaśāstra. There is, of course, nothing equivalent to the Catholic Church in Indian history but what is interesting is that the preference for a literalist interpretation, which arises in the historical-critical method of Protestant theology, was actually a feature of the dominant Mīmāṃsa school in ancient India. For the Mīmāṃsakas, the abhidhārtha or the literal meaning of the word mattered more than the lakṣaṇārtha (figurative meaning) and the vyaṅgyārtha (suggested meaning). The last two take us further and further away from the text and while lakṣaṇārtha was admitted where the abhidhārtha was not possible, the Mīmāṃsakas denied there could be any such thing in the text as vyaṅgyārtha and argued in particular against the dhvani school of Anandavardhana and Abhinavagupta, which projected vyaṅgyārtha as the soul of kāvya.
This controversy, which I have discussed in the paper I submitted to Swadeshi Indology II, is what immediately came to mind when I read in Law’s book (p. 38) the view of the Protestant scholar Matthias Flacius Illyricus (1520–1575) who developed the historical approach in the interpretation of scripture:
Allegorical interpretation is permissible only when all possible literal interpretations have been excluded and if the passage in question is manifestly an allegory and the literal sense in general is useless, or even absurd.
In this view, there is no reason to interpret Janamejaya’s conquest of Takṣaśilā allegorically as a sacrifice, as Adluri has done, because there is nothing implausible about there being a king of Hastināpura called Janamejaya who waged a war against Takṣaśilā. Not only the Protestant scholars of the historical-critical method but even the Mīmāṃsakas would not accept such an interpretation.
When news of the association between Indic Academy and Adluri broke out, one of the concerns raised by some Hindus and which also crossed my mind was Adluri’s appreciation of Sheldon Pollock’s paper ‘Deep Orientalism’. Pollock, after all, had attempted in this essay to forge a link between Brahmanical scholarship and Nazism. I am glad Srinivas Udumudi has addressed this elephant in the room in his interview but, unsurprisingly, the response appears to be irrational. Adluri says that “there is something quite pernicious about comparing National Socialism with Brahmanism” and that in “Deep Orientalism” and in subsequent works, Pollock plays a “double game”. I wonder if it is rationally possible to hold such a view and yet also agree with Pollock’s claims of complicity between German Indology and Nazism, as Adluri has supported in his essay ‘Pride and Prejudice’?
In order to answer this question, let us briefly revisit Pollock’s essay in which he describes the collusion between three kinds of knowledges and three forms of domination in an interconnected fashion: (1) Anglo-French Indology – Anglo-French colonial rule (2) German Indology – Nazi government (3) Brahmanical scholarship – precolonial governments in India. ‘Orientalism’ i.e. the collusion between Anglo-French knowledges and their colonial governments was the Saidian thesis. It had an “outward” vector directed from Europe to the rest of the world.
Pollock has said that it is also possible to understand the knowledge-power nexus established by Orientalism as an “inward” vector and he gave ‘German Orientalism’ as an example of this view for in this case, European knowledge (i.e. German Indology) was applied to establish domination in Europe itself. Then, he has argued that a similar “inward” vector can be imagined also in case of precolonial India i.e. a ‘Sanskrit Orientalism’ that was a nexus between Brahmanical knowledge and Hindu powers. Then, he has reversed this whole narrative and said that Sanskrit Orientalism was the original that was studied by Indological scholars, who then “recapitulated” that form of domination, which in the case of the English and the French, was directed externally towards their colonies while in the case of the Germans was directed internally towards Europe itself.
This is basically the Pollockian narrative and it is impossible to pick just one thread of it i.e. the collusion between German Indology and Nazism and deny the rest because it all fits together like a neatly woven cloth. Firstly, Said’s thesis of knowledge-power nexus is itself rubbish for the state everywhere is the chief patron of knowledge and so a connection between them always exists. So once we grant this thesis any legitimacy and further extend that legitimacy to include even “inward vectors” in the form of complicity between German Indology and Nazism, how can one then deny that the tie between Brahmanical scholarship and its royal Hindu patrons was also a case of Orientalism? Secondly, if we concede that German Indology shaped Nazism, how can we deny that the Sanskrit knowledge which these Indologists assiduously studied and introduced in Germany, played no role in that process?
The point is that you can’t eat your cake and have it too. The only way to break the link between Sanskrit knowledge and Nazism would be to say that German Indology itself played an insignificant role in the development of Nazism. The latter is what critics of Adluri like Grünendahl have argued, as Srinivas has mentioned in his question. In his response, we can see that Adluri has also implicitly retreated from his position on German Orientalism by saying that the responsibility for Nazi horrors rests solely “on the men and women who participated in National Socialism”. Indeed, he must get German Indology off the hook for otherwise it becomes very difficult to save Brahmanical scholarship from getting branded guilty by association.
But if this is Adluri’s view, then it was not right of him to have supported Pollock’s “inward” vector thesis in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ in the first place. I suppose he did so because the collusion between German Indology and Nazism alleged by Pollock fitted nicely with his own critique of German Indology. Now he says Pollock is playing a “double game” but should Adluri not have clarified this in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ itself? But, of course, he could not because it is not possible to agree with a scholar’s thesis and attack his intellectual credibility in the same paper. Who, indeed, is playing the “double game” here?
The relevance of ancient Indian texts in the contemporary world is an issue that is very close to my heart. I would extend what Adluri has said about the ‘relevance’ of the Mahābhārata to the whole corpus of ancient Indian texts.
Whenever the question of the Mahābhārata’s relevance is raised, there is a presumption that we know what is needed. … we have lost sight of the fundamental function of literature, of philosophy: to make us know differently, to become otherwise … [the Mahābhārata] is relevant precisely because it challenges our calculative rationality. The Mahābhārata is not there to conform to our expectations of life, of humanity, and of reality. This is the function of art objects: they reveal the world to us in a new way (emphasis mine).
All of this sounds wonderful and I could not agree more. But does Adluri genuinely mean any of it? Even Sheldon Pollock has said that the importance of Sanskrit literature is to understand the different ways of being human. But do any of these scholars, who presumably affirm the “liberal political consensus”, genuinely want to apply this function of literature, to recover the alternate ways of going about the world?
What does “becoming otherwise” even mean? The intellectual framework that shapes our world today is based on the principles of social equality, political liberty and universal brotherhood. These are the standards against which the ancient Indian texts are measured. They have faced bitter criticism in modern times precisely because they are seen as being unable to promote these values. To talk of “becoming otherwise” means, first of all, to concede that these liberal, modern values may be neither sufficient nor necessary to build a decent society. It means to concede that it is possible to build a decent society even on the diametrically opposite conservative or reactionary values of social hierarchy, political despotism and kinship communities. It means to concede that empowerment is not the only way of solving issues of gender oppression, that a meaningful and contented life is possible for women even in a patriarchal setup.
Let alone Western scholars like Pollock and Adluri, I don’t think even modern Hindus would be willing to make these concessions. But without that it is impossible to study ancient Indian texts as “art objects” that teach us about “becoming otherwise” or of “knowing the different ways of being human”. It is easy to say that “the courage it takes to read the Mahābhārata is the courage to stand alone on the Kurukṣetra after the war” and then go interpret the whole conflict as a grand philosophical allegory that uplifts humans from worldly becoming to true being, as Adluri has done.
Cyclical time and Itihāsa
One fault that is all too depressingly common in the human quest for knowledge is that we maintain certain markers of knowledge and often tend to judge the intellectual quality of a text based on whether it has hit them rather than in terms of what we have actually understood. So, for example, in case of Indological studies, the ‘caste system’ is one such marker. Nobody knows what is a ‘caste system’ exactly, it is an academic construct, but it is a convenient marker. If the study of an ancient Indian text can show how it contributed to the functioning of a ‘caste system’ then it is deemed as ‘knowledge’ in the Western academy. Neither does one understand the ancient Indian text nor does one understand the ‘caste system’ but once these are related, it feels as if one has acquired knowledge.
Similarly, even we Hindus have our markers of knowledge – stuff we do not understand at all that serves merely as essential noises but which, once made, give us the sense of having gained an understanding. ‘Cyclical time’ and ‘itihāsa’ are our markers of knowledge. Likewise, there are certain markers of fallacy which upon attribution to an idea consign it to the realm of falsehood. For example, consider again this statement by Adluri that we have covered above: ‘The historical-critical method is a development in Protestant theology’. Here, Protestant theology is a marker of fallacy. Neither do you know anything about the historical-critical method nor anything about Protestant theology but just reading that statement convinces you: ‘Oh, it’s a development in Protestant theology? Then this method must be completely wrong.’
We need to be extremely careful about these markers of knowledge that give us the delusion of being in the presence of wisdom. In our case, I think we are plagued by a sense of uniqueness that seeks to distinguish us from the West. We hold that our sense of time is cyclical and not linear, our sense of the past is itihāsa and not history. Neither of these concepts are clear to us and while in our daily lives we want things to work according to linear time and with regards to our past we want to know what really happened, somehow we expect that our ancient texts will reveal to us a new and superior way of living in time that is cyclical and not linear, and a new way of understanding the past that is itihāsa and not history.
So when scholars come along and profess to reveal these allegedly unique features of Hindu thought in our texts and diss the Western thinkers for having been unable to accomplish this task because their limited minds could not grasp these profound concepts, then we become like putty in their hands. But this is precisely the moment when we need to put on our critical lens and having studied the works of these scholars, check for ourselves: (1) Have we really understood the meanings of ‘cyclical time’ and ‘itihāsa’ which they have proposed? (2) Does it agree with what has actually been written in the ancient Indian texts? (3) Does it make sense to apply any of it in the contemporary world in which we find ourselves?
Consider, for example, my criticism of Balagangadhara’s lecture on itihāsa. We may not be experts on the subject but we can at least apply the basic alertness, common to most thinking creatures, that we are not being taken for a ride. In saying so, I do not mean to allege that these scholars are purposefully deceiving us. I think we are all of us affected by the malaise of which I spoke at the beginning of this essay. We are all of us struggling under the burden of a tremendous intellectual legacy that we can barely understand, much less translate it into an idiom that can persuade the world of its greatness. All this, while we are ourselves abiding in a system founded on foreign principles which too is not working out as expected. But it is in this moment of vulnerability that we need to be most on our guard.
In conclusion, I will say a bit on Adluri’s response to Rahul Pandita’s question about Hindu identity assertion. I think his response too easily feeds into our grievance that we have been subjugated for far too long and have accepted submissiveness as our lot. Our new-found assertiveness is “merely finding a normal relationship with our ourselves”. But then he suggests that perhaps it is “a reaction to the circumstance that most Indians still live under political arrangements that are deeply estranged from them” that will lose relevance “once the political process reflects their democratic and material aspirations.”
What is implicit here is that Hindu assertiveness is a sign of recovery from a period of subjugation or a response to the current anomalous circumstances and will go away once the Indian system reflects Hindu aspirations. I think this diagnosis is wrong. Hindu self-effacement was not the effect of subjugation and its assertiveness is not a rebellion. Rather any decent hierarchical society will teach self-effacement to both the superior and the inferior. The superiority of the superior should be natural and unspoken. It should not thrust itself in the face of the inferior constantly reminding the latter of his “place”. Likewise, the inferior should also not be assertive but defer to and obey the superior.
Assertiveness is a quality encouraged by modernity that regards all individuals as equal and requires them to express their individuality confidently. It is not just Hindus but women, dalits … everyone is becoming assertive these days and it is a sign of their entry into modernity. What needs to borne in mind, however, is that in fostering assertiveness, modernity assumes that individuals are mature enough to use it responsibly. So the issue is not Hindu assertiveness itself which is a fait accompli but how to make the assertive Hindu assert sensibly … which I think is the question Rahul was trying to ask and which Adluri did not answer.