July 15, 2015

More on Infinity Foundation and Rajiv Malhotra: Article by Anantanand Rambachan + Letter from Prof. Richard Fox Young

he attacks on Christian scholars, on Dalit Christianity, and on work that addresses Christianity, Christian conversion, and religious / caste politics in India and the Indian diaspora, are a consistent feature of Infinity Foundation's activities:

1. Article by scholar Anantanand Rambachan, who has been repeatedly harassed by Infinity Foundation and Rajiv Malhotra:


2. Letter from Prof. Richard Fox Young to his colleagues at the Princeton Theological Seminary, after PTS President and Faculty received threatening and defamatory emails from one Ram Jagessar on behalf of Rajiv Malhotra:

"On Twitter, I have adduced evidence of serial acts of plagiarism (not of my work but others'), by a Princeton-resident, Rajiv Malhotra, a Hindu American public intellectual, wealthy IT entrepreneur and founder of a Hindu-nationalist think tank, the Infinity Foundation. The Foundation finances a variety of projects, mostly aimed at promoting Hindu supremacism of a kind I find abhorrent, as it rationalizes acts of violence against India's religious minorities (Muslim and Christian).

Four years ago, along with John Boopalan, our PhD candidate in R & S, I attended a lecture at the University for the launching of a book by Mr. Malhotra, called Breaking India(New Delhi 2011). Much to our dismay, Malhotra launched into a rant, calling Christianity a "cancer" in the body of India that must be ripped out, being spread by a nexus of Christian evangelicals, Washington politicians, and corrupt Indian academics. Especially troubling was that he characterized Dalit converts to Christianity as mentally deficient and incapable of making responsible decisions on their own (hence, his support for the legal constraints on 'conversion' now in place in many of India's states).

After the book launch at the University, I became less willing to pursue my scholarship in the distanced way I always have (or told myself I did). In short, I was 'conscientized,' and I have never looked back since. Still, John Boopalan and I trod the time-worn path of routine scholarship and produced an essay on Malhotra's noxious mischaracterizations of Indian Christianity and Dalit Christians. The essay was published in 2014 in a Routledge volume that I edited (with Chad Bauman, also one of our PhD's, in MEHR). Attempts have proven futile to elicit any response at all to the book by Malhotra.

In the course of reading Breaking India, I noted a number of possible plagiarisms, the first, of my beloved mentor at the University of Pennsylvania, Wilhelm Halbfass, irked me a great deal. On the very same page, 62 words, without quotation marks or acknowledgement, were taken out a book by French scholar Maurice Olender, The Languages of Paradise, published by Harvard University Press. Besides this, in another more recent publication of Malhotra's called Indra's Net (2014), published by HarperCollins India, I found the plagiarism to be even more massive, especially of a book published by Columbia University Press called Unifying Hinduism by a friend and colleague, Andrew Nicholson of SUNY, Stonybrook.

As Mr. Malhotra is not an academic (and holds academe in the utmost contempt), I had no means (I did consider a number) other than social media to call attention to his infractions of the code of academic ethics the rest of us have to live by. Had he been affiliated to an institution of higher education, I could/would have drawn the attention of that institution to the issue; presumably, a panel would have been commissioned to weigh the evidence, and a variety of penalties might be enforced, from probation to dismissal.

In the absence of such mechanisms, here's what I did —

After months of painstaking research, I selected seven examples from the two previously-mentioned Malhotra books. I uploaded a statement as to what my issues were and my methodology for adducing and assessing the evidence. I uploaded Princeton Unversity's Code of Academic conduct, its handbook definition of plagiarism (same as ours; we admit as much, and provide the link to PU), and its oh-so-helpful guidelines for recognizing and assessing actual cases of it. I then uploaded the seven examples, each with the original and the Malhotra copy highlighted to show precisely what he had lifted, without quotation marks or acknowledgments in most cases or only with acknowledgments in some (but with quotation marks removed).

I then uploaded An Open Letter to Rajiv Malhotra's Publishers, and that was that, although the struggle to interpret and defend the evidence against Mr. Malhotra waxes fierce, even as I speak. The surprise email from Ram Jagessar is a case in point.

As for Jagessar, an Indo-Caribbean Hindu Canadian, I will only say, given the fatigue I feel after 10 days of sleep deficit, that he has a decade of history of harassing a number of Hinduism scholars, from Paul Courtright (Emory), Jeff Kripal (Houston), Wendy Doniger (UC Div), and Sheldon Pollock (Columbia)—and now me. I do not think it an exaggeration to call him a digital bully and blackmailer.

One target of his for nearly a decade has been Anantanand Rambachan, professor of Religious Studies at St Olaf's, respected by all for his scholarship and involvements in Hindu-Christian dialogue (Vatican Council for Interfaith Dialogue, WCC, etc). Jagessar has orchestrated mass campaigns against him—and, coincidentally, Frank Clooney of Harvard—as recently as April when the two of them participated in an interfaith dialogue at a Hindu temple in Virginia. Jagessar spammed their email and threatened protests; security in fact had to be arranged for them.

This is not your garden-variety Hinduism, with which I have absolutely so quarrel at all, but rather a thinly religionized nationalistic ideology that festers in the wounds of a cohort of disaffected immigrants of the South Asian diaspora. As a scholar and person of faith, I have decided I simply cannot live out my calling in the hallways of academe alone. There are those pipe-like things out there that they call the "internet."

Entirely apart from my initiative or my knowledge, a largely civil and constructive discussion of the evidence I adduced got under way on Reddit. Here's the link —


Also unbeknownst to me, another initiative is now underway, organized by leading members of RISA (Religion in South Asia), an AAR subgroup.

OnChange.org, you find a petition relating to one of the two books Mr. Malhotra plagiarized, the one by Andrew Nicholson published by Columbia University Press. The petition was drafted by Jesse Knutsen, professor of South Asian Religions at the University of Hawaii.


On its own, CUP is going through the evidence and could, if it so determines, submit a "cease and desist" order to HarperCollins India.

In the meantime, the fur is flying, and I am ever, ever so sorry that the Seminary was targeted. I do not tweet on a PTS email account and have tried my darnedest to keep PTS out of the picture. The snoops have apparently prowled through our online bio pages, which, of course, are publicly accessible.

Before I quit, allow me a last word of comment on the form in which my tweets have been sent to you by Ram Jagessar. Bear in mind that I might indeed be a "troll" if all I did was tweet 400 tweets at Rajiv Malhotra since July 1st. But what he has extracted is only one thread of complex conversations on a public forum involving at least one other person and in most cases multiple others. There were, then, at least 400 tweets from Twitter interlocutors, if not ten times that number or more. I would estimate that the vast majority of my tweets were done in response to one by Rajiv Malhotra, who would usually kick things off with something odiously Christophobic . What Ram Jagessar gives, then, is, at most, 1/2 a conversation, or, say, as little as a1/10th."