Narendra Modi and the Leftist hijacking of the Wharton India Economic Forum – Rajiv Malhotra

Rajiv Malhotra: Being different!In recent opinion polls in India, Modi emerged as a top choice for the next prime minister. Americans should introspect that they applaud democracy on the one hand, and undermine fair democratic outcomes on the other. Meanwhile, the Indian sepoys are gleefully playing a double role — presenting themselves as representatives of India while undermining it; and facilitating American interventions in India while claiming to be experts on postcolonial studies.” – Rajiv Malhotra

Narendra ModiI have repeatedly criticized Western academic biases toward India in humanities departments. In contrast, I consider business schools less ideologically motivated, focused instead on imparting business skills. However, the recent decision by Wharton to un-invite Narendra Modi to the Wharton India Economic Forum shows that the ideals, ethics and independence of Wharton Business School are getting hijacked.

Modi is a controversial political leader in India, who nonetheless has had enormous success in the economic and social development of his state of Gujarat. He was invited be a keynote speaker at the prestigious annual student-run event on business opportunities in India. But suddenly the university pulled the plug on the invitation, under pressure from ideologues that are far removed from the world of business, and are hostile to free enterprise and globalization which is the bread and butter of Wharton’s program.

I am no fan (or opponent) of Modi. What concerns me is the violation of important principles and due process. Such intrusions are reminiscent of the way the British East India Company operated in Indian affairs, supporting one Indian raja against another, often citing “human rights violations” as its excuse. It was through these strategic interventions, and not through a conventional military invasion, that they ended up stitching together the world’s biggest colonial empire.

Wharton Busness SchoolToday, India has a functioning democracy that has elected Modi three times, as well as a legal system whose Supreme Court set up a special investigation team into the allegations against Modi. The Supreme Court investigation resulted in no charges being filed against him. Yet, these findings are apparently insufficient for Wharton, which, citing the concerns of three Indian professors, withdrew Modi’s invitation. Ironically, these Indian professors specialize in scholarship criticizing colonialism, not realizing that now they are serving similar American policies on interventions in India. They are extreme leftists when it comes to protesting against imperialist interventions in places like Iraq, Libya, Syria and other failed states. But they switch sides when it comes to India, and play the same role for America in undermining India’s sovereignty as the sepoys did. (The sepoys were Indian soldiers serving the British army to fight against other Indians.)

Prior to this episode, American business schools had been largely free of such politicking, had enjoyed autonomy within their universities and were viewed as good revenue generators for the universities. The jealous humanities departments often hold business schools in mild contempt, trivializing their pragmatic approach as “unintellectual.” This distance between business schools and humanities worked out well for India. Business school students have been spared the brainwashing by humanities discourse that routinely paints India as a basket case ridden with caste, cows, dowry, slums and other scourges, ripe for rescue by Western interventions. Rather, the research emanating from business schools, authored by a young breed of Indian professors, has focused on the strengths and potentials of Indian society. This is why Wharton’s Modi saga signals a potential loss of autonomy and political neutrality for business education in America.

Breaking IndiaThough American universities are amongst the best in the world, there also exist many compromised academics that promulgate theories on India which are racist, colonial and downright inimical to India’s interests. Many naïve Indian donors have unwittingly sponsored such scholars. My earlier book, Invading the Sacred, analyzed how certain professors at top American schools view Indian culture as oppressive and destructive, using outmoded theories; my next book, Breaking India, exposed the nexuses between such academics and civic groups that are promoting separatist identities and schisms in India. I analyze the long-term trend that I have called “breaking India,” in which many colonized Indian intellectuals are funded to dish out divisive and biased materials on India. Such meta-narratives can put Indian business leaders on the defensive in their international negotiations.

Wharton should not have capitulated to political petitions from persons outside of the business world. It ought to have turned this into an opportunity to debate Modi, and confront him on the controversies that swirl around him. That would have been true to the spirit of intellectual freedom. Universities are not known to shy away from controversial figures, and students are supposed to learn multiple sides of complex issues. This was meant to be a business students’ forum that has been organized entirely by students for several years. Most of them will have careers involving non-Western countries with controversial leaders and circumstances. They are better off being taught to think for themselves rather than running away from complexity or letting others make decisions for them.

Indian MBA students in the USIt is important that Indians must ask the following questions: Why did Wharton’s decision-makers not rely on Indian democracy and India’s legal system as the most important criteria for an Indian leader’s legitimacy? Are the future business leaders being taught the lesson of succumbing to political pressure without doing thorough due diligence of their own? Have the professors behind the ambush done a disservice to American businesses by snubbing the chief minister of a state that is the most sought after destination by multinationals for their Indian manufacturing hubs? Modi’s long list of endorsements from global business leaders seems to have been overruled easily by three angry professors. Why did their opinions prevail over all others, when their main competence is in English and postcolonial theory, not business?

Importantly, Modi’s popularity is largely due to the fact that businesses consistently rate him the most corruption-free leader in India. The same cannot be said of many other leaders who’ve graced the auditoriums of Wharton in previous years, and who will be honored at this year’s event. Indeed, many Indians have speculated that it is his refusal to be bought off by vested interests that makes him a target of the political-intellectual mafia.

1984 Anti Sikh Riots DelhiIf Wharton wishes to boycott Indian leaders and parties that have well-established roles in prior communal violence, it must undertake a systematic analysis of the hard facts, namely, that many Indian leaders who enjoy great respect in U.S. have unclean hands in this regard.

American business school students and their alumni have an opportunity to refashion the discourse on India. Business schools generally have been friendly to Indian students. Wharton, for example, is known to be the “brownest of the ivies” and admits hundreds of Indians every year. But business schools exist within the “ecosystem” of other disciplines, and these are likely to exert their ideological agendas.

For Indian alumni and students, this event should be a wake-up call to lead rather than follow the agenda on India. Indians have enough clout in business circles to not take this quietly. Otherwise be prepared for lobbying to impose U.S. trade sanctions on the grounds of human rights violations! That is a card that U.S. leaders periodically like to show Indian leaders. Unlike the Chinese who thumb their noses, and give their own reports of US human rights violations back to the Americans, Indian leaders have not shown the spine when pressured.

India-USA RelationsThis unfortunate episode isn’t good for overall U.S.-India relations and the perception of the United States in India. In recent opinion polls in India, Modi emerged as a top choice for the next prime minister. Americans should introspect that they applaud democracy on the one hand, and undermine fair democratic outcomes on the other. Meanwhile, the Indian sepoys are gleefully playing a double role — presenting themselves as representatives of India while undermining it; and facilitating American interventions in India while claiming to be experts on postcolonial studies. – HuffPost, 7 March 2013


5 Responses

  1. The Wharton debacle (Part 1) – Saswati Sarkar

    The [Wharton India Economic Forum] conference extended an unsolicited invitation for a keynote speech to Modi which he was gracious enough to accept. The conference extensively publicised the keynote speech, as it should. Subsequently, a group of three faculty members affiliated with the School of Arts and Sciences led a petition for cancellation of the plenary speech and communicated their intent to protest if their request was not granted. The petition was directed to the university management and, as I am given to understand, a decision to unceremoniously rescind the invitation on the basis of “potential polarising reactions from sub-segments of the alumni base” was arrived at within an unusually short time, likely spanning a day.

    Read the article here

  2. A copy of this post has been sent to the Dean of the Wharton Business School Thomas S. Robertson by Dr. N.S. Rajaram. He wrote:

    March 9, 2013

    Thomas S. Robertson, Dean
    Wharton Business School

    Dear Thomas:

    This relates to our previous correspondence on the subject. Rajiv Malhotra is a widely known public intellectual based in Princeton, NJ where he heads the Infinity Foundation. His column should give an idea of how Indian intellectuals view the episode.

    Sincere regards,
    N.S. Rajaram

  3. “Wharton snub of Modi is meddling in Indian democracy. Like Oxford training East India Co. officers. Except now Indian sepoys are professors.” – Rajeev Malhotra tweet


    GODHRA: THE TRUE STORY by Nicole Elfi

    A very good quote in the article

    We remember the great art historian A.K. Coomaraswamy’s words in 1909:

    It is unfortunate that libels upon nations and religions cannot be punished as can libels upon individuals.[23]

  5. Let truth be known about Modi – Ram Jethmalani

    The UPA government, on coming to power in 2004, put in place its most accomplished experts to meticulously draw up its corruption road map, which it succeeded in implementing with precision until the scams exploded in public space. Post-mortem reports of the 2G scam, the ISRO Devas deal, the Commonwealth Games fraud, to name a few, clearly establish this. I have no doubt that future historians will place the UPA in the same league as other plunderers of India, like Ghazni and the Pindaris.

    Another road map uppermost in the Congress agenda was towards the political assassination of Narendra Modi, and banishing him from India’s political firmament forever, using the unfortunate post Godhra riots as a handle. Congress think tanks worked overtime to draw up a comprehensive, multifaceted strategy of slander, false accusation, governmental and non-governmental disinformation, Goebellesian lies, aimed at converting falsehood into belief among the general population, opinion leaders and influential intellectuals. The lies were to be simple and crisp; they were to be repeated ad nauseam to embed them firmly as truth in the public mind, the media and internationally. Puppets were to be created and nurtured to keep the fiction of Modi’s involvement in the Godhra riots alive in the courts, in the media and in the minds of the people, through any lie or deception. Now that the SIT has completed its investigation, and submitted its report to the Supreme Court, it is time the nation and the world knew about the travesty of slander and lies that has been disseminated against Modi by the Congress through hired and unethical civil society organisations, such as Citizens for Justice and Peace headed by Teesta Setalvad, disgruntled officers like Sanjiv Bhatt, who made futile attempts to start an aggressive campaign against Modi 10 long years after the riots, and certain sections of the media. Today, the lid over the entire political conspiracy has blown, and the false testimony and machinations of Teesta Setalvad and Sanjiv Bhatt have been exposed.

    Let me inform the people of a few instances of deliberate disinformation against Modi, which gained huge currency during the last 10 years, backed by the malicious hate campaign, which the SIT investigation has proved to be completely false.

    1. The country was made to believe that Modi sat complacent and inert while the riots were searing Gujarat. The evidence indicates otherwise. Immediately after the Godhra train burning, on the evening of 27 February 2002, the Gujarat Chief Minister summoned an emergency meeting of top ranking officials of the government, took steps to deploy the Rapid Action Force (RAF), State Reserve Police, local police at sensitive points. Since the army at Ahmedabad Cantonment had been called at the border in view of the attack on Parliament earlier, the Chief Minister requested the then Defence Minister telephonically on 28 February 2002 to immediately deploy army battalions to tackle the situation, which were deployed immediately.

    2. The Congress, through its mouthpieces Teesta Setalvad and Sanjiv Bhatt maliciously fabricated a story, vigorously picked up by certain so called intellectuals and of course the anti national elements of our society, that Narendra Modi and the police administration conspired to carry out a pogrom by Hindus against Muslims and that the Gujarat riots were state sponsored. Undisputed statistics presented to the SIT show that in the first six days of the riots, 61 Hindus and 40 Muslims were killed in police firing. The death of any person in police firing is tragic. But does a police firing death toll with 60% casualties being Hindu indicate a pogrom by the state government against Muslims? The complaint of Zakia Jafri (filed at the behest of Teesta Setalvad) alleges that the riots that followed the Godhra train carnage were a conspiracy and a pogrom by the ruling party in Gujarat and its Chief Minister in which almost the entire administration was a co-conspirator. More particularly, they perpetrated a smear campaign that the Chief Minister had instructed the police officials not to interfere with or use force against the Hindus taking revenge against the Muslims. This allegation has not been supported by any evidence, except for the false testimony of Sanjiv Bhatt, which not only appeared suddenly after 10 years, but has also been demolished by positive evidence that he is lying.

    3. Another canard led by Teesta Setalvad and other vested interest groups globally was that the Gujarat government and its police did not investigate rape cases. Evidence before the SIT establishes that this was pure fiction, that all rape complaints were being investigated and some convictions had already taken place. It also proved that Setalvad fabricated a false rape case in Naroda, which she alleged was not investigated, with the alleged victim herself denying it and also the eyewitness. Another gruesome fabrication spread by Setalvad about the tearing of a pregnant woman’s stomach and lifting the foetus on the tip of the sword has been disproved by the SIT as false. On post mortem the foetus was found intact within the unfortunate dead lady who succumbed to burns during the riots, and was identified by her relatives. This is corroborated by the statement of the doctor who performed the post mortem.

    4. While investigating the Gulbarg case, the SIT came across nearly 20 witnesses who came with their readymade typed statements and refused to videotape their statements, to which the SIT objected. When they did give their statements, they did not match the readymade statements, and also admitted to the SIT that the typed statements were given to them by Teesta Setalvad.

    5. The Gujarat police had found on investigation that the Godhra train carnage was a conspiracy and what followed was a violent reaction to it. Teesta Setalvad, under tutelage of the Congress government, propagated to the world at large that the Godhra train carnage was accidental and the riots were a conspiracy supported by the Gujarat government. The Justice Banerjee Committee report claiming the Godhra train burning to be an accident was held illegal by the High Court of Gujarat. The SIT also rejected the accident theory, and found on reinvestigation that the Godhra carnage was indeed a conspiracy to burn and bake the unwary passengers and the riots were a reaction. This fact is now judicially established in the trial of Godhra incident by the sessions judge appointed by the then Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court as directed by the Supreme Court. The very fact that one of the principal accused in the Godhra carnage is now a fugitive in Pakistan, with an Interpol Red Corner Notice, clearly reveals how the conspiracy originated. So, another evil myth to poison the minds of the people of our country against Modi has been disproved by a series of judicial findings.

    6. It is now widely known that the entire anthology of false and gruesome stories brought to the notice of the Supreme Court by mainly Citizens of Justice and Peace, the NGO headed by Teesta Setalvad, on the basis of which the Supreme Court appointed the SIT itself, were found by the SIT to be false. Modi bashing, Modi defamation became a lucrative industry and a blood sport during the last 10 years. Appropriate recruitments were done, the Goebbelsian strategy that if you repeat a lie a thousand times it will become a truth was used to the hilt. The Congress and Teesta Setalvad must have basked in their success until the SIT findings revealed not only the real truth to the world, but also exposed the lies of Setalvad and Sanjiv Bhatt, in tutoring witnesses, pressurizing them to give false affidavits, and providing false information to the SIT and the Supreme Court. Though still trying their best to attack the SIT, there is little they can do, as all statements of all witnesses are recorded under videography.

    7. The enemies of India desperately tried to turn the unfortunate Gujarat riots into a global issue and grievously tarnish Gujarat and Modi through their strategy of repeating lies. But the same Europeans who had succumbed to Teesta Setalvad’s pogrom and state sponsored riot theory in 2002, appear to have realised their mistake, and are now graciously making amends, not to mention the overtures made to Modi by the UK and the US.

    Well, the lengthy SIT process that involved thousands of witnesses and reams of evidence is over, and Modi has emerged unscathed. It is now time that the conspiracy against Modi and Gujarat should forcefully be informed to the general public, the “secular” intellectuals, the opinion makers and the media.

    >> Ram Jethmalani is a senior politician and eminent lawyer.

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