Adheesh Sathaye


On January 5, 2004, the Bhandarkar Institute, a large Sanskrit manuscript library in Pune, was vandalized because of its involvement in James Laine's controversial study of the Maharashtrian king Shivaji. While most of the manuscripts escaped damage, less fortunate was the academic project of South Asian studies, which now faces some serious questions. if our intellectual pursuits should result in the destruction of the very materials we study, or injury to those who help us to study them, are they worth conducting at all? Or might they be conducted in such a way as to avoid violent reaction? As groundwork for possible answers to these questions, this essay examines the intellectual history behind the violence as revealed through Marathi-language reviews of Laine's book published in the months prior to the attack. if we can understand how and why Laine's book came to be portrayed as censorable and the Bhandarkar Institute as censurable, then we may begin to see this event as more than just 'insider' hooligans protesting against an 'outsider' scholar.

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