Is Wikipedia perpetrating prejudices against Native Scholars?

In the midst of a heated debate over the now almost-defunct Aryan Invasion Theory, I came upon Subhash Kak’s wikipedia page. For those who don’t know much about Dr. Kak, n 1979 he was tenured as Delaune Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. In 2007, he was appointed head of the Computer Science department at Oklahoma State University. Besides having done research work on Cryptography, Neural Networks and a host of other technical subjects, Dr Kak is also an accomplished Vedic Scholar (perhaps a natural corrolary to his ethnic background of Kashmiri Pandit). I personally came across his writing in a ground-breaking book titled “In Search of the Cradle of Civilization”, that made a very convincing argument to warrant questioning the established academic norm of where Civilization originated (the Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece area).

I discovered an excellent online magazine for writers in 2001, now very popular as Sulekha.com. Back in those days, Sulekha actually promoted some top quality authors and boasted of contributing luminaries such as Dr. Lalita Pandit, Dr. Subhash Kak, Prof Antonio de Nicolas, Manoj Das, Rajiv Malhotra, Sankrant Sanu, Arjun Bhagat to name a few. Again, for those readers without much background into these writers, they are public domain intellectuals and/or academic scholars with an Indic background (with either specializations in their field of expertise on an Indic topic or as part of the Indian Diaspora).

One of the most influential of this august group was Dr. Kak (those who are interested would like to check out his work on Sulekha.com — HERE).

Anyhow, coming back to the topic of this article, I was aghast to read what kind of treatment this gentle scholar has recieved in the hands of the “author(s)” of his biography on Wikipedia. You can read the entire biography here — [[Subhash_Kak]].

Here’s my read on this matter, which I posted under the section “Negative/Biased Journalism” in the discussion on this page — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Subhash_Kak

 

Negative/Biased Journalism

This article is a very typical case of biased journalism. I will quote specific examples within this article that try to show Dr Kak in a negative light (and attempt to subtly ridicule his scholarly positions vis-a-vis the conformed norm of established academic autocracy).

For instance, the section under “Political Background” (which incidentally is the first section ascribed in this biographic entry, although his field of expertise is Science) —

Political background Kak takes a staunchly conservative stance politically, supporting Indian “nuclear deterrance” against China, opposing (what he terms as) “socialist ideas” in the Indian constitution, the “Soviet-style ideas of the Congress party” and “terrorists from across the [Pakistani] border”.[1] He has (sarcastically) been called “one of the leading intellectual luminaries of the Hindu-nationalist diaspora” by Alan Sokal (2006), in the course of a discussion in which Sokal discusses pseudoscientific aspects of Hindutva ideology, under which he includes of some of Kak’s work.

See the usage of quotes and paraphrasing from others, and how this entire paragraph drips of negatives and bias.

Again, under the section “The Astronomical Code of the Rig Veda”, we see judgements being made —

Kak’s archaeoastronomical claims have the effect of significantly extending the Vedic period, postulating the arrival of ethnic Indo-Aryans to the 7th millennium BC. This claim is in blatant contradiction with mainstream Indology and historical linguistics[7] and science historians[8]

The usage of the sentence, “This claim is in blatant contradition with mainstream Indology” effects a sense of incredulity. This article is obviously a politically inspired hatchet job, not an unbiased biography of a highly talented and intellectually honest scholar (of both Computer Science, as well as Indology).

Let us look at similar biographies of other eminent personalities and see if this mode of negative journalism is repeated —

I give you the page of Michael Witzel for instance. Notice how his page starts —

Contents [hide] * 1 Biographical information * 2 Research * 3 Criticism * 4 California textbook controversy over Hindu history * 5 References * 6 Publications o 6.1 Vedic Texts and Early Indian History o 6.2 Later Indian History o 6.3 Linguistic Studies, Substrates o 6.4 Textual Studies, Religion o 6.5 Comparative mythology o 6.6 Hindutva & Indus Inscriptions

The first item after his biographical information is the Research he has done, not the author’s opinion of his Political persuasion.

 

To which the “author” promptly responded —

as it happens, Kak isn’t notable as a scholar (although the article does have an “Information theory” section), but as the author of pseudo-scholarly pamphlets with a political bent. The article should of course reflect this. Kak isn’t an Indologist (hence it is rather pointless to compare this article with the Michael Witzel article). He is a computer scientist dabbling in Voice of India type propaganda literature in his free time. —dab 

I foresee a great battle brewing…we cannot let fascists take hold of how scholars such as Dr. Kak are portrayed in a public domain encyclopedia such as wikipedia!

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