The Many Criticisms of Rama and the ‘Anger’ of the Hindu Right

The Wire In: Several days ago, I pointed out on Twitter that Valmiki’s Ramayana contains episodes where Sita criticises Rama, whereas representing Sita as chiding Rama today – as did a recent cartoon – often leads to extreme controversy. I soon found out that many now find intolerable even criticisms preserved within Valmiki’s text, especially when rendered into idiomatic English.

After offering a colloquial summary of Sita’s admonishment of Rama during the agnipariksha (fire test) episode, I found myself engulfed in an avalanche of hate. I received – on Twitter, Facebook, and private e-mails – death threats, rape threats, anti-Semitic messages, misogynistic comments, racially-charged attacks and so forth. Some of the death threats were notably graphic in their detail.

Alongside such malevolent attacks came an Internet campaign spearheaded by members of the Hindu Right for Rutgers University – my employer – to take punitive actions against me. As part of that campaign, an IT professional in Tampa reached out to Robert Goldman, Catherine and William L. Magistretti Distinguished Professor in South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California-Berkeley. Professor Goldman has had a long, distinguished career as a Sanskritist. He is an expert on and respected translator of Valmiki’s Ramayana. Professor Goldman sent an e-mail that is critical of my translations to the IT professional; the e-mail was then forwarded by the IT professional to the Rutgers administration and subsequently published by Swarajya magazine.

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