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Koenraad Elst at Varanasi.jpg

Koenraad Elst (born 7 August 1959) is a right wing Hindutva activist. Known primarily for his support of the Out of India theory and for publication of anti-Islamic literature,[1] Elst has been subject to heavy criticism by academics.

Early life and education

Elst was born into a Flemish Catholic family but he rejects Roman Catholicism and instead calls himself a “secular humanist”.[2] He graduated in Indology, Sinology and philosophy at the Catholic University of Leuven. Around that time, Elst became interested in Flemish nationalism.[3] Between 1988 and 1992, Elst was at the Banaras Hindu University. In 1999, he received a Ph.D. in Asian Studies from Leuven.[4] His doctoral dissertation on Hindu revivalism was published as Decolonizing the Hindu Mind.[3]

Prema Kurien notes Elst to be unique among the VOI scholars in the regard of his having an advanced academic degree in a related field of their professional discourse.[5]

Works

Indigenous Aryan theories

 
Map based on The Aryan Non-Invasionist Model by Koenraad Elst

In two books, Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate (1999) and Asterisk in Bhāropīyasthān (2007), Elst argues against the academically accepted view that the Indo-European languages originated in the Kurgan culture of the Central Asian steppes and that the migrations to Indian subcontinent in the second millennium BCE brought a proto-Indo-European language with them.[6][7] He instead proposes that the language originated in India and it spread to Middle East and Europe when the Aryans, (who were indigenous) migrated out.[8][9] According to Elst, the linguistic data are a soft type of evidence and are compatible with a variety of scenarios. The dominant linguistic theories may be compatible with an out-of-India scenario for Indo-European expansion.[10]

One of the few authors to use paleolinguistics,[11] he is deemed as one of the leading proponents of the OIT school of thought. Though, the theory has been rejected by the scholarly community and is not deemed as a serious competitor to the Kurgan hypothesis,[7] the rejection is disputed.[12]

Hindutva and Islamophobia

He was an editor of the New Right Flemish nationalist journal Teksten, Kommentaren en Studies from 1992 to 1995, focusing on criticism of Islam and had associations with Vlaams Blok, a Flemish nationalist far-right political party.[13][14][15] He had been a regular contributor to The Brussels Journal, a controversial conservative blog.

An intellectual heir of the school of thought championed by Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel[16]—the founders of the Voice of India (VOI) publishers, who were highly critical of both Christianity and Islam—Elst is a prominent author of the house[17] and adopts their hard-line stance against the two religions in his book.[13] Elst argues that there existed an universal spirituality among all the races and faiths, prior to the introduction of “Semitic” faiths which corrupted it.[17] In Decolonizing the Hindu Mind, he contends that the "need for 'reviving' Hinduism spring from the fact that the said hostile ideologies (mostly Islam) have managed to eliminate Hinduism physically in certain geographical parts and social segments of India, and also (mostly the Western ideologies) to neutralize the Hindu spirit among many nominal Hindus."[18] He is a vocal proponent of Hindutva, a Hindu nationalist movement which is typically associated with the far-right and supports Bharatiya Janata Party.[19][20][21] Elst perceives Hindutva as a tool to decolonize the mental and cultural state of Indians and return to the past days of Hindu glory.[22] He has written in support of the view that the Vedic science was highly advanced and may be only understood by a Hindu mystic.[23]

Every Muslim is a Sita who must be released from Ravana's prison. We should help Muslims in freeing themselves from Islam …

Koenraad Elst[24]

In Ram Janmabhoomi vs Babri Masjid, Elst makes the case for the birthplace of Rama, the Hindu god/king to correspond with the site of Babri Masjid and concurrently portrays Islam as a fanatic bigoted faith.[25] The book was published by Voice of India, a publication house that is self-describedly devoted to furthering the Hindu nationalist cause and had attracted immense criticism for publishing anti-Muslim literature in abundance.[13][17] It was praised by L. K. Advani, former deputy Prime Minister of India, who commanded an important role in the demolition of the said masjid.[26] In Ayodhya and After (1991), Elst was even more explicit in the support of the demolition and termed it an exercise in national integration which provided "an invitation to the Muslim Indians to reintegrate themselves into the society and culture from which their ancestors were cut off by fanatical rulers and their thought police, the theologians".[27] In another interview, Elst claimed that it was a justified act of revenge which enforced fears of Hindu repercussion, thus curtailing Muslim violence.[28] He though has retrospectively rejected the use of violent force in the demolition of the temple and has urged the Muslims to contend with the construction of a peace monument.[29][28][30]

In other essays and conferences, Elst has supported for outright attacks on the enemy ideology of Islam which, in his opinion, is supposedly inseparable with terrorism and hence, must be destructed.[20][31][32] He calls for an Indian-ization of Muslims and Christians by forcing them to accept the supremacy of Hindu culture and terms it as the Final Solution for the Muslim Problem.[33] In his 1992 book, Negationism in India: Concealing the Record of Islam, Elst attempts to demonstrate that there exists a prohibition of criticism of Islam in India and accuses secular historians (including the likes of Romila Thapar, Bipan Chandra, Ram Sharan Sharma et al) of suffering from Hindu Cowardice wherein they ignore Muslim crimes against Hindu communities, in order to fulfill their Marxist agenda.[34][35][36][37]

Reception

Elst has attracted significant criticism from the academia.

Anthropologist and noted commentator on politico-religious spheres -- Thomas Blom Hansen had described Elst as a "Belgian Catholic of a radical anti-Muslim persuasion who tries to make himself useful as a 'fellow traveller' of the Hindu nationalist movement".[38] Historian Sarvepalli Gopal deemed Elst to be "a Catholic practitioner of polemics" who was fairly oblivious of modern historiography methods.[39] Meera Nanda deems him to be a far-right Hindu cum Flemish nationalist.[13] He has been also described as a Hindu fundamentalist, pro-Hindutva right-wing ideologue and Hindutva apologist.[40][20][41]

According to Meera Nanda, Elst uses "the writings of his Voice of India mentors to peddle the worst kind of Islamophobia imaginable". She supports this with an example from one of his essays where he advises his readers that the best way to criticise Muhammad is to question his sanity as, from a yogic viewpoint, his divine revelations were "born from a deluded consciousness" fed by "sexual arousal" provided by his wife, Khadija.[13][42] Sanjay Subrahmanyam deems Islamophobia as the common ground between Elst and the traditional Indian far right.[43] Elst strongly denies the charges of him being an anti-Muslim, but insists that "not Muslims but Islam is the problem".[44]

Elst's work has drawn praise from fellow Hindutva activists and conservatives. David Frawley called his work on Ayodhya "definitive",[45] Paul Beliën described him as "one of Belgium's best orientalists",[46] while Daniel Pipes was positive about his stance on the Rushdie-affair.[47] François Gautier considers Elst as one of the most knowledgeable scholars on India and regretted of his' being unable to publish except from Hindu-oriented publishing houses.[48] Ramesh Nagaraj Rao praised Elst for his unassuming and brilliantly meticulous research whilst blaming the academia for turning him into an demonic figure, only to ignore his works.[49]

Influences

Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian far-right terrorist, responsible for the 2011 Norway attacks extensively borrowed from his works, in writing his manifesto.[50] The manifesto, among other things sought to deport all Muslims from Europe.[50]

Notes

  1. ^ Nanda, Meera (2011). The god market : how globalization is making India more Hindu. Monthly Review Press. p. 161. ISBN 9781583672501. OCLC 897104896.
  2. ^ "The Problem of Christian Missionaries". Retrieved 11 December 2010.
  3. ^ a b Nanda 2009, p. 112.
  4. ^ Geybels, Hans; Herck, Walter Van (2011). Humour and Religion: Challenges and Ambiguities. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. IX. ISBN 9781441194831.
  5. ^ Kurien, Prema A. (2007). A Place at the Multicultural Table : the Development of an American Hinduism. Rutgers University Press. p. 166. ISBN 9780813541617. OCLC 476118265.
  6. ^ Walter Bär, Angelo Fiori, Umberto Rossi (6 December 2012). Advances in Forensic Haemogenetics. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 9783642787829. Retrieved 31 March 2019. The Gimbautas hypothesis of an origin in the kurgan region and spread during the Bronze Age (between 4,000 and 2,500 BC) [...] seems to have the greatest support from archaeological and other considerations [...].CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ a b Pereltsvaig, Asya (9 February 2012). Languages of the World: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107002784.
  8. ^ Humes, Cynthia Ann (2012). "Hindutva, Mythistory, and Pseudoarchaeology". Numen. International Review for the History of Religions. 59 (2–3): 178–201. doi:10.1163/156852712x630770. JSTOR 23244958.
  9. ^ Avari, Burjor (2016). India: The Ancient Past: A History of the Indian Subcontinent from c. 7000 BCE to CE 1200. Routledge. p. 79. ISBN 9781317236726. A Belgian revisionist, Koenraad Elst, has nevertheless claimed that the Aryan migration was not towards India but out of India. Their ancestral homeland, their Urheimat, was the land of Sapta-Sindhava (the Punjab), and from there they expanded outwards towards Afghanistan, Iran, Central Asia and, ultimately, towards Europe.
  10. ^ Patton, Laurie L. (2005). "Introduction". In Bryant, Edwin; Patton, Laurie L. (eds.). The Indo-Aryan Controversy. Psychology Press. pp. 1–19. ISBN 9780700714636. It is possible that the absorption of foreign words could have taken place after the emigration of other branches of Indo-Europeans from India (p. 8).
  11. ^ Bryant, Edwin (2001). The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture: The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 146. In any event, Elst's proposal that earlier tribes could have emigrated from India bearing the centum characteristics and, after the velars had evolved into palatals in the Indian Urheimat, later tribes could have followed them bearing the new satem forms (while the Indo-Aryans remained in the homeland), cannot actually be discounted as a possibility on these particular grounds.
  12. ^ Bryant, Edwin, author. (March 2004). The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture : The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate. Oxford University Press. p. 147. ISBN 9780195169478. OCLC 697790495.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ a b c d e Nanda 2009, pp. 112–113.
  14. ^ Vierling, Alfred (1 July 2013). "NIEUW RECHTS TEN ONDER, beschreven door Dr Koenraad Elst". Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  15. ^ Zutter, Jan de, 1962- (2000). Heidenen voor het blok : radicaal-rechts en het nieuwe heidendom. Antwerpen: Houtekiet. p. 17. ISBN 9052405824. OCLC 50809193.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ Nanda, Meera (2011). The god market : how globalization is making India more Hindu. Monthly Review Press. p. 163. ISBN 9781583672501. OCLC 897104896.
  17. ^ a b c Pirbhai, M. Reza (April 2008). "DEMONS IN HINDUTVA: WRITING A THEOLOGY FOR HINDU NATIONALISM". Modern Intellectual History. 5 (1): 27–53. doi:10.1017/S1479244307001527. ISSN 1479-2451.
  18. ^ Guichard 2010, p. 94.
  19. ^ Guha, Sudeshna (May 2005). "Negotiating Evidence: History, Archaeology and the Indus Civilisation". Modern Asian Studies. Cambridge University Press. 39 (2): 399–426. doi:10.1017/s0026749x04001611. JSTOR 3876625.
  20. ^ a b c Sikand, Yogesh (Spring 2002). "Hinduism and Secularism After Ayodhya by Arvind Sharma: A Review". Islamic Studies. 41 (1): 166–169. JSTOR 20837185.
  21. ^ Guichard, Sylvie (25 June 2010). The Construction of History and Nationalism in India: Textbooks, Controversies and Politics. Routledge. ISBN 9781136949302.
  22. ^ Nanda, Meera (2004). Prophets Facing Backward : Postmodern Critiques of Science and Hindu Nationalism in India. Rutgers University Press. p. 10. ISBN 9780813536347. OCLC 1059017715.
  23. ^ Nanda, Meera (2004). Prophets Facing Backward : Postmodern Critiques of Science and Hindu Nationalism in India. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 9780813536347. OCLC 1059017715.
  24. ^ Nanda 2009, p. 106.
  25. ^ Sethi, Harish (26 January 1991). "Justifying Hindu Hurt.Ram Janmabhoomi vs Babri Masjid by Koenraad Elst. Review". Economic and Political Weekly. 26 (4): 167–168. JSTOR 4397247.
  26. ^ Sita Ram Goel, How I became a Hindu. ch.9
  27. ^ Anand 2011, p. 138.
  28. ^ a b Nanda, Meera (2011). The god market : how globalization is making India more Hindu. Monthly Review Press. p. 227. ISBN 9781583672501. OCLC 897104896.
  29. ^ "Ayodhya: 'Congress-BJP talks are important'". New Indian Express (Chennai, India). 21 December 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2019.
  30. ^ "Indologist moots 'peace monument' by Muslims". New Indian Express (Chennai, India). 20 December 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2019.
  31. ^ "A Hindutva Ploy". Indian Currents. 5 January 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2019.
  32. ^ "Indologist triggers row". Mail Today (New Delhi, India). 21 December 2014. Retrieved 27 April 2019.
  33. ^ Nanda, Meera (2004). Prophets Facing Backward : Postmodern Critiques of Science and Hindu Nationalism in India. Rutgers University Press. p. 14. ISBN 9780813536347. OCLC 1059017715.
  34. ^ "Taj Mahal or Tejo-Mahalaya?". The Express Tribune. 21 July 2016. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  35. ^ Guichard, Sylvie (25 June 2010). The Construction of History and Nationalism in India: Textbooks, Controversies and Politics. Routledge. ISBN 9781136949302.
  36. ^ Kurien, Prema A (2007). A Place at the Multicultural Table : the Development of an American Hinduism. Rutgers University Press. p. 171. ISBN 9780813541617. OCLC 476118265.
  37. ^ "Of historical lies and countering negationism". The Pioneer (New Delhi, India). 14 March 2018. Retrieved 27 April 2019.
  38. ^ Hansen, Thomas Blom (23 March 1999). The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India. Princeton University Press. p. 262. ISBN 9781400823055.
  39. ^ Gopal, Sarvepalli (15 October 1993). Anatomy of a Confrontation: Ayodhya and the Rise of Communal Politics in India. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 21. ISBN 9781856490504.
  40. ^ DeVotta, Neil (2002). "Demography and Communalism In India". Journal of International Affairs. 56 (1): 53–70. ISSN 0022-197X. JSTOR 24357883.
  41. ^ Anand, D. (30 April 2016). Hindu Nationalism in India and the Politics of Fear. Springer. ISBN 9780230339545.
  42. ^ Nanda 2011, pp. 161–163.
  43. ^ "Bad time to be Muslim - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  44. ^ "Book Review -- Saffron Wave". koenraadelst.bharatvani.org. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  45. ^ Frawley, David (2000). How I Became a Hindu: My Discovery of Vedic Dharma. Voice of India. p. 96. ISBN 9788185990606.
  46. ^ Is Islam Dying? Europe Certainly Is
  47. ^ Pipes, Daniel (1990). The Rushdie Affair: The Novel, the Ayatollah, and the West. Transaction Publishers. p. 305. ISBN 9781412838818.
  48. ^ "Rediff On The NeT: The Rediff Interview/ Francois Gautier". www.rediff.com. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  49. ^ "An Interview With Koenraad Elst". www.saveindia.com. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  50. ^ a b NANDA, MEERA (2011). "Ideological Convergences: Hindutva and the Norway Massacre". Economic and Political Weekly. 46 (53): 61–68. ISSN 0012-9976. JSTOR 23065638.

References

External links