Monday, August 1, 2011

Peter Heehs has stolen the research of his colleagues

From: Prof Kamal Das Date: Mon, Aug 1, 2011 at 1:04 PM Subject: RAMACHANDRA GUHA: RIGHT SPIRIT - WRONG FACTS! To:

Dear Mr Ramachandra Guha,      

1. This has reference to your piece 'Ban the Ban' in The Telegraph on the 30th of July, 2011 and specifically to your comments/ views on the proscription of the book, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs.

2. It is surprising and unfortunate that a person of your standing and repute has made such facile, irresponsible and flippant remarks about 'hyperactive courts' and 'dogmatic devotees' without proper research and understanding of the matter.

3. We would like to believe that you have been misinformed, and in a genuine attempt at setting this wrong right, submit the following facts:

  • The proscription of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs has little to do with freedom of expression and is all about academic fraudulence, intellectual property theft, copyright violation, impersonation and criminal factual distortion with malicious intent.
  • The scope of the fraudulence in the book involves, inter alia, factual distortion, entirely concocted quotations, out-of-context quotes, presentation of perverse speculation as actual facts, deliberate suppression of evidence contrary to the author's thesis, etc. all of which is structured to harm Sri Aurobindo's image. Kindly visit for a detailed expose of factual distortions in the book compiled by senior scholars, historians and professors.  
  • Peter Heehs has never been in charge of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives as you wrongly claim, and has multiple cases pending against him in various courts for impersonating as the "founder of the Ashram Archives" when in fact he was only one of 40 proof-readers/ researchers there. Heehs has now conveniently accused Columbia University Press for wrongly having labelled him as the 'founder of the Archives' for the promotion of  the book and the matter is sub-judice.
  • Peter Heehs has stolen the research of his colleagues at the Archives for the publication of this book and the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust has initiated disciplinary action against him in this regard. Additionally, Heehs has used substantial content in the book without proper permission in gross violation of the Ashram's copyright. Heehs has apologized in writing for this but the matter remains sub-judice.
  • With regard to the case filed in Chennai against extension of his visa, kindly be advised that the grounds for that case were the gross violation of the visa terms namely, non-reporting and non-payment of taxes due against income earned in India and gross mis-conduct as evidenced by criminal cases and arrest warrants pending against him. For the record, Mr. Peter Heehs is currently in India without appropriate legal permits.
  • While anybody is welcome to their definition and understanding of scholarship, the reality is that Peter Heehs is a school drop-out, with no formal training or qualification in any discipline whatsoever. While this should not disqualify or deter anyone from attempting to comment authoritatively on a spectrum of subjects ranging from literature to freudian analysis of the works and lives of extraordinary figures of our times, it is incumbent on the recipients of this unsolicited package of pseudo-history and speculation, to be circumspect and not fall prey to what is essentially a con-trick from a small-time crook.
  • Kindly note that in addition to the order of the Honourable High Court of Orissa, the Government of Orissa, acting on the request of the Home Ministry and in tandem with it, after due process of law, promulgated the Gazette Notification dated 09-04-2009, thereby making the proscription of the said book in the territory of India, de jure, effective from the date of notification. The gazette notification is attached herewith for your convenient perusal. 
  • The Gazette notification states, inter alia that the said book:       
§  “Promotes communal disaffection affecting public peace and tranquillity”
§  “The book depicts wrong and distorted facts on the life and character of Sri Aurobindo, which is clearly blasphemous”
§  “The book contains absurd, irrelevant and self-made stories, which do not have any scriptural support and has caused widespread indignation among the devotees”
§  “The writings portrayed in the book have seriously hurt the sentiments of the apostles of Sri Aurobindo and the said book, with deliberate and malicious intention has insulted the religious beliefs of millions”

4. The devotees of Sri Aurobindo have no objection to Peter Heehs and his ilk plying their trade in any part of the world including India as long as they do so without fraudulent credentials, misleading associations, malicious speculation and voyeurism and calling it research, history and authoritative biography. 

5. While, no icon, least of all an intellectual and spiritual giant like Sri Aurobindo, is likely to be affected by the shenanigans of petty roadside criminals, it must be understood and appreciated that reputation is a construct of the human mind and is consequently vulnerable to deliberate and unchallenged misinformation. Therefore the need to stand up and fight.

6. In view of the above, it would not be unreasonable to expect that you will take action to set the record straight with The Telegraph, and failure to do so would constrain us to reluctantly agree with Arundhati Roy's assessment of you, as a 'cricket historian who has missed the boat.'

Truly, Prof Kamal Das
Gazette Notification from Govt of Orissa on 9.4.2009.pdf

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