Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Emperor's 'Borrowed' Robe

Gopi Chand Narang has been in the news for a while now. Accused of plagiarism for his award winning book 'Sakhtiyat aur Mashriqi Sheriyat' by a young scholar Imran Shahid Bhinder, a Birmingham-based doctoral candidate and a teacher. Bhinder has in fact gone ahead and written a book on Narang's alleged plagiarism, which is in the press now along with his other book "Postmodernism and Terrorism", a critique of postmodernism and its claims regarding epistemological, aesthetic, terroristic and revolutionary aspects.

Unfortunately, apart from C M Naim's articles in Outlook, there has not been much coverage of the Narang issue. The latest one from Naim sahab is titled "The Emperor's New Clothes". Taking a cue from it I have titled this post "The Emperor's 'Borrowed' Robe" - an extensive interview with Imran Bhinder on Narang, plagiarism and Urdu literature.


"I firmly believe that Gopi Chand Narang has always been a passive adherent to the western so-called superior theoretical work, who completely failed to conceive the western theoretical process. He also absolutely lacks the principal intellectual traits, which are essential not only to perform subtle analysis, but also to establish his reputation as an honest writer."
- Imran Shahid Bhinder


What impressions you had of Gopi Chand Narang and how did it change after you found out about the plagiarism?

Impression as an epistemological theorist or literary critic? As a social or cultural critic? Fairly speaking, let me ask you that, can a reader of Urdu literature classify Narang as one of these? I do not think someone can answer this question so straightforwardly. To look for a detailed answer of the questions, I posed above, rather than isolating Gopi Chand Narang, I would like to explore Narang’s work in a general literary, social and cultural context.

Following literary ethics, I can affirm that a writer must be judged by the quality of his work and the impact he or she has on the individual as well as on the collective social, cultural or literary trends and spirit of his epoch. Has Narang produced such a work on the basis of which Narang can be tested against literary criteria? Has he constructively influenced the literary, social or cultural atmosphere? The answer is emphatic no. I find absolutely futile and weightless argumentatively the writings of Narang’s well-wishers through which they make huge propaganda to prove him highly revered theorists.

Some of them have gone to the extent that they propagate that Narang is one of the main theorist of postmodernism in the West. This is so shocking that I cannot even find words to express this severe absurdity. Frankly speaking, I have always been a reader of Western philosophy, literature and criticism and have never been a great admirer of Urdu literary criticism, because I believe that there is no literary criticism in Urdu.

Most of the so-called Urdu critics have imported certain Western ideas, without comprehending the contextual importance of the complicated themes. Through personal experience, I can understand that how concretely the ideas originate in a particular context and how the ideas are tested against the empirical reality within a different context. Any particular social, cultural or literary theory becomes obsolete if it contradicts with the existing or emerging empirical reality of human life. Transcendental criteria, I mean some timeless principle, annihilating empirical reality of its importance, has never been categorically exercised to judge the invigorating aspect of a theory.

Let me draw the attention of readers to the contextual significance of theoretical and ideological approaches in the West. For instance, in the twentieth century, from Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure onward to French Postmodernist Jacque Derrida, all believed in a very strange idea that reality is not socially constructed, it is claimed, on the contrary, that the reality is linguistically constructed. Well, Derrida, in the first chapter of one of his most important book Of Grammatology, sees the emergence of Cybernetic theory as well as immensely complex system of information as an essential outcome of recent development in the scientific and economic sphere. Despite certain fascistic aspects in Derridean deconstruction, such as debasement of meaning, I appreciate his move of locating his arguments in a concrete social and historical context.

Derridean science of grammatology views suspiciously the whole Western philosophical or metaphysical tradition that, he thinks, is based on Logocentrism. Philosophy based on Western Logocentrism, attempts to justify the difference between signifier and signified, then the difference between signifier and signified; as a totality, is reduced under the philosophy of Western metaphysics of presence. According to that, transcendental consciousness occupies a privileged place. It determines meaning according to its own conditions. Transcendental means an immovable presence, a fixed point.

Derrida’s intention is to liberate the signifier, which according to transcendental consciousness eventually reduces itself as a signified. Derrida extremely motivated by the marginality of Jews in the west developed his strategies to deconstruct all the polarities and dichotomies that occupied privileged location conceptually under Christian theological Logos, Reason or Logic.

The point to ponder is that Derridean deconstruction is implicitly a Jewish philosophy that struggles against the reduction of Jews under the Christian Logos. Jews should liberate themselves from the oppressive Christian philosophy, say Derrida. As a Jewish philosopher, in one of his most obscure, but important book Glas, Derrida challenged the fundamental theme of Logos and trinity in Christian theology.

Let me ask this question to Narang or the other ingredients of his propaganda machine, had he ever tested the western fascistic theoretical work against the concrete aspect of his own society? Did Narang, through his de-contextualised and distorted translations, ever attempted, implicitly or explicitly, to explain the meaning of “Western Metaphysics”, which was so integrated with Derridean deconstruction?

The point I want to lay emphasis on is that the Western theorists do not disregard the significance of the whole social, political and economic developments. They also keep on the agenda their loyalties with their own class or groups.

In this background let me come to your question now that the impression I had about Narang. I firmly believe that Gopi Chand Narang has always been a passive adherent to the western so-called superior theoretical work, who completely failed to conceive the western theoretical process. He also absolutely lacks the principal intellectual traits, which are essential not only to perform subtle analysis, but also to establish his reputation as an honest writer.

Before discovering the truth about Narang’s plagiarism, I had always been suspicious about his stature as a critic or writer. Narang mendacious act of massive plagiarism has just converted my suspicions into a firm belief.




  1. It sad how people in urdu literary world have not done anything about it. that is how such men become great - by borrowing ideas from great men.
    Prof. Mohamad Omar

  2. Ebrahim Musa, NJ, USASeptember 21, 2009 at 5:10 PM

    I agree with Prof Omar. Someone needs to put a stop to these thefts. But who?

  3. It is now a fact that "Prof" "Dr" Narang has committed a huge plagiarism. I think if there is a discilinary committee in India it should move on and take an action against Narang for the sake of individual honesty and literary ethics.

  4. It is a proven fact now that Gopi Chand Narang has committed a huge plagiarism. If there is some respect for literature and criticism in India, a strong action must be taken against Narang. I would also suggest to Mr.Bhinder to investigate other books by Narang. I don't think he has the ability to write a book on his own.

    Nasir Ali
    United Kingdom