Christianizing South India: Questions of credibility of Indian academics

In the document, Pattanam Excavations-2008: Muziris Heritage Project, published by Kerala Council of Historical Research (KCHR) reveals that Prof K Rajan and Dr V Shelvakumar are co-directors of the infamous Pattanam Excavation project.

KCHR and the Pattanam project have been embroiled in a variety of controversies, including financial irregularities, duplication of artefacts and experts. It has emerged that the former Director P J Cherian was involved in forging government documents, making illegal appointments and financial irregularities worth crores of rupees. It is alleged that Cherian had obtained the licence for Pattanam excavation after submitting fake documents at the Archaeological Survey of India as reported by Mathrubhumi.

In May 2012, Rajan said the brick structures exposed at Pattanam and the triple grooved roof tiles are akin to those found at contemporary early historic sites like Uraiyur, Kaveripattinam and Arikamedu (Major breakthrough in Pattanam excavation:  The New Indian Express May 15, 2012). But after Pattanam was black-listed by Indian archaeological community Rajan became silent.

The ongoing manoeuvres to associate the dubious  Pattanam site in Kerala with  Kodumanal, Keezhadi, Porunthal and  other unearthed spots in Tamil Nadu, has already  created  controversies.  It is Dr. K Rajan who is one of the foremost patrons of Pattanam. Rajan is still in the administration of KCHR.  He associates Pattanam with   various sites  in  Tamil Nadu,  thus not only collaborating to establish a Biblical myth of Apostle Thomas as history,  but also  constructing a larger communal space for the Church to raise political claims  in South India. Rajan observed that the cultural transformation from the Iron Age to the Early Historic Period discernible at Pattanam was unique to Peninsular India (The Hindu, May 12, 2009). KCHR Museum which collaborates with Pattanam is  associated with Biblical scholars such as Michael Jursa and Irvin Finkel. Currently the agenda by Rajan and his team is to associate Keezhadi, Pattanam and other sites in Kerala and Tamil Nadu as racially different from India and associated with West Asian Biblical lands and Roman Empire.

Rajan and Cherian jointly propagate  presentations   linking  the Tamil Nadu – Kerala region – in the backdrop of excavations at Kodumanal, Thandikudi, Porunthal and Pattanam  (Pattanam  Fifth Season –Field Report, 2011, KCHR). There are serious allegations that  field reports on  sites such as Keezhadi,  kodumanal, Thandikudi and Porunthal  are prepared  for  promoting  Pattanam which has much political and religious connotations.

After getting wind of the controversies associated with the Pattanam excavations, former President Pranab Mukherjee refused to inaugurate Pattanam Museum (President skips Pattanam exhibition: The Hindu, February 28, 2016).

The Pattanam team acknowledges Rajan’s  guidance  in May 2012,  for assistance  to the Kongu Region, including Kodumanal, Kangayam, Arachallur and Arasampalayam.  Seminars on Indian Ocean trade of Pattanam conducted by KCHR and British Museum in August 2013, was hosted by department of history, Pondicherry Central University and chaired by Rajan.

Rajan is in the Advisory Committee of Archaeological Survey of India and has lobbied for  currently granting  license to Cherian’s PAMA for excavating Mathilakam and other sites under Cherian’s Ancient Tamilakam Project backed by the Church.

Keezhadi in Tamil Nadu, patronized by Rajan  has   gone viral after its association with Father Gasper Raj, founder of NGO Tamil Mayyam, and officially referred in US crime records as ‘Gaspar Raj Maria Paulian’. Senior national security strategist, Douglas C. Lovelace Jr., Esq., in Terrorism Documents of International and Local Control, Academic, OUP, Vol. 91 (2008) alleged that between 2003 and August 2006, individuals including Gaspar Raj Maria Paulian, Nachimuthu Socrates, Fnu Lnu, and Vijayashanthar Patpanathan were “involved in multiple criminal activities in support of LTTE, a Sri Lankan group designated by the US state department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization”.

US Domestic Security and Intelligence analyst Siobhan O’ Neil, in Terrorist Precursor Crimes: Issues and Options for Congress (2007), has mentioned about Gaspar Raj’s LTTE links. Neil stated that Gaspar Raj Maria Paulian along with others such as Nachimuthu Socrates “have conspired to remove LTTE from US state department’s Foreign Terrorist Organization list”.

When Rajan is clearly working as an interlocutor between Pattanam and Keezhadi with international terrorist groups and NGOs,  his academic credibility is diluted and stands accused of anti-national activism. The Indian Academic community should distance itself from such personalities.