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Koenraad Elst (born 7 August 1959) is a Belgian orientalist and Indologist known primarily for his writings in support for the Out of India theory, a controversial fringe theory that suggests that the Indo-European language family originated in India.
Elst was born to a Flemish Catholic family. Some of his family members were Christian missionaries. He graduated in Indology, Sinology and Philosophy at the Catholic University of Leuven. Around that time, Elst became interested in Flemish nationalism. Between 1988 and 1992, Elst was at the Banaras Hindu University. In 1999, he received a Ph.D. from the Catholic University of Leuven. His doctoral dissertation on Hindu revivalism was published as Decolonizing the Hindu Mind.
Elst, known for his support for the Out of India theory related to Indo-Aryan migration has also written about multiculturalism, language policy issues, ancient Chinese history and philosophy, and comparative religion. Elst became identified with Hindutva politics during the 1990s, following his support for their position on the Ram Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya and in parallel with the BJP's rise to prominence on the national stage.
Indigenous Aryan theories and support for Hindu revivalism
In two books, Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate (1999) and Asterisk in Bhāropīyasthān (2007), Elst has written in support of Out of India, a fringe theory that argues against the academically accepted view that Indo-Aryan migrations into India in the second millennium BCE brought a proto-Indo-European language with them. Elst argues that the migration went the other way and that Aryans indigenous to India migrated out of India, taking Indo-European languages to the middle east and Europe. Elst is one of the few supporters of that theory who uses paleolinguistics in support of the Out of India theory. The Out of India theory is considered to be an extreme view of the origin of the Indo-European family of languages and Elst is thought to be one of its leading proponents.
According to Elst, the linguistic data are a soft type of evidence and are compatible with a variety of scenarios, and the dominant linguistic theories turn out to be compatible with an out-of-India scenario for Indo-European expansion. He notes that the substratum data are not in conflict with an Indo-European homeland in India.
Elst is known to be sympathetic to Hindutva, a Hindu nationalist movement. In Ram Janmabhoomi vs Babri Masjid, Elst makes the case that for an enduring historical tradition associating the Ram Janmabhoomi site with the birthplace of Rama, the Hindu god/king. The book, which was published by Voice of India, a publication house devoted to furthering the Hindu cause, brought attention and praise for Elst from L. K. Advani, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party
Elst's work has drawn both praise and criticism. David Frawley called his work on Ayodhya "definitive", K. D. Sethna regarded it as "absolutely the last word". Paul Beliën described him as "one of Belgium's best orientalists", while the anthropologist Thomas Blom Hansen 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", while the historian Sarvepalli Gopal called Elst "a Catholic practitioner of polemics" who "fights the Crusades all over again on Indian soil". The social theorist Ashis Nandy criticized the alleged dishonesty and moral vacuity of Elst.
- Ram Janmabhoomi vs. Babri Masjid. A Case Study in Hindu-Muslim Conflict. Voice of India, Delhi 1990. (A large part of this book is included in Vinay Chandra Mishra and Parmanand Singh, eds.: Ram Janmabhoomi Babri Masjid, Historical Documents, Legal Opinions & Judgments, Bar Council of India Trust, Delhi 1991.)
- Ayodhya and After: Issues Before Hindu Society, 1991.
- Negationism in India: Concealing the Record of Islam. Voice of India. 1992. ISBN 81-85990-01-8.
- Indigenous Indians: Agastya to Ambedkar. Voice of India. 1993. ISBN 9788185990040.
- Psychology of Prophetism - A Secular Look at the Bible. 1993. ISBN 81-85990-00-X.
- Dr. Ambedkar - A True Aryan. 1993. ISBN 9788185990132.
- BJP vis-à-vis Hindu Resurgence. 1997. ISBN 81-85990-47-6.
- The Demographic Siege. 1997. ISBN 81-85990-50-6.
- Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate Aditya Prakashan (1999) ISBN 81-86471-77-4
- Decolonizing the Hindu Mind - Ideological Development of Hindu Revivalism. Delhi: Rupa & Co. 2001. ISBN 81-7167-519-0.
- The Saffron Swastika - The Notion of Hindu Fascism. (2001) ISBN 81-85990-69-7
- Gandhi and Godse - A review and a critique. Voice of India. 2001. ISBN 81-85990-71-9. (transl: Pourquoi j’ai tué Gandhi, examen critique de la défense de Nathuram Godse par Koenraad Elst, Les Belles Lettres)
- Who is a Hindu?. 2001. ISBN 81-85990-74-3. 
- Ayodhya: The Case Against the Temple. Voice of India. 2002. ISBN 81-85990-75-1.
- Ayodhya, The Finale - Science versus Secularism the Excavations Debate (2003). Voice of India. ISBN 81-85990-77-8
- Return of the Swastika: Hate and Hysteria Versus Hindu Sanity. Voice of India. 2007. ISBN 9788185990798.
- Asterisk in Bhāropīyasthān. Minor Writings on the Aryan Invasion Debate. Voice of India. 2007.
- The Problem with Secularism (Voice of India 2007)
- The Argumentative Hindu. Essays by an Unaffiliated Orientalist (Aditya Prakashan 2012)
- Sharma, Arvind, ed. (2001). "India's Only Communalist: an Introduction to the Work of Sita Ram Goel". Hinduism and Secularism: After Ayodhya. Palgrave. ISBN 978-0-333-79406-7.
- "Linguistic Aspects of the Aryan Non-Invasion Theory," In Edwin Bryant and Laurie L. Patton (editors) (2005). Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History. Routledge/Curzon. ISBN 0-7007-1463-4.
- The Rushdie affair's legacy. Postscript to Daniel Pipes: The Rushdie Affair: The Novel, the Ayatollah, and the West. Transaction Publishers, paperback (2003). 1990. ISBN 0-7658-0996-6.
- Gujarat After Godhra: Real Violence, Selective Outrage/edited by Ramesh N. Rao and Koenraad Elst. New Delhi, Har-Anand Pub., 2003, 248 p., ISBN 81-241-0917-6.
- The Ayodhya demolition: an evaluation", in Dasgupta, S., et al.: The Ayodhya Reference, q.v., p. 123-154.
- The Ayodhya debate in Pollet, G., ed.: Indian Epic Values. Râmâyana and Its Impact. Leuven: Peeters. 1995, q.v., p. 21-42. Check date values in:
|date=(help) (adapted from a paper of the International Ramayana Conference and the October 1995 Annual South Asia Conference in Madison, Wisconsin)
- The Ayodhya debate: focus on the "no temple" evidence, World Archaeological Congress, 1998
- “Ayodhya’s three history debates”, in Journal of Indian History and Culture (Chennai), September 2011.
- “The gatherings of the elders: the beginnings of a Pagan international”, Pomegranate (Equinox, Sheffield UK) 2012/1.
- India's Only Communalist: In Commemoration of Sita Ram Goel (edited by Koenraad Elst, 2005) ISBN 81-85990-78-6 (With contributions by Subhash Kak, David Frawley, Lokesh Chandra, Shrikant Talageri, Vishal Agarwal, N.S. Rajaram and others.)
- An article on an attempt to ban a book by Ram Swarup, in Sita Ram Goel, ed.: Freedom of Expression (Voice of India 1998).
- "The Rushdie Rules". Middle East Quarterly. June 1998.
- An article in the second edition of Ishwar Sharan’s The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple (Voice of India 1997).
- A paper in Angela Marcantonio & Girish Nath Jha, eds.: Perspectives on the Origin of Indian Civilization (DK Printworld, Delhi 2013).
- A paper in Hans Geybels & Walter Van Herck, eds.: Humour and Religion, Challenges and Ambiguities (Continuum, London 2011).
- A paper in P. Paramesvaran, ed.: Expressions of Christianity, with a focus on India (Vivekananda Kendra Prakashan, Chennai 2007).
- A paper in Herman Siemens & Vasti Roodt, eds.: Nietzsche, Power and Politics (Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2008).
- Foreword to: The Prolonged Partition and Its Pogroms: Testimonies on Violence against Hindus in East Bengal (1946–1964) by A. J. Kamra (2000).
- "Banning Hindu Revaluation". Observer of Business and Politics. 1-12-1993. Check date values in:
- Het boek bij het Boek (“The companion book to the Book”, Waregem 2009)
- The India chapter in Wim Van Rooy & Sam Van Rooy, eds.: De islam. Kritische essays over een politieke religie (“Islam: Critical Essays on a Political Religion”), ASP, Brussels 2010.
- De donkere zijde van het boeddhisme (“The Dark Side of Buddhism”, Mens & Cultuur, Ghent 2010)
- Heidendom in India: hindoeïsme en christendom, dialoog tussen vreemden (“Paganism in India: Hindus and Christians, Dialogue between Strangers”, Mens & Cultuur, Ghent 2014):
- "The Problem of Christian Missionaries". bharatvani.org. Retrieved 11 December 2010.
- Nanda, Meera (11 July 2009). "Hindu Triumphalism and the Clash of Civilisations". Economic and Political Weekly 44 (28): 106–114.
- Bryant, Edwin (2001). The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture:The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Humes, Cynthia Ann (2012). "Hindutva, Mythistory, and Pseudoarchaeology". Numen. International Review for the History of Religions 59: 178–201. doi:10.1163/156852712x630770.
- Bryant, Edwin. The Indo-Aryan Controversy. 234
- 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.
- 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.
- Sikand, Yogesh (Spring 2002). "Hinduism and Secularism After Ayodhya by Arvind Sharma: A Review". Islamic Studies 41 (1): 166–169.
- Sita Ram Goel, How I became a Hindu. ch.9
- Frawley, David (2000). How I Became a Hindu: My Discovery of Vedic Dharma. Voice of India. p. 96. ISBN 9788185990606.
- Mother India: Monthly Review of Culture, Volume 58. page 521
- Is Islam Dying? Europe Certainly Is
- Hansen, Thomas. "The Saffron Wave". p. 262.
- Gopal, S., Anatomy of a Confrontation: Ayodhya and the Rise of Communal Politics in India, Palgrave Macmillan, 1993, p.21.
- Nandy, A. "Creating a Nationality". p. 5.
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