Saturday, July 21, 2012


Romila Thapar’s relentless ideologically inspired Historiography of  India
Dr. Seshachalam Dutta
Romila Thapar, Professor Emiritus of Jawaharlal NehruUniversity, Delhi, delivered a key-note address at the commemoration of the journalist Dana Pinkham replete with vitriolics on unspecified religious groups, meaning Hindu Nationalists, ignoring that Hindu Nationalism has nothing to do with religious doctrines in contrast to Muslim Nationalism. The fallacies and superficiality of her presentation is already analyzed by the wellknown archeologist Dilip K. Chakrabarty.  Here we analyze the motives and fallacies and misreading of history she presents in her lecture purely inspired by outdated political ideology. She starts her lecture by complaining that unlike in other rigorous disciplines, all kinds of people write history which requires in modern times knowledge of  linguistics and archeology. There is inadequate evidence whether she herself has any training in linguistics and archeology or in other resources she alludes to like languages of antiquity such as Vedic Sanskrit or Sanskrit used in Rigveda, Puranas, etc.  and also whether she herself has adequate knowledge of even basic molecular biology, especially in the latter where she exhibits profound ignorance of genetics while posing to defend her Aryan invasion theory.  She claims a historian has to have adequate knowledge of all these areas. As far as all sorts of people writing history, there is some truth in it. Pandit Nehru wrote History of India (Discovery of India ) and World History although adding a disclaimer that he was not a historian. In spite of his own confession that he was not a trained historiographer, his two books believed to be authoritative books on history of India and World History are uncritically adopted as text books of history in many Indian schools. I have known that candidates for I.A.S use them as preparation for the competitive exams, as they form the source for the examiners and examinees alike, and moreover,  all the elite in India are indoctrinated with his purported history and outdated political philosophy of socialism and so called undefined secularism and some synthetic fictional nationhood composed of complex combination of Hindu-Muslim cultures. Of late, Amartya Sen, a professional economist, has been dabbling in Indian History with all praise for Akbar as an Indian Idol. Both, Jawaharlal Nehru and Amartya Sen are closer to Romila Thapar's heart and her writings too follow similar ideological flourish as theirs.

                                             ROMILA THAPAR
                      ( Also see: )
She divides historians of India as "colonial writers" and "Nationalists." Her own mentor A. L. Basham was not a colonialist but her own approach to history was no different from the so called Colonial writers'. For a long time she argued for the theory of Aryan Invasion although she begrudgingly relented later. She finds fault with the division of Indian History as ancient, medieval, and modern corresponding to the introduction of foreign elements like Islamic Rule or British colonialism in the interim. Such periodization is a matter of convenience and one may divide the history into eight periods if one chooses to do so. History has its own continuum and divisions are for the convenience of organizing its study. She is particularly annoyed at the division based on predominance of rule of Muslim Invaders in India and separating that period for the purpose of study for respecting the so called sentiments of the Indian secularists who would not like to see such a division based on "religion" which it is in actuality not if one focuses on "foreign invaders" as invaders and their invading foreign culture though shrouded heavily in a foreign religion which was foreign in deed at the time of invasion.  In her opinion all such demarcation should be eliminated. In writing history she likes to ignore the religious and socio-cultural characteristics of Indian masses predominantly Hindu in character as ingrained in history and antiquity as the original socio-cultural ambience of India. She conjures up, deriving from the ideology of Nehru, a composite culture, especially dealing with Muslim period. In this effort, the devastating impact of Muslim invasions, resultant atrocities, massacres and forced conversions of Hindus are minimized or simply glossed over to glorify and focus on the fusion of these two cultures which had only a minor role to play in the history of India, if at all. She dismisses the invasions of Mohammad Gazni as not of significance as these Muslim invaders used some local Hindus to provide transportation. It is as disingenuous as saying that it was only Indian sepoys who fired on the masses in Jalian Wala Bagh Massacre on the order of General Dyer, and therefore, British had no criminal responsibility! The tactic of influencing world-view of Indian masses by seeking and publicizing some such semi-fictional hybrid Hindu-Muslim culture for political purpose had been tried in vain by Nehru and even Gandhi by singing Ram-and-Rahim and Iswar-Allah together, with no takers for such fusion at all among Muslims. These tactics could not prevent the partition of India with resulting  appalling massacre of Hindus and even as late as recently mass eviction of Kashmiri Hindus. For Muslims, unquestionably their leader was not Gandhi but Jinnah. Amartya sen tries to install Akbar as an Idol for attempting such fusion, but for Muslims Alamghir Aurangzeb was the ideal Emperor.  There are no takers of this composite culture among most Muslims, but such ideological slogan goes on and on with a shrill. Many Hindus are generously devoted to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru still and seem to buy this socio-political philosophy which has never seemed to have changed the hearts of the Indian Muslims as evidenced by their publicly adopted political stance from time to time even since Independence.
"Secularism" has a special construct in India with the theorization by Nehru. Secularism is not a respectable word except in communist countries.  American constitution embodies separation of Church and State but not "secularism." Secularism is expressly decried by Christian Church. American theme In God We Trust is not a secular expression. This is also true in England where investiture of Queen proceeds in Church; secularism is not the ruling ideology in the United Kigdom where Nehru and Thapar were educated. This is also true in Australia, France, Germany and Italy and in all other countries. With the collapse of communism the Church in Russia is coming to the fore in public life.  In India the Hindu Nationalists want to identify their country with revival of the traditions and ethos of long suppressed Hindu ethnic, socio-cultural and historical character. It has nothing to do with religion, or what God or no God anyone including Hindus worship, but it certainly has to do with the emphasis on the continuity of Hindu culture. The so called secularists are against this attempt blatantly for political reasons, obvious to all in their fervor for "vote-bank politics." They make an exception for Muslims allowing them to practice their form of Nationalism, and therefore, they are  correctly called "puedosecularists."  The net effect of such secularism is the loss of Indian National identity and deracination of any cultural base entrenched for millennia for Hindus and their claim to their mother-land and in contrast such "secularism" supports false aggressive assertion of Muslim identity as closely linked with India closer than that of Hindus and supports the demands for recognition for their way of life based on Islamic Sharia Laws disregarding the Indian Constitution, Secularism, and even the widely accepted prinicple of Uniform Civil Code for all citizens in a democracy. This is clearly seen in singing of National Anthem in Indian Parliament. For all Indians India is a mother land, Bharat Mata. Muslim culture would not accept a country as a personification of mother although the motherland is what sustains and nurtures the whole population of a country and so the Muslims walk out when the rest sing the National Anthem in the Parliament of "Secular India" (!).  The net result is the indignity of national flag, its honor, and the entire Indian community (84%) sans Muslims. It clearly demonstrates lack of allegiance. The Muslims insist on singing another National Anthem acceptable to them though it is meaningless. It invokes "God"- "Vidhata" (jayaho bhagya vidhata) originally intended to address King George V and describes and so-to-say demarcates inclusive geography of India by different regions, Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Maratha, Dravid, Utkal and Vanga-(Bengal). For this Muslims compliantly stand up and sing. The song is patently meaningless as Sindh is not in post-independence India, it is in Pakistan, and very much part of Pakistan. Who are Dravidas? Does it mean the others are Aryans? What about Assam? No wonder China claims Arunachala Pradesh and may be even claim Nagaland and other Northeastern regions of India as part of their land! Since Assam is not mentioned in this song China may also claim Assam !! Of course, we are not yet certain of Jammu and Kashmir to include those in the national Anthem! Is there any surprise Western cartographers publish this entire area of Jammu and Kashmir and not just the Pakistan occupied Kashmir as disputed territory? Why do secular Indians invoke Vidhata (God) if they believe in Marxist secularism? People who don’t believe in God- Nehru was expressly one of them - why should they stand up and sing to honor what they don’t believe in? For these reasons the word "psuedosecularism" came into vogue.  Indian secularism in reality is a device for political accommodation without any moral and ethical content.
Thapar mentions about the interaction of Persian and Indian cultures. This is not new. It is well known that Tamils traveled to Babylonia and had ancient contacts known from documentation in Sangam literature. Long before Thapar was born, an eminent Jurist in Andhra, Vedam Venkatachal Aiyar, a district judge who studied several languages including Avestha, Sumarian, and of course, French, Italian, Arabic, etc., listed words that are common in Avestha and Rig-Veda. This only means that there was interaction and intercourse between the two cultures at the time when there was no need for Visa to travel; the interaction can be in both directions. Let us not forget that this culture of Iran in question was pre-Islamic culture. Also, he held the view that there was pre-Sanskrit language and Sanskrit by definition is a "refined language." In essence one need not go to England to study history of India as Thapar has done. He did all of his work right here, in India.
Colonial writers, who described themselves variously as Sanskritists are fellows who knew some Sanskrit, Indologist (who claim to study India, Indians, their culture, sociology, and their languages or combination thereof) began postulating that "Aryans Invaded India." (AIT: Aryan Invasion Theory) So is it justifiable based on such speculation that Europeans should legitimize their invasion of India now? Thapar subscribed to this argument and supported as well as defended it for a long time except she modified this somewhat of late. A recent finding using DNA evidence shows that Indians are a distinct genotype. Thapar disputes the evidence raising her own scientific sounding polemics stating that bacterial contamination of DNA samples must have compromised the validity of the tests. She is so ignorant and does not know that bacterial contamination of samples does not alter DNA sequence. Here again she is treading into an area in which she has no expertise in because she cannot relent on her ideological bias against her targeted "Hindutva vadins." She has to stand firm against them in every which way, however absurd she may sound to those who know molecular biology.
Most egregious statements she made related to her disputing the atrocities of Muslim invaders and large scale massacres and forceful conversion of Hindus. She says the accounts are exaggerated and the conversions were by Sufis as though they were agents of benign adventure in contrast to brutal Muslim invaders forcefully converting Hindus. It is worthwhile to examine her claim in some details. There is nothing new about the atrocities of Muslim conversions and massacres of infidels worldwide, not just only in India. History shows forceful conversion of non-Muslim Samaritans by Ibn Firosa, in North Africa, in Andalusia. In Balkans by Ottoman Turks, who invaded India later; they massacred the Christians, took their children, enslaved them in what is known as Deviserme and trained them as servants and soldiers, Safavid dynasty conversion of Sunnis to Shiites, etc.,  are adequate examples of historic worldwide violent character of Muslim conversions. Muslim invasions began early by Turks. K.S.Lal writes that Hindu population decreased by 80,000 between 1000 AD and 1500 AD.  This has to be viewed from the basis that Indian population in 1500AD was about 100 million only. Ghori killed 20,000 on his invasion and offered their heads to crows. Lodi killed Hindus and converted most of them to Islam in Kashmir. Gazni's and Nadir Shah's invasion of Delhi are examples of historic cruelty and brutality. Thapar uses a fallacious argument to deny Gazni's attacks on Somanath Temple. She states that she cannot find in Jain literature Gazni's invasions at Somanath. She aught to know that absence of evidence (in obscure sources) is not the evidence of its absence, especially when the evidence is overwhelming from all other sources.

          An Artistic Depiction of the Brutality of Nadir Shah

When Nadir Shah invaded Delhi 10.000 Hindus were put to sword in one hour and several thousands were massacred later, women were raped and children slaughtered in the following six hours.  When Timur invaded, he ordered 100,000 captives killed on the orders that those of his campaign who did not kill or refused to kill would themselves be put to death! Yet Thapar maintains that conversions were the activity of saintly and peaceful Sufis and not accomplished by force!! The leftist ideologue historians of India have sanitized history to the extent, it appears, that Thapar never studied about forceful conversion of Hindus in Goa (Inquisition of Goa) and the Portuguese atrocities.  Indian education in history has wiped out these chapters of history so completely that this author discovered these 50 years after his high school education in India only from the text books of his children in the U.S. schools! Truth has no value for the pseudo-seculars with Marxist leanings unless it serves their purpose.
Who are these Sufis that Thapar is talking about? She seems to portray them as saintly Mystics like Buddha, or Nanak or Kabir!!!
Sufism started in Persia and its variants spread to Baghdad, Turkey, and later to Arabia. It is based on the idea of TAWID—unity with God. There is similarity between concept of "Sayujya" or unity of realizing God and merging. The comparison ends right there. They were extremely cruel fanatics who wanted to purify the Muslim religion, emphasizing the literal obedience to Koran and Sharia, the law which is integral to Koran. They whispered into the ears of the Muslim emperors, often influenced the administration and military generals to carry out Jihad, and even confronted the emperors when they failed to carry out their agenda. One of the prominent Sufi was Shirhandi in Akbar’s time. He was respected by the emperor but did not allow him to carry his weight with the King to eliminate Hindu officers from the court. During last days of Akbar he joined his son Salim who rebelled against him. His interference in the administration of Salim was so disruptive; Salim had to jail him briefly. European historians attribute the success of Mogul emperors, especially to Akbar for superb diplomacy than mere military strength. So Akbar, though ruthless,-- so ruthless, he massacred 30,000 soldiers after winning the battle at Chittore, -- maintained excellent relations with Rajputs who were instrumental in expanding his empire. Coming to Shirhandi, he survived Akbar and continued his agenda of eliminating Hindu employees from the courts and helping the rulers in forceful conversion of Hindus. This man Shirhandi was eulogized by Abdul Kalam Azad as “one who did not see the policy of the state eye to eye.” Such views of Abdul Kalam Azaad did not prevent him from being chosen to become  the President of India by "Indian National" Congress.

It was Sufis who came with Ghori and witnessed beheading of 20,000 Hindus and their heads thrown to crows. Sufi Wali Ullah invited Ahmad Shah to invade India to save the Muslim Empire from Jats and Marathas. Sufi Sayyad Ahmad Barlavi raised a private army to conduct Jihad against Ranjit Singh and was killed. Thapar makes Sufis look like Saint Buddha and Nanak, "peaceful mystics propagating their theology"!!!  They were mystics, it was true. Such mysticism was outside the mainstream Islam. Some of the less powerful Sufis traveled and impressed gullible people and even exorcized demons from the neurotic women. But they did not convert them to Islam. As an example, hundreds of millions take the pilgrimage to Shirdee, but the Hindus were not subjected to conversion there. The process of conversion is psychological violence and cultural violence which uproots the individual from the family changing the identity of that individual and at times inculcates the hatred towards the original society and culture from which one came from. We find this in Iqbal whose great grandfather was a Kashmiri Brahmin (Source: V.S. Naipaul) who turned against Hindus and he was the greatest protagonist of division of India!!! Conversion causes the metastasis of the host body of the society from which the conversion occurred. Indian population can be viewed as suffering from the metastases of the cancerous "calamity" afflicting humanity.  

         V. S. Naipaul

For all the anxiety of the secularists like Thapar, Amartya Sen and even Nehru their peer, it has to be accepted that the ideal monarch for Muslims of divided and undivided India is not Akbar but Alamghir Aurangzeb. Sir Sayed Ahmed Khan, the founder of Aligarh University disguised this cleverly and Iqbal praised him as “one who was the first Muslim to feel the urge for rethinking the whole system of Islam without breaking away from the past.” Iqbal derides the Sufis as "obscurantists" "who have done immense harm to Islam, who claim knowledge not accessible to others, teach us to shut our eyes to the hard reality around, and fix our gaze on 'illuminations'-blue, red and yellow.”  Muslim world decadence was attributed to them... He further says that “such are the charms of decadence! We drink the poison and kiss the hand of those who administer it.” Sufis naturally lost their clout after the fall of Muslim empires. They turned to esoteric practices and begging.
Iqball summarizes the uncompromising position of Islam. According to him, the Law of Islam does not recognize the distinction between the Church and the State. The State with them is not a combination of religious and secular authority; but it is the unity in which no such distinction exists. They do not recognize the natural differences of race or historical differences based on Nationality. This is the foundation for Muslim uprising in India from Kanyakumari to Kashmir in which overwhelming majority of Muslims participated and this is the basis for the ultimate division of India. Thus the concept of secularism has totally failed with Muslims of India. In spite of the famous inaugural speech of independent Pakistan by Jinnah paying laudable lip service to Secularism (he did not walk the talk) it has totally failed in theocratic Pakistan (both West and East) and later in Bangladesh evidenced by the treatment doled out to those Hindus who could not leave these countries and also in Kashmir where the Muslim majority has expelled Hindus in thousands and this is in stark contrast to the majority of Hindus in India including the secular Hindutva-vaadins who have been historically far more tolerant and welcoming to foreign cultures and religions.  And, the so called secularists still try to accommodate the religious fundamentalism of Muslims by bending the history and softening Hindu identity with the slogan that there is no such ideal as Hindu nationalism or Hindutva, equating the latter with narrow religious appellation, not recognizing the historical evidence of the broadmindedness of all Hindus including those who espouse Hindutva. They cannot envision a "Secular" meaning tolerant "Hindu Nation."
Thapar has temerity to suggest that Hindus should not talk about the long history of Muslim atrocities, massacres, and forceful conversions as she found one, single, rare instance of a Hindu "King" (Insane Thug?) described in Rajatarangini who pillaged the Hindu temples. She was referring to a mad King Harshdeva of Kashmir who raided the temples for gold; he finally turned insane and seduced his sisters and sister-in-law.  Such is the perverse logic of Thapar citing isolated perverts in the history as the norm. She also suggests that Hindus helped Gazni to transport the loot from the temples so it was not a Hindu-Muslim issue. Again the argument is analogous to that of the British massacres in Jalian wala Bagh as being carried out by Indian soldiers on the order of British and so British should not be held totally responsible!

Thapar talks about Historical evidence of Caste formation, especially of Kshatrias.
She invents a theory that Kshatria caste was formed after Gupta period.  In fact, with the end of Mahabharata caste system as described in Vedic period ended (see S. Radhakrishnan's commentary on Bhagavat Gita). The greatest purana, Bhagavat Purana, explicitly states that shudras would rule hence forth in Kali Yuga. So there were no Kshatria rulers. Rajputs were not Kshatria Kings. Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagar Empire described himself as Yadava. Mouryas and Nandas were shudras; the most prominent empire was the Bramhana Empire of Shatavahanas. Her characterization of formation of new Kshatrias is in gross error.
Finally,  her advice to the Journalists that they should examine who are writing the story (history), meaning whether the new comers from ‘ Hindufundamentalists’ are telling the story, and the journalists should not necessarily pay attention to the veracity of the story. This is her concept of freedom of speech and expression.  Herbert Spencer is quoted as saying that ‘profoundest of all infidelities is the fear that truth will be bad”.  For her truth is especially bad when it comes from Hindu Nationalists. It is possible to write truth and still express dissent, a mark of a good writer. We found this in the recent book on the History of Hindu Nationalists by Yogendra Malik and V.B Singh. The writers present painstaking collection of facts and accurate statistical analysis, while disagreeing with the ideology of Hindu Nationalists. We don’t find such objectivity in Thapar's work and her prominence is not in spite of this lapse but because of this and her ideological pandering.
In another place she claims that her research shows that beef was eaten by early Hindus. If she finds it as a great revelation, she may also note that the Rishi Vamadeva who composed fourth Mandala of Rig-Veda ate dog meat. So what is the point? For Thapar beef is of importance to oppose the Hindu activists who want to ban cow slaughter, perversely using the authority of Vedas to exhort Hindus to eat beef and not to agitate to ban cow slaughter?
In India her prominence comes from her relation and connections with the political establishment. She is the sister of Pran Nath Thapar, the discredited General of India-China war. Pran Nath Thapar or General Thapar, her brother, is connected through his relative who married Jawaharlal Nehru's sister's, Vijayalakshmi Pandit's daughter. Abroad she is connected to the prominent academics at Harvard and Chicago Universities by sharing the same contempt for Hindu culture which she denigrates with the term "communalism." She is in league with the so called Indologists-cum-Sanskritists like Witzel of Harvard and Doniger of Chicago. These are all birds of similar feathers.
Books on the section of Indian history at elementary school level in California had several passages demeaning Hindu religion and culture. Hindu parents protested and even went to court to get them removed. They finally succeeded to a large extent. Professor Witzel at Harvard came to testify against Indians. He was supported by Romila Thapar. This is the same man who said OM in mantras was nothing other than a sound used by Vedic Rishis to call their wives or cows (both had same status apparently!!).  He derided Hindus in America for teaching their daughters Bharat Natyam, which he called "the art of professional prostitutes" in India, and furthermore, he went on record to say that Brahmins in U.P are empty and proud. He described NRI's as "non-returning-Indians" deriding all of them including non-Hindu Indians, and knowing fully well the meaning of "heena" in Sanskrit deliberately invented the acronym "HINA" to describe Hindus in North America. Such verbal sadism and anti-Hindu attitude of Witzel is propagated with impunity using the help of Harvard on the basis of "academic freedom." Thapar should have known better.  Many in Hindu diaspora are pained to see that an academic of some standing from India that too a Hindu by birth should be coming to this man’s aid. The reward for such support was that she was nominated and awarded Kluge prize.  Indians in U.S protested her nomination by collecting thousands of signatures. John W. Kluge Prize is for achievement in Humanities but Thapar's own humanity and compassion for Hindus, who have suffered such untold atrocities and miseries during the period of History written by Thapar, are questionable.  It is like giving a Jewish writer Humanitarian prize for denying the Holocaust in spite of overwhelming accepted evidence and over above that for authenticating the denial as a historical fact maintaining his/her Jewish identity nevertheless.  Hindu Thapar gets rewarded for denying Muslim atrocities in India.  

Awarding prizes to unworthy people like her reflects more on the  judgment of awarders and their limited perspective and shallowness in studying in depth a rich culture of India and its complex history. This can also explain the attitude of such people as it is well known that Gandhi was not awarded Nobel Peace Prize but Kissinger was.

                                                         Mahatma Gandhi 

                                                                   Henry Kissinger

(The above article is edited and slightly modified with editorial inserts and corrections by the editor of )

1 comment:

  1. Superb analysis. Thanks for exposing the holes in their arguments.