Romila Thapar in her latest outing as a ‘Speaker’ at India International Centre on Jan 14th for the CD Deshmukh Memorial Lecture 2023. The entire text of the lecture can be accessed here:https://docs.google.com/document/d/1PEHJNwmRUExtGJv3kVUFRVbIxixip24n/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=112764435016406119243&rtpof=true&sd=true
She begins with quoting life-long Marxist historiographer Eric Hobsbawm – ‘History to Nationalism, is what poppy is to a heroin addict.’ And so, we too, as an analogy, can definitely say that Marxism is the poppy and Romila Thapar here is the heroin addict.
When one begins to view a civilizational state like India from the Marxist perspective which focusses only on horizontal class divides that cut across national groups and their perennial bourgeoise vs proletariat economic conflict, it is a big mistake. Nationalism and Marxism are philosophically incompatible. Marxism views Nationalism as an unnatural and antagonistic force. So, Marxism thrives on conflict whereas Nationalism and more importantly civilizations bind each other together.
Nationalism according to Marx was a temporary phenomenon that unites communities to establish a new structure, i.e. the Nation-State. But then, Marx regarded patriotism and nationalism as forms of idolatry, that is, man’s worship of and sub-mission to a creature of his own making, which is the Nation.
Romila Thapar then goes on to very strangely liken the Independence struggle of India as an analogy of the above. Nehru & Gandhi would definitely not like to hear this if they were alive, I’m afraid!
Romila Thapar admires Nehru because as we all know, he displayed no trace of Nationalism or patriotism towards India. When one who genuinely thinks of Marxism or Communism as a fight for the oppressed, begins to understand its complete ideology, context and philosophy then they get very disillusioned and leave it. Many have done so.
But, you see, propaganda and agenda driven people like Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib and other Marxist historiographers have developed a strategy to manipulate nationalism into the service of Marxism. And this has succeeded till the last decade or so, but not anymore. By the way even the hardcore Marxists consider her and her comrades as just “influenced by the Marxian approach to history.” Since she opposes many Marxist tenets of the fighting against the State in her support of Mughal rulers vs helpless Hindus by totally on whitewashing Mughal rulers atrocities and perennially bashes Hindus, particularly the Brahmins. Also, as she delves into ancient India, she focusses on non-existent ‘Feudalism’ during the Rajas and Maharajas times, there too showing conflict between Hindus all the time with no sound basis or facts and imposing these western terms on our history. Romila Thapar then proceeds by declaring herself and her ilk to be the actual history narrators posing a counter current to the imagined history narrators of today’s India. She wishes to get rid of the word Indology (quite understandable!) from the study of history, as per her JNU CV.
She then continues to echo Eric Hobsbawm’s views by claiming that ‘Nationalist principles do not have roots in the ancient past’. Hobsbawm introduced the idea of ‘invented traditions’ that were created to suit Nationalist principles in the West. Invented traditions are cultural practices that are presented or perceived as traditional, arising from the people starting in the distant past, but which in fact are relatively recent and often even consciously invented by identifiable historical actors.
However, Romila Thapar, refusing to see the civilizational grounding that we Indians have imposes a foreign idea from the West, which has no civilizational roots or cultural identity of even a recent past. Hobsbawm ideas on ‘invented traditions’ has been questioned by Peter Burke as a splendidly subversive phrase hiding serious ambiguities”. Given that all traditions change, is it possible or useful to attempt to discriminate the ‘genuine’ antiques from the fakes?” Pointing out that “invention entails assemblage, supplementation, and rearrangement of cultural practices so that in effect traditions can be preserved, invented, and reconstructed”, Guy Beiner proposed that a more accurate term would be “reinvention of tradition”, signifying “a creative process involving renewal, reinterpretation and revision”. But, Romila Thapar won’t tell you all this.
Romila Thapar’s PhD guide in London, Mr. A.L Basham had written a book ‘The Wonder that was India’ which suffered from dubious racial theories that were prevalent in the mid 20th century. Aryan invasion or migration theories are still debated on the merits of linguistic or DNA evidence, but Basham’s analysis of skin color, lip, nose and head morphology at times smacks of phrenology or worse. Basham was a student of Sanskrit, so his observations from the Vedas and Brahmanas do not come second hand. Nevertheless, they are seen through the lens of conquest and colony.
Romila Thapar seems to continue his thoughts!
She then states that ‘Divergent Nationalism’ seen in India is one which is Secular/Unitary/Singular and the other which is ‘religious’ (Hindu vs Muslim Nationalism).
And ‘religious nationalism’ she says is of colonial origin and the secular one is of the Indians as it organically drew in all citizens and fought together. She forgets that what happened when Secular/Unitary/Singular Nationalism was tried during the 1857 battle and the Khilafat movement among others. Who were the first to propose the two Nation theory. It was definitely not the British.
She then says in her lecture that Unitary Nationalism remained in India and moved to establish necessarily Democratic and Socialism oriented State. But, doesn’t Romila Thapar know that according to Karl Marx, Socialism is nothing less than creating the conditions for the truly free, rational, active and independent man; it is the fulfilment of the prophetic aim: the destruction of the idols. She forgets that even Nehru adopted Fabian Socialism and not Marxist Socialism. The two are different.
Thapar then claims that for the first time, citizens had equal rights and status which was rarely there in our ancient societies. She says India has no glorious Bharatiya past of being a democracy. she says Ganasanghas & village administrations of Uthiramerur in ancient India cannot be called democracies. Because so few were allowed to participate. Well, in first elections in US, only 6% were eligible to vote. So even, US constitution did not bring democracy? The RgVeda speaks of it. Else why would MK Gandhi state that he wants India to return to the system of village republics and true democracy/Swarajya as in ancient India?
The Lichchchavi system, as per RC Mazumdar, was ultra-democratic in nature, & its functioning gives us some insight into the principles of administration of a non-monarchial state in ancient India. Read this eye-opening Tweet thread:
Romila Thapar has absolutely no idea of the Democracy in ancient India.
The Lichchchavi system, as per RC Mazumdar, was ultra-democratic in nature, & its functioning gives us some insight into the principles of administration of a non-monarchial state in ancient India.
1/5 ? pic.twitter.com/BUlNjG8i3D
— Monidipa Bose – Dey (মণিদীপা) (@monidipadey) January 17, 2023
She justifies the power of the State and its agencies, saying it represents citizens, viz. Judiciary, Legislature and the Executive/Govt. based on a Constitution. Totally non-Marxist philosophy here!
Why is she so against the government now which is both democratically elected and following socialist rules laid down by the Constitution? But then, that’s always been her style, to say things that suit only her agendas! Then she goes down her beaten path once again, about how divergent Nationalism based on religion favours only the majority and that’s how Pakistan was formed. But now we too are heading that way, by moving from Nehruvian-Gandhian-Congress Secular Nationalism towards a ‘Hindu Rashtra’!
She proclaims that apart from professional historians like her, the others claiming to be historians base their claims on hearsay or their own imagination! And she also blames the media of every kind as well in trying to become historians. She gives irrelevant analogies to 18th century French revolution nationalism tracing its roots to Greek democracy, etc. which according to her was an ‘imagined past’. And she compares that happening with India now, where we are trying to imagine a glorious democratic past to form a ‘Hindu rashtra’. Phew!
She discredits our ancient sources and institutions with completely fabricated and distorted version of it being caste ridden and inequality based, etc. as usual. She says Democracy came to India only during Modern times along with concepts of Secularism, Nationalism and Colonialism. She still peddles lies of Caste and Aryan invasion. The reason she gives is, hold your breath, this: Hindutva holds that both Hindu and Hinduism originated in India, so they have no choice but to argue for indigenous origins. And she discredits the Akhannd Bharat sacred geography concept saying that geographical boundaries change every century. She rejects all Linguistic, Genetic, Epigraphical, Vedic, Archaeological and basically all foreign and Indian literature since time immemorial that rejects whatever she claims.
This is the back projection of 19-20 century perception to remote past by her, with no understanding either of society or state of the past. She needs to read GP Singh, AS Altekar books on governance, polity in ancient India they wrote significantly. And also to this article on ‘Democracy in Ancient India.’ But what would you expect from Thapar? The Spanish ‘Casta’ being imposed on to our ‘Varna’ system. The colonizing eye saw everything through their own understandings. This has been debunked already by MK Gandhi himself.
She hides her non-knowledge of Sanskrit by saying that in the 19th century one just needed to know Vedic Sanskrit to become historians of these texts. But then she claims that archaeology came in and brought fresh information along with Linguistics in mid 20th century, that has found possible Dravidian language elements being present in the earliest Indo-Aryan. She goes on to lie that the theory of Aryan speakers being indigenous to India has been contested by recent genetic evidence of post Harrapan samples of 2 millennium BC show strains from central Asian population. Wait, what!?
All her nonsense can be countered in these two articles. And for more, one can read Shrikant Talageri’s works, Dr. Koenraad Elst, Dr. Aleksandr Semenenko, Dr. Nicolas Kazanas, Dr. Igor Tonoyan-Belyayev and Dr. Giacomo Benedetti and Dr. Premendra Priyadarshi, Dr. Michel Danino, Dr. Niraj Rai and Dr. Gyaneshwer Chaubey among others. Her most obnoxious claim then comes that in the early colonial period, India is said to be lacking in knowing its history since there was no ancient history as was there in the Greeks, the Romans and the Chinese. So, the colonial powers decided to thus discover and write the history of their colony, which is India.
Romila Thapar, if Indians did not know their history then how come they were so many traditional Gurukuls running? That too with Shudras as the maximum students in it according to Dharampal in his book ‘The Beautiful Tree’ with info collected from the British records only? How did Guru Gobind Singh know that Ghazni had stolen Somnath mandir’s doors and taken them to Ghazni? How did Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja launch a fight against Mughals to establish Hindavi Swarajya? What were the Vedas, Smritis, Shastras and Puranas then? What was Megasthenes, Fa Hien, Hiuen Tsang, and many other Greek and Roman accounts of India in the past? Also, the various Persian historians accounts? All disappeared? And many more such examples can be provided but only if it could make Thapar listen!
Basically, she tries to make a point that the wily Brahmins concocted magnificent historical stories with the colonial masters to write their own version of History that suited them as them both were invaders (one an Aryan and the other a colonizer) and so they became partners in crime. She then begins to blame James Mill, that it was him who for the first time gave the two-nation theory of Hindus and Muslims and that he was incorrect because he never visited India and wrote from his personal perspective of the history as it might have been presented to him. What history was presented to him, Romila Thapar? The history conjured by Britishers and Brahmins? Then why does James Mill keep referring to Puranas, Dharmashaastras and Vedas etc. in his book? He also wrote enormously on the Muslim rule in India and with careful study of all sources of the Muslim rule, quoting their Islamic scholars arrived at the conclusion of a Two Nation Theory, isn’t it?
And for your kind info, it was Sufi Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi who first spearheaded the ‘Two Nation Theory’ in mid 16th century. You should also read what M.A. Jinnah had to say on the origins of the two-nation theory.
According to her, James Mill did not understand the Muslim history as most of the Persian & Turkish chronicles of the Sultanate and Mughals were eulogies by their courtiers praising the Islamic invaders (it was done deliberately she says since the rulers newly establishing themselves needed that background to justify their acts). One wonders how long did the Islamic invaders need to keep doing this? Throughout the Sultanate and Mughal periods? Proving to whom and proving what? And by the way Romila Thapar, the entire chronicles of Babur to Jahangir were their autobiographies in which they voluntarily speak of the destruction the caused with no accountability to anyone!
Then she goes on to say that European theorists erroneously studied Asian history as ‘Oriental Despotism’. Well, what you don’t tell is this study by the Europeans was on the Mughal rule in India and they rightly termed it as ‘Despotic’. Your very own Karl Marx stated this. How else do you explain the continuous fall of GDP of India ever since invasions began? While denying the genocide of Hindus by Islamic invaders, she claims that Hindu Rashtra and Hindu govt. should then be doing the same then if they were victimized by Muslims in the past.
Really? Are you serious Ms. so called self-proclaimed ‘Professional Historian”?
And then again, she resorts to the same old lies of upper caste Hindus segregating Dalits, lower castes and untouchables by considering them polluting and outside caste or savarna. She gives no record of this though or does not even refer to any sources.
She then stated a self-goal, by saying that all these Hindus who converted to Islam or Christianity maintained caste segregation till today that’s why one sees Pasmandas, Sikh mazhabis, Dalit Christians, etc. Then what was the purpose of converting?
Then she begins to concoct how amicable relations were between Hindus and Muslims in the last 1000 years. But surprisingly she only sticks to the economic and martial classes of Hindus maintaining relations with the Islamic rulers. She doesn’t know how to analyse politics as part of history it appears.
Then she goes on about how some Ashokan pillars were relocated but not destroyed by Mughal rulers as a sign of the respect they had for traditions and Kings before them.
Well, Romila Thapar, they were not destroyed but re-erected with inscription of the Mughal dominion because it served as a ‘trophy of conquest’– as a sign of Muslim victory over a conquered Hindu population. And to let the Hindus know that they are in the same tradition of rulers of their Hindu Kings. Then comes the point of marital alliances between Rajputs and Mughals. She states almost mockingly
“There was of course no love-jehad in those days. Memoirs and autobiographies do not suggest that these were forced marriages since sociability among them on both sides was applauded.”
Kindly answer, Ms. Thapar why did Rajput women perform Jauhar during the sieges of Chittorgarh by Khilji, Bahadur Shah and Akbar?
Why did the Sisodia Rajputs who ruled over Mewar remained steadfast in not marrying into Mughals? The reason is because The Mughals made several attempts to bring all of Mewar under their control, but it was not until 1615 that a peace treaty with the Mughals was signed by Maharana Pratap’s son.
Why did Jahangir’s first wife Jagat Gosain’s paternal cousin Rana Kalyan Das take offense at her marriage to Jehangir and swore to kill Jehangir?
Why did Jagat Gosain commit suicide or was she murdered at age 45? Why did Akbar snatch away a 6 day old Shah Jahan from Hindu mother Jagat Gosain & gave him to his 1st wife Ruqaiya? Obviously, so that he grows up in Islamic fundamentalism and no effect of Hinduism? One of Jehangir’s Hindu wives – Man Bai aka Shah Begum, daughter of Raja Bhagwant Das of Amer committed suicide by opium overdose at age 34 as she was humiliated by Jehangir throughout her marriage by branding her ‘neurotic’ and ‘insane’.
Why was Jagat Gosain’s name changed to Bilquis Makani. Why was Harka Bai’s name changed to ‘Mariam-us-Zamani’? None were cremated after death, simply buried. Why did they all have to accept Islam upon marriage? Why no Mughals ever got a Hindu name though their mothers were Hindu?
Then she talks about an inscription from Palam, dating to the 13th century, issued by a wealthy Hindu trader who describes Muhammad bin Tughlaq as almost an ideal king, but concludes by calling him, quite simply, a mleccha. And that those regarded as untouchable and polluting, were all at one level, also mleccha. Oh really? So, if a Hindu trader sets up an inscription to praise a Mlechha ruler, we should believe that everyone believed the same? And if Mlechas were same as Avarnas then why were praises being written in the inscription?
Now her next fabrication, is about the 16th century text, the Sarva-darshana-samgraha, which according to Thapar, supposedly states categorically that the Shramanas – in which category are included Buddhists, Jainas and Charvakas, and also the Turushkas, they are all called nastikas – non-believers in deity and lacking in caste status. The Turushkas/ Turkish Muslims, did believe in a deity – Allah, but he was not a Hindu deity.
First of all, Nastikas and Astikas have nothing to do with deity worship. A Nastik is one who doesn’t believe in the authority of the Vedas. That’s all. And moreover, they were still considered a part of Hindu society. They were well known Acharyas of the Charvaka school of Indian materialism. It seems Romila Thapar doesn’t know, since she puts them all in one category of Nastikas and lacking caste, that the Buddhist And Jainas were opposed to the Charvaka philosophy. And the Muslims of course did not accept any of the infidels, anyways. How did this all happen if they all were termed as nastiks and had no caste? They should have supported each other no, against Brahminical patriarchy?
Secondly there is no mention of caste statuses or Turushkas in this book Sarva Darshana Sangraha by Madhavacharya.
The 16 philosophical systems analysed in this book are arranged from the Advaita-point of view. They form a gradually ascending scale-the first, the Charvaka and Buddha, being the lowest as the farthest removed from Advaita, and the last, Sankhya and Yoga being the highest as approaching most nearly to it.
After that, she mentions Ardhakathanaka, a lengthy autobiographical poem written in Braj Bhasha Hindi by Banarsidas in the time of Akbar. And tries to portray as if Hindus were still wealthy despite the Mughal rule. And then another lie, that the author, Banarsidas was briefly a practicing Shaiva, but very soon returned to being an ardent Jaina, the religion of his family.
Ms. Thapar, this account, does not give any credit to Mughals for the prosperity and richness of the Jaina community or for practice of Hindu faith. The Hindus were paying something called ‘Jaziya’ for that, if you’ve chosen to forget that.
The Jainas were always a prosperous lot of merchants and traders since ancient times. The coastal trade between the coastal ports and north India was in the hands of Marwaris and Gujaratis, many of whom were Jains. They had topmost quality work and had built strong trade contacts over centuries along with being very shrewd businessmen who were loved by the local people and were great builders of magnificent temples. They as bankers also underwrote most of Mughal economy. The Mughals did not dare disrupt that as their coffers would run dry without their taxes and financing.
Secondly, It isn’t mentioned anywhere in his book/poem that Banarsidas followed Shaivism briefly. He simply says he met pseudo-sanyasis who told him mantras to miraculously get rich and so he left them. Then she continues fabrication of Qutab Minar and the concocted story of lightning hitting it and then Hindus repairing it and putting inscriptions in Hindi on its walls to invoke their deity Vishvakarma. Blah, blah, blah!
Ms. Romila Thapar, to substantiate this claim of yours, please then also give some more explanations for the Hindu deities, Ganesha idols and Jaina temples remains found at the base and around the Qutb Minar? Which the Courts have asked the ASI to investigate? And also, what records does one have that it was struck by lightning twice in a span of 100 years and till now around 500 years later no lightning has struck it and neither before those two times ever lightning struck it? It has been claimed by an ASI officer himself that it is a Sun tower built by a Hindu king. Lastly, how many other such places/pillars are there which have been built by Hindus and have invoked Vishwakarma on the walls of the monument that too under the Mughal rule? Such daring?
Then her next salvo loaded with a fabricated Hindu Vs Hindu Vs Buddhism/Jainism colour, that the grammarian Patanjali two millennia ago, says that the relations between brahmanas and shramanas was comparable to that between the snake and the mongoose. And that Kalhana wrote in the eleventh century that Hindu kings looted the wealth of temples when there was a fiscal crisis in Kashmir.
Ms. Thapar, about the Patanjali quote, well that is a figure of speech, as Patanjali was considered to be an avatar of Adisesha/Sheshnag and the Shramanas here then that means he obviously refers to as the mongoose. What does that mean that the Sramanas always wanted to eat the Brahmins or kill them. Well you might care to see this lecture by Dr Koenraad Elst where he states how Brahmins were never hostile to Sramanas. Also read these articles by Dr. Shankar Sharan.
Various personages involved in the revival of Buddhism in India such as Anagarika Dharmapala and The Mahabodhi Movement of the 1890s as well as Dr. B. R. Ambedkar hold the Muslim Rule in India responsible for the decay of Buddhism in India. In 1193, Qutb-ud-din Aybak, the founder of the Delhi Sultanate and first Muslim ruler in India, left defenseless the northeastern territories that were the heart of Buddhist India. The Mahabodhi Temple was almost completely destroyed by the invading Muslim forces.
One of Qutb-ud-Din’s generals, Ikhtiar Uddin Muhammad Bin Bakhtiyar Khilji, who later becomes the first Muslim ruler of Bengal and Bihar, invaded Magadha and destroyed the Buddhist shrines and institutions at Nalanda, Vikramasila and Odantapuri, which declined the practice of Buddhism in East India. Many monuments of ancient Indian civilization were destroyed by the invading armies, including Buddhist sanctuaries near Benares. Buddhist monks who escaped the massacre fled to Nepal, Tibet and South India. Tamerlane destroyed Buddhist establishments and raided areas in which Buddhism had flourished.
Mughal rule also contributed to the decline of Buddhism. They are reported to have destroyed many Hindu temples and Buddhist shrines alike or converted many sacred Hindu places into Muslim shrines and mosques. Mughal rulers like Aurangzeb destroyed Buddhist temples and monasteries and replaced them with mosques. And about the excerpt from Kalhana’s works. Please correct yourself, Hindu ‘King’ not Hindu ‘Kings’. Sri Harsha who ruled Kashmir in the 11th Century CE was infamous for looting temple wealth. The 7th Taranga of Kalhana’s Rajatarangini describes how the people of Kashmir reached the end of their tolerance with Harsha and beat him to death. Harsha ruled for 22 years.
The second concerns a warning in verse concerning charity, typically found in traditional temple inscriptions:
Swadattaam paradattaam vaa yo hareta vasundhara|
Shashti sahasra varshaani vishtaajjayate krimih||
He who usurps or snatches the charity (grant, gift, donation, land) whether that charity was made by himself or by others, will suffer for 60000 years as a worm in the gutter.
So, that King was punished with death by the people for what he did.
Then she downplays Mughals polluting temples. By saying that occasional inscriptions of defeated Hindu kings accuse their mleccha enemies, of killing cows and brahmanas.
Occasional, Ms. Thapar? Each and every Islamic invader and Mughal did it during their reign. Please read Sitaram Goel and Ram Swarup or Meenakshi Jain or for that matter, Dr Ambedkar’s writings on Islam.
All your chicanery won’t work anymore, Romila Thapar.
She then, in the end concludes by again returning to the metaphor of Eric Hobsbawm. She says:
“Should we let the relationship between the poppy and the heroin addict remain as it is? Or should we insist that the heroin addict should question the visions seen by her or him? Or, should we re-assess the quality of the opium? All knowledge advances by asking questions of it. So, my ultimate question is that should we not ask questions of existing knowledge to enable us to know what we are and what we want to be?
So, Ms. Thapar have you taken the sole authority of asking questions and no one should ask you questions? That’s why you never answered Shri Sitaram Goel’s questions he asked you about your work? Meenakshi Jain’s questions you’ve not yet responded? Dr. Koenraad Elst’s questions doesn’t reach your ears? And is that why you restrict yourself to a comfortable coterie of close people or family and friends to have a discussion with you only? Even in IIC you never gave anyone a chance to enter the auditorium except 75 years+ Members of IIC and JNU History students of yours? And with these too, you kept no Q&A at all! The Ayodhya Ram Mandir verdict has proven that you are anything but a historian/professional historian. When will you learn to practice what you preach? And most importantly, when will you ever stop distorting history?
Must read books exposing Romila Thapar – Eminent Historians by Shri Arun Shourie and Hindu Temples by Shri Sita Ram Goel.
Please take a look at Romila Thapar’s deeply revealing family tree and you’ll understand a lot of things.
And I’ll conclude this by urging you to read this absolutely analytical thread bare analysis of Romila Thapar’s lecture by Dr. Raj Vedam.
The author @TanyaBrahmvadni tweets at: https://twitter.com/TanyaBrahmvadni