A million thanks to JK for pointing me to a rather aptly titled piece, Lunch with BS: Romila Thapar. BS stands for Business Standard but from the tone, tenor, and content of the piece and the person it eulogizes, it more than deserves the other pejorative substitute: Bull Shit.
The article’s structure is quite fascinating: an extended review of an exotic Japanese meal interspered with liberal doses of undisguised fawning over Romila Thapar.
Romila Thapar was never really a historian. Post Eminent Historians, she became history. Romila Thapar is one of the reasons why ancient Sanskrit proverbs like Vruddha nari pativrata (An aged woman is always faithful to her husband) still have wide currency. But the secular press loves anybody who doesn’t make it take foolish risks.
The piece begins with a mention of blogs critical of Thapar.
Entire blogs have been devoted to Romila Thapar describing her as, among other things, the â€œHigh Priestess of Indian Marxismâ€ and â€œa flat-earth typeâ€ and a â€œdeeply mendacious enemy of the Hindusâ€.
Now, I’ve never taken a terrible pride in my blog nor do I harbour illusions that I’m doing some great service to a cause through my blog. But to my delight, I notice that this article mentions a term I applied to Romila Thapar five years ago: The High Priestess Speaks Again! Either my blog is that popular (which I seriously doubt) or it is a tribute to the blog-unearthing skills of the Business Standard guys. But lest we be misled, the authors add a quick but mandatory clarification that most of these blogs are “of a saffron shade, about Thaparâ€™s â€œpinkoâ€ views on ancient Indian history..” The saffron shade explains everything. It does more. It shows her in an almost angelic halo–the harsher the Saffron criticism, the greater she must be is the default conclusion.
Business Standard is fully within its rights to slobber over Romila’s greatness as an alleged historian. Yet its readers deserve at least a balanced picture of a historian. This isn’t a gossip magazine where the sole intent is to only elevate a person to Demigodhood. No. History is a serious affair, and if Business Standard means business, it needs to stop reducing itself to the level of Filmfare or Stardust or Savvy or Society. The authors seem to be on a warlike mission to highlight Romila’s “achievements” like getting the Kluge chair, and simultaneously, take the cudgels on her behalf by belittling “communal” historians. In this laughably vain attempt, the authors descend to ridiculous depths like calling the Kluge prize “…a sort of â€œNobelâ€ for disciplines such as history, philosophy, politics, anthropology, sociology, religion and so on.” The Business Standard is not alone in this. Most Indian media houses seem to have assigned for themselves a God-given right to assume that their readers are ignorant by default. I challenge Business Standard to show me exactly one evidence that proves that the Kluge prize is a Nobel equivalent. Or perhaps it seems to suggest that it was transformed into a Nobel equivalent after Romila Thapar won the prize.
This piece is further evidence that Romila Thapar is only an alleged historian. A few examples are in order.
Her regret, she says, is that so much emphasis in modern times is put â€œonly on the Valmiki version both in India and outside, that weâ€™ve forgotten the fact that there were and are multiple versions.â€ What is interesting is not just that the Valmiki version travelled all over but â€œhow people varied the story to express their concerns in their own versionsâ€
I’ve already spoken about the hollowness of the claims of “different versions” of the Ramayana. While it is commonsense that when a popular epic traverses both geography and culture, the latter assimilates it and gives it its own shape. Because there are multiple versions doesn’t mean that the original is no big deal. Would these versions exist without the foundation of Valmiki’s original? But such is the insidious nature of Thapar’s ilk, who want us to believe that the original itself is insignificant.
No Romila Thapar Encomnium is complete without her “expert” view on the Aryan
Tourist Migration Theory. Once a fierce proponent of the Aryan “Invasion” Theory, her gigantic ego must’ve been irreparably ruptured after she was forced to acknowledge that it was no longer sustainable. Hence the Aryan “Migration” Theory. But it is also a testimonial to the ignorance of the nitwits who wrote this piece de disgrace when they uncritically quote her
Thaparâ€™s was among the first, for instance, to counter the conventional â€œoriental despotâ€ view of Indian monarchy and demonstrate that the â€œAryanâ€ was a linguistic grouping, not a fair-skinned master race, that migrated to, and did not â€œinvadeâ€, north India and occasionally ate beef (this last point exercising Hindutva votaries the most).
Note again how the H word automatically proves Thapar’s thesis? An eminent linguist, Sanskritist, and scholar par excellence, the late Sediapu Krishna Bhatta conclusively proves how even Thapar’s fanciful linguistic theory actually proves the opposite: i.e. there was no invasion or migration.
Then we arrive at Exhibit 3:
The problem began with the British periodising Indian history into Hindu, Muslim and British and maintaining that Hindus and Muslims were always antagonistic towards each other. â€œThis cannot be sustained historically.
And this another of the favourite Marxist construct, which conveniently blames the British for every real and imaginary communal conflict that existed historically. Also, she interestingly doesn’t give us one evidence to show how “it cannot be sustained historically.” If anything, the peaceful living conditions of Muslims under Hindu kings should be attributed to the tolerance of those Hindu rulers. On the opposite side of the scale, every Muslim king who conquered a Hindu kingdom first broke all its religious institutions, and symbols and enslaved its Hindu population. But we’re talking to a person who advocates that Aurangzeb was the progenitor of secularism. Here’s the deal: I challenge Romila Thapar to prove using the rigors of the scientific method that there was at least one period in Indian history that witnessed the Hindu-Muslim bhai-bhai phenomenon.
Exhibit 4 is more fascinating and revealing:
Which raises the issue of her rebuttal of the â€œGolden Ageâ€ theory â€” another point that rankled with historians of a religious nationalist persuasion. â€œGolden ages all over world in various histories were a fashion among nineteenth-century historians. Most historians of present times have given up the idea. Nationalist thinking didnâ€™t pay enough attention to the implications of the description nor was any attempt made to define it in detail. They just went on saying â€˜it was a marvellous age of harmony and prosperityâ€™. Itâ€™s like today when one hears talk about India Shining; few analyse what it means and what the implications are for the Indian citizen.â€
This is in reality a tired tactic to dismiss genuine achievements of Hindu history. Look at what we lose when you dismiss the Golden Ages.
- The Mauryas, a period close to 150 years of unparalled achievement
- The Guptas, a period of roughly 300 years, perhaps the greatest empire under whom most of India rose to stupendous heights in all fields of human endeavour
- The Chalukyas, again, about 200 years of accomplishment in art, music, poetry, philosophy, commerce and military
- The Rashtrakutas–ditto as Chalukyas
- The Cholas and Pandyas, between them more than a thousand years of development, prosperity, and high culture
- The Vijayanagar Empire–perhaps the real reason for Romila Thapar’s angst against the “golden age” theory as she calls it. I leave it to your knowledge about the Vijayanagar Empire’s achievements.
In a line, you are asked to discard these because most historians have given up this theory. Yet, she doesn’t name even a single such historian. I suppose we should believe it because she says so. So what does that leave Indian history with? No prizes for guessing the correct answer. But the clue lies in “religious nationalist historian.” This choice of words automatically implies that the non-religious non-nationalist historian is the only “true” historian. In other words, the only historians are the Eminent Historians with Romila Thapar as the head honcho. But she’s too modest to say it in so many words. So, let’s see what a commonsense definition of a historian is. JK nails it in one of his best posts till date:
Any historian who identifies himself with a label – Orientalist, Marxist or Nationalist – has already pigeon-holed himself. They are bound by dogma and cannot accept any evidence which goes contrary to their predefined concepts. At that point they cease to be historians and become politicians. Historians like Upinder Singh now perpetuate such labels, implying that a historian has to belong to one such fraternity… We cannot live without historians and our choice is not between Orientalists, Marxists or Nationalists, but between good historians and bad ones.
Commit these lines to memory. It is evident which light this shows her in. The problem is Romila Thapar’s bullet has to take a circuitous route to hit the target. She can no longer openly call herself a Marxist historian because Marx’s pet “history” has so miserably failed his followers. She can no longer repeat the lies about Babri Masjid and Muslim atrocities and historical evidences. That leaves her with impotent invectives against a faceless beast called Hindutva, which she hasn’t managed to clearly define. But she is a past master of labelling and that’s what she does here.
Since sheâ€™s a â€œcontroversialâ€ historian in a country that is witnessing a resurgence of muscular patriotism we feel compelled to ask her views on India as a â€œfuture superpowerâ€ and the rise of Hindutva. On the first, she says, â€œI think weâ€™ve got a long way to go.â€ But more to the point, â€œAmerica has behaved so outrageously in matters concerning the rest of the world that if this is written into being a superpower, one would not wish it for India.â€
And yet, she had no qualms accepting the Kluge prize and serving on its chair. Nice. And therein lies a hint at the real problem as we shall see.
It is now time to remind Business Standard that it does its readers tremendous disservice by choosing selective facts about Romila Thapar and omitting the mountain of evidence that shows her in less than flattering light. By dismissing genuine criticism against this alleged historian as the rants of “saffron” bloggers, this paper actually insults the efforts of the really eminent men like Arun Shourie, Sita Ram Goel, and Koenraad Elst. Arun Shourie stands tall in this list because his book more than anything else, exposed the Marxist misdeeds in the ICHR. Does Business Standard have a factually convincing response to this?
This prima donna of Marxist history-writing now speaks about her own victimhood at the hands of the dreaded Hindutva votaries. Yet, in her peak, she and her clique routinely spat fire at everybody who had a different view. Monomaniacal, Communal, Nazi, Neo-colonialist, Laughable, Garbage, Bullheaded, Brawler, are but some of the fine terms her gang applied to those to “dared” to differ.
That this proud, card-carrying Marxist expounded her rehashed tripe over a Rs.3400 meal shows what she really is: neither a historian nor a Marxist but a self-serving fraud academic who made it big by latching on to the political fashion current in her youth.
It’s time Business Standard renamed itself.
Tags: Business Standard, Commentary, Eminent Historians, Fraud, High Priestess of Indian Marxism, History, History Writing, India, Indian Politics, Leftist History, Marxist History Writing, Pseudosecularism, Pseudosecularism Hall of Shame, Romila Thapar