Sunday, 28 December 2014

Romila Thapar silencing the Public Intellectual

Sonia Gandhi knew little about the country it fell to her to rule. One of the experts she consulted regularly to remedy her ignorance was Romila Thapar.

Clearly, the distinguished historian was a 'durbari' intellectual- a courtier savant- was she also ever a 'Public Intellectual' like Emile Zola who condemned the injustice done to Dreyfus?
Of course she was. She condemned the imprisonment without trial of a host of Politicians and Trade Unionists and Journalists during the Emergency. Her book 'J'accuse Madam Indira!' was a best seller.
I'm kidding. She wrote no such book.

What she did do was attack the policies of the party opposed to Sonia Gandhi, whom she herself regularly visited and advised.

In this partisan exercise, what helped her was her long history of writing highly communal attacks on one particular type of Religion- Brahmanic as opposed to Shramanic- which she castigated as intolerant and backward. The fact that the other sort- Shramanic Buddhism- was sheer money-grubbing, elitist, misogynistic, casteist  stupidity, special pleading and magical thinking, most of whose practitioners happened to be Brahmin males- she glossed over. Instead, she affirmed that Indian history is only 'communalized' if reference is made to antagonism between Hinduism and Islam. This is because whereas India is now divided between Buddhistan and Vedistan, Muslims live happily with Hindus in places where they are the majority. Thapar, as a Hindu, may be right in saying that Hindus had no antagonism to Muslims- the Muslim population of India is now a higher percentage than at Partition- but she is surely wrong to say that Islam in India wasn't hostile to Hindus.

The facts speak for themselves. Hindus and Christians, but also Muslims deemed insufficiently orthodox, have been either ethnically cleansed or subjected to continuous intimidation, harassment and terror in areas where Muslims are either numerically stronger or feel themselves at an advantage.

For Thapar, the true story of India is one of resistance to stupid and needy Brahmins by less stupid and more greedy Brahmins who decided it paid better to pose as Buddhists. Islam was an irrelevance, except in so far as it killed off all the Hindus, in which case it was actually only avenging Buddhism and thus on the side of the angels.

Thapar explains that 'Buddhism was edged out of India by, among other things, Brahminical orthodoxy. In India, the State of Bihar derives it name from 'Vihara', the term for a Buddhist monastery. What about Naobehar, near Balkh, in Afghanistan? Its name derives from 'New Vihara'.

Who destroyed Buddhism in Balkh? Did Brahmin orthodoxy play a part? Or is it not the case that Viharas in Balkh were destroyed by the same people, for the same reason, as the Viharas of Bihar were destroyed?

Who 'edged Buddhism out' of Afghanistan and Central Asia? Who is edging Christianity out of Iraq and Syria today? Who 'edged out' Hinduism and Sikhism from Pakistan?

It certainly wasn't Islam. Perish the thought! Probably it was neo-liberalism.

Even suppose Lord Buddha was stupid or self-serving enough to commit to the theory given above, was it really the case that 'private property' alone gave rise to 'confusion and conflict'? Was there really never any invasion by an aggressive tribe to be countered? In addition to an elected Magistrate, was it really the case that no Military Chief was required?

Apparently not. Lord Buddha said-
31. 'And, Vasettha, whoever of these four castes, as a monk, becomes an Arahant who has destroyed the corruptions, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, attained to the highest goal, completely destroyed the fetter of becoming, and become liberated by the highest insight, he is declared to be chief among them in accordance with Dhamma, and not otherwise.
 Dhamma's the best thing for people
 In this life and the next as well.
32. 'Vasettha, it was Brahma Sanankamara who spoke this verse:
 "The Khattiya's best among those who value clan;
 He with knowledge and conduct is best of gods and men."
This verse was rightly sung, not wrongly, rightly spoken, not wrongly, connected with
profit, not unconnected. I too say, Vasettha:
 [98] "The Khattiya's best among those who value clan;
 He with knowledge and conduct is best of gods and men."'
Thus the Lord spoke, and Vasettha and Bharadvaja were delighted and rejoiced at his

In the Agganna Sutta, quoted above, the Buddha explains to 2 Brahmin monks why his own caste is superior to theirs, just as their caste is superior to that of the Vaishyas who in turn rank above the despicable Shudras. The argument he uses is foolish and utterly false. It is not true that an 'Abhassara Brahma' world ever existed or that it will exist. The whole thing is a myth- like the Sea of Milk or the Celestial Tortoise or Jesus rising from the Dead. Buddha was a stupid fuckwit who thought sex was bad, eating was bad, and Warriors who can actually fight, Kings who can actually govern- like King Pasenadi- were also bad. He himself, he considered to be very very good because he simply went around telling stupid self-serving lies about his own greatness which was why King Pasenadi had become his disciple.

Thapar's own anti-Brahmin vitriol is perfectly understandable. Like the Buddha, she is a Kshatriya. Her Uncle was a dud as Army Chief. Clearly, her people would have been better off sticking to making money or pretending to be Marxists.  Naturally, possessing neither intelligence nor capacity for learning, she resented the Brahmin reputation for both. Thus, she is not a historian but a victim of her history. Her Punjabi Hindu Khattri ancestors, though good at making money, failed in defending their own homeland. It falls to their obedient daughter to claim that this involved no disgrace since there was never any Islamic threat in the first place. The only evil that existed in India was that of the Brahmins. Since Soniaji, being a foreigner, came to her for 'tuition', she herself had a duty to her Client which she could easily discharge by pretending that Hindutva is some sort of Brahminical conspiracy. The fact that non-Brahmins, like Modi and Amit Shah, have made it attractive to the voter probably has something to do with 'neo-liberalism'. Public Intellectuals have a duty to speak out against it. The fact that 'neo-liberalism' doesn't exist- and that those members of the Public who have intellectual inclinations can easily find this out for themselves- means that Silence is the only valid Parrhesia in this context.

Thapar, speaking of the Silence of the Public Intellectual, so nakedly reveals her own ignorance and stupidity as to stun, if not shame, her audience into silence.

1 comment:

  1. The Sutra you mention is a late one, post Alexander. The Lord Buddha did not say these words. Later authors, probably Brahmins, put words into the Buddha's mouth. He is shown to know late Law Books which, for example, state that the Ambattha are a mixed caste, not pure Brahmans, which is why the rude and insulting Ambattha does not become a Buddhist monk unlike the two pure-blooded Brahmans (descended from Vashista and Bharadwaja respectively) mentioned in this Sutra.