Romila Thapar's diary of her visit to China in 1957 (to study ancient Buddhism) has just been published. A sympathetic review of it can be found in the (surely oxymoronic) New Left Review.
Thapar was smart enough to see that Mao intended to obliterate Buddhism. This became obvious when the Dalai Lama fled to India. Yet, she did not concede that her own infantile Leftism would wipe out ancient Indian history as thoroughly as the Muslim League had wiped out the Hindu past of her own ancestral homeland.
Having reread the diary I now feel that it does perhaps carry a faint aroma of what China was like, but seen through my eyes, and seen in a very different moment sixty-two years ago. Being there in the early years of a revolutionary change and observing some of the elements of what were to evolve into powerful dictatorial ideologies and practices,
The silly moo didn't understand that China was already an ideological dictatorship. Mao's tactics was to pretend to loosen things up- e.g. 'Let a hundred flowers bloom!'- but only so as to identify vast classes of people and assign them to liquidation.
such as those that took form as the Cultural Revolution, one can’t help but feel that the experience of that historical juncture may attune one to recognising other dictatorial changes that overwhelm societies of our times
the crazy lady thinks Modi is Mao! She does not understand that Modi represents India's long Hindu history of tolerance- or, to speak truthfully, not caring greatly about the absurd shibboleths of the folk who live across the way. Mao, on the other hand, thought beliefs matter more than anything else. He was imposing an evil foreign ideology on a devastated people.
– even if the changes emanate not from a socialist revolution but from its reverse, namely, ideologies drawn from exclusive majoritarian nationalisms deriving from a single identity and set in the economy of neoliberalism.
The economy of neoliberalism is one where tens of millions don't starve to death. That's why Thapar is against it. India is Hindu majority. If Thapar doesn't like it, why not return to her ancestral Lahore?
Of course, at the same time, one also has to think of these elements in their relation to the other more simple and direct changes, particularly of improvements in standards of living for the many. These may not have been a universal achievement but held out hope for the many, and it was a hope that was not altogether belied, as in some other cases.
So, Thapar is walking back her previous remark.
My own perceptions of China naturally changed over the years.
In 1962, China invaded India. Romila's Uncle was Army Chief. He had to resign in ignominy.
Historical patterns are sometimes repeated but the form differs. One has to be wary of the undesirable ones and learn of their causation from past experience.
The lesson for India was plain. Be wary of political Islam as well as Communism. Both want to liquidate India's Hindu past. This means killing Hindus here and now. If you are Hindu, reject these evil ideologies.
This is when history can provide some insights, provided it remains history and is not converted into mythology.
Thapar & Co did nothing but mythologize History for a partisan political purpose which involved keeping a kleptocratic Dynasty in power.
Aditya Bahl writes-
In the six decades between Thapar’s journey and the diary’s publication, her scholarly studies have spanned the history of state formation in early India,
Since she does not understand economics, her work is worthless. State formation is about internalizing externalities.
the politics of the Aryan question,
Hindus think there is no Aryan question. The word just means 'noble', 'enlightened' etc.
the conflicts between the Brahmanas and the Shramanas
Shramanas were recruited from the Brahmin class.
(the Ajivika, the Buddhist and Jaina lineages), the Itihasa-Purana traditions, and the Indian epics,
Itihasas are epics.
among others. Along with Irfan Habib, R.S. Sharma and Bipin Chandra, Thapar
was a stupid Leftist who turned Indian history into the most boring subject imaginable. Indians took to reading British historians because they felt an obligation to make their subject matter interesting.
is widely credited for inaugurating a paradigm shift in the study of Indian history –
it became boring, stupid and anti-national
a radical break with the British colonial periodization and research methods.
The Brits made Indian history interesting and readable.
Her honours include both the Kluge Prize for lifetime achievement in the humanities
The word kluge means to ' improvise or put together something from an ill-assorted collection of parts'. Indian history became a Lefty Frankenstein's monster which was not terrifying but deeply boring.
and social sciences, and the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in India (she has declined it twice).
Thapar was Sonia's advisor on all things Indian.
In the context of such an illustrious career, the diary is likely to be read as a relic of youthful indulgence.
Because she isn't saying 'Communism is wonderful.'
And yet, as Thapar has often argued, past events always accrue new, unexpected meanings in the present. It is hardly surprising, then, that the diary has significant affinities with her later work.
Very true. She knew nothing of China and her later work displayed an equal ignorance of India.
In the widely acclaimed
by geriatric Leftists
Somnath (2004), Thapar describes how a single event – the destruction of a Hindu temple by Mahmud of Ghazni, a Turkic king, in 1025 – has been narrated across Turko-Persian and Arabic chronicles, Sanskrit temple inscriptions, biographies and courtly epics, popular oral traditions, British House of Commons proceedings and nationalist histories.
Muslims don't like kaffirs or their 'but-khanas'. They kill the one and destroy the other. But, after 1947, this was bleeding obvious. Why else would Thapars be living in Delhi, not Lahore?
Patiently decoding these dissonant voices, Thapar disproves the myth of Hindus and Muslims as eternally warring civilizations,
There is no need to fight those who have surrendered
established by British colonizers and popularized by their modern-day heirs, the Hindu nationalists.
This silly moo has described herself as a product of the culture of the British cantonment. She went to English medium schools and an English University. How the fuck can Hindu nationalists who went to vernacular medium schools be the 'heirs' to British colonialism?
In doing so, Thapar reflexively shows that history is a process of ‘constant re-examination and reassessment of how we interpret the past’.
No. Historiography may be described as such though, if it is done right ab ovo, then it is merely incremental and, at the margin, involves the use of new technologies- e.g. carbon dating- and new statistical techniques.
Her pursuit however has never devolved into a postmodernist free-for-all.
It was content to be as boring as shit.
This is not just because
Thapar has a low IQ
of Thapar’s lifelong engagement with sociological theories, economic histories, archaeological methods and Marxist debates, but also because her scholarship has always been grounded in the public life of postcolonial India.
No. She belonged to a tiny Anglicized elite which, however, was shit at running the country.
Thapar has written school textbooks,
given public lectures on All India Radio,
and published extensive writings on the relationship between secularism, history and democracy in popular periodicals.
but when the Bench looked into the Janmabhoomi question, Thapar & Co turned out to have zero knowledge of history.
In recent decades, Thapar’s work has been systematically discredited
because they are bigoted. She is a Khattri and thus praises Kshatriyas and reviles Brahmins. But, it was Muslims who chased her people out of Lahore.
by a Hindu right-wing smear campaign (popular slurs include ‘academic terrorist’ and ‘anti-national’).
Anti-national is fine. But she is a bore, not a terrorist.
She has responded with characteristic aplomb, poking more historical holes in the fantasies of a ‘syndicated Hinduism’.
No. The senile bint has doubled down on publishing paranoid lies. What is the point of pretending that Modi is Mao?
Shortly before turning 90, she published Voices of Dissent (2020).
Though, for the greater part of her life, she embodied the Establishment.
Written during the upsurge of nationwide protests against the new citizenship laws (CAA and NRC),
which merely reiterate the long standing policy or commitments of the Government of India. It was Nehru who passed the law stripping Muslim refugees who had crossed the border in panic of their Indian citizenship. It was Indira who, post Nellie, promised the NRC which, later, the Bench too suo moto action to compile. The Bench also opened detention centers in Assam. This happened before Modi came to power.
the book traces a genealogy of dissent in India – spanning the second millennia B.C. of the Vedic times, the emergence of the Sramanas,
who weren't 'dissenting'. They were immediately, and very widely, popular.
the medieval popularity of the Bhakti sants and Sufi pirs,
who were perfectly orthodox or had disciples who became so.
and the Gandhian satyagraha of the twentieth century
Which was endorsed by the Hindu Mahasabha. Gandhi got the 'Mahatma' title from Swami Shraddanand of the Arya Samaj. He had previously converted to celibacy after meeting Bhai Parmanand though Gandhi described himself as 'sanatani'. Why pretend Gandhi represented 'dissent'? He surrendered unilaterally to the Brits in 1922 and cooperated in his own prosecution by entering a guilty plea.
– that offer a vital corrective to the popular right-wing tendency to label ‘dissent’ as an ‘anti-national’ import from the West.
Manmohan saw that, as Edwin Lim of the World Bank had said, Indian 'activists' were funded by Western NGOs. This had a direct economic effect- e.g. forcing India to import coal. It was Manmohan who got the ball rolling on defunding such activism.
Yet with the BJP pushing for the privatization of higher education,
It isn't doing so. BJP supporters want subsidized higher education just like everybody else. But, equally, everyone wants skills training not ideological brainwashing of a deeply boring type.
its affiliates infiltrating university administrations and its stormtroopers terrorizing college campuses,
The ABVP started doing that more than 50 years ago. This was one reason Indira had to declare a State of Emergency and jail all her opponents. Did Thapar protest against this suppression of 'dissent'? Nope. The Left took the view that Mrs Gandhi was fighting 'Fascism' by jailing venerable freedom fighters like Jayaprakash Narayan. There was an attempt to get some of the textbooks written by Thapar & Co struck off the reading list for Schools but nothing much came of it. Nobody gives a shit about history.
the struggle for decolonizing Indian history is no longer merely a matter of critique. There now exists a nationwide network of 57,000 shakhas operated by the RSS (the parent organization of the BJP), where the rank-and-file receive both ideological and weapons training, while the BJP’s IT Cell has infiltrated the social media feeds of millions of Hindu middle class homes, promoting its historical propaganda.
The RSS was merely a weak and provincial sister of the Congress Seva Dal which decided to concentrate on corruption and criminality. That's why the BJP has replaced Congress as the Hindu party par excellence.
These changes have not only upended the paradigm shift in Indian history of which Thapar was a leading figure
there was no 'paradigm shift'. At one time Congress had a reliable ally in the pro Moscow Communist party. Then both Congress and the Left declined into gerontocratic irrelevance.
but have also illuminated its political limits. Historically anchored in the Nehruvian-era universities, the decolonial turn has struggled to significantly transform popular consciousness beyond the bourgeois public sphere.
'Popular consciousness' can't be transformed by boring history books.
The Hindutva offensive has put liberal and left intellectuals in a difficult double bind.
Fuck off! Liberal and left intellectuals are useless and stupid. They will soon die because they are very very fucking old.
This contradiction was first captured by Aijaz Ahmad,
would that be Aijaz Ahmad the leading Marilyn Monroe impersonator? Cool!
shortly after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, now widely recognized as the emblem of the ‘Hindu nation’. The Indian left, Ahmad had argued, cannot abandon ‘the terrain of nationalism’,
unless it moves to a nice American or Canadian campus
but nor can it just occupy this terrain ‘empty-handed’, that is, ‘without a political project for re-making the nation’.
We are content if Indian origin Professors of History don't masturbate in public. We don't expect them to re-make shit.
In Ahmad’s words, to counter Hindutva with secularism is certainly ‘necessary’,
Very true. You should explain to Granny that she isn't Hindu. She is actually a Russian Bolshevik who was sent to India by Stalin on a secret mission.
but it remains ‘insufficient’. Likewise, countering the syndicated, market-friendly Hinduism by recovering a subversive genealogy of the Indian past
i.e. telling lies about how evil Brahmins hypnotized everybody so that they'd forget they were actually Russian Bolsheviks whom Stalin had sent to India on a secret mission.
is necessary but by itself, it too remains insufficient.
Very true. Indian origin historians must masturbate in public and jizz, or squirt, over the upturned faces of their students. Nothing less will do if we are to avert Fascism from taking over the world.
Thapar’s studies of ancient India naturally offer no ready-made cures for these modern maladies.
Unless you shove her books up your rectum in which case you'll stop worrying about 'modern maladies' and just settle for some kind soul fishing those tedious tomes out of your anus.
One incident from Gazing Eastwards though reads like an allegory for future action.
Is it the bit about how Chairman Meow leapt onto Romilla's lap? Cool!
As Thapar declared in a lecture for All India Radio in 1972, ‘the image of the past is the historian’s contribution to the future’.
Not if the historian is stupid and boring and nobody willingly reads her shite.
In Lanzhou, Thapar and de Silva’s clothes drew considerable attention from the Chinese public.
Even more attention would have come their way if they had dispensed with clothes altogether.
Trailed by curious strangers, they found it difficult to walk the streets. To blend in, they ditched their saris in favour of peasant jackets in the customary blue, made famous by Maoists at the time. As the universities continue to crumble, perhaps historians of the new generation should also discard their clothes of distinction, and blend as organizers, pedagogues and foot soldiers into the agrarian and citizen struggles erupting against the BJP-led right
Hilarious! These guys can't defend their own campuses. They are as useless as 'foot-soldiers' as Romila's Uncle was as Army Chief.
The point about China is that if India doesn't emulate it, then China will take larger and larger bites out of Indian territory- unless, of course, the BJP keeps getting re-elected and the Left fades out of all living memory.