Romila Thapar’s Kluge Prize

via By Dr. Gautam sen @ published on January 10, 2009

Romila Thapar has been awarded the Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement
in the Study of Humanity for ostensibly creating “a new and more
pluralistic view of Indian civilization, which had seemed more unitary
and unchanging, by scrutinizing its evolution over two millennia and
searching out its historical consciousness”. Thapar’s US Congressional
acclamation seeks to validate a blatantly provocative, uni-dimensional
and ideologically extreme view of India’s past, espoused mainly by its
Stalinist fifth column, assorted Islamist Jihadis and militant
Christian evangelists. The Kluge Prize selection committee might have
imposed a simple test on Thapar by requiring her to present examples of
two positive statements that she has composed on the Hindu past in her
entire career. Instead what the decision of the Kluge committee
suggests is racial arrogance, contempt for Hindu sensibilities and the
malign influence of a powerful Bostonian non-Hindu Indian, infamous for
campaigns belittling Hindu suffering. The award resoundingly reaffirms
a deep American animus against Hindu India that has been a constant
feature of US foreign policy towards it since independence. It was this
vicious hatred and a half-baked strategic calculus that prompted US
support for the perpetration of Pakistan’s genocide in East Pakistan in

Most mainstream Hindus find Romila Thapar’s
interpretation of ancient Indian history grossly disingenuous and
thoroughly objectionable. Indeed a large number of Hindus regard her as
a deeply mendacious enemy of Hindus. She and her genocidal Stalinist
associates studiously and maliciously ignore the immense suffering of
Hindus as a result of successive Islamic invasions and the brutal rule
of violent iconoclasts. It represents an example of holocaust denial
that has been sedulously promoted by British imperial deceit and US
Cold War aims. The indiscriminate killing of the old, the very young,
the systematic rape of girls, boys and women, the destruction of places
of worship (eliminating most major Hindu temples in north India), mass
slavery and loot are a bitter reality denied, though subsequently
echoed in Constantinople, Buda and countless defeated cities. It begs
the question whether such a prize would have been awarded to an
historian of the Jewish, Christian or Islamic faiths if the pedagogue
was so viscerally repugnant to a significant number of the faithful of
these communities. I think not, logical profundity and all artifices
about intellectual freedom notwithstanding.

It is only in India that a historian without adequate command
of Sanskrit can claim expertise on its ancient past right across its
entire length and breadth. Social status is all that counts in feudal
India, a feature on display in virtually every aspect of its social
life and all that is required to silence disbelief. In a pathetic
attempt to apply deep thought to Mahmud of Ghazni’s invasions of India,
Romila Thapar piles one speculation upon another, fabricating motives
and thought processes with abandon. She writes as if she had been a
contemporary of the conqueror, priests and participants in major
historical events over several centuries. She turns notions of
scepticism in judging historical evidence on their head. Her personal
authority becomes the only referent for increasingly wild assertions!
There is no scholar of ancient Europe or any other part of the world
that would dare advance ludicrous claims to expertise without command
of the relevant languages and usually over a modest geographical
expanse. The likes of Fernand Braudel and Chris Wickham are very rare
indeed and Romila Thapar might wish to consult their historical oeuvre
in penance for a multitude of sins.

A central purpose of her banal lifetime agenda has been to
legitimise the destruction of Somnath by Mahmud of Ghazni. According to
Romila Thapar, he was motivated purely by greed, a secular impulse that
supposedly erases any iconoclastic religious rationale. One startling
claim she also appears to make is familiarity with supposedly extant
corroborative Persian and Turkish sources on his lack of religious
conviction, presumably the pre-Kemalist script in which even few
contemporary Turks claim to read, though it is Sanskrit she really
needed to bone up on. Much the same can be said of her sturdy defence
of Aurangzeb’s iconoclasm, asserting secular political motives for the
destruction of the Kashi Viswanath temple (and countless others) and
the erection of a mosque in its place. Her JNU colleagues indulge in
even more bizarre fantasies, such as imperial sanction against the
temple for the abduction of some local princess though the evidence
adduced is miraculously fictitious. This is the stuff of undergraduate
student union debates and all that she and her execrable Stalinist JNU
colleagues are able to conjure in old age.

There is hysterical denial that any Muslim ruler was ever
loyal to his faith and followed the Prophet’s iconoclastic example. By
asserting robbery as the principal motive in every significant instance
of temples being destroyed they end up in the unenviable position of
having to explain why there is so much discussion about division of the
spoils of conquest in the numerous wars of Jihad waged by the Prophet
himself? The delicious paradox of this assertion, which dear Romila has
not evidently thought through, is that Islam, if they are correct in
their imputation of robbery as the only significant motive for its
imperial expansion, is merely about theft and the recourse to the
Almighty Allah a ruse! She is proposing, in effect, that Muslim Jihad
against infidels was not inspired by their religious faith at all and
they were only out to rob and pillage. But why this extraordinary
insight should have reassured the victims of robbery, murder and mayhem
is a matter she obviously cannot comprehend. Quite clearly, common
sense is at a premium since it would have dictated that religious
motivation and desire for loot have always co-existed in most imperial

Romila Thapar’s infamous patronage of the discredited Aryan
invasion theory always had an Islamist rationale as well. By
maintaining, on the basis of grotesque colonial historical
misrepresentation, and its subsequent validation by the Nazi ideologue
Alfred Rosenberg, that contemporary Hindu upper castes were invaders
she sought to grievously injure the legitimacy of India’s entire Hindu
past. What she was effectively arguing was that racist invaders had
subjugated indigenous Indians in the past and casteist Hinduism was
their ideology. By inference, later Islamic invasions were no more
remarkable since they were merely successors to a well-established
pattern of invasions. Of course, for India’s venal Stalinists Islam
represented liberation since it was monotheistic and preached equality.
That it guaranteed sexual slavery for women and death (enslavement
after every conquest) to those who resisted conversion to Islam was a
quirk in the prescription of Islamic equality that escaped tortured
Stalinist logic. Even now contemporary India heaves with the distorted
logic of this colonial historical intervention, which is being used to
justify social pogroms against alleged upper caste oppressors no matter
how deprived many of them may be and by communities that wield
significant economic and political power in India now. Truly, such
deep-rooted malice underpinned the eventual extermination of European
Jewry. The fact that the Aryan invasion theory lies in tatters has only
prompted the devious reworking of its original formulation by her. The
blatant Islamist and Christist demonization of alleged upper caste
oppression has now been artfully re-phrased by transmuting invasion
into immigration, a parallel to the historic libel against Jews of
poisoning wells, to renew the charge of illegitimacy against upper
caste villains.

She breezily speaks of truth in historical writing, imagining
that all her critics are fools who cannot conceivably be aware of a
well-worn professional discussion on the contestable nature of
historical truth and partisanship in historical scholarship. Some of
them are also familiar with the work of historians of greater
professional distinction than Romila Thapar and infinitely superior
intellectual integrity, who have written rather differently on ancient
and medieval India. In her case, what stands out resoundingly, again
and again, is a determination to vindicate every aspect of Muslim rule
over Hindus and celebrate their most egregious crimes or ignore them
altogether with breathtaking impudence? In this context, it is not
ancient India in which she proclaims expertise, but any period
requiring the usual Stalinist hatchet job of dis-information. And it is
for this highly politicised defence of Islamic rule over India that a
Christian America, steadfast friend of Islamic Jihad against it, is
rewarding a sworn enemy of the Hindu people. Mahmud, Timur, Aurangzeb,
Nadir Shah and the Abdali killers ought to feel refreshed with the
taste of the blood of hundreds of thousands of Hindu men, women and
children even as they find an honourable place at Allah’s table.

Such is the audacity of Thapar and these second-rate
Stalinists that profound ontological and epistemological differences
with historians of the stature of R. C. Majumdar and Sir Jadunath
Sarkar are evaded by merely accusing them of communal Hindu
methodology. The eight volume History of India, as told by its own
historians, compiled by Eliot and Dowson, is also damned by imputing
partisan motives though their contents are not uniformly damaging to
Islam, yet highlight enough evidence of despoliation to prompt their
blanket denouncement by India’s fifth column. And she herself also
makes a disgracefully cavalier accusation against the distinguished K.
M. Munshi of an attempt to revive the Hindu Aryan (sic!) past for his
endeavours to restore Somnath. Yet, these fifth columnists never detect
such base motives in the reams of diabolical contemporary Islamic and
Christian hate literature used incessantly to insult Hindu
sensibilities in their own homeland. This is a tradition that dismisses
those who disagree with them as communal, the pronouncement of an auto
da Fe to paralyse them.

Her alleged expertise on ancient India is a badge deployed for
typically cynical Leftist aims of aggrandisement, marked by
opportunistic alliances and complicity in genocide that has usually
ended in historical oblivion. But much blood will first be spilt and on
a scale that would make any bloodletting specifically sponsored by
Hindus, with all the enormous caveats that signification ought to
imply, a few mere commas compared to the respective histories of
genocide wilfully engaged in by Islam and Christianity. What most
Indian historians seem to lack, in addition to appropriate training in
methodology and relevant linguistic skills, is any notion of
comparative history. It seems that Hindu India’s encounter with Islam
is outside history and all the evidence, written and archaeological,
subject to the imprimatur of a bunch of malevolent Stalinists before
they can be regarded as valid. Comparable evidence of examples of the
expansion of Islam elsewhere has not suffered the same dismal fate,
judging from the meticulous recording of the erasure of Constantinople
and Buda by the Ottomans. But the two cannot be allowed comparison
since they reveal a pattern that refutes all the deceitful contortions
Indian history has suffered at the hands of Stalinists, deriving
additional succour, for their own mundane political reasons, from
India’s foreign enemies. Tellingly, the predators and assassins that
Romila Thapar has laboured to vindicate throughout a dismal career are
also the heroes of Pakistan for being iconoclasts that kept Hindus in
their place.

Romila Thapar belongs to the cynical tribe of Indian
Stalinists who thrive by self-righteousness, which in the Indian
context bears a familial resemblance to the racial supremacy that
Europeans once openly declared and now quietly assert. Basically, it is
divide-and-rule by mobilising every division and fissure amongst the
non-whites to their advantage and the use of sophisticated media
brainwashing techniques that simultaneously affirm equality while
ensuring racial hierarchy. The noble campaign against tradition and
ignorance melds effortlessly with the depravity of the masters of the
universe, eagerly delivering incendiary tonnage on Afghan wedding
parties and Iraqi schoolchildren. But the clamorous natives are forever
at the door, resentful, gross and uninitiated in the mores of
cosmopolitan sophistication. And their imperfect command of the English
language is a weapon used against them, to criminalize their ignorance
and question their humanity.

But nothing can be allowed to stand in the way of progress,
the logical summit of which the great theorists Mark Horkheimer and
Theodor W. Adorno noted was ascended in the gas chambers of the same
civilisation that produced Goethe and Beethoven.

The sordid outcome of the Kluge prize for Romila Thapar is an
attempted validation of the intellectual genocide against Hinduism. And
the Indian Stalinist anti-colonial rant evaporates the moment their
aircraft approaches the American shoreline. As a fully paid up member
of India’s deracinated upper crust, Romila Thapar loftily declined the
native Padma Bhusan, but a million dollar prize, effectively the same
kind of state award she found unpalatable, from the racist sponsors of
mass murder is apparently another matter. The real high-minded
tradition examining the Hindu past represented by the noble efforts of
many like Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan were not on the Kluge radar. It will
satisfy the evangelical constituency that wishes to extirpate Hinduism
and the Islamic Jihadists who assert historical legitimacy for their
claims to imperial dominion over India and regularly pursue it by
murderous ventures that emulate Nazi pogroms against Jews and Slavs. It
is Romila Thapar who is their intellectual mentor and Kluge has
emphatically joined the same genocide chorus. The con-joining of the
name of historian Peter Brown for the Kluge prize on the same occasion
is a cause for mourning since this great scholar has done so much to
advance our understanding of the ancient world, with insight that
testifies to profound scholarship and elegance that is enviable.

Dr. Gautam Sen
12th December 2008.

(Taught for more than two decades and at the London School of Economics and now writes on international political economy)

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