Romila Thapar

While not a direct member of FOIL, Romila Thapar is one of the most famous Marxist historians on Ancient India.  Her books and writings are a source of reference and inspiration for many of FOIL’s ideas on Hindus and India.  She has heavily influenced the way Indian history is written and studied in India and abroad.  Thanks to her efforts, Indian history books continue to peddle the racist theory that India was invaded by light-skinned foreigners known as Aryans, who drove the indigenous people known as Dravidians down South and imposed their Brahminic/Vedic religion on the indigenous people.

Malhotra and Neelakandan highlight Thapar’s views briskly:

Hindu spiritual experiences are devalued as even pathological.  She resorts to a quasi-scholarly speculation of racial hatred as existing in entire Indian traditions when she wonders, ‘as to whether the references to the rakshasa, the preta and the daitya, demons and ghosts of various kinds, could have been a reference to the alien people of the forest.  Demonizing the ‘other’ is sometimes a technique to justify holding such people in contempt and even attacking them’.  This is exactly the same thesis that is being spread today by Maoist insurgents working among remote tribes in central India, namely, that demons mentioned in Hinduism are actually references to tribal people.[1]

Thus, Maoist insurgents, deemed as a major national security threat by the Prime Minister of India, use analyses of scholars like Thapar to justify their violent war.

She accepts the myth of St. Thomas and his martyrdom in South India as “credible”[2].  “Thapar does recognize the legitimacy of Jesus as the Christ and accepts the historicity of his existence while denying the historicity of Rama”.[3]  As a further example of Thapar’s biased views, in 2005, she worked with western Indologists like Michael Witzel and Steve Farmer and lambasted several edits proposed by California Indian parents with respect to the portrayals of Hinduism in 6th grade textbooks.  Though they were factual errors, Thapar and her cronies dismissed them entirely and blasted several individuals and organizations as “Hindu fascists” that were bent on changing history and religious texts.

Such ‘authoritative’ writings are also utilized by the Church to harvest Indian souls.  Malhotra and Neelakandan, point out to the example of Cambridge Jesuit theologian Michael Barnes.  According to the authors, Barnes defines the “…the recent phenomenon of ‘low-caste insurgency’…as an ‘agitation against the hegemonic culture of Brahminically dominant elite’”.[4]  Barnes then proceeds further to campaign the Church’s support for these insurgents who consider a unified Indian civilization and nation as a “…narrow interpretation of Indian culture, derived from Vedic times as a creation of the Aryan people”[5].  He cites Romila Thapar and states that “‘influence of both oriental and Hindu-nationalist concepts of ‘Indian identity’ are being held up to an increasingly critical scrutiny’”.[6]

In another instance, Robert Eric Frykenberg, professor emeritus of History and South Asian Studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison, in his paper entitled, Hindu Fundamentalism and the Structural Stability of India at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he states that the ideas of India and Hinduism are “by-products of official policies of the British Company’s Raj, and he dismisses ‘the fallacy of assuming that some sort of inclusive Hinduism existed”.[7]  His source is none other than Thapar, especially her statement that ancient Indians should be seen as merely “‘a cluster of distinctive sects and cults’”[8].  This portrays India as a chaotic cluster much like the various tribes of third-world nations before the European conquest.  Under this purview, Hinduism as an entity is a recently machinated phenomenon.

Thapar was appointed as the holder of the Kluge Chair at the Library of Congress in 2003.  In 2008, she accepted the $1 Million prize with another recipient Peter Robert Lamont Brown.[9] However, while Thapar gladly accepted the $1 Million prize, she twice declined the Indian government’s highest award, the Padma Bhushan.[10]  Perhaps she wanted to stay award from being seen as politically aligned to a particular ideology or government.  However, Malhotra and Neelakandan point out that the Kluge award is well-known for being often given to Christian evangelicals.[11]  Even more interestingly, according to Kluge Center’s website, “The Center seeks to bring a group of the world’s best senior thinkers – the Kluge Scholars – into residence, to stimulate, energize, and distill wisdom from the rich resources of the Library and to interact naturally over a period of time with political Washington [Emphasis Added]. There is great flexibility in the interaction between the scholars and Members of Congress [Emphasis Added] within the Jefferson Building, where lawmakers find a haven for serious discourse only a short walk from the Capitol.[12][Emphasis added].  Why then, did Thapar accept an award that is politically close to Washington (though not offered directly by the American government)?

In another irony, Thapar was given the award even though here research has demonized Hinduism and demolished the sense of Indian civilization.  Her co-recipient meanwhile, according to Malhotra and Neelakandan, “…is a historian of early Christian monasticism and his work has brought out a positive picture of Christian monasticism that is equivalent to the Indian spiritual culture which Thapar condemned as life-negating escapism.”[13]


[1] Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan, Breaking India. Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines, (India: Manipal Press Ltd, 2011), 260

[2] Malhotra and Neelakandan, 260

[3] Malhotra and Neelakandan, 260

[4] Malhotra and Neelakandan, 259

[5] Malhotra and Neelakandan, 260

[6] Malhotra and Neelakandan, 260

[7] Malhotra and Neelakandan, 259-260

[8] Malhotra and Neelakandan, 259-260

[9] Gail Feinberg, “Brown and Thapar Honored: Kluge Prize-Winners Take Fresh Look at History”, Library of Congress Information Bulletin Vol.68, Nos. 1-2, January/February 2009, http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/09012/kluge.html,  accessed June 17, 2011

[10] “Romila rejects Padma award”, Times of India Online Edition, January 27, 2005  http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2005-01-27/india/27864821_1_padma-award-padma-bhushan-hrd-ministry,  accessed June 17, 2011

[11] Malhotra and Neelakandan, 261

[12] “About the Kluge Chair”, http://www.loc.gov/loc/kluge/about/, accessed June 19, 2011

[13] Malhotra and Neelakandan, 261

2 responses to “Romila Thapar

  1. How surprising. I had to be the first to comment. These intellectual terrorrists should be exposed from behind their ‘official’ refuges.

  2. We need to have a detailed purva-paksha of her works and her psycophants and bhakts

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