History, Critical Thinking & Autonomy: Decolonizing Romila Thapar 2/5



Namaste! I will discuss professor Romila Thapar’s ideas about the nature of history and the importance of intellectual freedom. -History is an understanding of the past. And I would underline again and again the word, understanding the past. It is not even what was the truth, it’s not even what was correct or anything. We don’t know. The past can’t be revived. We will never know what the absolute truth was about the past. The maximum that we can do is to use various methods of analysis to try and arrive at the understanding of a problem, the problem being the reconstruction of the past. -I agree that the history is the understanding of the past. But the question is, whose understanding? Is it the consumers of history, we who read the books or is it the understanding by the producers such as professor Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib and many of her peers. If it’s the history of people who are producing history, if that is what we call by history, then certainly their biases enter the picture. And certainly, we need to get rid of these intermediaries to the best of our abilities using social media. So, I think the social media revolution changes the definition of history from that of a few elitist observers and scholars who are intermediaries to something the consumers can decide for themselves because there is more direct access to the information that social media provides. So, her definition of history provides itself is undergoing change. -It’s very difficult to keep your own identity outside because, you know, as we all know without having to go to deconstruction, we all know that everybody has an identity which creeps in. -Yeah. -However, much one says I don’t have a bias. And I have a great suspicion of people who come to me and say, I write good history because I am not biased. I feel like saying, this is nonsense. Of course, you are biased. We are all biased. -I am delighted that professor Thapar admits that there is bias. That there is bias because everybody has some identity and some agenda. But this requires her and her peers to be honest in admitting their own agendas, their own fixations, their own identities, which are the institutional mechanisms and political mechanisms they are aligned with, who funds them, who valorises them, all of that should be put on the table. In this clip she makes a very important definition of what history is by saying it’s not about facts only, but about explaining the causation. What are the causes that produce certain effects. In other words, interpreting the past, not just stating the raw data. Watch. -Those causal relationships when they are being established by the historians must be based on logic and rationality. They cannot be mystical, they cannot be mythological. They have to be logical and rational. Which is why there is a world of difference between history and mythology, history and faith. I am not saying that mythology has no value. It has a lot of value. But you cannot take mythology as history without putting it through this test. -Test. -And the test is very important. -There is a two-fold problem in the way professor Thapar and her cabal have applied this idea of causation. First, they have not interpreted quran, Bible and other kind of, you know, theological systems using this idea of rationality and causation. To see if they really add up, whether they can be justified. She has only applied this to Hinduism. That’s one issue. She is looking for scientific causation, to interpret the legitimacy of Hinduism. Second issue I have is that she is generally looking for social problems. Social, political problems of bias, human rights problems as the causes of various kinds of Hindu events and various kinds of Hindu behaviour. So, that’s how the theory of causation has been applied by her. -When history becomes a social science, it then begins to observe certain rules of evidence collection, analysis, and how these analyses are put together in the context of other social sciences. In the sense that there is a working together of sociology, economics, anthropology, history, demography, you name it. You know. So, that the causes, the range of causes gets wide. -What is important to note is that social sciences in India, are 100% western imported models. There is no Indian indigenous social science’s theory which is being taught. So, while personal bias is not there directly, it’s indirectly there through the type of theory you are using. So, if you use theory number 1, you are biased towards it, if you use theory number 2, you are biased towards that. So, you can claim to be neutral, objective, I am just doing my analytical, logical, scientific job using this theory. As if this theory is sacrosanct and beyond question. But the choice of social sciences theories which tend to be Marxist and so on is itself a bias. And I think the academy has not done an adequate job of critiquing the bias built in the social sciences methodology itself. -We have an element of suggesting that education means critical thinking. And certainly, in universities like the JNU, for example, from day 1, we have said to students, you have to got to ask questions. Stop us and ask questions, think about what you are reading ad writing, enquire into what you are reading and writing. So, that has been an element in some institutions. What is interesting is that the institutions that are picked on are institutions that have had a trace of critical enquiry. I mean, they are not picking on any university and any institution. They pick on those where people have learnt to think slightly independently. -Professor Thapar characterizes Jawaharlal Nehru University popularly known as JNU as a place of unbiased, rational thinking, critical enquiry. But critical enquiry is being programmed to be of a certain genre targeting against certain kinds of people. So, this is politically loaded. There is agenda in it. So, you cannot really call it honest, objective, critical thinking. It is biased by the very nature of the lens that the professors are using. -In any kind of democratic system and I think up to a point we have been developing this in the past. That there are certain institutions that can claim autonomy and universities are amongst those. Universities and research institutions of a higher level. And they must not only claim it, they must protect that autonomy. And I think part of this problem has been precisely that people have seen that the autonomy of the university or the autonomy of the institution is being infinished in a very serious way. And it’s important to maintain this autonomy because you cannot have a democratic system in which the government controls absolutely everything. You have to have some institutions that are beyond government control, that are autonomous. -Under the previous government, people like Romila Thapar and her ilk enjoyed tremendous clout. And they were also appointed by the government. So, it’s not like they were autonomous. Their grants, their promotions, their curriculum all of that was controlled by the government, by the ministry and so on. Now, they weren’t complaining about this at that time. now, there is a new government they are not in favour with that government. The new government is doing the same thing putting their people, their ideologies, their curriculum. Nothing different than the previous government. But now, all of a sudden, there is this complaint that this is undemocratic. We are losing our autonomy. But there never was autonomy in the Indian higher education system. The British controlled it, the Indian government after independence controlled it. Now a new government in India is controlling it. It’s the same thing, only the ideological lens has shifted. -Many of us have been arguing for the last decade or more, that the agencies that produced text books should be a) handled only by professionals. B) that they should be autonomous of government. So, agencies like the NCERT should be autonomous bodies manned by social scientists. -Once again Professor Thapar is assuming that of social sciences, this buzz were jargon, methodology laden, theory jargon laden discipline, if that is controlling and these professors have got degrees from elitist universities and they are published in world famous journals that therefore, it freeze them from bias. So, you know, professional social scientists also existed in the Nazi era. I mean there is people like that in every era. Every kind of biased system has had its own experts, elitists, who are hoisted as sort of the authority people who do the job of promoting a certain ideology. So, the fact that there is professionalism in social sciences does not mean that it’s free from bias. This clip is an example of the nonsense and bias that comes out of this so called neutral, objective social science approach. -In the 19th century, the earliest, the foundation of the Indian civilization were the Vedic texts. They were the earliest bit of evidence we had. And so, the whole construction of the Hindu Arya was based on the Vedic texts. Nobody of course, mentioned that at that time in the 5th, 4th centuries BC there were lot of people who were opposed to the Vedic texts like the Buddha, the Mahavir, the Ajivikas, the Charvaks and so on. Very solid body people known as the nastikas by the Vedic brahman. -There are two problems with what she just said. First, vedas are not dated 4th or 5th century BCE but much earlier. Second, she is conflating Vedic with Aryan. And that is a problem. It’s something that the colonial Indologists brought in. she has assumed that. I will discuss that in great detail in my next episode.

36 thoughts on “History, Critical Thinking & Autonomy: Decolonizing Romila Thapar 2/5”

  1. This is part 2 of my "Decolonizing Romila Thapar" series. You can watch part one here: http://bit.ly/NationAndNationalism.
    To donate to Infinity Foundation’s projects including the continuation of such episodes and the research we do:
    http://infinityfoundation.com/donate-2/

  2. Is it only me who feels that except for a very refined and articulate English the left academia has nothing to offer only outdated outmoded out fashioned idiotic idiosyncrasies??

  3. Just because British rule destroyed / wiped out factual data related to times of Ram, Krishna and other kingdoms + people + Rishies before and after their times, the real history of India doesn't become mythology. Infact, Jesus being born to Virgin Mary is an absolute myth. Why no one questions that and why is it being propagated widely endlessly? They are hiding and not speaking about the 12 years of Jesus, where Jesus is probably said to have lived and studied in India. And there is a documentary by an African American on Jesus, where it shows few proofs that Jesus didn't die after being hanged at the cross, but he had simply fainted. Thereafter on 3rd day he began his journey back to India and he lived in present day Kashmir and died around 80 years of age. His grave too exists there. Why no one researches these facts and why only attacking Hindu history?

  4. As a sikh hearing her say this really pissed me off. My gurus were treated wrongfully by the mughals. With respect to my gurus not gonna say what they did. Hindus were oppressed. They came to one of my gurus to help save the Hindu dharm. She's a sell out like gandhi. She probably supports the 1984 incident agansit sikhs. Bharat has been under attack for 1000 years.

  5. Ah! these Marxist historians! They BELEIVE all of history is driven by class struggle. They can't even examine even a bit of history without this jaundiced lens. They confuse their belief for truth. It is ok to have beliefs but to confuse it for truth, is unpardonable. Granted that class struggle is a significant driver of history, but to base your analysis of history only on it is pure rubbish. It is sort of like appointing an evangelical to prove the existence of the God or otherwise.

  6. रोमिला थापर क्रिश्चियन मिशनरी एजेंट है|
    कांग्रेश नेहरू परिवार की भी एजेंट हैं|

  7. RT has good language and position. Lacks sincerity and honesty…. serious bias in her understanding of hindustans history

  8. She doesn't understand anything leave apart HISTORY She simply fakes things and thinks people will buy her version She herself agrees dt she is only lying why cannot she interpret Bible and Kuran It may help million sick people We don't need anybody to decode Our history and Vedas No body is interested except Urban Naxals who enjoy distorted reality

  9. Great Work sir Rajivji, the way you taken point by point of Bullshit history of Romilla Thapar so called historian self made and by Irfan Habib another such historian shame on them all concocted history we have been hearing this since Indian Independence. Entire India is with you this country need a rational critique like you. God bless you.

  10. Millions of evidences in the past, millions of evidences in the present, but still they cant analyze and say that Muslim invaders were violent terrorists

  11. Who is interviewing her? teesta setalvad ?? One of the biggest rogue_looter of India? Both the questioner & the responder are totally biased …

  12. What a bunch of Western biased nonsense…it's shameful! You can't use the social sciences methodologies of cultures that are in their infancy to study a society ten times ( at least…) older than the ones that produced such theories. I sense in her the old western mentality sense of "superiority" patronizing the "poor third world" from the heights of her stratospheric wisdom.

  13. ….Romola thapar……. knows one thing …. potray islamist attackers as heroes….. this bloody leftist women has everything for islam not for vedic culture……

  14. I know this might sound off topic, but there's something I wanted to point out, because I see this all the time.
    Our Rajiv Malhotra has spent a significant time in foreign country, however, see how he speaks English. There is no put on accent or air of sophistication.
    On the other hand, listen to Romila Thapar, speaking with a superior hoity toity accent of her colonial masters. Pakistani Generals who can speak english talk like this too. Shameful.

  15. No, we are sick her brand of fake history of India. Time has come to deconstruct her delusory ideas called Indian History! She has deliberately and dangerously corrupted the Indian history with her biases to fulfil the wishes of her patrons! She got away with her white lies and now she has critiques on the way to destroy her fake hypothesis propagated as history! The truth must prevail!

  16. The role of the historian has always been the subject of debate. In the imperialist era history was written glorify the conqueror. Communists on the other hand rewrote history to serve ideology. Today regardless of bias, the historian is required to base his interpretation of the past on the basis of detailed analysis of historical documents and writings, and also on the basis of oral history which is very important in 'third world' countries whose history goes back to a time before written languages.Africa and the concept of 'negritude' is a case in point. The debate still continues as to whether history should be a true account of the past or an interpretation.

  17. Critiquing Romila Thapar by Rajiv Malhotra (RM) is important because she wields influence far exceeding her merit, and may be that is the reason she has carefully avoided debating RM.

  18. Data and interpretation of any 'history' beyond/ before yesterday is always of questionable value even if, as often happens, a few thugs among 'intellectuals' are able to get their own pet vesrions accepted as consensus. I find epics and fairy tales especially Indian ones, far more valuable in many ways from the vuewpoint of evolution of mankind.

  19. How dare this woman call herself a historian … she admits she is biased ….then you've got no right to be a historian. … And what she is talking is absolute bullshit .. I can have a bias but if I'm a historian I'll write facts…. my bias is my opinion and opinion is not History … History is facts …. Wow and don't tell me her books are still prescribed in Schools
    ..what a shame …she is just a lackey historian of Gandhi dynasty ….

  20. Oh my god… look who is having a conversation with her?? Teesta stelavad, a combo of Christ and Mohammed, buy one and get one free types. She runs how many NGOs, where accountability is zilch, just making money for herself, and romila thapad is no better, so called commie, who accepted grants and whatnot, just to give twist to history…,. Two witches of Macbeth.

  21. Another thing that irks me is this idea of western lens and Indigenous lens. Let's assume that Newton described the law of gravity(and not Aryabhatta or some other Desi) him being and outsider and you being insider will your butt hurt less if you fall? 80 percent of neo bhakts will be sold simply by saying a particular idea is great since it's swadeshi and urabn naxals the opposite ( they like Russian ideas maybe??). But the thinking 20% falls into the trap of giving equal merit to ideas regardless of their origins. So you have in sociology or geology, western ideas that have been proven versus some new unproven concept ( be it from ancient texts and sold as ancient but nevertheless unproven to us modern naysayers). History is littered with new ideas eventually becoming the gold standard , but that credibility has to be earned and not every new idea turns out to be great. Change does not always mean progress, sometimes change can mean Regress. For God's sake some of these concepts are even sold as going back (to a great society, which mysteriously crumbled)

  22. So you are saying that since universities get funding from patrons, they are beholden to patrons and the bias of the donors seeps in to the output generated by scholars? So by that logic shouldn't universities be independant? So are you contradicting yourself and saying that it's OK for the current government to install their unqualified people to push its agenda ? Or are you suggesting that universities can never be unbiased? I understand that either by design or unintentionally Jnu and scholars may have been biased, but your solution is to simply propogate the same biased system, except skew the bias towards current politicians. In any case ur wrong and wrong by either just taking advantage of a broken system or by your own logic, whatever any scholar lutyen or bhakt cannot be trusted.

  23. If these People were paid to slant Indian History to satisfy outside forces then you will be able to understand why the Indian History is in such a bad state. Another way is that some of these Western oriented writers were programmed in their Education to Mentally reflect what the Westerns want and that is to Minimize Indian History and to place India in a bad light.

  24. Romila Thaper is changing the definition of history that it is understanding the past.Bloody hell.It is actually knowing what exactly has happened in the past.If evidences are not there, or some controversies have arisen among the historians while assessing the facts,the matter should be told like that only.

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