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.