People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 19

May 11, 2003

And Now In USA…



WHILE the spirit of tolerance and press freedom was being discussed recently in Delhi reports appeared that a well orchestrated hate campaign in the USA is being whipped by the Hintutva lobby against well known Indian Historian Romila Thapar. However, historians and noted scholars of Indian history  in the USA and abroad came out in her defence and supported her prestigious appointment to the first Kluge Chair in Countries and Culture of the South Asian Division Library  of Congress.


This is what the Director, Scholarly Programmes in the Library of the Congress Professor Gifford said  “In  brief, our response is that we are most pleased to have an Indian historian of Professor Thapar’s distinction with us at the Library of Congress.  Her many books already in the collections of the Library of Congress testify that her work is sympathetic to the ancient Indian and Hindu historical and cultural traditions in highlighting their variegated and undogmatic quality, and in making clear the complexity of Indian civilisation.”


Ever since her appointment and joining there, there is a planned saffron brigade attack on her egged on by supporting NRIs. Ironically it coincides with a campaign in India  spearheaded by HRD minister  Murali  Manohar Joshi against historians who opposed the saffronisation of textbooks.


The attacks on Professor Romila Thapar are by persons who call themselves the friends of India. They assert that her appointment represents a Marxist assault on Hindu Civilisation. She, some of them charge is a well-known Marxist, with a Euro-centric view. Incidentally this chair was established in 2000 to bring together the best thinkers. The centre houses five chairs only.


Romila Thapar has held many visiting posts in Europe, the United States and Japan.  She is an Honorary Fellow at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. She has honorary doctorates from the University of Chicago, the Institute National des Langues et Civilisation Orientales in Paris, the University of Oxford and the University of Calcuttta. The author of many seminal works on the history of ancient India, her volume of A History of India (Penguin) has been continuously in print since 1966.  Her latest publication is Early India - From the Origins to AD 1300.  Other recent works are History and Beyond and Cultural Pasts: Essays in Early Indian History. She has had brief stints at the Delhi University and Jawahar Lal Nehru University, besides her numerous books, and her well known discourses on Communalism and Writings on Indian History.


Some see this as an attempt to send her packing, while others opine that this is a small beginning for targeting liberals and leftists. In India, Romila Thapar is considered a liberal with a scientific outlook.