Return to frontpage

Historians try to understand the past, not judge it: Romila Thapar

Noted historian Romila Thapar speaking at a public interaction programme at Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities in Manipal on Thursday. | Photo Credit: handout_mail

This is an extended video interview with Romila Thapar , Professor Emeritus at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, and India’s best-known historian of early India. Prof. Thapar is known for her unwavering commitment to the principles of secularism and equal citizenship, which has often made her the target of attacks by the religious right wing.

In this 80-minute interview, which was shot in Washington D.C. in 2004, Prof. Thapar talks about concerns arising from the growth of Hindutva and her own reluctant acceptance of the role of a public intellectual in the face of two equal challenges: The Hindu right’s attacks on professional history via a kind of myth-history and the threat to democracy from political majoritarianism: “One is the attack on professional history …The other is, of course, the much more widespread question of the politics of Hindutva. If this kind of Hindutva history is aimed at what it is aimed at, which is the primacy of the Hindu and the primacy of the Hindu citizen, and Hindu majoritarian rule replacing democracy, then one is opposed to it as a democrat and as a secular intellectual.”

Professor Thapar also speaks about her PhD dissertation on Asoka, her early years and initiation into history, her student life in London, the intellectual encounters she has had with the eminent sociologist, M.N. Srinivas, the influence that D.D. Kosambi’s Marxist historiography had on Indian historians, especially her, and about the raid on Somnath Temple and the various versions of it recorded in scriptures and edicts of different times.

Prof. Thapar has helped found the famous Centre for Historical Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, and is an active proponent of innovative approaches to the study of history.

Direction : Chetan Shah

Producer : Itty Abraham

Interviewer : David Ludden

[This article’s headline was updated on June 23, 2017.]

Releated Links:

1. Chakravarti R. 2015 . “ Linking the past and the present “, Frontline , September 18.

2. Video of Prof. Thapar’s lecture at Kalakshetra, which was hosted on The Hindu Centre’s website can be accessed here .

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email The Hindu Centre