'McCarthy, where are you?'
inprekorr at yahoo.com
Sun May 11 20:37:31 MDT 2003
Volume 20 - Issue 10, May 10 - 23, 2003
Hindutva bigots have mounted a vilification campaign
against Romila Thapar, perhaps the country's most
illustrious historian of ancient India. Unless
strongly challenged, this will further vitiate our
public discourse and legitimise intolerance.
'McCarthy, where are you?'
THE heading comes at the end of one of the many
comments that form part of a signature campaign
originating in the United States as a petition to the
Library of Congress. The petition protests the
appointment of Professor Romila Thapar, the
distinguished historian, to the Kluge Chair in
Countries and Cultures of the South at the Library on
the ground that she is an "avowed antagonist of
India's Hindu civilisation", a Eurocentric Marxist,
and too prejudiced or "ignorant" to be able to
contribute to understanding Indian society and
As many as 1,644 people have signed the petition as
this goes to press. Many have added their own
comments. The comment partly quoted above goes: "Fidel
Castro would have been a better choice [than Thapar
for the Chair]. At least he is not a venom-spitting
anti-Hindu. I am worried about the future of USA. The
Indian Communists have already infiltrated into all
the American universities. And now the Library of
Congress. McCarthy, where are you?" (U.S. Senator
Joseph McCarthy ran the 20th century's worst
witch-hunt outside Nazi Germany, hounding anyone
suspected to be a Communist).
The petition marks a new low in the Sangh Parivar's
decades-long effort to demonise those who disagree
with its view of India as "essentially Hindu", as
opposed to syncretic, multi-ethnic, multi-religious
and plural. It is the worst calumny heaped upon a
distinguished scholar who has done much to illuminate
aspects of ancient India and the meanings of its texts
in all their richness and variety. It also marks a
new, hyper-aggressive form of intolerance, and a
pathological tendency to abuse and defame individuals,
rather than reason and argue with their ideas, which
is a characteristic of the Hindutva tradition.
The genealogy of this tradition goes back to a
pre-Independence project to "rewrite" Indian history
(read, glorify it and purge it of its egregiously
hierarchical, casteist, male-supremacist and violent
aspects) undertaken by M.S. Golwalkar, V.D. Savarkar,
P.N. Oak, Dharam Pal and others. Its central thrust is
Hindu-supremacist: to depict "Aryan" India as the
world's greatest culture and civilisation, the alpha
and omega of all wisdom, the sole fount of all the
sciences and arts, before which everything else -
Mesopotamia and China, Egypt and Greece, Persia or
Enlightenment Europe - pales into insignificance.
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