Nowadays one often reads of a book being banned,a party loyalist rather than a professional helming a premier cine institution, an impostor rather than a historian of eminence and academic repute representing National Historical Research,the Census Board on Films headed by a hack,Science being handed over to pseudos or quacks at best.At another remove, arguments and harmless quarrels become skirmishes, turn into riots ever so often.Religious events and festivities have become the new cornerstone of political and ideological battles and increasingly the Muslim community and other minorities are being ghettoised and being made to feel as outsiders and alienated in the equal and participative democracy that we pride upon.Violence and vandalism is rampant and the minorities end up as regular victims.The Argumentative Indian is fast being replaced by the dogmatic.These among many others, then, have become substantial concerns for most.Therefore to understand the beginnings or its roots would help shed a lot of our intellectual conceit and urge introspection on how to stop it all.And to resist would be , but a firm hope !
For very long the Left and the Congress have been attacked for writing histories which are supportive of their ideology.Over six decades it is claimed by some they ruled the roost and fed the gullible and innocent people on a diet of unproven and motivated histories.From a layman's point of view there have been frequent contests on what is after all true history?Who is to be read or trashed?What are the determinants, as most, if not all claim to be patriotic?That they are all nationalists is of course,a given.
The Right today, with a thumping parliamentary majority and with the decided swing towards neo-liberal policies and the ethics of ends and means being no longer a question of conscience, claims its space and wants to script its own version.The word'secular' has come in the cross hairs of the debate.Partition was the bloody divide of history and Hindus were the losers and suffered unbelievable tragedies in the creation of a Pakistan, they moan. That India is a Hindu Rashtra and predates Harappa and Mohenjodaro,that the Muslims were invaders, desecrators of temples and foreigners, that they are increasing in numbers every day,that they do not believe in Uniform Civil Code and need to go by the majoritarian Hindu opinion,their rights to equal citizenship is misplaced, are votaries of independent Kashmir and Pakistan among many others have become the reasons for an emerging rightist ideology to question the basis of multi-religious,multi lingual,composite culture in post Independent India.What is Hindutva and Hinduism and whether the BJP has the right to represent all Hindus is also a moot point.Whether the destruction of Babri Masjid around the end of the last century, then a watershed of history dividing independent India post-partition?Was the act a culmination of all the anger and hostility of such like forces that lay simmering within an initially quiet Hindu aristocracy, the common who had never quite forgotten or forgiven their heavy sufferings during the partition or in the misdirected energies of a large uneducated, undernourished masses who could not distinguish between religion, caste,and poverty or did not get to benefit from over 60 years of Independence?Or was it a failure of the right-minded to get organised, resist and fight the forces of reaction who had put history on its head and hijacked the dissatisfaction and frustrations of a large Hindu majority,hypnotised them to believe what-is-not and make them commit the unthinkable ! Destroy the basis of India...
More than ever before this subject is at the cross-hairs of most political and historical debates.To say, therefore,that people had taken to the streets to determine its definition, compass and depth,lost lives and shed a lot of blood on that count would be, to reiterate its seriousness rather than exaggerate.Ms Thapar takes us through almost many thousands of years of history and distills the wisdom of the millennial past and in some engaging moments of profundity shares with all who hear or are willing to on the prevailing myths, misunderstandings and sometimes deliberate attempts of the present government to misinform and misinterpret on Indian Society.She,however, at the very outset warns that some before have supported the supposed meanings of Secular only in theory, but not in practice.On the other side, it has left the so called Right both liberal and extreme to, at the very least, be amused and at the very worst mock the pseudo-secularists.
She draws attention to the fallacious understanding of the two major communities Hindu and Muslim by the colonial masters to be monolithic and binary.The two-nation theory was based on such a simplistic understanding. The subsequent national and post colonial historians failed to emphasise that the two communities were not one huge unified community but rather subdivided into many sects and castes and therein one needs to look with special tools and understanding.Sufficient thought and examination has not been done of them and hence communal-ism to a certain extent arose despite attempts to the contrary by the well meaning.
Without fear or favour she walks the razors edge while choosing to speak on religion, their deformities and perverted purposes across centuries both in the West and in the Asian or Indian world.To be secular is not to be anti religion as is sometimes believed or encouraged to do so.But it only means that the state and religion are separate in new ways wherein the demarcations on the social laws and the influence and control thereon are clearly drawn and limits of religious bodies or organisations are made and respected.Civil society should be governed on the basis of a set of laws, made on the basis of equality and rationality and there is no need to look into religion or its texts or scriptures for additional knowledge as it may happened in the past.In fact she believes in the weakening of caste or sects new beginnings could well be expected and the classic separation of state and religion and the West might not quite be the right prescription for India.
From her talk it is evident that Ms Thapar is contextualising her readings on the basis of what has been happening during her times and in particular, the present.She like the true learner seeks for answers to new and motivated cryptic questions raised by the forces of anti-history and anti- people to obfuscate and masquerade as legitimate challenges..It appears to me that while all along she has obsessively avoided governmental patronage and being a conscionable academic far away from political affiliations of any kind she seems to express her disagreement with the liberal left and their rather dogmatic,unsubstantiated shallow and non-rigorous sloganeering attempts to fight the rise of 'polarisation politics' for sectarian profit.She admits, enough thought has not been given to caste, sects, religion and the real facts of conversions which both historically and academically leaves gaps for the 'clever' to pick holes or create mischief.
Always acknowledging that nothing is sacrosanct until the next revelation through scientific methods including forensics,rationality, new discoveries of archaeology, artifacts, sculpture etc and never one to dominate and monopolise the 'right of truth' she intelligently weaves her story of India to wage an audible battle against a most worrisome viral attack made to subvert the 'Makings of the human mind"