In Defence of the Indian Historian Romila Thapar
We deplore the attacks on secular academics, intellectuals and artists by fundamentalists (of all makes) and exercise our right to free speech by exposing the intimidatory tactics of these groups.
[Revised and Updated on June 12, 2003]
Hindu Supremacist Right is now attacking Dr. Romila Thapar one of India's most distinguished and well known historians. The Library of Congress, Washington recently named Romila Thapar as First Holder of the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South. Activists of the Hindu Right have since been running a petition against her appointment. Romila Thapar like many of her colleagues from Indian intelligentsia has written and spoken against the systematic onslaught on the secular foundations of the educational systemin India by the forces of the Hindu right. The information and background material below is for those who may want to take this issue up and write about the implications of the ongoing cabal by Hindutva propagandists against India's well known historians and intellectuals.
- South Asia Citizens Wire Alert (28 April 2003)
Romila Thapar and the honour of Indian historians' profession a Statement by Aligarh Historians Society and SAHMAT [May 26, 2003]
Protest Letter by Academics and intellectuals against the attack on Romila Thapar [17 May 2003]
On Line Petition Defending the Library of Congress appointment of Dr Romila Thapar to the Kluge Chair
Letter received by SACW from the initiator of the petition against Romila Thapar
and the Response from SACW
- Hating Romila Thapar: Why the Hindutva brigade has set its sights on India's most distinguished historian by Subhash Gatade [June 2003]
- A new wave of intolerance by Praful Bidwai (May 29, 2003)
- Expatriates' ideological battles: Remittance of hate and anger by L.K. Sharma [May 19, 2003]
- McCarthyism's Indian rebirth by Praful Bidwai (May 13, 2003)
- 'McCarthy, where are you?' by Praful Bidwai (May 10, 2003)
- The New Macarthyism by Praful Bidwai (May 2, 2003)
- Romila Thapar as First Holder of the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South (News from the Library of Congress April 17, 2003)
- Romila Thapar's appointment to Library of Congress opposed (News report on Rediff.com, April 25, 2003)
- Text of the slanderous Online Petition by Hindu Fundamentalists Against Dr. Romila Thapar
- Related Material: Petition urging that Koenraad Elst be appointed to the Kluge Chair!
- Official Statement by Library of Congress on R. Thapar Appointment Protest Petition April 29, 2003
- List of well known books by Romila Thapar
- Two recent book reviews of 'In Early India by Romila Thapar'
- Some lectures and interviews with Romila Thapar
- Documentation on assault on established historical research and on intellectuals and artists in India
- Suggestions for Action
- Examples of some letters sent to the Library of Congress in support of Dr. Romila Thapar
News from the Library of Congress
Public Affairs Office
101 Independence Avenue SE
tel (202) 707-2905
fax (202) 707-9199
April 17, 2003
Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940
Robert Saladini (202) 707-2692
Romila Thapar Named as First Holder of the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South at Library of Congress
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has appointed Romila Thapar as the first holder of the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South at the Library of Congress. The holder of this chair, which is located in the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, pursues research on the regions of Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, or the islands of the Pacific including Australia and New Zealand, using the immense foreign language collections in the specialized reading rooms of the Library of Congress.
As occupant of the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South, Thapar will spend ten months at the John W. Kluge Center pursuing ìHistorical Consciousness in Early Indiaî as her area of research.
Romila Thapar, emeritus professor of Ancient Indian History at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Dehli, who has served as visiting professor at Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania, is a recognized authority on Indian history. The author of many seminal works on the history of ancient India, her volume of the Penguin History of India has been continuously in print since 1966. Her latest publication is ìEarly India: From the Origins to AD 1300.î Other recent works are ìHistory and Beyond,î ìCultural Pasts: Essays in Early Indian History,î and ìHistory and Beyond.î In her published works, Thapar has pioneered both the study of early Indian texts as history and the integration of the critical use of archaeology with written sources.
During her illustrious career, 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 (SOAS), University of London. She has honorary doctorates from the University of Chicago, the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales in Paris, the University of Oxford and the University of Calcutta.
Through a generous endowment from its namesake, the Library of Congress established the John W. Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the worldís best thinkers to stimulate, energize, and distill wisdom from the Libraryís rich resources and to interact with policymakers in Washington, D.C. The Kluge Center houses five senior Kluge Chairs (American Law and Governance, Countries and Cultures of the North, Countries and Cultures of the South, Technology and Society, and Modern Culture); other senior-level chairs (Henry A. Kissinger Chair, Cary and Ann Maguire Chair in American History and Ethics, and the Harissios Papamarkou Chair in Education); and nearly 25 post-doctoral fellows.
For more information about the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South or any of the other fellowships and grants offered by the John W. Kluge Center, contact the Office of Scholarly Programs, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue S.E, Washington, DC 20540-4860; telephone (202) 707-3302, fax 202-707-3595, web: http://www.loc.gov/loc/kluge/.
# # #
Rediff.com (India) 25 Apr 2003
Romila Thapar's appointment to Library of Congress opposed
April 25, 2003 05:33 IST
A petition is circulating on the Internet against the appointment of Professor Romila Thapar as First Holder of the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South at the Library of Congress.
The petitioners allege that she is a Marxist and anti-Hindu and it is a waste of US money to support a Leftist.
The Librarian of Congress, James H Billington, appointed Thapar last week and she has already started work, Robert Saladini, a spokesperson for the library, said. He said he has no information on the petition.
The petition can be viewed at:
The holder of the chair, which is located in the John W Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, pursues research on the regions of Africa, Latin America, West Asia, South and Southeast Asia, or the islands of the Pacific including Australia and New Zealand, using the immense foreign language collections in the specialised reading rooms of the Library of Congress.
Thapar will spend ten months at the John W Kluge Center pursuing 'Historical Consciousness in Early India' as her area of research.
Thapar, emeritus professor of Ancient Indian History at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, who has served as visiting professor at Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania, is an authority on Indian history.
The author of many seminal works on the history of ancient India, her volume of the 'Penguin History of India' 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 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 Civilisations Orientales in Paris, the University of Oxford and the University of Calcutta.
Through a generous endowment from John W Kluge, the Library of Congress established the center in 2000 to bring together the world's best thinkers to stimulate, energise, and distil wisdom from the library's rich resources and to interact with policy makers in Washington, DC.
The center houses five senior Kluge Chairs.
The petitioners say: "It is a great travesty that Romila Thapar has been appointed the first holder of the Kluge Chair.
"In regards to India, she is an avowed antagonist of India's Hindu civilization as a well-known Marxist. She represents a completely Euro-centric worldview. I fail to see how she can be the correct choice to represent India's ancient history and civilization.
"She completely disavows that India ever had a history. The ongoing campaign by Romila Thapar and others to discredit Hindu civilization is a war of cultural genocide. By your unfortunate selection of Thapar, America is now aiding and abetting this effort."
The petition has 133 signatures already. One of the signatories, Hari Singh, said: "The comments from Ms Thapar are disgusting and are reflection of her ignorance of Indian History."
Venkatesh, another signatory, commented, "It's a shame to the USA & Indian govt. that a Communist like Romila Thapar is having a free run."
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[TEXT OF THE PETITION BY HINDU FUNDAMENTALISTS AGAINST DR. ROMILA THAPAR]
Located at: http://www.petitiononline.com/108india/petition.html
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Protest US Supported Marxist Assault Against Hindus
To: US Library of Congress
It is a great travesty that Romila Thapar has been appointed the first holder of the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South at the Library of Congress.
In regards to India, she is an avowed antagonist of India's Hindu civilization. As a well-known Marxist, she represents a completely Euro-centric world view. I fail to see how she can be the correct choice to represent India's ancient history and civilization. She completely disavows that India ever had a history.
Just as the Europeans discredited the American Indian's land claims by ignoring that they represented a unique civilization with a wholesome variety of distinct linguistic and cultural traits, Thapar has long expounded the same ignorant view of India's unique history and civilization.
The ongoing campaign by Romila Thapar and others to discredit Hindu civilization is a war of cultural genocide. By your unfortunate selection of R.Thapar for the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South at the Library of Congress, America is now aiding and abbeting this effort.
The result of her "Historical Consciousness in Early India" is already a foregone conclusion. She will of course attempt to show that Early India had no historical consciousness.
Why waste our American resources on a Marxist idealogical assault on Hindu civilization?Hinduism is the world's most ancient, ongoing and largest cultural phenonmenon. Such a long lived civilization surely has alot to teach the world.
So why support its denigration? As a Friend of India, I protest this appointment.
Text of Petition urging that Koenraad Elst be appointed the Kluge Chair!
Official Statement by Library of Congress on Protest Petition re R. Thapar Appointment
[29 April 2003]
[Writings by Dr. Romila Thapar are too numerous to list, but most of her well known books are listed below:]
- Cultural Pasts - Essays in Early Indian History
by Romila Thapar (Oxford University Press) 2003
- The Penguin History of Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300
by Romila Thapar
- Sakuntala: Texts, Readings, Histories
by Romila Thapar (Kali for Women, 1999 / 2000)
- Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas
With a New Afterword Bibliography and Index
by Romila Thapar (Oxford University Press, May 1998)
- Recent perspectives of early Indian history. Thapar Romila. (ed).
(Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1995)
- Interpreting Early India
by Romila Thapar (Oxford University Press 1994)
- Ancient Indian Social History.by Romila Thapar
(New Delhi: Orient Longman, 1979)
- History of India, Vol. 2
by Percival George Spear and Romila Thapar
- A History of India, Vol. 1
by Romila Thapar (Penguin, 1966)
[ 2 Recent Book Reviews of 'Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300' ]
The Hindu (India) Sunday, Apr 06, 2003
In Early India, Romila Thapar attempts the grand sweep, reconciling diverse trends and adjudicating between rival positions. SANJAY SUBRAHMANYAM, though appreciative of the balanced tone, would have preferred some fireworks thrown in too.
A CERTAIN Indian social scientist living in New York, who shall naturally remain unnamed here, is believed to have boasted to his colleagues that he was "like the Taj Mahal ó everyone who visits the city has to come and see me." Romila Thapar, who is today a very young 72 and rather more modest than the person mentioned above, is a monument of sorts too in the Indian historiography, though the appropriate comparison may be to the Jantar Mantar rather than to the Taj Mahal. By this I mean that with her work, the emphasis is on utility rather than pure aesthetic appeal, even though a certain residual enigmatic quality remains. And to push the metaphor to its conclusion, like that monument located on Sansad Marg, she has managed to be both centrally located and to maintain a distance from the Connaught Place hurly-burly of the Indian history establishment.
Romila Thapar's reputation does not rest on a single work, but on the capacity to have adapted herself decade after decade to changing trends and tendencies, and to have continued nevertheless to produce work of a consistent quality. Most Indian historians of her generation either were one-monograph wonders (effectively the case of the demi-god of medievalists, Professor Irfan Habib), incapable of mounting a fresh project once their doctoral thesis was done; or otherwise they were specialists of the "one-note samba", producing fresh books on Indian feudalism every two years which effectively said the same thing again, again and still again. Romila Thapar on the other hand has moved from her early work on the Mauryas, to a general consideration of early state-formation that is much influenced by the marriage of Marxism and structuralism, to reflections on the epics, historiography and a host of other subjects. In this vast output, an early book does stand out: this is her History of India, first published by Penguin in 1966, and which has been used since in countless classrooms by numberless students. Written when the author was in her early thirties, the book is a prime example of chutzpah, and what is remarkable is that it easily upstaged the second volume of that same series, written by the "senior scholar" Percival Spear. The work under review here is a much revised version of the same text, written some four decades later, and has expanded from about 350 pages to over 550 pages in the newer version.
The work is organised as 13 chapters, which ó after an introductory set of two, on historiography and on "landscapes and peoples" ó follow a broadly chronological trend, although there is occasionally a shift to a more thematic organisation (as in Chapters 11 to 13, all of which deal with the centuries from about 800 to 1300). Political history in the sense of state-formation continues to dominate as a theme, but this is of course no mere dynastic history. Rather the emphasis is solidly on questions of socio-political history, and the interaction between state and society; questions of trade and agrarian economy are of course present, though cultural themes do lag noticeably behind and are often treated as appendages of social history. In each chapter, the evidence from secondary literature is carefully weighed, and a mix of the author's own prose and citations from the primary sources serves to give the reader a sense of the "style" of each epoch. Obviously, the author is more comfortable with certain periods than others, and the discomfort is clear when we move from the middle chapters (which are certainly the strongest) to either the early ones or the later ones. The problem though is that every reviewer will have his or her axe to grind. Early historians will find archaeology underplayed, while historians of the Delhi Sultanate will find that their period is treated in a somewhat schematic fashion. But this is really neither here nor there. The real question is how this work compares with others of a similar scope and ambition.
Here, only two serious rival candidates exist, namely Kulke and Rothermund's work, and the posthumously published History of India by Burton Stein. The former does possess some notable virtues in its first half, namely a closer attention to sources and to the nitty-gritty of history. On the other hand, it is also rather weak on the later centuries of the first millennium of the Christian era. Stein's work takes a somewhat different tack, by assuming the explicit burden of a schematic argument, which Romila Thapar largely eschews. She attempts the grand sweep which also reconciles diverse trends, and attempts to adjudicate between rival positions. Those who like their history written in a sober and balanced tone will hence much prefer her volume, though it is a sad commentary on the popular perception of ancient Indian history today that even this even-handed work will be tarred by some as being "sectarian". My own chief complaint against the work is quite different: namely, that there are not enough fireworks in it. We have had an "Aligarh School", a "Cambridge School", an "Allahabad School" and even a "JNU School" in Indian history. I am inclined, especially for the southern readers of The Hindu, to suggest that it is high time to promote the existence of a "Sivakasi School".
Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300, Romila Thapar, London, Allen Lane, 2002, p. xxx + 556, £30, Indian Price £8.75.
Sanjay Subrahmanyam is Professor of Indian History and Culture in the University of Oxford.
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Outlook Magazine (India), May 05, 2003
Not Quite The Satanic Verse
Hopefully, the work would be read not only by all those who are interested in understanding essential strands of early India's cultural dynamics, but more importantly, also by those who are fast emerging as Satan
EARLY INDIA: FROM THE ORIGINS TO AD 1300
by Romila Thapar
PRICE: 395; PAGES: 592
This thoroughly-revised version of the authorís classic A History of India, Vol I must be welcomed for its timely arrival when the country is battling with renewed attempts to mythify history and redefine the parameters of the Indian nation. The new version closes at c. AD 1300 instead of AD 1526 as in the earlier version. Considering the space devoted to this period in the two versions, the present edition has almost been doubled.
More maps and figures; a reasonably comprehensive, up-to-date and more systematically arranged bibliography add to its freshness.
The earlier version gave an impression that the whole text was planned in a broad political frame, though material and cultural developments through the millennia were never ignored. A nomenclature-related rethinking is now visible in formulations seeking to focus on broad contours of socio-economic and politico-cultural developments. The post-independence writing on early Indian history has been enriched through analyses of the lives of commoners. Thapar familiarises the reader with the emerging new vocabulary. A thrust on archaeology providing tangible data in the form of artifacts and material remains; the study of oral traditionsódistinguishing between ëfrození (Vedic) and ëmore opení (epic poetry)óalong with fieldwork; the use of linguistics as a tool for historical reconstruction, particularly to question the notion of communities and their identities being ëstaticí: all this has made history-writing challenging, its reading fascinating.
The fourth chapter ("Towards Chiefdoms and Kingdoms, c 1200-600 BC") is an effective refutation of many fanciful ideas that are being touted around about the indigenous origins of the 'Aryans'; and how the glorious 'Aryan culture' is identical with the Harappan culture. Here, by carefully sifting data from linguistics, the vast corpus of Vedic literature and archaeological evidence, Thapar presents a nuanced construction of two different historical processes: invasion and migration.
Thapar devotes considerable space to several issues involved in the socio-political formations during the millennium stretching from AD 300 to 1300. After all, paradigms of 'Indian feudalism' and its alternatives such as segmentary state and integrative politiesí have been the focus of writings in the last five decades. Thapar, while making her positions clear, is never dogmatic. To illustrate, while she is unconvinced about the sustainability of segmentary state and integrative polities as pan-India phenomena, she wants a reconsideration of the long-forgotten hypotheses of the two phases of Indian feudalism (ëfeudalism from aboveí and ëfeudalism from belowí).
Further, amidst all the excitement about agrarian expansion during this millennium, she provides a timely reminder about "diverted attention from pastoralism", which was quite important in the "interstices of agrarian areas and in some hill states". She stresses on the transformation of pastoral clans into castes of cultivators. This, indeed, is just one of the many perceptive observations on mutations of varna and jati through Indiaís long history that is a running theme of the book.
Barring a few typographical errors, this competently produced volume is marked by Thapar's lyrical narrative. She writes, "A fundamental sanity in Indian civilisation has been due to an absence of Satan." Hopefully, the work would be read not only by all those who are genuinely interested in understanding essential strands of early Indiaís cultural dynamics, but more importantly, also by those who are fast emerging as Satan.
[URLS to some recent lectures and interviews with Romila Thapar]
Webcast: Romila Thapar: History and Contemporary Politics in India
Running Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
History As Politics
Links between knowledge and ideology do not justify the passing off of political agendas as knowledge as is being done in the rewriting of history by the present central government; and that too of a kind not based on the understanding of history current among historians.
[This is substantially the text of the Professor Athar Ali Memorial lecture, organised by the Aligarh Historians Society, at the Aligarh Muslim University on 8 February 2003]
[PDF] Two Lectures by Romila Thapar
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML
Two Lectures by Romila Thapar Professor Emeritus of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University,
Delhi, November 4, 2002
Historian Professor Romila Thaper "There is an attempt to suggest the only history and civilisation that matter are Hindu" - BBC (May 10, 2002)
In defence of history
(Text of Lecture delivered at Thiruvananthapuram on 2 March 2002)
Secular Education and the Federal Polity
text of her address at the 'National Convention Against Saffronisation of Education', organised by SAHMAT (August 4-6, 2001, New Delhi, India)
Hindutva and history
Why do Hindutva ideologues keep flogging a dead horse?
Romila Thapar (October 2000)
An Interview with Romila Thapar (4 February 1999)
A Paradigm Shift Romila Thapar speaks to Parvathi Menon in a 'Frontline' interview (1997)
[URLS of documentation on assault on history writing, on secular academics, intellectuals and artists in India]
- On Rewriting History in India: The problem
by Neeladri Bhattacharya (2003)
- 'It is a fear of history'
Interview with K.N. Panikkar
- Outsider as enemy: The politics of rewriting history in India
by K.N. Panikkar (January 2001)
- Manufacturing Myths
by K.N. Panikkar
- The Rediff Interview/ Professor Irfan Habib (2001)
- Beef book sparks Hindu protest (August 2001)
- The meat of the matter
by Sukumar Muralidharan (Sept 2001)
- Against cultural hegemonism
The Delhi High Court strikes down a notification issued in August 1993 banning the exhibition of a panel depicting the different traditions of the Ramayana legend, mounted by Sahmat.
by Sukumar Muralidharan (August 2001)
- Targeting history (May 2001)
by T.K. Rajalakshmi
- Rewriting history ó I
by R. Champakalakshmi (2002)
- History As Told by Non-Historians
by Anjali Mody (2001)
- Righting or rewriting Hindu history
by Ann Ninan
- A saffron offensive
by R. Krishnakumar
- India: History Writing Takes a Strong Hindu Turn
by Ann Ninan (July 1998)
- Painting a sorry picture
by Santwana Bhattacharya (May 4, 1998)
- A catalogue of crimes
by Praveen Swami (January 30, 1999)
- Assault on art
The bizarre attack by Hindutva forces at the home of M.F. Husain in Mumbai has once again brought the issue of freedom of artistic expression into focus.
- Shooting of Indian film banned (BBC | 07 Feb 00)
- Fundamentalist Hindu party says Pakistani artists not welcome
The governing party in India's western state of Maharashtra, the Hindu fundamentalist Shiv Sena, says that it's determined to stop Pakistani artists and sports-people performing in India.
(BBC | 27/04/1998)
SUGGESTIONS FOR ACTION
- write letters/call/fax support for Professor Thapar to the Kluge Center at the Library of Congress
To Write letter on on the web go to: http://www.loc.gov/loc/kluge/kluge-contact.html
Phone: (202) 707-3302
Fax: (202) 707-3595
Mailing Address: (write a letter)
The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20540-4860
- Email messages may be sent to Prosser Gifford, Director of Scholarly Programs at the Library of Congress expressing support for Professor Thapar's appointment. The contact details are: Email "Prosser Gifford" <email@example.com>
Phone: (202) 707-3302
- write short pieces to media highlighting how sanghis (David Frawley and Gaurang Vaishnav-with Hindutva credentials- both signatories on the petition) are the supporters of such miserable efforts against Romila Thapar, highlighting the irrational claims in the petition contrasted with the proven diabolical character of the Hindutva movement which inspires the petition authors and supporters, etc.
A 'press packet' to the media highlighting her work, stature and achievements (South Asia Citizens Wire Alert may be forwarded to media) available at:
Post letters on rediff.
Examples of some letters sent to the Library of Congress in support of Dr. Romila Thapar:
Dear Professor Gifford:
I am writing to congratulate you and your colleagues for selecting Professor Romila Thapar of Jawaharlal Nehru University to occupy the Kluge Chair of South Asian history at the LOC. Professor Thapar has influenced a generation of scholars who are indebted to her analyses of Indian historiography. She is a pioneer in the field of ancient Indian history in that she has taught many of us to raise significant questions about language, representation, and how history gets written. She has single handedly reinvented the historical research of South Asia.
I was moved to write in support of Professor Thapar when I heard the disturbing news that self-styled Hindutva fascists are protesting her appointment at the LOC. It is not surprising to hear that ideologically motivated groups such as Hindu nationalists, who have a history of engaging in anti-minority violence, are opposed to her work. Professor Thapar's intrepid and reasoned interpretations are a threat to groups that thrive by rewriting history to suit their invidious agenda.
I hope that the LOC will not countenance these groups as representative of mainstream opinion.
Dear Professor Gifford,
I am writing to express my absolute delight at the news that that Professor
Romila Thapar of the Jawharlal Nehru University in India has been appointed
the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of South Asia at the Library of
Congress. Professor Thapar has played a very important part in developing
the methodology of historiography in the South Asian context, and would
enhance the scholarly merit of the LOC.
I have been motivated to write this letter because I have been made aware of
a variety of slanderous attacks that have been circulated against Professor
Thapar over the internet. Professor Thapar has been attacked by these
groups because she has in the past, made academic observations that
undermine the ludicrous assertions by fascist and anti-minority groups in
India who seek to rewrite Indian historiography. These groups find
themselves unable to counter Professor Thapar's assertions intellectually or
empirically, and resort to ad-hominem attacks and slander to cover these
Once again, I look forward to Professor's tenure at the LOC, and would like
to record my appreciation at your efforts in appointing her.
Associate Professor of Management
Cotsakos College of Business
William Paterson University
Wayne, NJ 07470
Dear Prosser Gifford:
I write to convey my happiness and appreciation concerning the appointment of Professor Romila Thapar as the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of South Asia at the Library of Congress. It has come to my attention that efforts have been made to defame the sterling scholarly reputation of Prof. Thapar. While these crude efforts are in this case perhaps easy to dismiss, lacking as they are in any intellectual credibility, such calumny is nevertheless representative of a disturbing trend in India, indeed globally, toward anti-intellectualism and intolerance. It is thus a credit to the scholarly integrity of your program that the First Holder of this Chair is a scholar of such high calibre and achievement, a person whose work is, now more than ever, deserving of close study, reflection, and support.
No serious student of South Asian history could fail to appreciate the seminal and profound contributions that Prof. Thapar's work has made to the field. While there is certainly no shortage of scholars able to attest to Prof. Thapar's immense contributions to South Asian historiography, I would simply like to say that, without her writings, my career in South Asian history would have been ireedemably impoverished.
Please accept my congratulations upon Prof. Thapar's appointment at your institution, and sincere appreciation of your efforts to support her important work.
Asst. Professor of Asian History
Department of History
Cincinnati, OH 45219
> Dear Professor Gifford,
> I want to add my voice to the chorus congratulating you for appointing Professor Romila Thapar to the Kluge Chair. She is a scholar of rare erudition and eloquence, whose work has been of great value both for my own work and, more broadly, for the creation of a humane, intellectually meaningful space for considering questions of South Asian history and politics. Having seen her speak a number of times, I know her to be gracious, thoughtful, yet intellectually rigorous in responding to the challenges that are sometimes posed to her arguments about historical consciousness in the contemporary context. The qualities that I have enumerated are all sorely lacking in the often quite scurrilous attacks that are being mounted against her and her appointment. I trust you will treat these attacks with the contempt they deserve.
> Gautam Premnath
> Assistant Professor of English
> University of Massachusetts Boston
Dear Professor Gifford,
I'm stunned to hear that there are moves afoot to defame Professor Romila Thapar. For many years now my students have supped at her various books, not the very least her classic introductory history from 1966 -- unharmed by time, although frayed here and there by newer research. To think that someone of her stature is to be the target of villiany is to grieve for the state of politics in our world. Is there no better place to channel that energy, somewhere more productive?
I am told that her post at the LOC is as yet unharmed. I hope this is how it shall remain. If there is anything else I could do, please let me know.
All good wishes,
Director, International Studies, Trinity College.
Dear Mr. Gifford,
I write to express my dismay that a historian so eminent as Romila Thapar has become the subject of calumny. Is it a crime to be a Marxist? Who gave these people the right to call themselves Hindus who describe Prof. Thapar as anti-Hindu? She is merely a scholar, pro fact and anti lies. She has no earthly reason to be for or against any religion.
In my view, the Kluge Center should come out with a statement condemning this foul campaign. Ignoring the problem may not make it go away.
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