Romila Thapar surfaced in the news recently defending Peter Heehs who authored the controversial biography “The Lives of Sri Aurobindo”. Here is a brief background:
Mr Heehs who is a member of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry was criticized for the way Sri Aurobindo was portrayed in his book. A court in another state of India, Odisha, banned the book. Some members of the Ashram and devotees of Sri Aurobindo demanded the expulsion of Mr Heehs from the ashram and cancellation of visa given to him for working in the ashram. They accused the author of making false claims on his academic credentials, using archival material without approval, hurting the religious sentiments of people for whom Sri Aurobindo is an avatar and the Ashram management of colluding with Heehs.
Romila Thapar wrote to the Home Minister of India not to cancel Mr Heeh’s visa that was due to expire and defended his right to freedom of expression. She castigated the protesters as a minority engaged in a power struggle in the ashram. Her stand against visa cancellation was widely reported in the Indian media. Eventually, the Indian government granted visa extension to Mr Heehs for another year. In the light of Ms Thapar’s entry into the public debate over Peter Heeh’s book, it may be appropriate to note what her own public standing is as an eminent person and historian.
Romila Thapar has been severely criticized by independent historians and authors of presenting a Marxist view of Indian history and advocating Aryan Invasion theory that denies Indian natives of their great heritage and achievements by crediting all that greatness on some foreign invaders from central Asia. Later when the invasion theory became unsustainable due to scholarly rebuttals from Indian and foreign writers, she made a case for Aryan immigration theory yet again denying India her native genius. Her views are what Indian students are being taught since the 1960’s up to the present. The following are some of the critical views about her works that I picked up online. There is the more weighty criticism made down the years which further research can bring out. ——————————————————————————————-
Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud (1998, ISBN 81-900199-8-8) discusses the NCERT controversy in Indian politics and attacks Marxist historiography. Shourie asserts that Marxist historians have controlled and misused important institutions like the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), the National Council of Educational Research Training (NCERT) and a large part of academia and the media. He criticizes well-known historians like Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib…. Shourie presents examples to further his argument of how many of these textbooks describe in great detail foreign personalities like Karl Marx or Joseph Stalin, while they often barely mention important figures of India or of the Indian states.
For several decades, Hindu Americans and Indian Americans have been dismayed at the slanted, erroneous and prejudiced descriptions of their heritage in these textbooks. This time, however, they organized themselves and approached the State Board of Education in California to rectify these errors, before the textbooks were formally adopted and the text was frozen. These groups of Hindu Americans meticulously followed the procedures of the State Board in offering their comments, suggestions and edits to the texts that were submitted to the Board for reviews.
However, just when these corrections were about to be accepted, a group of traditional India-bashers (e.g. Michael Witzel), non-scholars (e.g., astrophysicist Rajesh Kocchar), Indian Marxists (e.g., D N Jha, Romila Thapar), non-specialists in ancient India (e.g. Sudha Shenoy, Homi Bhabha), scholars alleged to have demonstrated Eurocentric bias in the past (e.g., M Tosi of Italy) and obscure linguists wrote an arrogant and pompous letter (on Harvard University letterhead, signed by Michael Witzel with endorsing signatures from 46 other ‘scholars’) to the State Board, addressing themselves as “all equally famous world-class specialists” on ancient Indian history….
 The Californian textbooks being considered in the present article have their parallel in Romila Thapar’s ‘Ancient India’ (NCERT, New Delhi) written first in 1966, and then ‘updated’ with very inconsequential and cosmetic changes of a word here and there (to reflect the current political concerns of Indian communists and Marxists) three times. The ‘latest’ edition dated to 1987 has been reprinted and is being used even today in 2005 in schools that use NCERT textbooks. This NCERT textbook (or rather its indifferent, ‘earlier’ edition), which I studied in 1982 as a sixth-grade student, contains numerous errors, slanted descriptions, prejudicial remarks etc., and has been reviewed by me at: Agarwal, Vishal. “A Case Study in Eminent Historiography”, pages 32-65 in ‘India’s Only Communalist’ ed. by Koenraad Elst, Voice of India: New Delhi (2005). http://www.ivarta.com/columns/OL_051220.htm
It is only in India that a historian without an adequate command of Sanskrit can claim expertise on its ancient past right across its entire length and breadth. Social status is all that counts in feudal India, a feature on display in virtually every aspect of its social life and all that is required to silence disbelief.
Such is the audacity of (Romila) Thapar ….. that profound ontological and epistemological differences with historians of the stature of R. C. Majumdar and Sir Jadunath Sarkar are evaded by merely accusing them of communal Hindu methodology.
This prima donna of Marxist history-writing now speaks about her own victimhood at the hands of the dreaded Hindutva votaries. Yet, in her peak, she and her clique routinely spat fire at everybody who had a different view. Monomaniacal, Communal, Nazi, Neo-colonialist, Laughable, Garbage, Bullheaded, Brawler, are but some of the fine terms her gang applied to those who “dared” to differ. That this proud, card-carrying Marxist expounded her rehashed tripe… shows what she really is: neither a historian nor a Marxist but a self-serving… academic who made it big by latching on to the political fashion current in her youth.