Why Sita Ram Goel's Challenge Became a Nightmare for Marxist Historians

The fearless history scholar and Marxist critic Sita Ram Goel challenged Romila Thapar and Marxist historians to prove their wild assertions about medieval Indian History
Why Sita Ram Goel's Challenge Became a Nightmare for Marxist Historians

On 2 October 1986, the Times of India published a long joint letter by 12 Marxist historians led by Romila Thapar. The opening lines of the letter accused the newspaper of being almost communal because it had in the recent past published two reports about Qutub Minar and Mathura, both of which highlighted the destruction and desecration of Hindu Murtis and temples in those places by Islamic rulers. Even if such discovery comes to light on its own, and no matter how reputed an institution has uncovered it, just the mere publication of such news implies communalism to the Marxist historians of India.

In fact, this is an established Marxist technique in which accusation is the first tool, which puts an opponent on the defensive from the beginning and then the job becomes easy. Even when the arguments of a Marxist are pathetic and his logic faulty, accommodating it becomes a psychological urge for the opponent or interlocutor for the fear of being branded a communal. Indeed, for the longest time, being "communal" was considered derogatory by Hindus.[i] This vile psychological tactic has been exploited by the Marxists with great aplomb for the longest time because of a simple but deep-rooted factor in the Hindu psyche. A Hindu does never like to be called narrow-minded. A common Hindu will let go a view, even concede it against his own understanding just to ensure he is not called illiberal and ‘narrow-minded.’ This is his weakness, which in the past made Hindus accept even others’ intellectual dishonesty.

If the interlocutor hesitates to concede the point, other harsh words could also be forthcoming for him. Just as ordinary, decent pedestrians want to steer clear of taunting by roadside bullies, our intellectuals are cautious about not being defamed by the Marxists in the secularist academic atmosphere prevailing in our country. This is not a far-fetched imagination, but a fact of our life. The well-known English writer Gurcharan Das wrote that such an atmosphere has been created for secularism that today if someone studies the Vedas, Gita, Upanishads, Ramayana and Mahabharata they are required to clarify immediately that they are not ‘Hindu Communalists’. More significant than this is the fact that any well educated Hindu today hesitates to admit that he is studying ancient Sanskrit works as if he is committing a crime. It is essential to realize that this atmosphere has been created because of the constant use of that tool: accusation and abuses by the Marxists.

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Why Sita Ram Goel's Challenge Became a Nightmare for Marxist Historians

In that letter to the Times of India, Romila Thapar and gang, after enlightening readers and advising them on Mathura and Ayodhya asked, “How far back do we go? Can we push this to the restoration of Buddhist and Jaina monuments destroyed by Hindus? Or of pre-Hindu animist shrines?”

This is another typical Marxist technique. A mere assumption, if it is dear to Marxists, is presented as a familiar fact, as if it is long known and accepted by the entire world even there is hardly any basis for such assumption. This technique put a psychological pressure on the interlocutor: either to accept the assumption as a familiar ‘fact’ or be ready to be branded as ignorant, backward or having communal feelings. Doubting even imaginary propositions of the Marxists invariably results in such a diatribe.

Using the same technique, Romila Thapar has used the word "animists" (worshippers of animals) in the same category as Buddhist or Jain. The fact is the ‘animist’ term was used by the Christian missionaries in the 18-19th centuries to divide Hindus for their notorious conversion game. On the missionary insistence, the term was used once or twice in the census of British India and ‘animists’ were placed in a separate category from Hindus. But this caused difficulties to the British officers themselves to separate and differentiate. They found it difficult to separate animists from Hindus. After all, a person worshipping cows, bulls, snakes or Hanuman (a monkey, according to British) should be classified an animist or a Hindu? So this missionary insistence was soon given up by the British officers themselves. But our Marxists want to stick to that colonial missionary concept only because it targets the Hindus.

Sita Ram Goel Throws the Gauntlet

However, some truly erudite scholars of history like Sita Ram Goel were greatly pained because of this cunning fiction of the ‘destruction of Buddhist temples by Hindus’. And so, when Goel wrote his books on the very subject after years of painstaking research, he humbly invited the vocal Marxists for a discussion on the issue. On 27 June 1991, Goel sent Romila Thapar a questionnaire along with his book in which he had challenged the Marxists to supply evidence for the following, which would bring out a clear picture of temple destruction by Hindus, on the same lines as the record of the destruction of Hindu temples by Muslims exists. Here are the questions.

1. A list of epigraphs which record the destruction of Buddhist and Jain monuments and Animist shrines by any Hindu at any time.

2. Citations from Hindu literary sources describing destruction of Buddhist and Jain monuments and Animist shrines by any Hindu, at any time, at any place.

3. The Hindu theology which says or even suggests that non-Hindu places of worship should be destroyed or plundered, or which hails such acts as pious or meritorious.

4. A list of Hindu Kings or commanders whom Hindus have hailed as heroes for desecrating or destroying or converting into Hindu places of worship any Buddhist or Jain or monuments or Animist shrines.

5. A list of Buddhist and Jain monuments and Animist shrines which have been desecrated or destroyed or converted into Hindu places of worship in the remote or the recent past.

6. The names of places of Hindu monuments which stand on the sites occupied earlier by Buddhist or Jain monuments or Animist shrines, or which have materials from the latter embedded in their masonry.

7. Names of Buddhist, Jain and Animist leaders or organizations who have claimed that certain Hindu monuments are usurpations, and demanded their restoration to the original occupants.

8. Names of Hindu leaders and organizations who have resisted any demand made by Buddhists or Jains or Animists for the restoration of the latter’s places of worship, or called for legislation which will maintain the status quo, or cried “Hinduism in danger” or staged street riots in support of their usurpations.

On reading this questionnaire, any person, whether historian or archaeologist or a common man, will agree that the issue can be settled only on the basis of the answers to the questions. Without providing answers to them, only hectoring and rhetoric, such as the above letter to the Times of India, would amount to propaganda.

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Why Sita Ram Goel's Challenge Became a Nightmare for Marxist Historians

Of course, Romila Thapar and other Marxist historians did not provide any list to Sita Ram Goel. If they had any personal reservations against him, they could have published a separate book or research paper on the issue to bolster their stand. But they did not do that either. Note that they were twelve historians, all from the highly resourceful JNU, who had signed that letter to the Times of India wherein the reference was made to ‘Buddhist and Jain monuments destroyed by Hindus’.

Despite being challenged on the point, till date, they have not been able to write even an article, let alone a book, which will throw light on the subject of destruction of Buddhist and Jain temples by Hindus. What is the inference of this telling silence? It is impossible to say that the topic is not important. Neither is it possible to argue that these historians lack time or ability in the field. After all, it was their academic duty to justify the written claim that they themselves made. As already mentioned, they have been referring to only the king Harsha of Kashmir (that, too, concealing his entire conduct) in support of their lie for the last fifty years.

On the other hand, nobody has challenged the list or the books written by Sita Ram Goel about the destruction of Hindu temples and monuments at the hands of Islamic marauders. As we shall see later in greater detail, the Marxist reply to such writing is pathetic. Instead of a scholarly rebuttal, they merely indulge in personal attacks alleging that Sita Ram Goel is a political agent, branding him inconsequential, and incompetent, thus they try to sideline the issue.

Consider the aforementioned questionnaire. How can the charge of destruction of Buddhist and Jain temples by Hindu kings be established without answering it? But, sidestepping the concrete point raised by Goel Thapar replied on 10 August,1991.

As regards the issues raised in the questionnaire included in your book, you are perhaps unaware of the scholarly work on the subject discussed by historians of various schools of thought. May I suggest that for a start, you might read my published lectures entitled ‘Cultural Transaction in Early India’?

As one can see, the lingo is full of arrogance, self-aggrandisement and a wilful disparagement of Goel as if he has asked something beyond his comprehension. If anything, such an attitude cannot be the sign of a true scholar. But the noteworthy part is that Romila Thapar did not utter a word on Goel’s book, nor did she refer to any book which would address the points raised by him. She could easily have named one research paper out of ‘a variety of historians’ scholarly works which would answer Goel’s questions. Instead she was suggesting that reading her random lectures to a veteran and accomplished scholar who had done an MA in History and had dozens of books to his credit. As her answer shows, Thapar was unable to refer to any book or research on the question in hand. In which case, on what basis did she claim that there was a tradition of Hindus destroying Buddhist and Jain temples? A satisfactory answer will not be available not in academic filed but only in the field of petty politics.

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Why Sita Ram Goel's Challenge Became a Nightmare for Marxist Historians

After receiving her reply, Sita Ram Goel again wrote back to Romila Thapar in detail. In his reply, he had analysed some literature suggesting the possibility of Buddhist and Jain monuments destroyed by Hindus, mentioned certain contradictions and lack of clarity in the pamphlet that she herself had referred him. Typically, Romila Thapar did not reply thereafter.

Later on, Goel also presented a systematic analysis of the lecture she had advised him to read. The analysis is very useful in understanding the Marxist politicking on the issue. At this point, it is sufficient to say that the lecture by Romila Thapar did not answer a single question raised by Goel.

To be continued

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