Romila Thapar about the attempts to blur the distinction between myth and history, whether by the government which has appointed a committee to prove that Hindu scriptures are not myths or by citizens who last year protested against the film Padmaavat, claiming that it depicted ‘wrongly’ their ‘medieval queen’. Both History and myth inform the historians in a different way which can be understood only through knowledge. She says that history is not written by committees but by individual historians. A committee can only be asked to see what the historian has written. She added that we are increasingly told what is right and what is wrong, and we are being told this by the government and a range of organisations that claim status and authority and who, when questioned, answer by being violent. So, you have assassinations of people who question their views and you have the lynching of people who are suspected of acting against their diktat.
On secularism, she said that it is something external to our lives that we can do with us and when we choose. It is an attitude towards other people which is normally regarded as a good attitude. At one level, secularism requires the coexistence of religions. It also requires the equal status of all religions. This upsets those whose religion has supposedly superior status or has aspects that have privileges and advantages, like a majority religion. But secularism also goes beyond religions and envisages a society of citizens, all of whom have equal rights. Therefore, it cannot support a Hindu Rashtra where Hindus have a primary and privileged citizenship. Citizenship has to be based on equal rights.
Her views on Hindutva were that original Hindutva was brahminical but now it has become a political party. It has become a way of filling the vote banks. It is easy for them to reach out to suppressed classes and say that we will give you a better life if you join us. And that is exactly what is happening. There are lots of Hinduisation taking place among the Scheduled Castes, as we know from places like Gujarat. It is likely that if they get a larger following among non-Brahmins and non-Hindus, as the Dalits are, they might have to make concessions in their ideology as well. About the OBCs, it is an easier outreach provided you are willing to say that Hindutva included categories of people who may not be actually observing conservative Hinduism. And by the looks of it, they are obviously willing to make that concession.