Communities can weaken ultras: Romila Thapar

Terrorists can be weakened if the communities they claim to defend and represent start disowning them, eminent historian Romila Thapar has written in a new book.

In one of the essays in the book anchored by her, titled “The Public Intellectual in India”, Thapar has written that communities are troubled by a fear that often rides on the back of a religious or caste identity. Thapar, professor emeritus of History at Jawaharlal Nehru University, writes: “The strength of Hindu extremist groups where they use terror tactics lies in the fact that they claim to be speaking for the larger community, and the larger community is not standing up to them and negating this claim.”

She goes on to add: “This is characteristic not only of such groups among Hindus but among Muslims as well.”

In an apparent reference to the recent surge in activities of fringe Hindutva elements, she has said the smaller groups and organisations part of the majority community that indulge in terrorism are feared because they carry the “tacit support of the majority”.

Taking responsibility

Questioning the majority community’s silence, Thapar writes: “It is the responsibility of the majority to disown these activities of groups that are part of their fold. Why don't Hindus come out in large numbers and condemn the desecration of churches? Does the larger community of Hindus condone the vandalising of institutions, the pulping of books and so on?”

She goes on to add: “Intellectual differences are now being settled via assassination, as happened with Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, and with death threats.”

Religion and politics

In the book — a collection of articles by various authors — Thapar has said there has been, week after week in the last few months, some activity or statement tacitly or openly supported by those claiming authority, that is unacceptable to liberal opinion. “Yet, the protest is not always manifested in public,” she has said.

“Religion and politics are now seemingly deeply entwined, although more often than not, the root cause for disruptive behaviour is not hurt religious sentiment, as is claimed, but a bid to assert power and control over some crucial aspect of civil society,” she writes.

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