NEW DELHI: Amid a raging debate on nationalism in the wake of the JNU row, noted historian Romila Thapar today said efforts are being made to "obfuscate" the existing definition of nationalism, which is based on "reliable history" and not just on "anyone's fantasy about the past."
"Today efforts are being made to obfuascate the existing definition of nationalism. The nationalism draws on reliable history and not just on anyone's fantasy about the past.
"Critical enquiry as we all know is essential to the advancing of knowledge, it is expected of the university to critically enquire into what public may claim this knowledge to be," she said in her address to the students at JNU.
"Nationalism draws on the identity of a citizen which is pre-eminent but cannot be an identity claimed as superior by any single group, it has to include equality of all the equal rights of citizens. Incisive debates on this are part of the nationalist enterprise which is part of the ongoing enterprise of the relationship between history and nationalism and universities are obvious place for such debate," she said.
Thapar's lecture titled "History and Nationalism: Then and now" was part of the "nationalism teaching" series which are being conducted at JNU which is caught in a row over a February 9 event.
The classes are being held at the varsity's administration block.
"Nationalism doesn't exist on one identity, it is all inclusive. National history of course has its moments of joy, it goes to the past and golden age and utopian age but whatever national identities superseded existing identities, if it is inclusive it is generally much healthier but if it pretends to be much exclusive then it could be a disaster," she said.
Thapar, an Emeritus Professor at JNU, referred to herself as "dinosaurs of JNU" talking about how she joined university in 1970.
"Various theories have been put about origin of Aryans. Max Mueller said they came for central Asia. Dayanand Saraswati said they came from Tibet. Tilak as we all know was much more adventurous and suggested the Arctic regions. When it became fashionable in the 1920s to talk about Aryans being indigenous to India. It was little embarrassing to have Tilak talking about Arctic circle and someone had the bright idea of saying that in those days in Vedic times, the north pole was actually located in Bihar," she said, with a touch of humour.
Thapar has been maintaining that the current nationalism at JNU over an event against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru in 2013, will not have an impact on the varsity's future as there is lot of intellectual support for the institution from across the globe.