Why has the BJP been unable to revive the nationalist school of historiography

Nov 2012
Right wing movements have indeed gained ground post Liberalization and yet BJP has been unable to revive these alternative schools of historiography. Why has the BJP both under Vajpayye and especially now under Modi not been able to bring back this school of thought in historianship as well as other Liberal Arts academia? Has it taken any steps in this regard?

And I mean credible right wing alternatives here (so plz avoid Dinananth Batras and Pushpak Vimans of the world). I am talking about intellectual descendents of Majumdar, Raychaudhary, Sastri, Altekar and Sarkar. Or maybe someone renegades like Rajeev Malhotra, Shourie, Sitaram Goyal and Ram Swarup even.The atmosphere has never been more ripe for such a movement considering its widespread mass appeal now.

Also I would like to know have there been any credible right wing bastions of such thought any institutions such as a right wing counterpart of JNU. Which are these institutions. What has the contribution of BHU, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan etc. been in this regard in comparison to JNU. Why dont we hear more about the scholarly activities from these island oasis in a red desert?


Ad Honoris
Mar 2013
What is Right Wing here? Is it the opposite of a Marxist class and economy oriented approach? There's nothing for the BJP to do there, since its broadly an academic question. On the whole, the debate has moved on. Historians like Farhat Hassan and Seema Alavi for instance have developed theories on Mughal and 18th century history that revolves around a variety of debates, and are not specifically determined by the Marxist understanding of class and the predominance of economic imperatives.

In modern India, historians like Amar Farooqui have similarly developed their own nuances and approaches to the analysis of Colonial Rule. You might for instance consider the arguments of Prasannan Parthasarathi in his book "The Transition to a Colonial Economy". He has shown that simplistic ideas of an eternally poor and oppressed producing class (weavers, labourers, etc) is flawed. Weaving and Labour communities had a fair degree of social power and as a community possessed wealth as well. There was infact a specific set of policies which strengthened the class of merchants, bankers and moneylenders by the EIC which would degrade these classes. While this goes against the Marxist Historiographical approach, somehow I doubt the political right wing would see such historians as one of them. Academic argument and political discourse tend to be quite irrelevant to each other so far as the Right wing goes.

However, if you're not concerned with the Political right wing, but merely the academic right, ie academics who favored nationalist historiographical explanations, there is no need to "revive" them, since they didn't exactly die out. Like with many things, academic arguments are always evolving. The Nationalist approach wasn't exactly exterminated, since there were quite a few academics who frequently argued against the standard Marxist narrative even in the time of its dominance, and especially since quite a few worked with scholars outside India, such as C.A Bayly. However academically these people are just as likely to have come from JNU as anywhere else. Seema Alavi for instance, sharply critical of the Habib-esque model reducing everything to class and economic terms and an important historian in military history did her studies in Lucknow University and JNU before completing her doctorate at Delhi University. The Political culture of a University doesn't necessarily mean that it overrides academic argumentation, since the nature of Master's education is such that students are required to develop ideas about challenging the status quo. How else does one acquire the necessary skills to do original research required for the MPhil or PhD?

The history in academia as it exists today isn't bound by simple definitions of right or left wing. Teachers who oppose the Political right nonetheless academically are hardly "leftist". Equally a dyed in the Wool right wing politician might nonetheless find great merit in Marxist notions of class or the broad appeal of socialist historical tendencies (lets not forget that the BJP and other "right" wing parties aren't exactly staunch proponents of the free market or opponents of socialist policies like reservations or extensive subsidies). While its certainly true that we need to reform the way our institutions are run, and the way school syllabi are designed, at the Academic level the discourse is far more nuanced, and the right doesn't need much help expressing itself, insofar as we understand the "right" to mean opposed to traditional marxist approaches to history.

In the field of popular literature I might argue that there is a fair bit of representation for both right wing and left historians, as far as I can tell. Habib or Satish Chandra aren't exactly popular readings, while the likes of Malhotra certainly seem to do all right.

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