Irfan Habib

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Irfan Habib (इरफान हबीब) (born 1931) is an Indian historian of ancient and medieval India, following the approach of Marxist historiography. He is well known for his strong stance against Hindu and Islamic fundamentalism.[1] He has authored a number of books, including Agrarian System of Mughal India, 1556–1707.

Work[edit]

In India, Marxist historiography was very influential. Its main representatives are Irfan Habib, and K. N. Panikkar. B. N. Datta and D. D. Kosambi are considered the founding fathers of Marxist historiography. Today, the senior-most scholars of Marxist historiography are R. S. Sharma, Irfan Habib, Romila Thapar, D. N. Jha and K. N. Panikkar, most of whom are now over 75 years old.[2]

Romila Thapar and R.S. Sharma are quoted at some length as representatives of Indian Marxist thought in A Dictionary of Marxist Thought.[3] Irfan Habib has titled a recent collection of his papers Essays in Indian History. Towards a Marxist Perspective.(Elst 2001, Decolonizing the Hindu Mind, p. 40)

  • Thapar and Sharma are quoted as representatives of Indian Marxism in Tom Bottomore’s History of Marxist Thought, Oxford 1988, entry “Hinduism”; Habib has subtitled his recent book Essays in Indian History (Tulika, Delhi 1995) as Towards a Marxist Perception. elst 2002,ch1
  • As for NU professor Harbans Mukhia, in a guest column in Indian Express, he surveys the influence of Marxism in Indian historiography, highlighting the pioneering work of D.D. Kosambi, R.S. Sharma and Irfan Habib in the 1950s and 60s. He argues that this Marxist wave began without state patronage; this in an apparent attempt to refute Shourie’s account of the role of state patronage and of the resulting corruption in the power position Marxist historians have come to enjoy. This is of course a straw man: Shourie never denied that Kosambi meant what he wrote rather than being an opportunist eager to please Marxist patrons.
    • Harbans Mukhia: “Historical wrongs. The rise of the part-time historian”, Indian Express, 27-11-1998. Elst 2002,ch4
  • Since some ignorant dupes of these Marxists denounce as “McCarthyist” anyone who points out their ideological inspiration, it deserves to be emphasized that acclaimed secularist historians like Romila Thapar, R.S. Sharma and Irfan Habib are certified as Marxists in standard Marxist sources like Tom Bottomore’s Dictionary of Marxist Thought. The BMAC team’s argumentation of 1991 and several other anti-temple pamphlets were published by the People’s Publishing House, a Communist Party outfit. One of the textbook innovations most furiously denounced as “saffronization” was the truism that Lenin’s armed seizing of power in October/November 1917 was a “coup d’état”. And while they were unchaining all their devils against glasnost, in early 2003, the Marxists ruling West Bengal deleted from a textbook a passage in which Mahatma Gandhi’s biographer Louis Fischer called Stalin “at least as ruthless as Hitler”. Elst 2003,ch2
  • Since some ignorant dupes of these Marxists denounce as “McCarthyist” anyone who points out their ideological inspiration, it deserves to be emphasized that “eminent historians” like Romila Thapar, R.S. Sharma and Irfan Habib are certified as Marxists in standard Marxist sources like Tom Bottomore's Dictionary of Marxist Thought . During the official historians' Ayodhya temple/mosque dispute in 1991, the pro-mosque team's argumentation and several other anti-temple pamphlets were published by the People's Publishing House, a Communist Party outfit. One of the recent textbook innovations most furiously denounced as “saffronization” was the truism that Lenin's armed seizing of power in October/November 1917 was a “coup d'état”. And in early 2003, while they were unchaining all their devils against glasnost , the Marxists ruling West Bengal deleted from a textbook a passage in which Mahatma Gandhi's biographer Louis Fischer called Stalin “at least as ruthless as Hitler”. Such are the true concerns of the “secularists” warning the world against the attempts at glasnost in India's national history curriculum.
    • (Elst: Religious Cleansing of Hindus, 2004, Agni conference in The Hague)

Amiya Kumar Bagchi describes Habib as "one of the two most prominent Marxist historians of India today and at the same time, one of the greatest living historians of India between the twelfth and eighteenth centuries."[4]

In 2016, KK Muhammad's Malayalam-language autobiography Njan Enna Bharatiyan ("I an Indian") was released. The book attracted controversy due to his claim that the Marxist historians sided with the extremist Muslim groups and derailed attempts to find an amicable solution to the Ayodhya dispute. According to him, archaeological excavations at Ayodhya clearly indicated the presence of a temple below the mosque, but the leftist historians dismissed these, and even tried to mislead the Allahabad High Court.[5]

In 1998, Arun Shourie in his book titled Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud accused Irfan Habib and fellow marxist historian Tasneem Ahmad of Plagiarism.Shourie claimed that Tasneem Ahmad's Ph.D thesis, which was later published with a preface written by Irfan Habib was a word by word plagiarised version of Dr.Parmatma Saran's unpublished work of "English Translation of Arif Qandari's Tarik-i-Aqbari". Shourie's allegations went unchallenged by either Irfan Habib or Tasneem Ahmad.In 1998, Arun Shourie in his book titled Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud claims that Tasneem Ahmad's Ph.D thesis, which was later published with a preface written by Irfan Habib,[6] was a word by word plagiarised version of Dr. Parmatma Saran's unpublished work of "English Translation of Arif Qandhari's Tarikh-i Akbari".

He has been accused by independent journalists and historians of advocating a certain political philosophy through his historical writings[7]. He has been known to have close ties to the Communists in Indian political system. His writings are often cited as "scholarly work" by these ultra left wing political parties as a means to justify their political actions. Irfan Habib has been criticized for negationism by concealing the record of Islamic invasions in India. [8] He was among the historians at the Indian History Congress in 1998 when they moved a resolution against the saffronisation of history.[9] To counter Irfan Habib, Murli Manohar Joshi had released a book to rebuts the history of ‘‘Habib & Co’’.[10]

Philosophical and political views[edit]

Habib identifies himself as a Marxist and uses Marxist historiography in his work.[11]

Habib has also written books about Vedas and Vedic age, he considers Vedas to be a good historical source, which describes the oral transmission in a priestly culture, that valued faithfulness. He further lays out the reasons that the texts were orally transmitted for hundreds of years, then they were finally written down.[12]

Habib had a sustained commitment to secularism. He led the historians at the Indian History Congress of 1998 who moved a resolution against the "saffronisation" of history.[13] He has said that the BJP government at the Centre which was in power from 1998–2004, especially the MHRD Minister himself, were responsible for inventing facts and dates to suit their interpretation of Indian history.[14] To counter Irfan Habib, Murli Manohar Joshi released a book which rebuts the history of what the former minister calls '‘Habib & Co'’.[15]

References[edit]

  1. Historian: Prof Irfan Habib outlookindia.com. Magazine | 23 April 2007. Retrieved 15January 2013
  2. Bottomore, T. B. 1983. A Dictionary of Marxist thought. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
  3. Tom Bottomore, ed: A Dictionary of Marxist Thought, entry Hinduism, pp. 203-06.
  4. Amiya Kumar Bagchi. Writing Indian History in the Marxist Mode in a Post-Soviet World, Review of Essays in Indian History: Towards a Marxist Perception, Social Scientist, 1996.
  5. KA Antony (21 January 2016). "Left historians connived with extremists, mislead Muslims on Babri issue, says archaeologist in new book". Firstpost.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Tarikh-I-Akbari: Muhammad Arif Qandhari (1993)
  7. Shourie, Arun. "FABRICATIONS ON THE WAY TO THE FUNERAL". Unknown parameter |accessed= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Government trying to invent history, says Habib"
  9. Singh, Bajinder Pal, 1998, The Indian Express
  10. NCERT brings out book to counter ‘Habib & Co’, 2003, The Indian Express [1]
  11. Mitra, Ashok (14–27 October 2000). "A tribute to Irfan Habib". Frontline. Retrieved 9 April 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future, p.271, Martha Nussabaum, Harvard University Press
  13. Singh, Bajinder Pal, 1998, Historians likely to resist`saffronisation', The Indian Express
  14. "Government trying to invent history, says Habib"
  15. NCERT brings out book to counter 'Habib & Co', 2003, The Indian Express [2]

External links[edit]