Meenakshi Jain

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Meenakshi Jain
Alma materUniversity of Delhi
OccupationHistorian, political scientist
Known forAuthoring books about Indian history
AwardsPadma Shri

Meenakshi Jain is an Indian political scientist and historian. A scholar on relations between caste and politics,[1] she is currently an associate professor of history at Gargi College, Delhi.

Jain wrote a groundbreaking volume (Sati: Evangelicals, Baptist Missionaries, and the Changing Colonial Discourse) on the practice of Sati in colonial India and had also authored a history textbook (Medieval India), which incurred significant scholarly criticism but went on to replace a previous text by Romila Thapar.

In 2014, she was nominated as a member of the Indian Council of Historical Research by the Indian government.[2] In 2020, she was conferred with the Padma Shri, India's fourth highest civilian award, for her work in the field of literature and education.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Meenakshi Jain is the daughter of journalist Girilal Jain, a former editor of The Times of India.[4] She received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Delhi.[5] Her thesis on the social base and relations between caste and politics was published in 1991.[5]

Career[edit]

Jain is an associate professor of history at Gargi College, affiliated to the University of Delhi.[6] In December 2014, she was nominated as a member of the Indian Council of Historical Research by the Indian government.[2]

Reception[edit]

Martha Nussbaum[edit]

...Jain, however, favors a simple narrative of Muslim aggression and Hindu suffering/resistance .... ignores the arts, concentrating on battles, so that no syncretism has a chance to emerge ... On the whole, Jain's account displays a constant oscillation between responsibility to the truth, which she clearly does feel, and the demands of a prior ideological commitment.

— Martha C. Nussbaum

Writing in The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future (2007), distinguished philosopher Martha Nussbaum noted Jain to be an amateur historian, who was trained as a sociologist and was yet to publish any significant work but was inducted into the ranks of a historian to fulfill a political mission.[7] Recalling an interview, wherein she asked Jain about historiographic uncertainties faced whilst writing Medieval India, Nussbaum noted her to have a strongly dogmatic persona who entirely lacked in any puzzlement or a sense of difficulty—two desirable traits in a good scholar.[7]

Nussbaum found Jain's Medieval India to poorly represent the complexity of the medieval period—a simple ideologically-based uni-dimensional war-narrative between the forces of good and evil, that did not highlight the tensions and internal conflicts between seemingly homogeneous groups.[7] Yet she found her work to be a small "oasis of intelligence", subtlety and literacy, when contrasted with other publications of the NCERT series.[7]

She similarly faulted and criticized multiple aspects of Jain's review of Somanatha: Many Voices of a History (by Romila Thapar) and noted that the heavy dose of "dogmatic ideology" contained in it, made her serious points less convincing.[7]

Nussbaum noted that Jain's rebut to the criticisms of her works (by various leading scholars) had integrity.[7] Whilst she often skipped the broader issues, Jain admitted to some of her errors and often produced secondary scholarly source(s) that had supported her writing, though the merit of the latter as an argument was debatable.[7] She concluded that whilst Jain remained intellectually ahead of other right-wing historians and had genuine scholarly passions, she was inserted into the wrong domain by political forces and was compelled to produce a sub-standard work in a short time span.[7]

Others[edit]

Sociologist Nandini Sundar noted that the exactions of the Sultanate rulers and the Mughals were portrayed from an anti-Hindu perspective in Jain's Medieval India whilst their legacy contributions to the society, culture and polity were ignored.[1] She saw this as part of a broader pattern of state-induced historical negationism to suit the need of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.[1] John Stratton Hawley of Columbia University found the book going against the grain in its treatment of the Bhakti movement in that she presented the movement as a response to Shankaracharya's monism rather than to the egalitarian message of Islam.[8]

Professor Pralay Kanungo, of Jawaharlal Nehru University, noted Jain's Rama and Ayodhya as a subtle and sophisticated work that can't be outright dismissed and managed to stand apart, when contrasted with the earlier propaganda attempts by Hindutva historians.[9] He noted that a majority of the book was devoted to attacking left-leaning anti-Hindutva historians and by cherry-picking random content from random sources coupled with stray extrapolations, she had managed to produce a useful compilation but not an authentic history.[9] Kanungo also pointed out other significant errors including her rejecting of the established scholarly consensus about the existence of multiple versions of Ramayanas et al.[9] He also deemed Jain's Medieval India to be the sole face-saving volume in the entire NCERT history series, that was published by the newly elected NDA government.[9]

A review over the Indian Historical Review praised Sati: Evangelicals, Baptist Missionaries, and the Changing Colonial Discourse as a well-researched and cogent magnum opus, that was thoroughly packed with facts, analysis and sources.[10] Another review over Studies in World Christianity was positive as well.[11]

Professor Abhinav Prakash Singh, of the University of Delhi, noted Flight of Deities and Rebirth of Temples: Episodes from Indian History to be a brilliant work.[12]

Works[edit]

Books
  • Congress Party, 1967-77: Role of Caste in Indian Politics (Vikas, 1991), ISBN 0706953193.
  • Medieval India: A Textbook for Class XI (NCERT, 2002), ISBN 8174501711.
  • Rajah-Moonje Pact: Documents On A Forgotten Chapter Of Indian History (with Devendra Svarupa, Low Price Publishers, 2007), ISBN 8184540787.
  • Parallel Pathways: Essays on Hindu-Muslim Relations, 1707-1857 (Konark Publishers, 2010), ISBN 9788122007831.
  • The India They Saw (co-edited with Sandhya Jain, 4 Volumes, Prabhat Prakashan), ISBN 8184301065, ISBN 8184301073, ISBN 8184301081, ISBN 818430109X.
  • Rama and Ayodhya (Aryan Books International, 2013), ISBN 8173054517.
  • Sati: Evangelicals, Baptist Missionaries, and the Changing Colonial Discourse (Aryan Books International, 2016), ISBN 8173055521
  • The Battle for Rama: Case of the Temple at Ayodhya (Aryan Books International, 2017), ISBN 8173055793.
  • "Flight of Deities and Rebirth of Temples: Episodes from Indian History" (Aryan Books International, 2019), ISBN 8173056196.
Selected Articles
  • "Congress 1967: Strategies of Mobilisation in D. A. Low" in The Indian National Congress Centenary Hindsights, 1988.
  • "Backward Castes and Social Change in U. P. and Bihar" in Srinivas, Caste: Its 20th Century Avatar (2000).
  • A review of Romila Thapar's Somanatha: Many Voices of a History over The Pioneer (India).[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Sundar, Nandini (2004). "Teaching to Hate: RSS' Pedagogical Programme". Economic and Political Weekly. 39 (16): 1605–1612. doi:10.1057/9781403980137_9. ISSN 0012-9976. JSTOR 4414900.
  2. ^ a b Membership of the Indian Council of Historical Research
  3. ^ Desk, The Hindu Net (26 January 2020). "Full list of 2020 Padma awardees". The Hindu.
  4. ^ Khushwant Singh, Biased view (Book review of The Hindu Phenomenon), India Today, 31 August 1994.
  5. ^ a b Srinivas, M. N. (14 October 2000). Caste: Its 20Th Century Avatar. Penguin UK. p. 313. ISBN 9789351187837.
  6. ^ "Members of the Council" (PDF). INDIAN COUNCIL OF HISTORICAL RESEARCH.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Nussbaum, Martha Craven (2007). The Clash Within : Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674030596. OCLC 1006798430.
  8. ^ Hawley, John Stratton (2015). "The Bhakti Movement and Its Discontents". A storm of songs. India and the idea of the Bhakti Movement. Harvard University Press. pp. 38–40. doi:10.4159/9780674425262. ISBN 9780674187467. JSTOR j.ctt1c84d6f. OCLC 917361614.
  9. ^ a b c d "Alternative Narratives". The Book Review. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  10. ^ Singh, Swadesh (1 June 2017). "Book Review: Meenakshi Jain, Sati: Evangelicals, Baptist Missionaries, and the Changing Colonial Discourse". Indian Historical Review. 44 (1): 151–153. doi:10.1177/0376983617694691. ISSN 0376-9836. S2CID 148735989.
  11. ^ Mallampalli, Chandra (August 2018). "Bok review". Studies in World Christianity. 24 (2): 179–180. doi:10.3366/swc.2018.0222. ISSN 1354-9901.
  12. ^ "Where Did the Temples Go?". Open The Magazine. 15 November 2019. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
  13. ^ Meenakshi Jain (21 March 2004). "Review of Romila Thapar's "Somanatha, The Many Voices of a History"". The Pioneer. Archived from the original on 18 December 2014. Retrieved 15 December 2014.