Dissent is Essential to Long Term Social Change: Historian Romila Thapar
By Qaisar Abbas
Known Indian historian Romila Thapar has said voices of dissent are essential to long-term change in every society. It has also been a prevalent mode of resolving issues and creating consensus in the Indian subcontinent for centuries.
For her, the noble values of diversity and dissent have vanished in today’s India, where the majoritarian rule has become the only political doctrine. However, this doctrine legitimizes the rights of the majority religion in the country and rejects minority rights altogether.
She was speaking as part of a virtual webinar recently organized by the Indian Diaspora in Washington DC on the theme, “Voices of Change.”
Author of several books on Indian history and Professor Emerita of History at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, Romila, has been the target of the BJP government recently for criticizing its policies of silencing voices of dissent.
Defining the term, she said, dissent is a response to an issue of substance in society and this disagreement is always peaceful. Protest is another form of dissent that requires an organized action to demand social change.
She further said the Hindu philosophy offers three levels of creating consensus in society. The first level includes listening to the opposing views on an issue of substance. Next, proponents refute opposing arguments, and finally, all stakeholders come to a mutually discussed resolution.
Professor Romila’s recent book “Voices of Dissent” offers a detailed discussion on the subject and its historical context within the Indian social order.