I received the following post on a Hindu list: "Finally, Romila Thapar admits: 'Fundamental sanity of Indian civilization has been due to an absence of Satan.' Satan (or the irrational fear of an imaginary bogeyman) is the bedrock of Abrahamic cults like Islam and Christianity. So, Romila Thapar actually meant to write this (but was dishonest enough to not admit that): 'The fundamental sanity of Indian civilization has been due to an absence of Abrahamic cults like Islam and Christianity.'"
Let me first be clear about what I reject in this post. First of all, the typically Hindu hyperfocus on persons, viz. on retired History Professor (JNU) Romila Thapar, author of A History of India, part 1. I don't care about her personally opting for Nehruvian secularism and all that goes with it. She is a mediocre person who rode with the tide, and the question is why Nehruvian secularism was the tide.
And secondly, the term Abrahamic, admittedly an improvement upon Semitic, but meant as another word for prophetic-monotheistic. Abraham was the ancestor of the Jews, with whom Hindus have no quarrel because they never tried to convert the Hindus as Christians and Muslims have done. The latter two sects have later tried to appropriate Abraham, the Christians by their theory of them being the "true Israel", the Muslims by their claim of being the vicarious descendants of Abraham's first son Ismael. But according to the Bible, the closest source we have on Abraham's family, Ismael returned with his mother Hagar to her native Egypt after his father had a fully legitimate son with his wife Sara, and never had anything to do with Mohammed's Arabia. It is one more case of Mohammed garbling the Biblical stories which he had heard from Jews around the campfire.
Now, coming to the interview which Romila Thapar gave, and to which the Hindu list's attention was being drawn: http://aboutfilm.wordpress.com/2008/05/15/romila-thapar-%E2%80%93-a-history-of-india-and-the-absence-of-satan/ . Under the title "A History of India and the Absence of Satan" (About Film, wordpress, 15 May 2008), one Shakila quotes her as saying:
"Wealth in India, as in every other ancient culture, was limited to the few. Mystical activities were also the preoccupation of but a handful of people. It is true, however, that acceptance of such activities was characteristic of the majority… whereas in some other cultures the rope-trick would have been ascribed to the promptings of the devil and reference to it suppressed, in India it was regarded with amused benevolence. The fundamental sanity of Indian civilization has been due to an absence of Satan."
Indeed, whereas the Christian Middle Ages were bedevilled by fear of the irrational, Hindu civilization learned to cope with it. It had a fundamental sanity where Christian and Islamic civilization were based on a belief in the divine intrusion into history. But Romila Thapar cannot bring herself to seeing this fact and naming it by its proper name: Hindu civilization had a fundamental sanity. It reminds me of Mani Shankar Aiyar, a Minister in the last Congress government, who wrote in his Sunday column some twenty years back to this effect: "There is something in the air here that makes us tolerant"-- but he didn't dare to name that something because it was called Hinduism.