Meenakshi Jain

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Meenakshi Jain
Academic background
Alma mater University of Delhi
Thesis Congress Party, 1967-77: Role of Caste in Indian Politics
Academic work
Notable works Parallel Pathways
Rama and Ayodhya

Meenakshi Jain is an Indian political scientist and historian. She is the author of the history textbook Medieval India. It was published by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) during the NDA government as a replacement for a prior text by Romila Thapar.[1] She has challenged the leftist approach to history. Her recent book, Rama and Ayodhya, sets out a Hindu perspective on the Ayodhya dispute.[2]

Life and career

Meenakshi Jain is the daughter of journalist Girilal Jain, a former editor of The Times of India.[3] She received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Delhi. Her thesis on the social base and relations between caste and politics was published in 1991.[4][5] She also worked as a Fellow of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. Currently, Jain is an associate professor of history at Gargi College, affiliated to the University of Delhi.[6]

In December 2014, Jain was nominated as a member of the Indian Council of Historical Research by the Indian government.[7]


  • 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.
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).
  • "Power Equations in Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Century India: the Empirical Backdrop to Nationalism, International Forum for India's Heritage, 2003.

Jain also wrote a review of Romila Thapar's Somanatha: Many Voices of a History.[8]


The Professor of Law and Ethics at Chicago University, Martha Nussbaum finds Jain's Medieval India "lacking in the complexity of the medieval period and its historical sources". Her account is seen to oscillate between responsibility to the truth and the demands of a "prior ideological commitment."[9] Sociologist Nandini Sundar states that the exactions of the Sultanate rulers and the Mughals are exaggerated. Their contributions to the society, culture and polity are ignored.[10] According to Nussbaum, Jain's review of Somanatha contains a heavy dose of "dogmatic ideology", "making her serious points less convincing". Among the serious points, Nussbaum counts the contention that Thapar has not paid attention to the non-religious motivations of Mahmud of Ghazni in desecrating Hindu temples.[9]

John Stratton Hawley finds the book going against the grain in its treatment of the Bhakti movement. Jain presents the movement as a response to Shankaracharya's monism rather than as a reaction to the egalitarian message of Islam. She rejects any idea that the Indian masses converted to Islam due to its professed egalitarian appeal. Rather, she believes that the Muslim elites suffered from "extreme racialism" that continued well into the seventeenth century. Hence, there is no place to look but the bhakti movement for a class-comprehensive view of religion.[11]

Chander Pal Singh finds Jain's Parallel Pathways to be "path-breaking work" that questions the standard narrative of "amicable relations" between Hindus and Muslims during the medieval times broken only by the divide-and-rule policies of the British colonial government. Jain argues that there were fundamental differences between the two communities and that such differences were aggravated during the period of Mughal decline which saw the resurgence of Hindu and Sikh powers and the rise of Muslim orthodoxy. Jain notes that a great majority of the nobility in the Mughal court consisted of immigrants, and that such an elite would consciously transform Hindavi into Urdu by substituting a large number of Sanskrit-origin words with Persian and Arabic words in order to maintain a separate identity. Jain holds Muslim orthodoxy responsible for inviting the invasions of Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali for explicit purpose of preserving Islam. She also questions the thesis that the India's First War of Independence was a joint Hindu-Muslim project and notes that Islamic institutions issued over 200,000 fatwas in the post-Revolt period to "outlaw" customary practices shared between both Hindus and Muslims.[12]

M. V. Kamath, in the Free Press Journal, describes Jain's Rama and Ayodhya as briefly examining the antiquity of Rama's story and its spread through the Indian subcontinent, and then devoting the rest of the book to the Ayodhya dispute. Jain's enormous research makes Rama "come alive," tracing stories about him from the 4th century to the present. She has provided "fair" criticism to Irfan Habib and Romila Thapar, reporting the presentation of their case in considerable detail.[13] Professor Pralay Kanungo, of Jawaharlal Nehru University, calls the book a "serious exercise" that aspires to make a quiet impact. It succeeds in trying to create a coherent and authentic historical narrative that aims to demolish the dominant narrative of the 'Left historians' of India.[2] Koenraad Elst has called the book a "definitive Ayodhya chronicle," forming required reading for any one talking about the Ayodhya dispute. He finds the chapter on Hindu testimonies of Muslim iconoclasm "highly original," which also details the measures taken by Hindu society to prevent or remedy instances of such iconoclasm. Another chapter gives an "exhaustive enumeration" of all the testimonies of the tradition that the Babri Masjid replaced a Hindu temple, including the statements made in Allahabad High Court. Also detailed are the testimonies of the pro-Masjid historians in the court and outside, which were eventually disregarded by the Allahabad High Court for their lack of competence.[14]



  1. ^ Nussbaum, The Clash Within 2008, p. 232-233.
  2. ^ a b Alternative Narratives, Pralay Kanungo, The Book Review Literary Trust, 5 May 2014.
  3. ^ Khushwant Singh, Biased view (Book review of The Hindu Phenomenon), India Today, 31 August 1994.
  4. ^ Srinivas, Caste: Its 20th Century Avatar 2000, Notes on Contributors.
  5. ^ Nussbaum, The Clash Within 2008, p. 236.
  6. ^ Meenakshi Jain, Rama and Ayodhya 2013, back cover.
  7. ^ Membership of the Indian Council of Historical Research
  8. ^ Meenakshi Jain (21 March 2004). "Review of Romila Thapar's "Somanatha, The Many Voices of a History"". The Pioneer. Retrieved 2014-12-15.
  9. ^ a b Nussbaum, The Clash Within 2008, p. 233-234.
  10. ^ Sundar, Teaching to Hate 2005, p. 199.
  11. ^ Hawley, A Storm of Songs 2015, pp. 38-40.
  12. ^ Singh, Chander Pal (2013). "Book Review - Parallel Pathways: Essays on Hindu Muslim Relations (1707-1857)" (PDF). Journal of Indian Research. 1 (4): 149–151.
  13. ^ M. V. Kamath (2 June 2013). "Rama & Ayodhya". Free Press Journal. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015.
  14. ^ Koenraad Elst (24 September 2014). "The Definitive Ayodhya Chronicle". India Facts.


  • Hawley, John Stratton (2015), A Storm of Songs: India and the Idea of the Bhakti Movement, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0674187466
  • Jain, Meenakshi (2013), Rama and Ayodhya, New Delhi: Aryan Books, ISBN 8173054517
  • Nussbaum, Martha C. (2008), The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future, Harvard University Press, ISBN 978-0-674-03059-6
  • Srinivas, M. N., ed. (2000), Caste: Its 20th Century Avatar, Penguin U. K., ISBN 9351187837
  • Sundar, Nandini (2005), "Teaching to Hate: RSS' Pedagogical Programme", in E. Ewing, Revolution and pedagogy interdisciplinary and transnational perspectives on educational foundations, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 195–218, ISBN 978-1-4039-8013-7
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