ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Homage to a Critic of Marxist-Positivist History

Sharad Patil structured a discourse which surpasses and overcomes the draining ennui of a linear brahminical history of India.

Sharad Patil, eminent thinker and theorist of Indian society who passed away on 12 April 2014, was an extraordinary critic of Indian Marxism and positivistic history. My introduction to his works came in the wake of my attempts to map the leading intellectual figures of the anti-caste movement in India, especially those from Maharashtra. He was a most adamant and unpredictable critic of brahminism as the reigning motif in composing the ancient past of India. His persistent observation of local, especially dalit and lower caste practices and beliefs, and the slow, gradual unravelling of a past that blended with it is a quite original representation of ancient India, difficult to be found elsewhere.

His works were familiar to scholars like Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib. The former even helped him bring out his first major critique of Indian society, Dasa-Sudra Slavery (New Delhi: Allied Publishers, 1982), after Social Scientist had terminated its contract to carry the book in serialised articles. It had also resulted in his locking horns with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) of which he was a member. He subsequently resigned in 1978. He then founded the Satyashodhak Marxist Party and also began the journal Satyashodhak Marxwadi. The book itself was a review of Ambedkar’s Who Were the Shudras, which went into several volumes subsequently. His insights into early India and its lineages right into the present have proved a veritable bounty for students of Indian society. In Maharashtra, he has a cult following now, which surpasses in its popularity those of the doyens of Indian Marxism, like S A Dange and D D Kosambi.

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