Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Frontline's 'agenda' article on my term in ICHR - My respose

Frontline makes serious allegations in their article “A quiet invasion”,  Printed edition: July 21,2017.  My comments:
            The article in Frontline is basically intended to give a negative profile of the functioning of the ICHR during the period 2014-17 denouncing the policies and programs alleging that they promote “Hindutva”. The reporter had chosen some quotes out of context from my speeches at various places to legitimise their baseless accusation that the ICHR is pursuing the “Sangha” agenda. The reporter committed factual blunders in cooking up this story that ‘A Quiet Invasion’ is being attempted by the present team in ICHR under my Chairmanship.

·       In the present composition of the Council, the specialists in medieval history are adequately represented. Many specialised areas of study, like archaeology, art history, history of science technology, modern Indian history, are well represented. In all statutory and other academic sub committees. The reporter’s allegation that medieval history is neglected on communal lines is only prejudicial. Individual projects, seminars and fellowships are granted to various scholars from all fields without discrimination. These facts can be verified from the ICHR website, Annual Reports and periodical Newsletters.

·      An allegation was made that I got some photos removed, such as “Tantia Tope, Rani Laxmi Bai, and Bahadur Shah Zafar”, from the exhibition organised in connection with 150 years of the First War of Independence which was held some ten years ago i.e., in 2007. I assumed office in 2014, several years after the exhibition. ICHR doesn’t have any photo gallery for regular exhibitions or thematic presentations. Usually, when an event is celebrated, some photographs relevant to the subject will be organised in one of the small office rooms of the Council for display, and after a week or so these photos will be packed and safely placed in the store room. Even if it is alleged that I got them removed after I became Chairman, why should I remove the photos of those three while allowing all the others to stay? In fact, I have no first-hand knowledge of the exhibition, which had happened some seven years ago. On my enquiry I am told that all the exhibits are packed and preserved in the store. They are not art pieces. They are just pictures of old photographs.
Furthermore, if I truly had the ‘communal’ agenda she claims I have, why would I remove Tantia Tope and Rani Lakshmi Bai’s pictures? This allegation falls apart with the slightest thought, since one will notice the inconsistency between her allegation and the evidence she gives.

·        Another allegation is that I delayed the publication of the Volumes of Dictionary of Martyrs just because 35% of the martyrs were Muslims in the 1857 Movement. The project of the Dictionary was granted to the ICHR in 2007 to mark 150 years of the Great Rebellion, later known as the First War of Indian Independence.  During my term alone, the project has released 2 volumes over a period of 3 years and reached completion, while before my tenure, only 3 volumes were released over a period of 7 years. The funds for this project were very kindly granted by Department of Culture. The ICHR has also submitted a proposal to the Department of Culture to consider the extension of this project to cover post -1947 topics, up until total accession took place with the withdrawal of the French and Portuguese from India, which is in active consideration by the Government. This only shows the ICHR’s commitment towards the project during my term. In contrary to her accusation that I have delayed the project, I have actually accelerated it. The journalist was so eager to interpret this in a communal light to fit her magazine’s theme that she jumped to conclusions without verifying the facts.

·        Another baseless allegation is that the present Council has scuttled the “Towards Freedom” project. I am greatly surprised to see that the accusing finger is pointed at me. This project was envisaged even before the ICHR was born. From then till now it is still alive, outliving many Chairmen and Chief Editors and Coordinators. Many committees consisting of ‘eminent historians’ were constituted and replaced. The Project enjoyed many privileges, for example, its committees and editors are independent of the Council to prepare the print copy and forward it to Oxford for printing and publication, without any reference to the Council, its officials, the Member Secretary, or even the Chairman. Even the Council, it seems, has no authority according to the committee to verify or review what is written and what passes as an ICHR publication. So the ICHR does not have any knowledge of what is going on with the project except for the fact that the expenditure is borne by it. During my term, since this project was also moving at a snail’s pace and I wished to speed it up, I decided to keep a closer eye on the proceedings of the publications and so I asked to see the volumes before they are sent for printing. I received only one volume from its coordinator, Prof Arjun Dev. After vetting, the volume, it is referred to its Chief Editor, Prof Sabysachi Bhattacharya for his comments and recommendation to forward the project for publication. It is lying with him since then. The ICHR has yet to receive his recommendation, which is the cause for the delay. While this is a fact, allegations are still made by individuals and the media that publication is being stalled by the present body. Even the Indian History Congress (IHC) in its annual session in 2016 held at Trivendram had passed a resolution condemning the ICHR for the lapse. They could have had it verified with the Chief Editor, an ‘eminent historian’, who I am told was also present at the Congress. The ICHR, however, has not received a copy of the resolution by the IHC even after six months, for us to respond.

·      Another baseless allegation is that IHC has not been given ‘priority allocation’ for holding the annual conference and to publish its proceedings. IHC was never denied subsidies for holding the conferences and publishing the proceedings. In fact it is getting higher allocations than other organisations. The sanctions were made when the procedures stipulated in the RFR were followed. Most of the RFR organisers were very important functionaries during the previous terms. If there was any procedural delay, they should be very well aware why the release of funds was delayed since it was the functionaries themselves who made the rules.

·      There was another allegation that The Aligarh Historians Society was denied funds for holding its annual conference in Thiruvananthapuram. It may be one among many organisations, which could not be provided funds because of the limited resources of the Council. It greatly surprises me that a small, local organisation such as the Aligarh Historians Society, always plans to hold its events in far away places alongside or as part of the IHC with the same venue, dates, and timings, but still expects separate funds from the ICHR.

·      All the projects and academic programs conducted during the term received lot of appreciation from the specialists and general intelligentsia. There are many positive comments in the media condemning the false case pitched against me through this article in Frontline.

My personal but considered views expressed on historical developments and thoughts at various occasions are my own, and they have no reflections on the ICHR or Govt of India. A section of the media (both print and electronic) have consistently attempted to project me a ‘nationalist’ and ‘Hindu’ in a negative sense to condemn me as communal. But I have always definitely been a nationalist and Hindu in a positive sense. I can’t help it otherwise. I only spoke the truth on all the occasions mentioned by the reporter and I stand by my word.


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