December 26, 2016

India: RSS man to head Nalanda University?

RSS man to head Nalanda University?

Published : Dec 25, 2016, 1:41 am IST
The ministry of external affairs has received over 160 applications for the post of the vice-chancellor.
Y. Sudershan Rao
 Y. Sudershan Rao
New Delhi: Known for his strong RSS links, chairperson of the Indian Council of Historical Research Y. Sudershan Rao is emerging as the frontrunner for the post of Nalanda University chancellor.

Others who held the position included Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and former foreign affairs minister of Singapore George Yeo. Both Dr Sen and Mr Yeo had quit citing “government interference”.
For the post of vice-chancellor, sources said that the names of three candidates were doing the rounds. These include Prof. Sunaina Singh, vice-chancellor of English and Foreign Languages University, (EFLU), Makarand Paranjape, professor at JNU and art historian Nirmala Sharma. The ministry of external affairs has received over 160 applications for the post of the vice-chancellor.
Sources revealed that a move is afoot to appoint Prof. Rao as the new Nalanda University chancellor. However, when contacted, the ICHR chairperson neither confirmed nor denied the development. His brief response was, “Let us wait please...let it come officially.” The announcement is likely to be made in January.
It may be recalled that Prof. Rao’s appointment by the Modi government to head ICHR in July 2014 had led to a controversy with eminent historians including Romila Thapar raising questions.
Romila Thapar had written: One is surprised at the appointment of Professor Y.
Sudershan Rao as chairperson of the ICHR. Professor Rao’s work is unfamiliar to most historians, with little visibility of research that he might have carried out.” In another article she also wrote that while Prof. Rao has “published popular articles on the historicity of the Indian epics, none has appeared in any peer-reviewed journal”.
Historian, Irfan Habib had also questioned his appointment as ICHR chairperson. Prof. Rao is also associated with the Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana, the history wing of the RSS. In an interview to the RSS mouthpiece Organiser, Prof. Rao had said, “...every nation has a right to write its own history from its own perspective, with certain national objectives. I call this process ‘Indianisation’ perspective, with certain national objectives. At best, you can call it a patriotic approach.”
Last year Prof. Rao ran into another controversy when he recommended names of three RSS historians to join the ICHR panel. The three names recommended by him included — Narayan Rao, national vice-president of the Sangh history wing, Ishwar Sharan Vishwakarma, all-India general secretary, and Nikhilesh Guha, head of the Bengal chapter.
It may be recalled that in November 2015, Prof. Rao had sent his resignation amid reports that he had asked for an honorarium of `1.5 lakh per month. The ICHR chairmanship does not have any provision for an honorarium. He was never granted the honorarium, but the HRD ministry never accepted his resignation.
Nalanda University has been in the eye of the storm ever since the NDA came to power. Nobel laureate Dr Amartya Sen, who quit the University after complaining of “extraordinarily large” interference, had said; “I was certainly ousted from Nalanda, Some members of the Board, especially the foreign members, were keen on carrying on the battle for me, but I stepped aside as I did not want to be an ineffective leader.” Similarly, his successor Singapore politician George Yeo also stepped down alleging “government interference”.

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