June 20, 2017

India: Fears over ICHR 'objectivity' goal (Basant Kumar Mohanty)

The Telegraph - 20 June 2017

Fears over ICHR 'objectivity' goal

New Delhi, June 19: The Indian Council of Historical Research is poised to amend its constitution for the first time, triggering fears that the 45-year-old autonomous institution's stated aim of "objectivity" could make way for myth-based history writing.
Council chairperson Y. Sudershan Rao had earlier this month sought suggestions from historians, former council chairpersons and former member secretaries on any changes they felt needed to be made to the organisation's "Memorandum of Association (MoA), aims and objects, rules and regulations...."
The MoA is the constitution of the council, which was last reconstituted by the Narendra Modi government in 2015 at the end of its previous members' tenures.
At a council meeting last Thursday, one of its 25 members objected to the MoA's stipulation for "objective and scientific history writing" without explaining the reasons, former council member secretary Gopinath Ravindran told this newspaper.

According to the MoA, the council's objectives are to "give a national direction to an objective and scientific writing of history and to have rational presentation and interpretation of history".
"The meeting had not received any written suggestion from any historians, but one member differed with the provision for 'scientific and objective writing'," Ravindran said, adding that the meeting had taken no decision on the matter. Another participant corroborated Ravindran.
Irfan Habib, former council chairperson and noted historian, said the organisation had always pursued evidence-based research.
"Mythology will become history once they do away with the provision for objective and scientific writing," he said.
Rao has often criticised historians' tendency to reject the Puranas as mythology. Last August, he announced plans for documentaries on the local histories of villages and small towns that he said would refer to folklore and the Sthala Puranas, which describe the antiquity of various temples.
To an email from The Telegraph asking why and how the constitution was to be amended, Rao wrote back: "Pl wait for our Newsletter (Apr-June 17) for the report. We are trying to bring it out in the first week of July."
The other council members who were contacted declined comment.