If you're right in Indian Council of Historical Research, you're wrong

Sandeep Balakrishna
Sandeep BalakrishnaMar 05, 2015 | 16:00

If you're right in Indian Council of Historical Research, you're wrong

Red is normal. Marxism is the natural state of being. Minor deviations within the global Left family are allowed as long as said deviations help clear doubts about the finer nuances of the one theory that explains everything. Why, even open fights between comrades are still acceptable as long as both institutions and instruments of public discourse are under the comforting canopy protected by the hammer and the sickle. A perfect, five-decade-long status quo.


But the moment a non-Red outsider even hints at threatening this status quo, ranks are closed, and up goes the cry: We are Left and you are Wrong. These seven words can further be condensed into exactly one word: Saffron!

This pretty much describes the subtext of this The Hindu report revealingly titled "Saffron hue in revamped ICHR".

Consider this:

"The Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) was entirely reconstituted last week with 18 fresh appointees including office-bearers of the CPI(M)-backed academicians from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)."

What are the chances that you have or will ever come across a newsreport worded in this fashion? I will gladly provide the answer: zero.

Now read this from that The Hindu report:

"The Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) was entirely reconstituted last week with 18 fresh appointees including office-bearers of the RSS-backed Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana (ABISY)."

This then is the key difference: Why is it that the RSS and similar Hindu organisations find the need to form bodies like the ABISY? In all the various bodies spawned by the Indian Left, there is not a single body dedicated to the exclusive purpose of writing or rewriting history. The reason? Instead of forming such bodies, the Left realised about 50 years ago that a more effective route was to directly capture vital state institutions that deal with education and churn out ideological academics who would then go out and flood all channels of public discourse with the ideology, the theory, the solution. For example, for all her motivated history writing, Romila Thapar is still a professor, and newspapers would be forced to publish her no matter how spurious it is. However, what actually happened over time was that those professors who wrote counters to the Thaparification of Indian history were denied space by the very papers simply because those who took the editorial calls were firmly wedded to the one truth.


Hindu organisations, activists, etc can scream hoarse about how the Left instituted an elaborate system of patronage and mutual backscratching and ruined not only history writing but academic standards in general but the fact remains that the Left understands power in ways that the former can't even fathom. This is also the reason that the Left combined forces like never before to try and stop Narendra Modi at all costs because they realised that he is the only person who understands power in the entire Hindu "Right" spectrum. Mainstream Hindu organisations have grievously failed to grasp the phenomenal might that lies embedded in this simple but vital truth. The past nine months of the new government-not including the prime minister - also reinforces one of my long-time observations: That once in power, the BJP appears apologetic for winning the polls. The only other explanation I can find other than apologetic is what Dr Elst said when the BJP lost badly in 2009: That the BJP is the B-team of the Congress.

Now, The Hindu report needs closer examination for this reason. The subheading reads thus:

"Union MHRD has set aside the long-standing convention of re-appointing members who had completed just a single term."


This kind of subbing subheads takes skill derived from but not limited to these attributes: natural talent, years of practice, and an understanding of newspaper-reader psychology. That the last attribute is the most crucial can be adduced from the same report which later factually reports due procedure:

"In reconstituting the council, the Union human resource development ministry set aside the long-standing convention of re-appointing members who had completed just a single term.

As per the ICHR's Memorandum of Association, no member of the council can have more than two consecutive terms. The cycle of nominations to the council has been such that an average of eight outgoing members are usually re-nominated."

In other words, the ICHR's MoA doesn't mandate an automatic renewal of any member's tenure including first-termers. More importantly, as The Hindu report itself admits, it was only a convention. But the "long-standing" is the actual giveaway. It is precisely this compound word, "long-standing," which enabled the Marxists to perpetuate the aforementioned system of patronage and mutual back-scratching. There are things you can rebel against: basic human nature is not one of them. What are the chances that a first-termer whose tenure is renewed thanks to patronage will not nominate a person of his benefactor's choice once his/her second term ends? Second, the rule states that no member can have more than two consecutive terms. So, a two-consecutive-term-member would live in wilderness for just the third year. He/she will be back in business in the fourth and the fifth and the seventh and the eighth and on and on until he/she is elevated to greater glories of power, pelf and position. Note also the crucial "an average of eight outgoing members are usually re-nominated." Which can only mean four things of the remaining ten:

1. They had completed their second consecutive term and had to leave only to join later.

2. Some were pulled out because they were promoted to higher echelons in the cause of the theory.

3. Some had rebelled and had to be expelled via non-re-nomination 4. Of course, natural death is always a reason

And so on and on and on and on… And a lot of non-Marxists, Hindu organisations, activists etc still wonder how the Left managed to retain its stranglehold on the academia for so long?

Equally telling in the report is a quote by an unnamed "senior professor of history" that "[t]he ministry clearly wanted to purge Marxist historians". This is an assumption on the part of the senior professor (assuming he/she exists) or Anita Joshua, the writer of The Hindu report. I will let the reader draw the conclusions.

And now on the point of newspaper-reader psychology: by all measures, this is the sort of news report an average newspaper-reader will skip or just read the headline and move on. Probability theory tells us that the judgement call to word this report the way it is worded - couching the facts and details under a layer of dry and dense journalese-would pay off. It has. Beyond the people who track this kind of news, The Hindu report has largely gone unnoticed.

There is a huge element of a cruel, sarcasm-ridden travesty of sorts in the whole thing. Most of the scholars branded as saffron, Hindutva, and the restare scholars of the highest order. That includes but is not limited to a galaxy of scholars including Jadunath Sarkar, VS Sukhthankar, Dr S Radhakrishnan, Prof S Srikanta Sastri, Sitaram Goel, Ram Swarup, Dr Saradindu Mukherji, Prof Meenakshi Jain, Dr Koenraad Elst, Michel Danino, et al who believe in letting the chips fall where they fall in the pursuit ofa singular noble goal, if I were to quote Polonius:

"This above all: To thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man."

But the bigger travesty is encompassed in just two words: "Marxist Historian".

In the old days, during Murli Manohar Joshi's tenure as HRD Minister, Outlook made a huge killing by running the "rational versus national" type of hit jobs until Arun Shourie sent them scampering with just one masterly expose.That one book proved, truly, that the Marxist non-God is indeed made of clay that it took enormous amounts of falsehoods, prostitution of the best minds to this non-God's service and the compulsion to control taxpayer-funded institutions. Equally, Shourie'sexpose was just waiting to happen but that's an essay for another day.

Meanwhile, it's worth pondering that after the Congress came to power in 2004 and Arjun Singh openly proclaimed that he would "de-saffronise" the history textbooks, not one media outlet ran a headline that said, "Red hue in Revamped ICHR".

Last updated: March 05, 2015 | 16:00
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