AJOY ASHIRWAD MAHAPRASHASTA - ICHR Blocks Manuscript on Freedom Struggle Because It Makes the Sangh Look Bad, Alleges Historian

While Hindu-right organisations, under the patronage of the Narendra Modi government, are claiming spaces within the spectrum of associations with instrumental roles to play in the India’s nationalist movement, the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) – the primary government-sponsored institution for funding historical research and publications – has found itself in the dock for allegedly trying to bury historical work that looks into the counter-productive role played by the Sangh parivar during the freedom struggle.

Renowned Indian historian Arjun Dev has alleged that the ICHR, probably under the influence of the Modi government, has been sitting on a manuscript that he submitted two years ago on August 1, 2015. The manuscript is part of the ICHR’s Towards Freedom series, which was conceived as a project to compile records and documents from the last ten years of the freedom struggle (1938-1947). The manuscript, edited by Dev, is a compilation of documents on political developments in the year 1941. Speaking to The Wire, Dev said that it is divided into three parts – the nature of the nationalist movement in princely states of colonial India, the role of communal politics and labour and peasant movements during the period.
Dev suspects that the second part, which includes original sources that portray Hindu nationalist organisations such as the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS in poor light, may have been the reason for the delay in the manuscript’s publication. He added that the ICHR has not sent the manuscript to print despite the fact that the volume has already been approved by the general editor of the the project, Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, who is also an eminent historian. “As is the norm for publication, the general editor has already approved the manuscript and has sent his letter of approval to the member-secretary of the ICHR. Despite this, the ICHR unprecedentedly referred the manuscript to an expert panel, which raised objections to some portions of the book,” he said.

News18 had earlier reported that the expert panel, whose names have not been disclosed by the ICHR, has cast doubts over the credibility of the some documents related to some speeches of Hindu Mahasabha leader, and later Bharatiya Jana Sangh’s founder, Syama Prasad Mookerjee. “The other objections pertain to mention of a particular community for disturbances in Dacca on March 17, 1941, too much emphasis on farmers and labour movements and the overall communist tone of the volume,” the report noted. The manuscript contains important speeches made by and quotes from Hindu-right leaders like Mookerjee, V.D. Savarkar and B.S. Moonje, a possible reason the ICHR has deliberately delayed publication.

In June this year, Dev wrote to the ICHR chairman Y. Sudershan Rao seeking an explanation on the council’s delay in forwarding the manuscript to the Oxford University Press and also asking why his manuscript was sent to another expert panel after it was approved by the general editor. “You see,” said Dev, “seeking the opinions of unknown experts is a departure from the convention, from the already laid down procedures. Moreover, the so-called experts’ comments had no academic value. The comments betrayed a complete lack of literacy in reviewing a manuscript.”

“My manuscript is a mere compilation of documents written by political parties, the government and different leaders in 1941. None of it is my analysis. By delaying the publication, the ICHR is keeping important information outside public domain,” added Dev. He further said that the second part, which may have rubbed the ICHR the wrong way, does not single out only Hindu nationalists but also contains detailed documents about the Muslim League and other associations. “Even if we leave that aside, there are significant details about the nationalist movement in princely states, an area which has not seen much historical research. The documents can create new areas of research for historians. It is a pity that the ICHR has not sent it to the press,” said Dev… read more:

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