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Buying peace, ICHR chief opts for white paper
Buying peace, ICHR chief opts for white paper

Observer Political Bureau
The Observer Of Business And Politics
February 23, 2000

Title: Buying peace, ICHR chief opts for white paper
Author: Observer Political Bureau
Publication: The Observer Of Business And Politics
Date: February 23, 2000

Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) chairman Prof. B R Grover announced on Tuesday that the Council would be issuing a 'white paper' on the recent controversy dogging the 'Towards Freedom Project' as also the relevant documents and the mounting expenditure'.

He said the 'hue and cry' raised by Prof. Sumit Sarkar and of K N Panikkar were 'unwarranted' as as early as September, 1998 it was decided that future publications, including those sent to the press, would be "examined" by an expert committee.

Prof. Grover, along with two other members of the review committee, Prof. Satish Mittal and Prof. I R Khan, also said the earlier' books published in the series had 'violated' the norm, governing the series and it was consequent to complaints voiced from certain scholars that decision was taken to re-call the books for 'streamlining' the series.

Briefing mediamen, Prof. Grover said, "more than Rs 4 crore has been spent on the project which has produced only 3 books. Other than that, the guidelines were changed by the former chairman of the ICHR from the original guidelines' of "arranging the documents in chronological order with a comprehensive index o the model of transfer of power documents to a thematic arrangement" where "each editor was given freedom to identify his own theme". "This change brought in an element of subjectivity and bias", he said.

Moreover, Prof. Khan argued that the volumes by P S Gupta covering the years, 1943-44, which were published in September, 1997 was "contained 3,500 pages, way beyond the 1,500 page stipulation and did not contain a name and subject index, which were absolutely essential, nor did part two and three contain any contents."

However, Prof. Khan said, "the most important lacuna was that it was the biased and lop-sided approach towards the selection of edited documents which was noticed by us".

In our view, Prof. Grover said the decision was taken way back in September, 1998 that all future volumes will be reviewed by an expert committee".

They cited a letter written by former chairman of the ICHR Prof. S Settar to the general editor of the 'Towards Freedom' series S Gopal on February 1, 1999, in which the former chairman expressed his reservations about the quality of some of the published volumes, saying, "there is some amount of concern among senior scholars, whom I believe to be objective in their evaluation and constructive in their criticism, about the volumes published so far".

"The volume of Prof. P S Gupta has raised eyebrows of many for the major body of work has been drawn form one source... even the volumes of Prof. Gupta are impressive in terms of quantity, but its quality seems to have evoked some concern already. I do not know the quality contents of the other volumes which are in the press or nearing complaining", he had said.

Explaining the point further, Prof. Grover said in one of the volumes on the Quit India Movement while the "Communist Party has been accorded 150 pages, Mahatma Gandhi's contribution has been reduced to a footnote, and thereby according a mere 49 pages". He said while the 'eminence' of Prof. Sarkar and Prof. Panikkar "cannot be doubted the same cannot be said about their biases."

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