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Leftist historians and intellectuals afraid of accountability

Leftist historians and intellectuals afraid of accountability

Rajvir Sharma
The Organiser
March 5, 2000
Title: Leftist historians and intellectuals afraid of accountability
Author: Rajvir Sharma
Publication: The Organiser
Date: March 5, 2000

It has become customary with the political and academic forces opposed to the 'Sangh Parivar' to criticise each and every action of the new regime at any level as an effort to saffronise politics and academics. The two recent most examples are the opposition to the decision to review the Constitution taken by the government and the decision taken by the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) to review the work 'Towards Freedom'. The question that bothers a neutral observer in the present situation is whether there is some truth in the accusations levelled or these ideas are merely a product of fear psychosis of the so called 'renowned' leaders and 'eminent' historians, i.e. is it their obsession With the 'Sangh Parivar' that compels them to say what they say or that they are really doing something which should not have been done? On the face of it, most of criticism is apparently unfounded and appears to be motivated by vested political and academic interests.

Influenced by deprivation

It is a well known fact that the Congress party and their leftist associates have been the beneficiaries of various schemes and projects (political or academic) for a very long period of at least four decades irrespective of whether the government was run by the Congress itself or the National Front or the United Front, etc. They were being partronized by the state. Now, it appears, the same beneficiaries are not able to swallow the reality of the change of guards at the Centre and are feeling completely left out. They are nursing a sense of deprivation and, therefore, perfectly in consonance with their tactics and strategies, are crying hoarse with a false hope of discrediting the government and its actions in order to get rid of the present regime to regain their past position. It is with this approach that they are trying to create dissonance within- the members/partners of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) by raising the issues of the hidden agenda known only to them or the issue of RSS or saffronisation. So far they have met with frustration as their. moves appear to be very well understood by the NDA.

Double Standards

It has again become conventional with the Congress, and its natural allies in the left (political or intellectual) to bring in the issues of democracy, free flow of information, national unity and integrity while working against the same principles. The renowned academicians (read hidden leftists) denounce the proposal for review of the Constitution which is a legitimate exercise to look back upon our experiences in the last 50 years, though many of them were partners in the exercise and approval of the wholesale amendment of the Constitution in 1976. Another example of hypocrisy of the left is their opposition to the decision of the ICHR to review the work done by the two known leftist academicians on freedom struggle and justifying simultaneously the similar decision taken earlier in the case of Dr P.N. Chopra. Let us examine this duality in somewhat more detail.

The Arguments

The left and their ilk are advancing the following arguments in their support: one that their work was already approved by the ICHR and therefore, the decision to reopen the issue and subject it to scrutiny again is motivated. True, but was it not a matter between the left parivar that the work was cleared? The earlier chairman was, let it be known, Prof Irfan Habib, not only a renowned leftist but also an "eminent" scholar. So where was the hitch. Secondly if they are so sure of the quality of their product, why are they so afraid of a scrutiny by another set of people? There appears more than what is visible in the opposition to this decision. Should they be permitted to carry on party propaganda in the name of scholarly historical work? The place given to Mahatma Gandhi and the CPI as is reported by the ICHR is a pointer in that direction. Should such efforts be allowed to go on uninterruptedly, as in the past, all in the name of high quality research? These are the majority questions that have been raised by the present day ICHR.

The second argument is that the present chairman has deliberately decided to get the work reviewed in order to give a pride of place to the RSS leaders in the freedom struggle where they have played no role. Is their view not tantamount to having a person hanged without trial? In addition it also speaks volumes about their prejudices and biases against the RSS' role in the struggle for Independence of the country. Otherwise, would it not be desirable to wait for the outcome of the review and, as true historians, participate in a debate if they think that the additions were factually wrong. Is it not their fear that they will loose the battle of debate that they want the decision to be withdrawn and save themselves from exposure?

The third argument is that Dr P.N. Chopra's work was withheld by the earlier chairman because he found. the work 'inadequate'. Doesn't this argument look really funny and illogical in the given case. In Chopra's case the judgement of one individual on adequacy or otherwise of the work was a 'secular' decision to promote national unity and integrity whereas the present decision is rooted in communal agenda of the HRD Ministry! The leftisation of history is in the national interest and the proposal even to peep into the pages of history written by them, is anti-national! This argument is difficult to believe by a detached and uninterested student of history or even by a common citizen of the country who has a right to know in all its aspects and dimensions, interpretations and understandings. For an apolitical citizen unidirectional writings and interpretations may not be always an act of eminence. Let others also have their say without any hindrance or ideological oppositions in a democratic polity and a society which is being supported to have a right to information and transparency.

The Reality

The fact behind all these agitations, it appears, is the growing emphasis by the new regime on accountability along with academic autonomy. The academic projects and their costs are being subjected to scrutiny which may expose many of the so called eminent intellectuals. They are, hence, following the principle of offence is the best defence. Will they succeed? Or truth will take its own course?

(The author is Reader in Political Science, A.R.S.D. College. University of Delhi.)

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