Tampering with history

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Thu Jun 18 04:01:45 UTC 1998

In light of the on-going debate about the Aryan Migration Theory, I thought a
recent editorial (June 12, 1998) entitled Tampering with History from The
Hindu will be of interest to the scholars interested in archaeology,
revisionism in history, etc. I am quoting it below.

S. Palaniappan

"THE BJP GOVERNMENT'S decision to reconstitute the Indian Council for
Historical Research (ICHR), nominating persons who have supported the Sangh
Parivar's divisive campaign on the Ayodhya issue, suggests a disturbing effort
undermine the scientific temper that must serve as the basis for historical
enquiry. All the 18 nominated members who were hitherto part of the 25-member
Council - and all of them professional historians of repute - have been shown
the door. Even if it be true that they had completed their three-year term for
which they were appointed members of the Council and the prerogative for
making such appointments rests solely with the Ministry for Human Resource
Development, it is certainly cause for concern that most of those who have
been nominated were identified with the Sangh Parivar's partisan appropriation
and distorted representation of historical facts.

Leading the pack of the new nominees is Prof. B. B. Lal, a former Director-
General of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI); Prof. Lal had carried out
extensive excavations around the site where the Babri Masjid stood as part of
an ASI-sponsored project on the Ramayana sites; his initial conclusion was
that there was no evidence to suggest the ``historicity'' of the Ramayana from
the sites where he had carried out excavations. Yet, a few years later, when
the Ayodhya controversy was made into a vehicle for political mobilisation,
Prof. Lal began echoing the Sangh Parivar and even claimed to possess
``clinching'' evidence suggesting that the Babri Masjid stood on the ruins of
a Hindu temple. What is surprising in this case is that Prof. Lal did not care
to explain his ``new'' findings by way of facts obtained by him in the course
of the excavations. Interestingly, he even now refuses to hand over his field
diaries to the ASI and throw them open to fellow archaeologists; the field
diaries are an important source material for any serious and scientific
research in archaeology. Similarly, there are some known RSS pracharaks who
have been nominated members of the Council while historians of repute - all
those who had differed with the Sangh Parivar's views on Ayodhya as well as on
other aspects of historical research - have been refused renomination. This
suggests a more worrying game plan, given the Sangh Parivar's track record in
relation to the uses of history.

Apprehensions of this kind have been substantiated by a related decision. The
resolution by the Ministry for Human Resource Development - nodal Ministry
under which the ICHR comes - that details the new nominations carries with it
amendment to the Memorandum of Association by which the ICHR was set up;
while the institution was set up ``to foster objective and scientific writing
of history
such as will inculcate an informed appreciation of the country's national and
cultural heritage,'' the new Government's mandate is that the ICHR will give a
``national direction'' to ``an objective and national presentation and
interpretation of history.'' This amendment is certainly not just a matter of
semantics. Instead, one can clearly see in this an intention on the part of
the BJP-led Government to re-write history. The constitution of the ICHR
exclusively with members who endorse the Sangh Parivar's definition of
nationalism - its basis being exclusivism - and the related changes in the
objectives the ICHR must serve as clear indications of this larger project and
hence cause concern."

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