A knowledge of the scriptures and ancient Indian folklore seems to be a preferred qualification for those being shortlisted for posts at the prestigious Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR). Among the 18 panelists proposed by the council’s chief Sudershan Rao are three historians who are office-bearers of the RSS’ Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana. All three have strong views on the validity of the scriptures as the foundation for historical theories in India. The names are now with the HRD ministry awaiting clearance. The fact that the RSS is pushing its people into various think-tanks and educational and cultural institutions goes without saying. But, it is up to the heads of such institutions to see that ideology does not come in the way of fact and proven research in the various fields.
It would be to stretch the imagination to expect that someone with a strong RSS background could be completely objective when it comes to history, considering that the organisation has definite views on the events that shaped our past. But the HRD ministry has to be impartial and rigorous in ensuring that the people chosen have the right credentials to merit inclusion in the council. If Left historians have been accused of rewriting history to suit their ideology, the Right-wing should not repeat the mistake. The prime minister has spoken of how it is merit and merit alone that qualifies a person for a particular position. This should be so in institutions like the ICHR, which are meant to produce works of a very high standard.
In a world made more equal and accessible than ever by the Internet, distortions of history will be caught out quickly. A coloured view of history, if allowed, is to do a disservice to those who have painstakingly researched and documented the past. Of course, there can be several interpretations of the facts of history, but the facts themselves cannot be changed or embellished. And ancient texts rooted in mythology cannot form the basis for historical research though they may provide useful insights into the events of those times. The professionalism which the NDA government is committed to should extend to all disciplines, especially history, which seems to attract the most controversy.