ICHR plan of focusing on regional history is unidimensional | editorials | Hindustan Times
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ICHR plan of focusing on regional history is unidimensional

It is also important to ensure that such studies should not come at the cost of, say, research into Mughal history. It cannot be an either or situation: Mughal history or colonial history can, should, and does coexist with regional history. A balanced approach to historical research will provide a greater understanding of India’s eclectic traditions and varied historical strands of thought.

editorials Updated: Nov 02, 2017 19:07 IST
A screen grab of the Indian Council of Historical Research website.
A screen grab of the Indian Council of Historical Research website.

The Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) has approved research projects centered around regional “Hindu” dynasties. Senior officials told HT that such a move has been necessitated by the fact that Indian historians have ignored such research and have given primacy to the Mughal period. This is not entirely untrue. It is a fact that several dynasties, in various parts of India including the North East and South India, have not been studied as much as they should have been.

Still, history writing has always been political and the political messaging of these projects will be difficult to miss, especially because the National Democratic Alliance has made it clear that it wants to focus on India’s glorious ‘Hindu’ past, be it in science or the humanities that it claims has largely been ignored by researchers.

The list of projects cleared by ICHR includes one on the Ahom dynasty, which ruled Assam from the 13th to the early 19th century; another on the history of Indian science and technology; and a third on the Karkota dynasty of Kashmir, especially King Lalitaditya Muktapida.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. There is no harm in writing more about regional powers; history writing today is far more vibrant and will only become richer with new information and scholarship. Historians have always called for scrutiny of the Vedic corpus, the epics, the Buddhist canon and monastic chronicles, inscriptions, regional accounts and royal biographies as “new genres of history” to understand the past.

In India, ‘national history’ --- what we have read till now --- has been a product of a consensus, even though it was acknowledged that regions are the soul of India. There is no problem in going out of this ‘national history’ framework as it exists in our minds. Still, such studies should not stoke latent regionalism which is a real threat at least in some parts of the country.

It is also important to ensure that such studies should not come at the cost of, say, research into Mughal history. It cannot be an either or situation: Mughal history or colonial history can, should, and does coexist with regional history. A balanced approach to historical research will provide a greater understanding of India’s eclectic traditions and varied historical strands of thought.