Eminent historians are up in arms over the HRD ministry's appointment of additional secretary KM Acharya as acting chairperson of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) after the retirement of Professor DN Tripathi.
"The government has apparently deliberately withheld the appointment of his (Tripathy's) successor so that a bureaucrat may take over the organisation during the interregnum," said a joint statement by 20 historians on Friday.
Historians like Irfan Habib, Arjun Dev, DN Jha, RC Thakran and Amar Farooqui are among the signatories.
Urging the government to immediately appoint a historian of stature as chairperson of ICHR, the historians said no action should be taken by the acting chairperson to disturb either the present administrative arrangements at the ICHR or the programmes undertaken by the council.
ICHR is coordinating celebrations of the 150 years of India's first war of Independence against British rule. Some historians feel that the celebrations may be jeopardised because of the appointment of a bureaucrat. "He may not understand history like an expert and may act more on the directions of the government," said a former member of ICHR.
They also claim that the HRD ministry's move is against the basic principles of the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) which clearly mentions that there can be no compromise on the autonomy of institutions like ICHR, Indian Institute of Advanced Studies and Indian Council of Social Sciences Research.
This clause in the CMP was due to widespread allegations that the NDA government had violated the autonomy of ICHR. HRD minister Arjun Singh had appointed an inquiry committee headed by Professor Bandopadayay to look into the complaints. The committee, which found the allegations to be true, recommended that ICHR's autonomy be not compromised at any cost. Its recommendations were accepted by Singh and forwarded to ICHR for further action.
HRD ministry officials said Acharya's appointment is a temporary one till a new chairperson is selected.
Email Chetan Chauhan: chetan @hindustantimes.com