Monday, Aug 15, 2022

In Which Mr Haridas Edged Out Mrs Haridas

Out go Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, a host of solid domain specialists. The new panel is more of a who’s-that than a who’s-who of history.

In Which Mr Haridas Edged Out Mrs Haridas Tribhuvan Tiwari

Reign Gods

  • Chairman Yellapragada Sudershan Rao ignores then member-secretary Gopinath Ravindran’s recommendation of 18 historians for new council, the HRD ministry approves an entirely new list of names
  • Of the 18 council members, five are accommodated in the editorial board and 13 in the advisory committee of the journal Indian Historical Review. Historically, IHR advisory committee members are not members of council to retain objectivity and independence
  • Most advisory committee members are RSS ideologues, not historians and few have credible publications
  • The new chairman has been authorised to constitute committees at his own discretion
  • While the former council had restricted the powers of the chairman in giving discretionary research grants, there is now a move to restore those powers
  • Council members with no research experience now constitute the research projects committee of the ICHR


The way things are going, ICHR might soon have to start calling itself the Indian Council of Historic Blunders. First, in a case of mistaken identity evocative of Evelyn Waugh’s acclaimed 20th century novel Scoop, one V.V. Haridas was notified in the Gazette of India as a new member of the Indian Council of His­to­rical Research, tagged as a “professor of history in Calicut”. When the gentleman, perhaps a little tentatively, called ICHR to say how honoured he was for the privilege, realisation daw­ned that he wasn’t the Haridas who had been recommended by the ministry. V.V. has a bonafide PhD in history but teaches at Mangalore Uni­versity. And the one act­ually meant to be part of the council was a P.T. Haridas, a man who has no PhD. Later, the ICHR website got the name right, but listed him merely as “member”. Now, had such a list said “Irfan Habib, member”, no one would have had any doubt. But P.T. was an unknown, and much media speculation resulted—who he? “He is, in fact, part of the BJP family,” chuckles an outgoing member of the council. In the  end, ICHR updated its list with the CV, and it turned out he was indeed a former head of a history department at a Calicut college. But the fact that he was not a PhD was an irksome detail—and there actually was a brief deliberation over whether Mrs Haridas (who has a PhD) sho­uld be made council member instead. At any rate, the full academic bios of the 18 new members in the upd­ated ICHR list hardly set the Indus on fire.