People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
Presidents Message To Indian History Congress
Below we reproduce the text of the message sent by president of India, Dr K R Narayanan to the 62nd session of the Indian History Congress, held in Bhopal.
EXPLORATION and study of history is a fascinating exercise with relevance and consequences for own time and our future. As those who forget history are at the grave risk of repeating it, the reconstruction of the past through the study of this subject without prejudice to facts is of utmost importance. "History," in the words of Jawaharlal Nehru, "is a living process." However remote and antiquated the events may be, the deep recesses of history are still throbbing with sensation of that period with a bearing on our contemporary life and our living process. Understanding, interpretation and rumination of the past, therefore, must be consistent with the facts without impairing truth and veracity. Departure and deviation from this will reduce history to fiction, spelling dangerous consequences for the country. Eminent scholar Eric Hobsbawm had pointedly written, "I used to think that the profession of history, unlike that of say nuclear physics, could at least do no harm. Now I know it can. Our studies can turn into bomb factories This state of history affects us in two ways. We have a responsibility to historical facts in general and for criticising the politico-ideological abuse of history in particular." Our "responsibility to facts," therefore, must be paramount, regardless of their being bitter or sweet so that history is not abused for political and ideological purposes. Besides, we have to understand, as the great statesman Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor of Germany, had remarked, "The politician has not to revenge what has happened, but ensure that it does not happen again." We in India have the tradition established by eminent historians who have painstakingly written history on the basis of facts and evidence for the benefit of school students, serious scholars and the society as a whole. We have to keep this tradition. The Indian judiciary, in a remarkable judgement in the Bombay High Court in the Anant Janardan Vs State, observed in 1967, "It is the right and privilege of every thinker to express his judgement on historical events in a fearless manner. Otherwise, we will not get a true and faithful history of our country. History is not to serve as a handmaid of a particular school of thought. History must be impartial and objective. To rewrite the history according to the views which are popular or which are necessary for bolstering up nationalistic egoism or jingoism, is perversion of history." Established scientific tradition of writing history in our country and the observation of the judiciary on the subject can be a guide to us in this regard.
I am glad that the 62nd session of the Indian History Congress is being organised in Bhopal from December 28, 2001, at a time when there are widespread apprehensions about the correct interpretation of our history. The rich traditions of the congress in deepening our understanding of history in correct perspective will be of great value in dispelling such apprehensions. I am sure that the deliberations of the congress will be meaningful and useful in this direction and contribute to the scientific and rational understanding of our historical traditions. On this occasion I have great pleasure in extending my greetings and good wishes to the participants and the organisers for the success of the congress.