People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 15

April 15, 2007

IHC Holds Successful Session In Kerala


From A Correspondent


THE Indian History Congress held its 67th annual session at the Farook College, Feroke, Kerala, on March 10-12, 2007. The session was attended by over a thousand delegates, with over 500 papers presented at its five sections and panels.


The inaugural session was held on March 10, with the Kerala chief minister V S Achuthanandan as the chief guest. In his address, Achuthanandan lauded the efforts that the Indian History Congress made in the defence of scientific and secular values at a time, when under the BJP’s rule, organisations like the NCERT and the Indian Council of Historical Research had been taken over by the communal forces. He expressed his own sense of happiness that the History Congress session was being held in Malabar, notable for its resistance to the Portuguese and for its active role in the freedom struggle. He particularly appreciated the fact that Farook College had come forward to host this session.


The general president of this session of the History Congress J V Naik traced the history of the quest for social justice in India down the centuries. He saw signs of this quest in Buddhism and the dhamma of Ashoka, in the composition of the low-class bhakti preachers, and in Akbar’s ideas of reason and reform. The latter part of his address was devoted to the elements of social reform in Renaissance Bengal and then in Maharashtra in the latter half of the nineteenth century. In his concluding remarks, he noted that “the history of social justice in this country is essentially the history of pain; it is the history of trials and tribulations of those who have suffered so much for so long.” But he argued that “we must revere the truth, however unpalatable it may be.” Only by so doing, but always in a responsible manner, the historian can help in the removal of age-long wrongs.


Presiding over the Ancient India section, Professor Ganapathy Subbiah in his address ‘Daksinapatha: Where does the Path lead us?’ discussed major questions relating to the early history of South India. He expressed some sympathy with the view that the religious controversy between the Buddhists and Jains, on the one hand, and ‘the Bhakti religion’, on the other, reflected “a class war between the land-owning community and the trading community for supremacy.” The president of the Medieval section, Professor Iqbal Husain, devoted his address to the sociological aspects of Afghan immigration in Medieval India. Professor Rajat K Ray in his address as president to the Modern India section, took issue with the Subaltern historians’ assumptions and mode of interpreting the nature of the national movement. In the section on countries other than India, Professor Ratneshwar Mishra’s presidential address dealt with the historical background to the problem of Madheshis in Nepal. Finally, in a comprehensive address, Professor Kishor K Basa, president of the section on Archaeology, set out the varying and complex approaches to archaeology and art history in colonial and nationalist discourses before 1947. As usual, all these addresses were distributed among the delegates in a printed form.


The S C Misra memorial lecture (on the evening of March 10) was delivered by Professor Suvira Jaiswal, who spoke on ‘the Making of a Hegemonic Tradition; the Cult of Rama Dasarathi’. She presented a critical examination of the changes in Brahmanical religious faith and ritual. This important text was also made available in a printed form by the Indian History Congress.


On March 11, the annual symposium of the History Congress had ‘Archaeology in India’ for its theme. Professors K Basa, Suraj Bhan and Irfan Habib participated in the symposium.


The History Congress also held a seminar on the Tilak’s 150th Birth centenary on March 11 and the Aligarh Historians’ Society (AHS) organised a panel on March 11-12 on ‘1857: the Indigenous Discourse’. Sixteen papers were presented at the AHS panel, with many eminent scholars participating. The papers were pre-circulated and will be published in a separate volume.


All the sections were throughout well attended, the largest number of papers being presented, as usual, in the Modern India section. Generally speaking to judge from the themes of papers appearing in the printed list, there is rising interest in women’s history, history of science and technology and tribal history. But the more conventional areas of economic, social and cultural history and the freedom movement continue to attract the bulk of research. Epigraphy, unfortunately, appears to be on the decline. One major important achievement of the History Congress is that the members’ papers, after a screening by referees, and with due editing, are regularly published in an annual volume. The volume of the papers at the 66th session was made available free to eligible members at this (67th) session.


The delegates were deeply impressed with the splendid arrangements made by the Farook College authorities. The college principal Professor Kuttiali Kutty was the local secretary, and Professor V Kunhali of Calicut University, the organising secretary. The state government of Kerala (with M A Baby as the minister of higher education taking great interest in assuring the success of the Congress) made a generous grant towards the expenses of holding the session; grants came also from the human resource development ministry, government of India, and the Indian Council of Historical Research. Assistance was also extended by the Calicut University, to which the Farook College is affiliated.


The business meeting of the Indian History Congress took place on March 12. It approved the reports of the secretary, Professor B P Sahu and the treasurer, Dr R P Rana. It unanimously passed three resolutions proposed by the executive committee. The first expressed concern at the undue interference of the bureaucracy in affairs of the Archaeological Survey, the National Archives and autonomous academic institutions like the ICHR. (See text of the Resolution in box).


The second resolution welcomed the government’s decision announced in parliament to provide Rs 3.2 crore for the restoration and preservation of the manuscripts at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune, which had been ransacked by vandals some time ago, provoking national outrage. The third resolution welcomed the passage and implementation of the Right to Information Act and demanded that on the same principles, all restrictions on use of government archives be relaxed. It supported the effort of the American Historical Association to remove restrictions on access to US archives that have been imposed after “the US aggression in Iraq and the so-called War on Terror.”


Professor Suvira Jaiswal was elected as the general president of the 68th session. The sectional presidents elected for the session are: Ancient India: Professor Somsunder Rao; Medieval India: Professor Ruby Maloni; Modern India: Professor Aditya Mukerji; Countries other than India: Professor Shamir Hasan; and Archaeology: Professor K Rajan.


The following were elected unopposed as members of the executive committee:


1. Prof. U.P. Arora (Bareilly)
2. Dr. S.N. Arya (Patna)
3. Prof. Arun Bandopadhyay (Kolkata)
4. Prof. Suraj Bhan (Rohtak)
5. Prof. Shashikant Bhat (Indore)
6. Dr. Susnata Das (Kolkata)
7. Prof. Dharmendra Kumar (Darbhanga)
8. Prof. V. Kunhali (Calicut)
9. Prof. Shireen Moosvi (Aligarh)
10. Prof. Subash Ch. Padhy (Ganjam)
11. Prof. Mahendra Pratap (Varanasi)
12. Prof. V. Ramakrishna (Hyderabad)
13. Prof. B. Surendra Rao (Mangala Gangotri)
14. Prof. Sandip Basu Sabadhikary (Santiniketan)
15. Prof. Mahua Sarkar (Kolkata)
16. Prof. B.K. Sharma (Kotah)
17. Prof. Joginder Singh (Amritsar)
18. Prof. C.P.N. Sinha (Bhagalpur)
19. Prof. G.J. Sudhakar (Chennai)
20. Prof. R.C. Thakran (Delhi)