Noted archaeologist and professor emeritus at Cambridge University Dilip K Chakrabarti has claimed that there is a “deliberate effort” by his colleagues at the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) to keep him out of its meetings.
The ICHR was reconstituted by the NDA government nine months ago and Chakrabarti was among the 18 new historians appointed by the Human Resource Development Ministry to its top panel. On September 23, the council held a meeting in Delhi where it was decided that the body would pursue two new research projects, including one on mapping the country’s scientific achievements starting from the Vedic era up to the 18th century. A resident of Cambridge, Chakrabarti could not attend this meeting.
Speaking to The Indian Express from the UK, the archaeologist attributed his absence to “discrimination” by the council. The ICHR, he said, did not offer to bear his travel expenses even though it does the same for other members coming to the Capital from other parts of the country to attend meetings.
“I raised this issue a few months ago, but haven’t heard from them. I’m surprised, what kind of people are running this thing (ICHR)? This is a joke. I feel this is being done deliberately. They can’t kick me out of the council, so they are trying to keep me out of its meeting. That’s my impression,” he said.
Asked why he suspects a deliberate design, the noted archaeologist said, “I have raised many questions about the working of the ICHR and called for more transparency. That can make vested interests uncomfortable.”
The reconstituted panel of the ICHR has held two meetings this year. Chakrabarti, who was present at the first meeting, said he was “coincidentally visiting India then”.
At that meeting, in March this year, Chakrabarti had flagged the need for structural reforms in the ICHR. He had also questioned the purpose served by the ICHR’s nearly defunct regional centres, and lambasted the body for inviting “vedic teacher” David Frawley (and not an academician) to deliver the Foundation Day lecture.
ICHR Chairman Y Sudershan Rao said the confusion over Chakrabarti’s travel expenses stems from the fact that records show his residence address in Delhi. “The matter has been referred to the HRD Ministry, and their response is awaited,” he said in an email response to The Indian Express.
About Chakrabarti’s allegations of discrimination and a deliberate effort to keep him out of meetings, Rao said, “We all felt his absence (on September 23). We could not benefit from his erudition and rich experience in our deliberations. However, we have been consulting him on all major issues and seeking his guidance quite often.”
Rao added, “The modern communication system has shrunk the world into a tiny village and, on the other hand, thrown the individuals apart, creating a sea of silence among them. We very much look forward to his association with us in all our pursuits. I expect that this problem will be resolved soon.”
Chakrabarti said there was a “general silence about the details of the working of the ICHR”. “There should be a printed annual volume in which everything important should be clearly spelt out, like the details of all kinds of fellowships and grants awarded and who set the question papers for fellowship examinations. I’m a member of the council but I don’t know anything about my colleagues, where they have studied or what research they have done. People should know what kind of researchers are there.”
Chakrabarti is respected both by the RSS and Marxist historians for his peer-reviewed works on history. He is known for his studies on the early use of iron in India and the archaeology of Eastern India. He is also associated with the Vivekananda International Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank started by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, which has given the present Central government some of its most significant and strategic appointees.