Noted archaeologist Dilip K Chakrabarti’s membership in the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) appears to be in trouble as the government has refused to finance his travel from Cambridge to India to attend the Council’s meetings.
The ICHR was reconstituted by the NDA government a little more than a year ago and Chakrabarti, professor emeritus at Cambridge University and an archaeologist respected both by RSS-aligned and Marxist historians for his peer-reviewed works, was among the 18 new historians appointed by the HRD Ministry to its top panel. A resident of Cambridge, Chakrabarti is the only Council member living abroad.
According to sources in the Finance Ministry, the Department of Expenditure (DoE) is learnt to have recently communicated its disapproval of the proposal to grant Rs 4 lakh a year for Chakrabarti’s travel. The DoE instead suggested that he should participate in the meetings through video conferencing. This was reportedly communicated to the HRD Ministry last week.
Chakrabarti could not attend ICHR’s last meeting on September 23, 2015. Alleging it was “discrimination”, he had told The Indian Express on October 5 last year that it was a “deliberate attempt” by the Council to keep him out of its meetings. The ICHR, he had said, did not offer to bear his travel expenses even though it does the same for other members coming to Delhi from other parts of the country to attend its meetings.
Chakrabarti is the only member who has been critical of ICHR’s functioning. HRD Ministry spokesperson Ghanshyam Goel did not wish to comment on DoE’s response.
Chakrabarti told The Indian Express that he has not been informed about this. “There is also no reason why the Finance Ministry should write to me. I did not apply. The application must have gone from the ICHR to the Ministry of HRD or to the Ministry of Finance,” he said.
On whether he will continue as a member of ICHR, Chakrabarti said, “Please note that I did not apply anywhere to be a member of the ICHR. The HRD Ministry put my name in the list (and) it is entirely up to them whether to keep my name on the list or not. I look after the ICHR academic journal in English (which) I have been doing by emails.”
ICHR member-secretary S K Aruni was not available for comment.