The chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), Yellapragada Sudershan Rao, has quit the post just 16 months into his term. Although the reason for his resignation is not clear, government sources attributed the move to the chairman’s unhappiness over being denied an honorarium of Rs 1.5 lakh per month.
When contacted, Rao confirmed that he put in his papers on November 24, but denied that the move was linked to the honorarium. “I am waiting for the communication from the government. I have nothing to say at the moment. I have resigned on personal reasons and not the reasons you are reporting,” Rao told The Indian Express.
Sources said that the resignation has neither been accepted nor rejected by the government.
In his resignation letter addressed to Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani, Rao stated: “I tender my apologies for causing this inconvenience midway to the government. I relinquish this office with some satisfaction that I could do some good work in ICHR during my term.”
The proposal to grant Rao an honorarium was first mooted during the 81st meeting of the General Council of ICHR on September 23.
According to the minutes of the meeting, all ICHR members “unanimously resolved” to recommend “the grant of suitable honorarium as a token of respect” for the chairman, and the proposal was forwarded to the HRD ministry for “consideration”.
Although the records do not mention any specific amount, sources said the Council sought an amount of Rs 1.5 lakh per month for Rao.
The post of ICHR chairperson is honorary and none of its previous heads have drawn any income for occupying the position. “Rao was aware of all this when he joined as chairperson. The government cannot suddenly change that. This was conveyed to him informally recently,” said sources.
Asked about the honorarium, Rao said, “There are two points here to clarify. Firstly, I did not hear a yes or a no from HRD (ministry) on this issue for you to say I have decided on those grounds. Secondly, the council passed the request to HRD, it was not my individual request.”
Rao is a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana, the RSS’s history wing, and former head of the Department of History and Tourism Management at Kakatiya University. He was appointed as ICHR boss for a term of three years in July 2014, in a controversial move that was criticised by historians such as Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib who questioned his academic credentials.
Rao’s views on using Mahabharata and Ramayana as valid sources for historical research had earlier attracted criticism, as also his 2007 blog post advocating the “merits” of the caste system.
At the ICHR, Rao’s term was eventful with the Council deciding to pursue two new research projects, including one on mapping the country’s scientific achievements starting from the Vedic era up to the 18th century. On his recommendation, the HRD ministry had also appointed three historians, all office-bearers of the Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana, to the council.