New Delhi: It has been two years since the final manuscript was submitted. And yet there are no signs on whether the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) will publish anytime soon one of its most contentious and oldest special research projects dealing with the role of Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League in pre-partition India.
The second part of the Towards Freedom volume, dealing with developments in 1941, has been authored by historian Arjun Dev who alleges that the delay and disinterest in its publication “may be because it documents the communal politics of the BJP’s ancestor — The Hindu Mahasabha”.
In his letter to the then ICHR chairman Y Sudershan Rao on June 23, 2017, Dev had sought an explanation on the council’s failure to forward the manuscript to the Oxford University Press for publication.
The volume enumerates the sources and documents regarding the politics of the Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha and quotes the speeches and writings of SP Mukerjee, VD Savarkar and BS Moonje.
The manuscript was submitted on August 1, 2015 following the communication from the General Editor Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, “conveying his approval of the manuscript for publication,” the letter reads.
Dev was also the coordinator of the Towards Freedom Project till 2015. He was appointed during UPA regime.
Towards Freedom documents India’s march to freedom in the run up to Independence in 1947. The research project was commissioned in early ’70s.
Two of its volumes were withdrawn by Vajpayee government in 2000. The project was re-started by Arjun Singh after UPA’s return to power in 2004.
Dev also alleges that “in violation of norms the manuscript were sent to unknown experts for their comments” despite the general editor being vested with full powers to clear the manuscript for publication.
Some of the objections raised by the “unknown experts” have cast doubts over the authenticity of the documents quoted in the manuscript dealing with “Communal Situation in Bengal” and speeches delivered throughout the province, as a part of the Hindu Mahasabha campaign by Dr SP Mukerji.
The other objections pertain to mention of a particular community for disturbances in Dacca on March 17, 1941, too much emphasis on farmers and labour movements and the overall Communist tone of the volume.
“I was shocked to read the comments on my manuscript. Such lack of literacy in reviewing, there was no academic value at all in the comments made. A body of such importance in historical research could not find experts who could review it sensibly,” says Arjun Dev.
Former chairman Y Sudershan Rao does not comment on why expert comments were sought by the ICHR, but insists that the council lost no time to process the manuscript submitted by Prof Arjun Dev.
“It was sent to the Chief Editor, Prof Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, former Chairman ICHR, for his final clearance. Despite many gentle reminders, the approval was not received till I relinquished my office. All those who are making it an issue are aware of this,” Rao adds.
Arjun Dev is far from convinced. “The volume has been subject to apathy and disinterest, even after the review there was no communication on what is to be done after the expert comments and my reply to there objections. There seems to be apathy on the part of the general editor as well, which I think, suits the council," he says.