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No space for Savarkar: Rajasthan University tells ICHR

Rajasthan University has now declined a request from the Indian Council for Historical Research to have a seminar on the Hindutva figurehead, after the Rajasthan Congress government removed "veer" from references to VD Savarkar from its textbooks

, ET Bureau|
Nov 12, 2019, 09.14 AM IST
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NEW DELHI: Days after the Rajasthan Congress government removed "veer" from references to VD Savarkar from its textbooks, Rajasthan University has now declined a request from the Indian Council for Historical Research, an autonomous academic body funded by the Government of India, to have a seminar on the Hindutva figurehead.

The event, part of a multi-city talk series planned by the ICHR, backed by the history-rewriting wing of the RSS affiliate, Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana, "The truth about Savarkar" was launched on Monday, on the occasion of National Education Day, commemorated every year on India's first education minister Maulana Abul Kalam Azad's birthday.

The talk series will mainly focus on "confronting lies about Savarkar and his writings on the 1857 war of independence", ICHR officials said.

Rajasthan university officials confirmed to ET that they had "declined" the request for space for the seminar as "certain aspects of Savarkar were deeply controversial". The other seminars of ICHR on Savarkar were to be held in Jaipur, Guwahati, Port Blair, Pune and some other cities.

"We had sought space and permission from the Rajasthan University to hold a talk series on Savarkar in their campus but they got back saying we could choose any other topic," an ICHR functionary told ET.

Pramila Poonia, head of the department of history and culture, Rajasthan University, told ET that they had not agreed when ICHR had presented them the proposal on hosting a seminar on Savarkar. "We didn't refuse entirely but we asked them for time for a month, and more details because we need to consult others on this. There are aspects of Savarkar that are controversial and we did not want any problem."

Recently, during the Maharashtra campaign, BJP had promised a Bharat Ratna for Savarkar that had led to a lot of debate. Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot had specifically criticised this, and had called the BJP "a party with a fascist ideology" with no regard for anyone's sentiment.

Balmukund Pandey of the ABISY, who looks after the Sangh Parivar's "rewriting history from the Indian perspective", project told ET that it is high time "the country got to know about the sacrifices made by Savarkar and his brothers". "His ideas are important for the country to be on the right track."

At the ICHR on Monday, four research professors talked about ways to "confront the character assassination" of Savarkar, particularly about his mercy petitions to the British, which they said "was typical of the language used by many leaders then".

"He was a trained legal mind who was aware of his rights, and he ended it every time saying if not him, at least his companions should be released", Raghuvendra Tanwar, professor, Kurukshetra University, told the audience, adding the conspiracy to keep Savarkar out of mainstream politics was designed by the British because, he, unlike Swami Vivekananda or Lok Manya Tilak looked at the political revival of Hindutva.

"He was the first leader who brought out the truth about the independence struggle of 1857 on a global platform with his book in 1909. For him, the essentials of Hindutva were the essentials of nationalism. We must never forget that Bhagat Singh had a lot of respect for him and was instrumental in getting his book published in Lahore."

Another speaker Himanshu Rai, who is a researcher at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, took on the writings of authors Tanika Sarkar, Shamshul Islam and AG Noorani, on Savarkar calling them "divisive". "The left always had a problem with him, because even in jail he started the process of Shuddhi, of encouraging prisoners not to convert..."

Rizwan Qaiser, professor, department of history, Jamia Millia Islamia, said it was inappropriate of the ICHR to honour Savarkar on Maulana Abul Kalam Azad's birthday.

"Azad was always very critical of the Sangh Parivar's divisive politics and in 1952, in Rampur, he openly blamed them for driving the Muslims to the corner which led to the partition. Savarkar's writings have always been exclusionary of the Muslims. Even his book on 1857 represents the struggle as a pan-India uprising which it was not. Some facts cannot be changed."
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