Candidates tested on insignificant details: resolution

The recent 71st session of the Indian History Congress, held at the Gaur-Banga University in Malda, West Bengal, has elected Professor B.B. Chaudhuri general president for the next IHC session to be held at the Punjabi University in Patiala from December 10 to 12.

The sectional presidents elected for the 72nd session are: Professors Ranabir Chakravarti (Ancient India), Pushpa Prasad (Medieval India), N. Rajendran (Modern India), Madhavi Thampi (Countries other than India), and D.P. Agrawal (Archaeology).

N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, has been chosen president of the section on Contemporary India.

The annual conferences of the IHC — the largest association of professional historians in South Asia — attract historians not just from the major university departments but also from smaller colleges. It provides a platform for teachers and researchers to exchange new research ideas. A notable feature of each session is the release of edited papers from the previous session.

The Malda session, held from February 11 to 13, was attended by 900 delegates, 750 of them from outside the State. Professor Aniruddha Ray delivered the presidential address, a survey of the medieval towns of Bengal. Over 600 papers were presented.

The congress passed two resolutions. The first referred to the nature of questions relating to Indian History in the General Studies papers set by the Union Public Service Commission in the last five years. They “are often not of a standard expected of so prestigious a test,” says the resolution. The questions are “poorly framed” and test the candidate in what are often insignificant details. It is “necessary that a proper review is undertaken of the way the questions are framed by UPSC relating to History, so that they do not appear to be just chance pickings from statements found here and there in certain textbooks, but serve as real tests of knowledge and understanding.” In the second resolution, the IHC criticised the recently altered by-laws of the charter of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML), New Delhi, the “premier institution in the country, besides the National Archives, for carrying out research in the history of the National Movement and of related aspects of modern Indian history.” The NMML by-laws had required that the Director be an “eminent scholar with specialisation in modern Indian history.” The resolution has termed “very unfortunate” the decision by the Government of India to replace the words “modern Indian history” with “social sciences,” “presumably in order to enable it to appoint a person who may not have earned any distinction whatsoever in the field of modern Indian history.”

The IHC asked the government to annul the recent change in the by-laws and urged that a search committee be constituted “in a manner that carries credibility within the scholarly world.”

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