ICSSR chief saffronising institution: Left scholars

NEW DELHI, SEPT. 2. Several Left-wing academics have questioned the ``propriety'' of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) to invite the BJP president, Mr. Bangaru Laxman, to deliver the first Deen Dayal Upadhyay Memorial Lecture here recently.

A long report of the lecture in the RSS mouthpiece, Organiser has attracted a great deal of attention in academic circles with the Left scholars accusing the ICSSR chairman, Prof. M. L. Sondhi of ``saffronising'' the institution.

They recalled that this confirmed their apprehension that Prof. Sondhi's appointment as chairman was a part of the Sangh Parivar's plan to ``take over'' academic institutions. A former BJP MP, Prof. Sondhi has been closely associated with the BJP, and its forerunner, the Jana Sangh.

Prof. Neera Chandoke, head of Delhi University's political science department, said it was ``very unfortunate'' that the inaugural lecture of a proposed research centre- the Deen Dayal Institute of Social Justice- should have been delivered not by an academic but by a practising politician.

The setting up of the Institute itself, she said, was ``questionable'' considering that the ICSSR's existing centres were starved of funds. ``It would have been better to strengthen their existing centres rather than put in money into a a new institute'', she pointed out. Clearly, it was a political decision.

Prof. Chandoke said it would be ``interesting'' to find out who the faculty members were and what exactly the institute proposed to do.

Prof.C.P.Bhambri of Jawaharlal Nehru University said the ``glowing'' report in Organiser was a ``give-away'' and established the ICSSR- RSS ``nexus''. ``It is a blatant misuse of a state-funded autonomous institution,'' he said, pointing out that he was hard put to recall such a thing happening at ICSSR before the new regime took over.

``In the past few months, the ICSSR has become the most happening thing for the BJP leaders and its Ministers,'' he said.

A Left historian associated with SAHMAT said the ICSSR's decision to institute a lecture in the memory of the leader of a particular party was ``highly objectionable''. The ICSSR, he said, was funded with public money and it had ``no business using it to promote personality cults''.

Critics argued that while the BJP and RSS were free to propagate the ``ideals'' of their leaders, they had no right to use government money for it.

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