KARNATAKA

Concern over delay in publication of ICHR book

DHARWAD April 15. Academics feel disappointed over the delay in the publication of the much awaited volumes on "Towards Freedom'' prepared for the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) by K.N.Panikkar and Sumit Sarkar.

This is how S.Settar, former Chairman of the ICHR, who cleared the volumes for publication during his tenure, reacted to news reports that a three-member committee constituted to review the volumes was unable to complete the work because of certain "missing" pages.

The attitude of his successor under whose aegis the volumes were temporarily withheld from publication, was unfortunate and disappointing, Dr. Settar said in a chat with The Hindu here on Tuesday.

His successor was discharging his duty more as a member of the party in power at the Centre with an intention of picking holes in whatever historians with secular credentials were doing, he alleged.

The issue had been needlessly dragged for 20 years and had been taken to its extremity in the process, making it difficult for the work to see the light of the day.

It was now up to the Chairman of ICHR to have a positive approach and reach out to scholars to sort out the difficulties, if any, and clear the work for publication, on which a huge expenditure had been incurred.

He should immediately convene a meeting of the ICHR to discuss the situation and the steps to be taken to retrieve the situation, Dr. Settar said. Scholars were waiting for long to study the work, he added.

On the reports that some of the pages of the work, including the introduction, prepared by Prof. Panikkar and Prof. Sen were missing, he said this could have happened at three stages.

The preface cold have been lost at the printing press, which he considered was unlikely, or the editors could have withdrawn it for personal reasons, which could be verified.

Or that somebody in the ICHR should have done the job, he suspected. Nothing could be ruled out in the circumstances, as any of the three things could have happened. It was for the Chairman of the ICHR to find out how this had happened, Dr. Settar said.

Another aspect to be considered, he said, was that "Towards Freedom'' was a special project, which had been wound up. There was a special section dealing with it in the ICHR, and unless steps were taken to transfer the responsibility to any other section after the special section was wound up, it would be difficult to get to the bottom of the developments, Dr. Settar said.

Dr. Settar said that it was the ICHR that had decided to constitute an editorial board, to which the responsibility of bringing out the volumes had been entrusted.

Once the work had been entrusted, the question of scrutiny or review of work did not arise. It was for the editors or the chief editor to make any changes. The problem had arisen because of the illness of the chief editor, S.Gopal.

Dr. Settar said that he never felt the need to look at the manuscripts as the editorial board had handled them, and he only cleared them for printing. Whatever was received was sent for printing, he said.

The job of the editor essentially lay in writing the introduction and giving focus to the issues involved and go over the selection of documents for inclusion in the volumes.

It would not be possible for the ICHR Chairman to go into the documents selected after the editorial board had done its job, he said. Dr. Settar said that he remembered having sent the entire material received for printing (before it was withdrawn in 2000).

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