Historian accused of harassing girl students

NEW DELHI NOV. 13. After fielding accusations of tampering with history in school textbooks, historian Makhan Lal is now facing allegations of not just forcing students to learn history the "right'' way, but also harassing girl students in his capacity as director of the Institute of Heritage Research and Management here in the Capital.

The dissent reached a high point on Wednesday when students lodged a complaint with the Hauz Khas police station and announced that they would not attend any class till the historian is removed from the Institute.

Denying the allegation, Mr. Makhan Lal said his students had been misguided into a political game. "I have been in academics for nearly 27 years. Never in my life have I been accused of such charges. I have always upheld the dignity of a teacher's job and acted as a father figure for students. Why the students resorted to this is a mystery, but I will come out with the truth,'' he asserted.

Students say they have had to silently suffer the advances made by the director but decided to put their foot down after one of their teachers, Anand Burdhan, was asked to resign for inefficiency. "He happens to be the only one to take our classes properly and provide us with practical knowledge. Most of the other teachers teach us straight from photocopied books. Many good teachers were made to leave the Institute earlier too because they did not subscribe to the thoughts of the director,'' said students.

And while the method of teaching and the books given by the authorities have the students concerned, it is the director and some of the teachers' behaviour towards the girls that has them fuming.

There is also dissent among students about the quality of education being offered at the Institute. Affiliated to Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, the Institute is about three years old. Students allege that they neither get the best of teachers nor facilities as promised.

"We pay around Rs. 2,500 for computer facility and study material. But so far none of us has ever been allowed to use the net facility. We are not allowed to refer to Romila Thapar or any other author that the director believes is inclined to the Left. One of our teachers even went to the extent of stating that the demolition of the Babri Masjid was justified. If this is what conservation students are going to be taught, we don't know what we will end up learning,'' said a student.

The historian, however, said he would not be taking any action against any of the students or his erring colleague.