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|October 18, 1999||
RSS tightens grip on autonomous higher education
Josy Joseph in New Delhi
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is tightening its grip on autonomous higher education, with the return of Dr Murli Manohar Joshi as human resource development minister.
This will end the decades of liberal and leftist influence on institutes, allowing new projects in keeping with Hindutva ideology, sources said.
Indicating his plans on the very first day of his second stint as HRD minister, Dr Joshi ordered the appointment of two pro-RSS academics as chairmen of the Indian Council of Historical Research and the Indian Council of Social Studies Research. Sources said more such appointments are expected in the immediate future in other institutions, including the National Book Trust.
According to reliable sources, Dr Joshi is expected to announce the appointment of a friendly litterateur as vice-chairman of the NBT, while the already appointed office-bearers of other institutions will go ahead with the execution of some 'controversial' decisions.
Sitakant Mahapatra, a former culture secretary and an old friend of Joshi, is among those in the race for the NBT's vice-chairmanship.
Last Friday, his very first day in office, Dr Joshi appointed B R Grover as ICHR chairman and Dr M L Sondhi as chairman of ICSSR. Grover is a former director of the ICHR whose RSS sympathies are well known. He was one of the historians who supported the RSS claim that a temple existed where the Babri Masjid stood. He is also reportedly one of the historians helping the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the RSS prepare evidence on the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case.
Sondhi is a known Bharatiya Janata Party sympathiser who was once elected to the Lok Sabha on a Jan Sangh ticket. A former Indian Foreign Service Officer, Sondhi took to research while in service. He is a favourite of the RSS lobby.
With the two appointments, the premier institutions on history and social studies are now dominated by the BJP. During the last government, Dr Joshi had reconstituted their councils with RSS sympathisers, leading to an outcry from liberal and leftist intellectuals.
The new ICHR had already decided to bring back into circulation a banned edition of the first part of the Towards Freedom series, which includes several unsavoury remarks about some freedom fighters, including the late D P Mishra, father of the prime minister's principal secretary Brajesh Mishra.
Towards Freedom 1937-47, Volume I: Experiment with Provincial Autonomy, 1 January to 31 December 1937 was edited by Dr P N Chopra, an RSS supporter.
The book claims that D P Mishra kidnapped and raped a Muslim girl in 1937. It also makes slanderous allegations against some other leaders. A letter, purportedly written by Gandhiji to Indira Gandhi, saying that she must have "grown quite plump by now" too figures in the book.
The ICHR council has also decided to translate the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan series on history, which historians believe is an outdated and communal version of Indian history.
In the University Grants Commission, the government has taken two controversial decisions after the elections were declared. Dr Joshi appointed Dr Hari Gautam, former vice-chancellor of Benares Hindu University, to the chairman's post, despite major allegations having been made against him. Gautam too is a known RSS sympathiser.
Some people, including members of the former Lok Sabha, approached the Election Commission on the appointments, but no action was taken.
A few days after Dr Gautam was appointed, the member secretary of the UGC was sent back to his original department.
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