Indian Council of Historical Research
ICHR was established by the Indira Gandhi Government in 1972 to encourage ‘objective and scientific historical research on India’. The idea was to expect the historians to give vision to the masses. It’s a registered society. In recent times, it has been making news for wrong as well as right reasons.
ICHR, located in New Delhi, provides financial assistance and fellowships to young history teachers and funds R&D projects in Indian History. It also provides a forum for historians to come together by providing financial assistance for holding symposia, seminars, workshops, etc for exchanging views related to history.
Two journals Indian Historical Review and Itihas (in Hindi) are brought out by ICHR biannually. It also houses a Library-cum-Documentation Centre exclusively for research historians.
ICHR also maintains two regional centres at Guwahati and Bangalore.
Contribution to Historical Research
No one can deny the role played by ICHR in the historical research. It has funded several historical projects which otherwise could not have sustained. It organizes and sponsors seminars, workshops, conferences for promotion and utilization of the historical knowledge. It has done remarkable works to collect source materials in the form of inscriptions, translation of important and rare books, preparation of catalogues, editing the texts, seminal works on political and social movements in the country, preparation of statistical data and preparation of old Zamindari records.
Controversies around ICHR
ICHR has been amid controversies for several reasons. The ICHR brings a journal “Indian Historical Review” biannually. This journal has good reputation and is few among Indian Journals that feature in Thomson Reuters list. ICHR started making rounds in Mainstream media when the advisory panel for its journal with its ’21 eminent historians from around the world’ (including noted left-leaning historians such as Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib etc. ) was abolished after the council was reconstituted. The Council is supposed to be constituted every three years and this time it was NDA Government in centre when the reconstitution took place. The NDA Government created a sub-committee of council members who would further decide if ICHR journal needs an advisory panel. This was something going against the tide and triggered controversy whereby most of the historians opposed government decision. It has more to do with the conflict of the left-leaning and right-leaning ideologies rather than true historical research.
The right leaning people allege that for several decades, the ICHR has been a supporting haven for unworthy leftist historians who just sponge off the government money in the name of research. This allegation makes sense due to the fact that many of the projects (such as Towards Freedom) are going on for decades, resulting in loss of exchequer. Several inquiry committees were established to look into these irregularities at ICHR.
However, the left leaning scholars and previous members allege that Government is doing saffronization of the council by appointing members and chairman (who has resigned now for personal reasons) closely associated with RSS.
Further, some argue that better work in history writing and research could have been done by the history departments of state and central universities and due to continuous irregularities, its right time to close the shop of ICHR itself. We note here that in 2004, the Staff Inspection Unit (SIU) had recommended reducing staff at ICHR.