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Historian with a difference

After having held many prestigious posts, M.G.S. Narayanan is now chairman of the ICHR. He is in a class apart at a time when history is being `rewritten' by politicians. J. Ajith Kumar engages him in a chat.

"There cannot be history without differences,'' says M.G.S. Narayanan, chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR). Even though his nomination to this coveted post in July last year had raised some controversy, mainly in his home State of Kerala, it was by and large welcomed by academic circles all over the country.

A specialist in Ancient History, Dr. Narayanan could have been the obvious choice of the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, especially at a time when history is sought to be written and rewritten more by politicians than historians themselves.

`M.G.S.', as he is more popularly known in academic circles, was elected general president of the South Indian History Congress held at

Thiruvananthapuram last week. He was general secretary of the Indian History Congress during 1982-85. His association with the ICHR too is not altogether new. During 1990-92, he served as member-secretary of the ICHR, when Irfan Habib was its chairman.

He was professor and head of the Department of History in the Calicut University, from 1976 to 1990. In 1991, he served as Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow University.

It is believed that despite his proximity to the BJP, Dr. Narayanan is not a `hardliner'. He has himself made it clear that he is not a Marxist and that he is a believer in Hindutva to the extent that he is a Hindu and an inheritor of a great tradition.

Dr. Narayanan who has published nearly 50 research papers and authored many books, which include `Cultural Symbiosis in Kerala', `Aspects of Aryanisation in Kerala' and `Foundations of South Indian Society and Culture', is keen on the ICHR bringing out the remaining volumes of the `Towards Freedom' project- a fact that can possibly mollify the critics of the Union Government. Reacting to the allegations concerning this project, he observed that the Oxford University Press had been penalised for misleading the court.

MGS also discounted the claim of historian K. N. Panikkar, who was also chairman of the Kerala Council of Historical Research (KCHR), since disbanded by the State Government, that the editors of the different volumes of the `Towards Freedom' would bring out the issues on their own.

Welcoming the dissolution of the KCHR, Dr. Narayanan suggested the creation of a broad-based committee with eminent historians and representatives of universities and research institutions, to come up with plans to establish a permanent institute to promote historical research in Kerala.

On the `In Defence of History' project of the so-called pro-Left historians, MGS says - ``The self-proclaimed brahmins of history feel that they alone can write or re- write history.'' He called upon historians in the rest of the country to understand the situation instead of becoming the propagandists of the reactionary Marxists or pseudo-Marxist intellectuals of Kerala. He accused them of trying to distort history.

To divide India on the basis of race and religion had been the design of the colonialists of the pre-independence period. In the post- freedom era, the role of such imperialists has been taken over by the Marxists and so-called secularists. ``They have no mastery over Marxism or loyalty to the Marxian philosophy. They are only opportunists mouthing the name of Marx and thereby insulting him'', Dr. Narayanan says.

Photo: S.Gopakumar

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