Pune University postpones Indian History Congress


first_imgThe 79th session of the Indian History Congress (IHC) that was to be held in the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) between December 28 and 30 has been “indefinitely postponed” by university authorities allegedly due to a shortage of funds.The university put up a statement on its website on Wednesday.The IHC, considered the premier body of academic and professional historians in the country and which boasts a membership of over 7,000 academics, said it was “shocked” and “deeply disappointed” at the university’s last-minute decision.On Thursday, SPPU organising committee member professor Radhika Seshan said that the ‘Khelo India’ programme scheduled between January 9 and 20, 2019, in the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex at Balewadi, meant that the facility would be unavailable for housing delegates coming to the IHC.“We have asked the IHC for a postponement till February or March owing to shortage of funds and because of the Khelo India programme. The loss of the Balewadi Sports Complex means that we would have to arrange for hotels to house the delegates. This would add to our costs,” she said.Though the IHC was scheduled in advance, she said that the neck-to-neck schedules of the congress and the ‘Khelo India’ event was the reason given by authorities for not making the Balewadi facility available to the SPPU. Ms. Seshan denied suggestions of any ‘political pressure’ on the university to host the IHC.Over 2,000 delegatesMore than 2,000 delegates from across India were expected at the Congress. According to SPPU authorities, the cost of hosting an event at this scale would come to ₹1.5 crore.“It is a matter of pride for us and we would still be happy to host. We hope that the IHC’s executive committee will agree to our request for a postponement,” Ms. Seshan said. When asked if the varsity would be able to secure funds if the IHC agreed to a postponement, she said that the organising committee had the full support of the SPPU.In a note put up on the IHC website on Wednesday, Professor Mahalaxmi Ramakrishnan, secretary, IHC said: “We had received an email from [university authorities] on the night of December 11 which said that due to financial difficulties and lack of arrangements for accommodation of delegates, they have at the last moment taken this unilateral decision. This morning [December 12], the website of SPPU carried the announcement of the postponement of the IHC, without the approval of the executive committee (EC) of the IHC. We have written to the Vice-Chancellor of SPPU expressing our deep anguish and asking him to ensure that the local delegate fee is returned immediately to the members.”Ms. Ramakrishnan further said that the IHC regretted that its members were being put to great inconvenience at this late hour but assured them that the 79th session of the congress would be held at a future date, the dates and venue of which would be duly conveyed to all members.Ms. Seshan, however, said that most delegates had not yet asked for the fee refund and had inquired about future dates.The IHC, which prides itself with the promotion and encouragement of the scientific study of Indian history, has often taken a critical stance in the past towards attempts at rewriting history on the basis of myth.The Congress met for the first time in 1935 in Pune city under the auspices of the Bharat Itihas Sanshodhak Mandal and on the initiative of the renowned historian, Professor D.V. Potdar.A strong link with the city constituted the rationale for the congress to be held in Pune this time. Distinguished historians from Maharashtra and Pune including Professor D.V. Potdar, G.H. Khare and Prof. H.D. Sankalia among others have served as past presidents of the IHC.The history body’s link with Maharashtra is further exemplified by the fact that the most prestigious prize that the IHC awards is named after V.K. Rajwade, the great Maratha archivist and historian of King Shivaji.Delhi-based historian of modern political history, S. Irfan Habib in a tweet said, “Shocking to know that Savitri Bai Phule university in Pune suddenly decided not to host the 79th Indian History Congress session. IHC session was supposed to be held by the end of this month. Law and order issues are cited as one major reasons by the university host.” SPPU authorities, however, categorically repudiated speculation about having sent the IHC any previous communication expressing reservations about hosting the congress owing to a potential ‘law and order situation’.last_img