Indian historians, social scientists living abroad express concern over damage to ‘traditions of tolerance’

By TCN News

A group of about 190 historians and academicians of India working overseas addressed an open letter to the Indian authorities, including the Prime Minister, the President and the Chief Justice among others, expressing concern over recent happenings in India, which are affecting freedom of artistic expression and historical and social science inquiry.

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Scholars like Dibyesh Anand of University of Westminster, Akhil Bilgrami of Columbia University New York, Homi Bhabha of Harvard University, Cambridge, Ananya Chakravarti of Georgetown University, Wendy Doniger of University of Chicago, David Hardiman of University of Warwick, among others, believe the “currently reigning political attitudes and actions have seriously harmed the tradition of critical inquiry into the condition of India’s past and present that undergirded the country’s reputation of tolerance and democracy”.

“Irresponsible statements by political leaders, declaring that India is finally free from eight hundred or one thousand years of slavery, and that the glory of the Hindu nation will shine anew, are creating a sense of fear among millions of citizens now being defined as outsiders. What the present regime seems to be promoting, as our colleagues in India note, is a legislated account of the past, glorifying a homogenized and inflexible “Hindu” tradition. This denies the very inheritance that made the tradition exceptional: ongoing debate, a remarkable range of accepted beliefs and practices, and the necessity of change over time. Such a monolithic and flattened view of India’s history is not supported by the sources or by any serious historical inquiry.” The open letter said.

The open letter also lamented the waning of the tradition of intolerance, adding, “What makes the situation worse is that the Prime Minister and leaders of government have not felt it necessary to speak out promptly and strongly against these acts of criminal violence. “

The letter demanded the Governors, Ministers of different state governments, and the Chief Justice and other Justices of the Supreme Court and High Courts, to “uphold the law and the constitution, allowing free and fearless expression of views, ensuring security for all sections of society, and safeguarding the values and traditions of plurality that India has long cherished.”