Learn from history
History is obviously of considerable importance to the BJP. Otherwise, it would not, every time it is in power, turn the Indian Council for Historical Research into a battlefield. Immediately after the present government came to power, the ICHR was reconstituted and a new chairman appointed. In a subsequent and a recent development, the entire advisory body of the Indian Historical Review (the journal that the ICHR publishes) has been removed. It so happens that among the removed advisors are some of India’s best historians—to name three, Romila Thapar, Muzaffar Alam and Richard Eaton. It will be no exaggeration to say that these three historians will be difficult, if not impossible, to replace in any advisory body that the new dispensation decides to appoint. There is, however, a more important point lurking behind this episode. Why should historians and history-writing become subjects of some kind of political vendetta? The writing of history—what the great historian, Marc Bloch called “the historian’s craft”—is a specialized professional activity. It follows that it should be left to historians and their peer group, and politicians should stay away from it. The craft of the historian thrives on debate and discussion among historians, and these arguments take place within the limits of an academic discourse and a general consensus that history-writing cannot establish, and should not aim to establish, one definite and incontrovertible truth. The politics of vendetta arises because of the insistence of some ideologically-driven individuals that their interpretation and version of history are the final word. It is undeniable that in the past the ICHR has been largely dominated by historians of a particular orientation. Those who cite this fact as evidence of bias deliberately overlook the point that Left-leaning historians were made members of the ICHR not because of their ideological predilections but because of their competence as professional historians and for their international peer-group recognition.
Bricks may yet beat clicks
This refers to the edit “Bricks versus clicks” (May 6). The biggest weapon in the armour of the brick-and-mortar retail stores is home delivery, free of charge for regular customers, of their daily needs. A regular customer gets even a packet of bread costing R20 at his home, which is not possible in case of online retail. Provision stores in malls set a minimum purchase amount, say, R1,000 and above, for home delivery even though it may be on the next day, whereas a small mom-and-pop store may deliver to one’s home an inexpensive product, and the relationship develops on a personal level. Of late, some brick-and-mortar big retail chains have started charging an amount for home delivery. The traditional brick-and-mortar stores are also gearing up to go online and thus capture the advantages of a dual presence. The brick-and-mortar stores have survived the entry of big retail chains and it would be no surprise if they withstand competition from online stores.
Deendayal M Lulla, Mumbai
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