Monday, September 5, 2011

Secular historian

R.S. Sharma (1920-2011) looked upon the discipline of history as a vehicle for combating obscurantism and evolving a scientific temper.

The passing away of Professor Ram Sharan Sharma on August 20 is an irreparable loss, not only for the world of history scholarship but for all those who envision and hope for a secular, rational and equitable India. There is hardly any aspect of early Indian history that has not been enriched by this renowned Marxist historian's penetrating analysis reinforced by a wealth of data. A prolific writer whose books have been translated into several Indian and foreign languages, he had an insatiable urge for work. When severe illness overtook him in the last few months, his only regret was that life had become meaningless as he was not able to read and write any more, notwithstanding the fact that his latest book, Economic History of Early India, was published by Viva Books this year. However, Sharma was no ivory-tower intellectual. He continued until the end to take an interest in what was going on around him and to encourage and advise historians and academics facing political confrontation to expose the manipulation of archaeological/ historical evidence by the protagonists of Hindutva. A man of unimpeachable integrity, his devotion to secularism and the scientific spirit was part of his being.

Sharma was born on September 1, 1920, in Barauni village of Begusarai, Bihar, to a poor family and received his primary education in the village school. He had to struggle hard to acquire higher education. After matriculation, he managed to join Patna College, where he studied for six years and obtained a master's degree in history in 1943. For a brief period, he worked as a lecturer in H.D. College, Ara, and T.N.B. College, Bhagalpur. He joined Patna College in 1946. He became the Head of the Department of History, Patna University, in 1958, a position he continued to occupy until 1973, when he joined the History Department of the University of Delhi as a Professor. He had been already appointed the first Chairman of the newly constituted Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi, a post he occupied from 1972 to 1977. He served Delhi University until his retirement in 1985 and was the departmental head for five years.

Full report here Frontline 

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