Pluralism and Visible Path (Pratyaksha Marga) and Early Indian Idea of Polity
I have been deeply touched by the very kind gesture of the Executive Committee of the Indian History Congress for the great honour they have done me by inviting me to preside over the Ancient India section of the Congress this year. I am acutely conscious of my many inadequacies for this honour. In fact my association with the Congress, on account of no other reason than my sedentary habits and indolence, has not been as close and regular as it should have been. I am indeed overwhelmed by the kindness of the Executive Committee. I only hope that this does not signify a depletion of scholarship in the discipline of history in the country because this is one thing we can ill-afford at the present juncture.
We are meeting at a critical time—critical from several angles. One does not need to dilate on this theme; it is only too clear to all sensitive people. However, one aspect of the criticality of the time, with which we as fellow participants in the discipline of history are concerned more closely than others, may bear highlighting. It would interest and also perhaps gratify historians that history at the moment is occupying the centre stage in the intellectual debate in the country. In independent India history has never received the kind of attention it is getting now. This development has not been accidental; it has been slowly building up over the years. As the micro economics pushed its way forward in the academic arena following our endeavours in economic development, it created the necessity to understand the traditions of our socio-economic institutions. This has been a healthy development. But this has also led to a battle for the past. This battle is likely to get more and more ferocious. It would be unfortunate if we get sucked in this battle losing our sense of equanimity and direction. I am not pleading for ducking issues. I feel that historians should rise equal to the occasion and they have to do it with courage and forbearance.
One of the issues currently agitating Indian thought is the question
* Dept. of Andent History, Culture and Archaeology, University of Allahabad.
Social Scientist, Vol. 21, No. 12, December 1993