Social Scientist. v 29, no. 332-333 (Jan-Feb 2001) p. 1.


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Editorial Note

Much of the current number of Social Scientist is taken up by three papers presented at the recently-held session of the Indian History Congress at Calcutta. Though the papers cover a range of diverse themes, an underlying unity is provided to them by the fact that each contests in its own way the communal-fascist positions that are being propagated at present in the realm of history through the active deployment of state power. Since even the note by Malini Bhattacharya constitutes an engagement with the Hindu Right, this engagement can be seen as the defining characteristic of the current number.

The lead article by Amartya Sen, which is the text of his inaugural address at the Congress, while roaming felicitously over a wide terrain, makes the extremely significant point that the "positionality" of observations and perceptions does not do away with notions of truth and falsehood: the fact that each observer has a particular perspective and point of view does not constitute a case for relapsing into relativism, for treating all perspectives as equally valid, and for denying any objectivity in the writing of history. He goes on to emphasise the role of heterodoxy and methodological independence for scientific advance, tracing the remarkable achievements of early Indian science to the prevailing atmosphere of tolerance for heterodoxy, which unfortunately is being undermined in contemporary India.

Iqtadar Alam Khan takes up the claim of the Hindutva forces that Mughal India represented the rule of the "Muslim community". He argues on the basis of a wealth of evidence that the Mughal state was neither a Muslim state, where the "Muslim community" in its entirety constituted a part or the whole of the ruling class, nor an Islamic state where the Shari'a prevailed. While it was a state based on class antagonism, the ruling nobility was a composite one in which the Rajputs, the Marathas, the pre-Mughal Indian Muslims, the Shias from Iran, and the Turanis were all represented; in fact in the last twenty years of Aurangzeb's reign the proportion of the) Hindus was about a third among the nobles of the highest category.; At the same time, the oppressed included the peasants, the labourers and the artisans among whom again there were both Hindus and Muslims. The composite nature of the Mughal nobility was parallelled by a supra-religious concept of sovereignty which held that "the



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