In the previous issue of Social Scientist we had published three papers presented at the 61st session of the Indian History Congress, including the inaugural address by Amartya Sen. In the current number we are publishing three more papers presented at the same Congress. The reason for our apparent obsession with History Congress papers has nothing to do either with any partiality on our part towards this particular discipline, or with any paucity of publishable material at our disposal, or with any apprehension that these papers would otherwise not see the light of day (the History Congress no doubt has its own programme of publication). The reason lies in the fact that at this juncture in our national life, debates on history have assumed a crucial significance. With the Sangh Parivar using the State machinery (and the gigantic patronage system that the State machinery places at its command) to push aggressively a communal-fascist interpretation of Indian history, it becomes essential for us to use our journal to combat this project. This does not simply mean publishing articles that oppose the Sangh Parivar's point of view; it entails above all promoting rigorous scientific historical research. The Sangh Parivar's history is not just communal-fascist; it fails to meet rigorous standards of scientific scholarship.
The three papers from the History Congress which we are motivated by these considerations to publish in the current number are by Suvira Jaiswal, Vjay Nath and P.K.Shukla. Suvira JaiswaPs paper on female images in the Arthasastra, while painting a vivid picture of a patriarchal society, also provides an idea of the various options available to women at the time. One striking option, according to Arthasastra evidence, which appears to have been exercised by many women is to become wandering ascetics.
Vijay Nath's paper is the text of his Presidential address to the Ancient India section of the History Congress. He draws a distinction between Brahmanism and Puranic Hinduism, the latter entailing a masive process of acculturation through which the pre-existing tribal population was assimilated. It is not only the assimilation of tribal deities, but the institutionalisation of a whole range of familiar practices - from the puja form of worship, to the erection of temples, to the sanctification of certain places as tirthas, to collective readings