His appointment as chairperson of the Indian Council of Historical Research last year by Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani had sparked speculation about the future turn that history would take under his care.

A year later, Y. Sudershan Rao, a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana, affiliated to the RSS, has made the first change in the council by disbanding the 22-member advisory board to the Indian Historical Review journal, surprising both the ousted members as well as historians.

The board had Romila Thapar, Satish Chandra, Irfan Habib, Muzaffar Alam and 17 other internationally renowned scholars as its members. The chief editor of the journal, Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, had put in his papers a month ago, worried at what he called the “new members fantasising about history.”

On his decision to disband the advisory board, Mr. Rao said no single piece of communication existed on the appointment of the 22 members on the panel. “I looked for records on their appointment and found there were none. They never met and perhaps were never asked to give any advice on any issue by the previous councils.”

“It [the board] was for all practical purposes a sleeping one continued indefinitely, in the fond hope, expecting extra miles without actually treading any extra paces,” he said.

In an interview to The Hindu, Mr. Rao said changes in the advisory committee are routine whenever a new council is constituted. As for the illustrious names on the now-disbanded panel, he said, “The standard of journal only depends on the articles published in it, not on sporting well-known names on its advisory.”

Mr. Rao also clarified that he had no differences with Mr. Sabyasachi Bhattacharya. He, however, said the time had come to research the traditional sources of knowledge and look at the traditional ways in which history has been written.

On the project he is focussing on, namely affixing a date to Mahabharata, Mr. Rao said, “A careful examination of the text shows the names of kings and the regions from where they came from to fight the big battle. Recently, many research works have come out suggesting the date to be about 3000 BC, based on scientific data. Some, of course, deny ascribing any historicity to the epics and Puranas, again for their own ‘good reasons.’ It doesn’t mean that ‘others’ should not work on these sources. In research, one cannot foresee the conclusion. One has to arrive at it.”