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‘Professors should read books too’: Here’s what prompted S Jaishankar’s savage response to historian Ramachandra Guha on Twitter

FE Online

External Affairs Minister S Jaishanker on Thursday came up with a brutal response when historian Ramachandra Guha questioned him on some facts related to Saradar Vallabhai Patel. Jaishankar, who was appointed External Affairs Minister in the second term of Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government, advised Guha to "read some books" to know the exact events of history. Guha is arguably one of the foremost historians of our time, and Jaishanker’s response to him was sharp but polite.

It all started with the foreign minister’s tweet where he citing a book - on VP Menon - said that India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru did not want Vallabhbhai Patel in the Cabinet in 1947. "Learnt from the book that Nehru did not want Patel in the Cabinet in 1947 and omitted him from the initial Cabinet list. Clearly, a subject for much debate. Noted that the author stood her ground on this revelation," he said in a tweet.

He further said that the exercise of writing history for politics in the past needs honest treatment. He then quoted former diplomat VP Menon as saying, "When Sardar died, a deliberate campaign was begun to efface his memory. I know this, because I have seen it, and at times, I fell victim to it myself." Hours after these statements, historian Guha called it a myth and urged the minister to read a piece written by another historian Professor Srinath Raghavan.

"This is a myth, that has been comprehensively demolished by Professor Srinath Raghavan in The Print. Besides, promoting fake news about, and false rivalries between, the builders of modern India is not the job of the Foreign Minister. He should leave this to the BJP's IT Cell," Guha said in a tweet.

However, the historian’s response did not go down well with Jaishanker. "Some Foreign Ministers do read books. Maybe a good habit for some Professors too. In that case, strongly recommend the one I released yesterday," the minister tweeted.

While Guha has not responded further, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh put out a series of letters and documents to prove that the claim that Nehru never wanted Patel in his cabinet was ‘fake news’. In a tweet, he said: "In light of the fake news doing the rounds that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru did not want Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in his cabinet, sharing a series of letters & documents. Here’s the truth: 1. Nehru letter to Mountbatten of July 19th 1947 with Patel right on top of new cabinet list."