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Suraj Bhan (1931-2010): A Scholar Extraordinaire

Suraj Bhan evolved from being a chauvinist who believed his Haryana was the centre of the world into a scientific professional who undertook landmark excavation at Harappan sites. In conservative Haryana he was a man of the Renaissance who on many occasions took on proponents of Hindutva.

After suffering from a malignant brain tumour for over six months, professor Suraj Bhan (1931-2010) breathed his last in Rohtak (Haryana) on 14 July 2010. As an archaeologist, Suraj Bhan evolved from being a chauvinist (who believed his Haryana to be the centre of the world) into a scientific professional. This makes his life an interesting study in transition. He pioneered speculation about the mythic Saraswati river but retracted later. The Hindutva scholars have since claimed this river and blown its existence out of proportion by talking about the Indus-Saraswati Valley civilisation. We will just talk about a confrontation between these two points of view.

Haryanavis have generally not shown much love for the Enlightenment or new ideas because higher education is new to this region. Haryana is the conservative land of small peasants, whose economy will collapse without being supplemented by additional income from soldiering and by doing odd jobs in nearby Delhi. It is amazing that, despite pushing for change on contentious issues in this Haryana, Suraj Bhan was loved in his neighbourhood. Normally, scholars are unknown in their neighbourhoods, even while they shine in the Republic of Letters and are stars in the Common Wealth of Learning. The proof of the reverence his neighbourhood had for Suraj Bhan came on 25 July 2010 at a memorial meeting. Vedraj Singh Gill, the president of the resident welfare association of Sector 1, Rohtak declared that they would name their park after Suraj Bhan.

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