Delhi University’s decision to stop the sale and distribution of the Hindi translation of noted historian Bipan Chandra’s book, which refers to Bhagat Singh as a “revolutionary terrorist,” has been cr
Delhi University’s decision to stop the sale and distribution of the Hindi translation of noted historian Bipan Chandra’s book, which refers to Bhagat Singh as a “revolutionary terrorist,” has been criticised by over 100 intellectuals, including historians Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, Amar Farooqi and D.N. Jha.
They said the move was a display of “ignorance” as the martyrs had used the term for themselves. “Clearly, today many of us would not like to call our national heroes Bhagat Singh or Surya Sen or Chandrashekhar Azad ‘terrorists.’ But if we claim to be nationalists, we should at least know more about our national movement and not forget that there was a time when this tag was borne with pride by people who actually died for the cause of country,” the historians said in a joint statement.
“So let us not go about demanding changes in books, or banning them altogether and so display our own ignorance to the world. In recent days, it seems to have become a habit of some latter-day ‘nationalists’ to raise divisive or non-substantial issues to parade their patriotism,” they added.
The book, titled India’s Struggle for Independence, which has been part of the DU curriculum for over two decades, mentions Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Surya Sen and others as “revolutionary terrorists” in Chapter 20. Authored by Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee, Sucheta Mahajan and K.N. Panikkar, the book also called the Chittagong movement a “terrorist act” and the killing of British police officer John Sanders an “act of terrorism.”
DU’s Directorate of Hindi Medium Implementation published the Hindi version of the book, Bharat Ka Swatantrata Sangharsh, in 1990.
Following objection by Bhagat Singh’s kin and an uproar in Parliament over the issue, the Union HRD ministry had asked the Delhi University to consider the issue. The university, which published the Hindi version of the book, decided to ban its sale and distribution while maintaining that it had no control over the English version as the varsity had not published it. However, Penguin India, which had published the original book, has already stated that they are working with the authors for a revised edition.
The statement blamed the right-wing groups, especially the RSS, for the ban on the book. “The withdrawal of the translation of the book by DU and the hounding of the authors on TV shows and at law courts that has now begun is particularly odious and only too characteristic of such campaigns by the RSS and its various fronts,” said the statement issued by Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust and signed by 102 people, including historians and academicians.
“The critics are forgetting that this (revolutionary terrorist) was really a term the martyrs had practically used for themselves. Their conception of ‘terror’ as a method of revolutionary action actually derived from a tradition that went back to the Russian revolutionaries’ struggle against Czarist tyranny,” the statement said.