Protest against book reference to Bhagat Singh

The book, India's Struggle for Independence, has sold more than a lakh copies since it was published in 1987 and has not been revised.

April 28, 2016 02:06 am | Updated 02:28 am IST - NEW DELHI:

The Bharatiya Janata Party is headed for another confrontation with historians at the Jawaharlal Nehru University with a BJP member of Parliament attacking a popular, modern history reference book for terming Bhagat Singh a “revolutionary terrorist”.

The book, India's Struggle for Independence, has sold more than a lakh copies since it was published in 1987 and has not been revised.

BJP MP Anurag Thakur took up the issue in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

While one the authors, veteran historian Bipan Chandra, passed away two years ago, its co-authors Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee and Sucheta Mahajan say that the word 'revolutionary terrorist' did not have a pejorative meaning when the book was written in the 1980s.

“The first time the term ‘revolutionary terrorism’ is used in the book, Bipan Chandra.. clearly said that it is 'a term we use without any pejorative meaning and for want of a different term'. In his later writings, Bipan Chandra himself stopped using this term as the word ‘terrorism’ had aquired a very negative meaning in recent years,” the co-authors clarified.

“For example, in his introduction to Bhagat Singh’s Why I am an Atheist, published in 2006, Bipan Chandra does not use the word terrorism and says, 'Bhagat Singh was not only one of India’s greatest freedom fighters and revolutionary socialists, but also one of its early Marxist thinkers and ideologues'.”

Historian Sucheta Mahajan told The Hindu: “Prof. Bipan Chandra's last lecture and last book, which was left unfinished, was on Bhagat Singh. He was also the first to bring before the world, at his own expense, the martyr's iconic essay 'Why I Am An Atheist'.”

Apart from being a reference book in universities like Delhi University, India's Struggle For Independence is also known to be a book aspirants for the civil services and other competitive examinations have referred to for decades.

Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) member Saradindu Mukherji said historians of the Left had “ignored” many like Bhagat Singh and Subhas Bose. “They have ignored everyone apart from Gandhi, though I don't deny Gandhi's role. Marginalising everyone for highlighting the Congress leadership is not good,” he said.

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