Noted historian Bipan Chandra dies at 86

Written by Press Trust of India | Gurgaon | Updated: Aug 31 2014, 02:57am hrs
Historian Bipan Chandra, a left-leaning expert in economic and political history of India, died here this morning after prolonged illness. He was 86.

"He had not been keeping well since last few months. He passed away at 6 AM," his family said.

After the death of his wife four years ago, the veteran scholar had not been in the best of his health. But, he still kept on writing till his last days.

Despite his frailing health, he managed to draft his autobiography and a biography of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh.

"The drafts of the two books are almost ready and now they may be published posthumously," Aditya Mukherjee, his former student and later a colleague at JNU, said.

Author of 'In the Name of Democracy: The JP Movement and the Emergency', Chandra, had written on wide areas including theory of colonialism, national movement, contemporary history and fights against communalism.

Among his other works are 'The Rise and Growth of Economic Nationalism', 'Nationalism and Colonialism in Modern India', 'The Making of Modern India: From Marx to Gandhi' and 'The Indian Left: Critical Appraisal'.

Born in 1928 in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, Chandra studied at the Forman Christian College, Lahore, Stanford University, US and the University of Delhi.

A Padma Bhushan awardee, Chandra had donned multiple roles including that of chairperson of the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Member of the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the Chairman of the National Book Trust (NBT).

He had also founded the journal 'Enquiry' and was a member of its editorial board for a long time.

Chandra's text books on history have been part of the academic curriculum in schools and colleges.

His admirers called his death, "passing away of an era of committed scholars who wrote not only for researchers but also for public."

Several leaders and scholars joined in paying tributes to the veteran historian.

"The PM expresses grief on the passing away of noted historian Shri Bipan Chandra. He extends his condolences to Shri Chandra's family," the PMO said on Twitter.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi also condoled his death, hailing him an "erudite chronicler" of modern Indian history and the Nation's struggle for independence.

CPI expressed deep grief at the death of Bipan Chandra and described him as "a giant of a historian who straddled across the stage of modern history and left a deep and indelible imprint on history-writing and research.

"Using Marxist methodology, he restructured the study of Indian history bringing out the role of economic factors more prominently as the source of historical events.

"He brought to light great contributions of the secular, progressive, left and Communist forces during the freedom movement and after ... (and) how the progressive, secular and the left forces come together in the struggle against British imperialism, as also after achieving independence," the party's Central Secretariat said in a condolence message.

Maintaining that Chandra had been closely associated with the Left movement and the CPI in particular, the party said he has left behind "a huge void" in the intellectual and left, secular and progressive circles.

Himachal Pradesh Governor Urmila Singh and Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh too expressed grief over the demise of Chandra who hailed from Kangra district.

Chandra was a noted educationist, scholar and an academician par excellence... The void created by his death would be difficult to fill, the Chief Minister said in condolence message.