Authors of a book, which is now at the centre of a controversy for terming Bhagat Singh as “revolutionary terrorist”, have alleged a “deliberate misrepresentation” of historian Bipan Chandra’s views on the freedom fighter.
Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee, K N Panikkar and Sucheta Mahajan had co-authored with Chandra ‘India’s Struggle for Independence’, which was published in 1988 and forms part of the history curriculum of Delhi University.
“Deliberate misrepresentation of Bipan Chandra’s views on Shaheed Bhagat Singh is being done by saying he used the term ‘revolutionary terrorism’ to denigrate the martyr,” a joint statement by the authors said.
“Chandra, who wrote two chapters on the Revolutionary Movement, clearly said that it is ‘a term we use without any pejorative meaning and for want of a different term.’
“To attack a great scholar when he is no more, a scholar who did so much to bring Bhagat Singh to centre stage, appears to be part of a larger design to silence critics,” the statement said.
The book, mentions Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Surya Sen and others as “revolutionary terrorists” in Chapter 20. It also calls the Chittagong movement a ‘terrorist act’, while killing of British police officer John Sanders has been called an ‘act of terrorism’.
Singh’s family had written a letter to HRD Minister Smriti Irani seeking her intervention in this regard and demanded appropriate changes in the textbook.
While the officials in the university confirmed that the ministry has asked DU to reconsider teaching of the particular chapter or book, they maintained that it is a “reference book” and not a “text book”.
Meanwhile the book’s publishers Penguin in a statement said it was working with the authors for a revised edition of the book.
“Language has evolved since the book was first published and we are already working with the co-authors to update and revise the phraseology to reflect both modern usage and the hugely important role Bhagat Singh played in the creation of modern India,” Penguin India said.
BJP MP Anurag Thakur had raised the issue in the Lok Sabha on April 27.
Terming Thakur’s attack as “vicious”, the co-authors quoted Chandra’s introduction to Bhagat Singh’s ‘Why I am an Atheist,’ published in 2006, to state that the late author had stopped using the word terrorism as it had acquired a very negative meaning in recent years.
“Chandra 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,” the statement said.
The co-authors said that Chandra had also wanted to make the change in ‘India’s Struggle for Independence’ and had said so publicly but could not do so due to ill health.
The co-authors had planned that the volume in its revised version will use the formulation that Chandra himself made in his later writings.
“He was the person who first found and published in 1970 as a pamphlet at his own expense Bhagat Singh’s now famous essay, ‘Why I am an Atheist’,” the statement said.
“His last public lecture was the Inaugural Lecture for the Bhagat Singh Chair at JNU in April 2011, in which he said that Bhagat Singh, if he had lived, would have been the Lenin of India, and his last (unfinished) book was a biography of Bhagat Singh,” it said.
The statement also termed as “completely baseless” the allegation made by Thakur in the Lok Sabha that the book’s authors praised Rahul Gandhi as a charismatic leader.
“We strongly deny since none of the authors has written anything on Rahul Gandhi,” the authors said.