The recent controversy over freedom fighter Bhagat Singh being labelled as ‘terrorist’ in a Delhi University textbook, has once again revealed the way history is manipulated to serve political ends in Bharat. The book in question is ‘India’s Struggle for Independence’ co-authored by late Bipin Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee, K N Panikkar and Sucheta Mahajan, which was published in 1988 and forms part of the history curriculum of Delhi University as a reference book.
Chapter 20 of the book addresses Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Surya Sen and others as ‘revolutionary terrorists’. The book mentions Chittagong movement as a ‘terrorist act’. Moreover, the killing of British police officer Saunders to avenge Lala Lajpat Rai’s death has been mentioned as an ‘act of terrorism’.
The outrage around the book had snowballed into a controversy when the freedom fighter’s family met the DU Vice Chancellor and wrote to Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani objecting to the terrorist reference.
The issue was raised in Rajya Sabha during ‘Zero Hour’ by JD(U) leader K C Tyagi & by BJP MP Anurag Thakur in the Lok Sabha.
Marxist Historians Jump to defend their under-fire colleagues
The co-authors of the book and other Marxist historians like Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib have predictably come to the aid of late Bipin Chandra who was primarily responsible for the chapters where Bhagat Singh and other freedom fighters are termed as ‘revolutionary terrorists’. Their defense is along two contradictory lines –
1.) As per a statement issued by Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust signed by ’eminent historians’ like Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, Amar Farooqi and D.N. Jha., “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”. [So the argument here is that if Bhagat Singh himself was fine being called a terrorist, why do folks today object?]
2.) Chandra’s co-authors have said that Chandra had stopped using the expression ‘terrorist’ in his later writings and, in his introduction to Bhagat Singh’s ‘Why I am An Atheist’ in 2006, referred to Bhagat Singh as “one of India’s greatest freedom fighters and revolutionary socialists”. Professor Chandra wanted to revise it in the book under question, but could not ‘due to illness’.
Counterpoint – Even by 1988, the word terrorist had come to denote use of wanton violence, often against civilian populations, to achieve political or ideological goals. Bhagat Singh and his fellow revolutionaries never once targeted civilians, either British or Bharatiya, to achieve their goals. If one looks closely at their revolutionary writings from the 1920s, they are often reacting to the British and Gandhian labeling of their acts as ‘terrorism’ when they say that ‘we are resorting to terror in response to British terror’. Moreover, Bharat would be the only country out of the dozens of countries that achieved freedom from oppressive and brutal colonial rule where freedom fighters of any hue are labelled as ‘terrorists’ by mainstream historians! So on the one hand, the ’eminent historians’ agree that Bipin Chandra erred in labeling freedom fighters as terrorists and the reference should be corrected, but on the other hand they nonchalantly & misleadingly claim that the label was accepted by Bhagat Singh himself.
The truth of the matter is that Marxist ideology has given birth to some of the worst terrorists and dictators the world has ever seen in likes of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot etc. It would be interesting to see if the same historians who label Bhagat Singh as a ‘terrorist’ have used the adjective to describe Stalin, a figure that is worshiped to this day by the Communist Party of India (CPI-M), a party that the very same ’eminent historians’ support as the premier ‘secular’, ‘democratic’ party in the nation?
Bhagat Singh was just 23 when he sacrificed his life for the nation – it was natural for him to be attracted to revolutionary communist thinking in vogue at that time…more so, when it was viewed as an instrument to oppose colonial British rule. All acts of ‘terror’ committed by Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries were directed at the brutal British regime. Just before his death, Bhagat Singh spoke about how his thinking had evolved to understand that not ‘individual heroic action, but popular based mass movements alone could lead to a successful revolution.’ This shows that if Bhagat Singh had lived his natural lifespan, he would have abhorred the Marx inspired Soviet model which led to the death of millions of innocent civilians around the world – the very same failed communist ideology that Marxist historians and their political counterparts at CPI-M, CPI continue to eulogize.
Interestingly, the book publishers have issued a statement that they are working with the authors for a revised edition of the book…so one wonders why the entire nexus of Marxist historians is getting so worked up and spinning various conspiracy theories? Why not graciously accept their mistake, and move on – or is all their bluster just hiding the growing anxiousness that their obfuscation and distortion of history is gradually getting exposed? Their usual rhetoric of dismissing all studied criticism of their work as a ‘right-wing conspiracy engineered by RSS front organizations’, or as ‘a move to silence dissent by the fascist regime of Modi’ will not cut it anymore. Our liberals and establishment academics have perfected the art of fake victimhood as the manufactured ‘intolerance rising’, ‘award wapsi’ and ‘university campuses under attack’ campaigns proved, but their rhetoric is exposed in this case by the fact that it is Bhagat Singh’s family and so-called secular parties like JD(U) who are at the forefront of protests.
ICSE board textbooks have also done the same
As per this report from 2011,
“A Delhi court has directed Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) to remove defamatory references to freedom-fighters in its history and civic book from the next academic session.
The book published by Goyal Brothers Prakashan and written by DN Kundra has a chapter — Revival of Terrorism — in which Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal have been referred to as “militants and extremists”, while Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev as “terrorists”.
The court wants these leaders to be called nationalists and revolutionaries. The court’s order came on a petition by Dina Nath Batra, national convenor of Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti and others seeking deletion of defamatory passages in the Std-X history and civics Part-II book.”
Marxist historians in the news for wrong reasons
This is not the first instance wherein the hypocrisy and outright fraud of Marxist historians has been exposed in recent times –
- Left historians prevented resolution of Babri Masjid dispute, says KK Mohammed, former ASI regional head
- Irfan Habib compares RSS to terror organization ISIS; says Modi worse than Vajpayee.
- Irfan Habib said that the idea of Bharat Mata was an ‘import from Europe’ – with this statement, he joined hands with Islamist seminary Deoband in rejecting the slogan ‘Bharat mata ki jai’.
There is an increasing desperation to quash even minor criticism of the dominant psuedo secular & socialist doctrine prevalent in academic circles. As this article puts it –
“That the formal Indian history is biased was a matter of academic discussion so far. But now, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, vociferous demands are being made to rewrite history, which is perceivably tilted heavily in favour of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Muslim kings and, in many cases, the British rulers. The storm over Bipan Chandra’s book threatens to wipe out the words in history text books written by the Leftist historians and replace them with a more balanced account of history.”
Another article calls out the hypocrisy of the Marxist historians –
“The terminology (revolutionary terrorist) gets all the more ludicrous, with a tinge of Orwellian humour, when one finds freedom fighters waging a battle against a repressive colonial government being called terrorists, while a bunch of “misguided” Maoists fighting an all-out war against the world’s largest democracy are regarded as “Gandhians with guns”.
Incidentally, these “misguided idealists” fit into the Oxford terminology of a terrorist. For, about 90 per cent of the individuals killed by them are poor and labouring classes from the deprived section of the community, if the “Report of the Advocates Committee on Naxalite Terrorism in Andhra Pradesh” is to be believed.
Again an Orwellian doublespeak at play: Maoists killing the poor and downtrodden in the very name of the poor and downtrodden! Coming back to Bhagat Singh and his ilk, the late historian Bipan Chandra is not alone in calling these freedom fighters “revolutionary terrorists”, as he did in his book India’s Struggle for Independence.
It has been a standard terminology used – and is continued to be in practise – by the Left and Left-inspired intellectuals. For instance, professor Sumit Sarkar, another historical giant in India, doesn’t even bother to tag the word “revolutionary” with “terrorist”. In modern India, he impishly uses the term “terrorists” or “Bengal terrorists” for the likes of Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki.
And it’s a blatant lie when the apologists say these terms had been used “without any pejorative meaning” and that their usage has now been stopped since the term terrorism has “acquired a very negative meaning in recent years”.
For those pedalling this theory must read Sunil Khilnani’s latest book,Incarnations, published just a few months ago, wherein the author, who is hardly a diehard Left intellectual, calls VD Savarkar “the young terrorist”.
The terrorism debate, however, is just the tip of the entire historical iceberg. For, the malaise lies with how history has been allowed to be appropriated by a dominant section of the Congress led by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.
The Class 12 history textbook is a classic example. It provides one single chapter on India’s freedom struggle, and its heading, “Mahatma Gandhi and the Nationalist Movement”, says it all. The mention of Subhas Chandra Bose’s INA exploits is conspicuous by its absence, even though they were regarded by the British as one of the most important reasons for them to leave India. This was confirmed by no other than Clement Attlee, the then British prime minister, who at the same time dismissed Gandhi’s role as “minimal”.
The storm over Bipan Chandra’s book only strengthens the growing consensus that we have to purge history textbooks of Marxist biases that provide a distorted and lopsided view of history – and this has to be done ignoring the usual howls of ‘saffronization of education’.