A UK-based historian described Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad as “terrorists” during a lecture here recently, sparking a controversy.
Delivering a lecture on ‘Non-violent Resistance in India during 1915-1947’, Warwick University’s professor David Hardiman said, “Terrorist groups that predate Mahatma Gandhi were always there alongside Gandhi’s non-violent movement.”
“Some of these famous figures were Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad, who were involved in organisations like Hindustan Republic Association (HRA) and Hindustan Republic Socialist Association (HRSA),” the professor said at the 24th I P Desai Memorial Lecture organised by Centre for Social Studies on February 14
Hardiman said Gandhi’s movement had benefited due to other means of protests.
“Every non-violent movement has a violent group aiming to achieve the same end with armed movement. The group often indulges in terror acts like bombings, shootings and assassinations. The non-violent movement benefited because the authorities feel it is better to deal with them than the dangerous terrorists,” Hardiman said.
Hardiman’s remarks angered the audience, who compelled him to clarify, following which, he said, “I did not use the word terrorists as a derogatory term.”
Major Unmesh Pandya, member of executive council of Veer Narmad South Gujarat University, who was among the audience, stood up during the lecture and protested against the remarks.
“The UK-based scholar used word terrorists seven to eight times for the revolutionaries. There is a unanimous understanding between academics of the entire world not to use the word terrorist for the people who had not killed innocent civilians. One can use words like extremist or revolutionary,” Pandya said.
Defending Hardiman, Professor Ghanshyam Shah, a political scientist and member of the Board of Governors of Centre for Social Studies, said his remarks should be taken in a different context.
“The context is different. At that time, non-violent movement was going on and certain people chose another way, including Bhagat Singh, Azad, Shyamji Krishna Verma and Savarkar. They had difference of opinions with Gandhi’s non-violent movement. In that sense, he (Hardiman) said Bhagat Singh involved in a movement other than the non-violent movement…”