DELHI UNIVERSITY (DU) on Friday halted “sale and distribution” of the Hindi version of a book authored by historian, the late Bipan Chandra, a day after Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien told the government to remove all references in it to Bhagat Singh being a “revolutionary terrorist”.
“The sale and distribution of the book Bharat ka Swatantra Sangharsh, which is a Hindi translation of the book titled India’s Struggle for Independence authored by Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee, Sucheta Mahajan and K N Panikkar, first published in 1988… have been stopped,” said DU Media Coordinator Malay Neerav.
“The Hindi version… was published in 1990 by the Directorate of Hindi Medium Implementation (DHMI) of the University of Delhi,” said Neerav. India’s Struggle for Independence is on the reading list of DU’s history department.
DU Vice-Chancellor Yogesh Tyagi clarified that “only the sale and distribution” of the book had been stopped, and that the move had “nothing to do with introducing changes in the curriculum of the history department”.
“Due to objectionable terms being used for Bhagat Singh in the book, which was brought to our notice by his relatives and others, along with the fact that the authors themselves said they did not want this version to continue, we decided to stop the sale and distribution,” Tyagi told The Indian Express.
“This has nothing to do with the curriculum or reading list prepared by the history department, which is its prerogative. The university administration, registrar or the vice-chancellor cannot intervene in that,” said Tyagi.
The DU move, however, was criticised by its teachers’ association. “Preferably, the decision should have been taken after taking suggestions from an expert committee. If there is any further plan of altering the reading list, the matter should go to the Academic Council (AC),” said Nandita Narain, president, DU Teachers’ Association (DUTA).
Responding to the DU decision, the book’s co-author Aditya Mukherjee said, “I am surprised that the university had taken such a decision despite us having written to the V-C that we ourselves wanted the term “revolutionary terrorist” to de dropped. We expressed the same to the Dean of DHMI, and she said she would be happy to make the changes.”
In a letter to V-C Tyagi written on Thursday, Mukherjee had said, “Bipan Chandra himself had stopped using this description in his later writings and had publicly stated that he would not like the word ‘terrorist’ to be used any longer. On behalf of the co-authors Mridula Mukherjee, K N Panikkar and Sucheta Mahajan and myself, I want to convey to you our intention to make the necessary changes in the book.with immediate effect.”
Historian D N Jha, who was the head of DU’s history department in 1988 when the book was first introduced on the reading list, said it was of “seminal importance”. “When the book was written, the use of the word “terrorist” meant somebody different from a “moderate”; someone who did not believe in ahimsa (non-violence). Later Bipan had started using the term ‘revolutionary socialist’,” he said.
Earlier, Yadvinder Sandhu, Bhagat Singh’s great grand-nephew, along with Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) activists met the DU administration and demanded that the book be banned and removed from the curriculum.
”We welcome the DU move but it should have come earlier. Penguin should follow suit and stop the sale and distribution of the English version too. Also, every such book which suffers from a colonial baggage and uses pejorative terms for our freedom fighters should be done away with. Indian history needs to be decolonised and Indianised,” said Saket Bahuguna, national media convenor, ABVP.
Following Kurien’s intervention on Thursday, MoS for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had assured that the government will ask the minister concerned — HRD Smriti Irani — to take “necessary steps”.
In Chapter 20, the book describes Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Surya Sen and others as “revolutionary terrorists”. It also describes the Chittagong movement as a “terrorist act” and the killing of British police officer John Sanders as an “act of terrorism”.
Kurien’s statement and Naqvi’s assurance came in response to JD(U) leader K C Tyagi raising the issue in the Upper House during ‘Zero Hour’.
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