Statement on Bipan Chandra’s Book

SAHMAT statement against the attack on Bipan Chandra's book
In recent days it seems to have become a habit of some latter-day “nationalists” to raise divisive or non-substantial issues to parade their patriotism. The most recent example of this is the attack on a major history of our National Movement authored by the distinguished historian Professor Bipan Chandra and his colleagues, titled India’s Struggle for Independence, published 28 years ago in 1988. The objection is that Shaheed Bhagat Singh and his comrades have been described there as “revolutionary terrorists”. The critics, however, forget that this was really a term the martyrs had practically used for themselves. The Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, to which Bhagat Singh and his colleagues belonged, said in its Manifesto (1929): “We have been taken to task for our terrorist policy. No doubt, the revolutionaries think and rightly that it is only by resorting to terrorism that they can find a most effective means of retaliation… Terrorism has its international aspect also. England’s enemies, which are many, are drawn towards us by effective demonstration of our strength. That in itself is a great advantage”. To Gandhiji’s critical article ‘Cult of the Bomb’, the Association answered through a statement titled “Philosophy of the Bomb”. Here it was asserted that it was owing to British repression that “terrorism [has] been born in this country. It is a phase, a necessary and inevitable phase of the revolution. Terrorism is not the complete revolution, and the revolution is not complete without terrorism”.
It is true that in his later phase Bhagat Singh stated: “Apparently, I have acted like a terrorist; But I am not a terrorist”. Clearly, two definitions of the word ‘terror’ were already at work, and Bhagat Singh was being influenced by his reading of Lenin’s teachings against individual terror. But the main point is that the entire movement to which Shaheed Bhagat Singh belonged, terror had till then seemed a revolutionary path that they were wholly committed to.
Their conception of “terror” as a method of revolutionary action actually derived from a tradition that went back to the Russian revolutionaries’ struggle against Czarist tyranny. Now, however, in the last two or three decades, terror has come to mean almost all over the world the killing of innocent men, women and children. And it has thus assumed a heavily pejorative sense, not necessarily borne by it in the 1920s and 1930s.
Clearly, today many of us would not like to call our national heroes Bhagat Singh or Surya Sen or Chandrasekhar Azad, “terrorists”. But if we claim to be nationalists we should at least know more about our National Movement and not forget that there was a time when this tag was borne with pride by people who actually died for the cause of this country. And so let us not go about demanding changes in books, or banning them altogether and so display our own ignorance to the world. The withdrawal of the translation of the book by the Delhi University and the hounding of the authors on TV shows and at law courts that has now begun is particularly odious and only too characteristic of such campaigns by the RSS and its various fronts.

Irfan Habib       
Amar Farooqui
Arjun Dev

Biswamoy Pati 
D N Jha

Iqtidar Alam Khan    
K M Shrimali    
Lata Singh

Prabhat Shukla
R C Thakran     
Shireen Moosvi

Suvira Jaiswal  
Vishwamohan Jha     
Romila Thapar

R P Bahuguna  
K L Tuteja

Rajesh Singh     
Kesavan Veluthat     
A K Sinha

Santosh Rai      
Shalin Jain        
H C Satyarthi

V Ramakrishna
Ramakrishna Chatterjee   
Arun Bandopadhyaya

S Z H Jafri        
Vivan Sundaram       
Prabhat Patnaik

Mushirul Hasan
Mihir Bhattacharya  
Sashi Kumar

Ram Rahman   
Sukumar Murlidharan       
Anil Bhatti

Anuradha Kapur       
Archana Prasad        
Badri Raina

C P Chandrasekhar  
Geeta Kapur    
Dinesh Abrol

Indira Chandrasekhar        
Jayati Ghosh    
M KRaina

Madangopal Singh    
Madhu Prasad  
Malini Bhattacharya

Moloyshree Hashmi  
N K Sharma     
Nilima Sheikh

Nina Rao 
Parthiv Shah    
Praveen Jha

Rahul Verma    
S Kalidas 
Saeed MIrza

Saif Mahmood  
Shakti Kak        
Sohail Hashmi

Ari Sitas   
Thierry Costanzo

Veer Munshi     
Vikas Rawal     
Indira Arjun Dev

S  Irfan Habib   
Shireen Gandhy
Rajat Datta

Mukul Kesavan
Zoya Hasan      
Tadd Fernee

Shantha Sinha  
C P Bhambri                        
Rahul Mukherji

Krishna Ananth
Chandi Prasad Nanda        
Shri Krishna

Pritish Acharya
Neerja Singh     
Najaf Haidar

Bhupendra Yadav     
Richa Malhotra
Richa Raj

Deepa Sinha     
Amit Mishra      

Rizwan Qaiser  
Bodh Prakash  

Rakesh Batabyal       
Saurabh Bajpai

Ranjana Das     
J V Naik   
Ajay Patnaik

Subodh Malakar
Girish Mishra
Archana Hande
Neeladri Bhattacharya
Ania Loomba
Rukia Husain
Amiya Kumar Bagchi
Rekha Awasthi
BS Butola
Vikas Bajpai     
P. Bilimale

Sujoy Ghosh
Pushpamala N
Nadeem Rezavi
Ishrat Alam
Alok Bajpai
MMP Singh
Sumit Sarkar
Vaishna Narang
Atluri Murli       
G. Arunima

Ayesha Kidwai
Susan Visvanathan
Ramesh Rawat
Javed Akhtar
Achin Vinayak
Pamela Philipose
Tanika Sarkar
Jyoti Atwal