If Bhagat Singh is a 'terrorist', India must rewrite all its history

Kumar Shakti Shekhar
Kumar Shakti ShekharApr 28, 2016 | 19:36

If Bhagat Singh is a 'terrorist', India must rewrite all its history

Are freedom fighters such as Bhagat Singh and Chandra Shekhar Azad terrorists? BJP MP Anurag Thakur raised the issue in the Lok Sabha on April 27. He complained that Singh, Azad, Surya Sen and others, who laid down lives for the country's freedom, were termed as "revolutionary terrorists" in the book India's Struggle for Independence, written by eminent writer of modern history, late Bipan Chandra. The book, published in 1987, is a reference point in the curriculum of Delhi University.


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.

Developments so far

Smriti Irani

The controversy promises to embarrass the Congress and force it to indulge in another round of confrontation with the ruling BJP. Union HRD minister Smriti Irani has objected to the use of the word "terrorists" for freedom fighters and suggested that those who have lost their lives in the freedom struggle will not be allowed to be demeaned under intellectual cover. She called the text of the book an "academic murder" of sacrifices of individuals. "It is extremely unfortunate that martyrs and freedom fighters such as Bhagat Singh continue to be denigrated as 'terrorists'," she said.

Bhagat Singh's family

Calling such references as "derogatory", Bhagat Singh's family has appealed to the NDA government at the Centre to drop them. Singh's kin met DU vice-chancellor Yogesh Tyagi in this regard. The family has also written to Smriti Irani. " We have come to associate the word with something which the revolutionaries were the opposite of. This is not the way to treat the nation's martyrs. We demand an immediate removal of the book from the syllabus of the history department," said Singh's grandson Yadvinder Singh Sandhu.


"We demand an ordinance stating that all such derogatory references to the revolutionary freedom fighters be dropped immediately," Singh told Mail Today. "This is a very sad precedent that even after 68 years of Independence such words are used for the revolutionaries, who gave their lives for the freedom of the nation," Bhagat Singh's nephew Abhey Singh Sandhu said.

"The Britishers, who hanged Bhagat Singh, described him as 'true revolutionary' in their judgement, even they didn't use words like terror or terrorism. Using such words for revolutionaries in an attempt to stir controversy is very unfortunate," he added.

Will freedom fighter Bhagat Singh get justice?


The Janata Dal (United) too took exception to the use of the word "terrorists" for the freedom fighters. Party general secretary KC Tyagi said that the issue will be raised in the Rajya Sabha.

Bipan Chandra's co-authors

In a rejoinder, co-authors Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee and Sucheta Mahajan claimed that there were attempts of a "deliberate misrepresentation". "In fact the first time the term 'revolutionary terrorism' is used in the book on p 142, Chandra, who wrote two chapters on the Revolutionary Movement, clearly said it is "a term we use without any pejorative meaning and for want of a different term".



DU V-C Yogesh Tyagi maintained that the book is taught in the history department as a "reference book" and not a "text book". He said they have taken note of the request. "The book is taught as a reference book in our history department but is not a text book or published or authored by DU professor... We have taken note of the request and the matter is being looked into," Tyagi added.

What next?

The controversy gives force and credence to the right wing activists and supporters that the history which is being taught is biased in favour of Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru to perpetuate the Nehru-Gandhi rule in the country. It also reinforces the belief that the leaders such as Subhas Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Bhimrao Ambedkar and Sardar Patel have been shown in a poor light in comparison to Gandhi and Nehru.

The history being taught were written either by the Leftists, Congress-minded writers or the Britishers view and they did not do justice to these leaders who stood as stumbling blocks in their way.

This controversy will strengthen the view that history books need to be re-written. In fact, the whole education system needs to be overhauled because it has been dominated by the Leftists so far and has taught skewed lessons in history of India.

So far, the BJP was being seen as appropriating the legacies of Sardar Patel, Ambedkar and Bose. Now, it seems, Bhagat Singh and Chandra Shekhar Azad's names will be added to this list.

Other Leftist historians, such as Irfan Habib, Romila Thapar, RS Sharma and Satish Chandra, stand the chance to get further discredited. Habib has already lost much of his credibility for equating ISIS with RSS. Now, the Bipan Chandra controversy will further lower their stocks in the academic market place.

Last updated: April 28, 2016 | 19:36
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