Protest against book reference to Bhagat Singh: All you need to know

  • Heena Kausar, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Apr 28, 2016 13:20 IST
The book uses the term “revolutionary terrorist” for freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Surya Sen and others in Chapter 20

A book, which is on the list of suggested reading for history students in the University of Delhi and refers to Bhagat Singh as a “revolutionary terrorist”, is in the middle of a controversy with the freedom fighter’s family raising the issue with the education ministry as well as the varsity.

On Wednesday, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Anurag Thakur took up the matter and demanded a debate in the Lok Sabha on what is being taught in the country, prompting a heated exchange between BJP and Congress members.

Here’s all about the controversy:

Book: India’s Struggle for Independence

Author: Bipin Chandra. The author, who died in 2014, was last working on a biography of Bhagat Singh. The ‘Modern India’ historian is seen by many as pro-Left.

Co-authors: Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee, Sucheta Mahajan and KN Panikkar

First printed in: 1988

* The book uses the term “revolutionary terrorist” for freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Surya Sen and others in Chapter 20. It is being taught in Delhi University under the list of suggested readings for history students for over two decades.

* The freedom fighter’s family has written to human resource development minister Smriti Irani seeking her intervention and also met the vice-chancellor of DU. The ministry has reportedly asked DU to reconsider teaching of the particular chapter or book.

* Irani has reportedly termed the text of the book to be an “academic murder of sacrifices of individuals” and assured that she will convey her angst to the university. “I would not call it an academic anomaly but an academic murder of the sacrifices of many individuals. If I am to be called intolerant to ensure that Bhagat Singh ji is not called a terrorist, then that is a tag I will proudly wear,” she reportedly told a news channel.

* VC Yogesh Tyagi said they have taken note of the request and maintained that the book is taught in the history department as a “reference book” and not a “textbook”. “The book is taught as a reference book in our history department but is not a textbook or published or authored by DU professor,” he told PTI.

* Co-authors have said that to imply that the term was used for denigrating the martyr is “deliberate misrepresentation” of Chandra’s views on Bhagat Singh. According to them, Chandra did not use the term in his later writings and was planning to change it in the book. But due to ill health and failing eyesight, he could not revise the book as he had planned before his death. The co-authors are planning to drop the word from the volume in its revised version.

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