ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Bipan Chandra: Defence of History

In the last week of April, the late historian Bipan Chandra was attacked for denigrating Bhagat Singh. Why exactly does the Sangh Parivar dislike Chandra and other left-wing historians?

In the last week of April 2016, team Arnab staged another show, attacking academicians and historians at large at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). This time it was Bipan Chandra, and his book India’s Struggle for Independence (1987). The crime: calling Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries “revolutionary terrorists” and “intentionally maligning the patriots” of the Indian freedom struggle. Chandra and his co-authors were accused of being court-historians of the Congress and being pro-Nehru and Gandhi to intentionally call Bhagat Singh a “terrorist.” Next day, Anurag Thakur, the Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament raised the issue in Parliament and another “row” was manufactured, with JNU once again at the centre of it.

This is not the first time Chandra has been under attack by the right-wing regime. This has been happening to him and various other left-leaning historians from the late 1970s, 1977 to be specific, when the right-wing shared power for the first time at the centre. This article brings back those moments, taking help from the articles from the Times of India (henceforth ToI) archives,1 from late 1970s to 2006. It presents a chronology of all such attacks and debates on Chandra, along with Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, R S Sharma, and various such historians who have used Marxist interpretation as their tool of analysing past and the Indian history. It briefly expresses concern over the rising trend of attacking a section of historians and scholars by calling them anti-nationals, and dangers of (mis)appropriating the national icons as the icons of the Hindu right.

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