Apr 28 2016 : The Times of India (Delhi)
BHAGAT SINGH ROW - Revolutionary terrorist not used to insult martyrhttp://epaperbeta.timesofindia.com/index.aspx?eid=31808&dt=20160428
The late Bipan Chandra had co-authored India's Struggle for Independence in the late 1980s in which Bhagat Singh and some others were described as “revolutionary terrorists“.It's not new, yet it has outraged at least one member of Singh's extended family and some politicians; historians and other relatives, not so much. The most that the late historian can be accused of is adopting colonial lexicon.A Delhi University history teacher, declaring the `controversy' “nonsense“, explained, “Terrorism is how the state describes a particular form of resistance. It's standard in books but is also interrogated and compared with other forms of mobilising,“ she said.Historians now object to it on principle but don't believe the authors were “trying to denigrate“.
Chaman Lal, who's spent a lifetime documenting Singh's works, points to a 1931 letter. “Bhagat Singh had written, `I am not a terrorist and I never was, except perhaps in the beginning of my revolutionary career.' It was a common term,“ he said.Lal was Chandra's colleague at JNU and credits him with “bringing Bhagat Singh to notice as a thinker-revolutionary“. “Earlier, Singh was a brave freedom-fighter. Chandra's introduction to a special edition of Singh's `Why I am an Atheist', changed that. I, and dozens of others, built on the tradition he established,“ Lal said.
Abhitej Sandhu, Singh's grandnephew and cousin to Yadvinder Sandhu who complained, agreed: “He was one of the few to do justice to Shaheed-e-Azam.Every government wants symbolic ownership of his legacy . The meaning of terrorism has changed but it's too small an issue.The government should focus more on Bhagat Singh's thoughts, his ideas on the economy , for instance.“
The book is part of standard undergraduate reading lists, including DU's. “They (authors) have used terms of the colonial administrators. When writing history today, you shouldn't. Also, Singh had moved away from `terrorism'--which is, essentially using acts of terror to de-stabilise the ruling dispensation--and was different from late-19th-century terrorists,“ said historian R Gopinath. He dismissed the idea that the phrase was used maliciously. “Chandra told me to read Singh.“
This issue was raised during UPA rule too, observed Lal.“Chandra had clarified then that terrorist wasn't used as a negative term and that the more appropriate expression was `revolutionary nationalism'. This controversy is contrived, planned by the Right. These people don't read anything,“ he said.