Thursday, 5 April 2018

Bhagat Singh Archives and Resource Centre opens in Delhi Archives

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               Material gifted to- Bhagat Singh Archives and Resource Centre in Delhi

1. Books-More than 1500, which include more than 100 rare photocopied books, now not available
2. Nearly 300 hundred Books on Bhagat Singh alone and more than 800 on revolutionary movements for Indian freedom struggle
3. Five volumes of Shiv Verma manuscripts-published/unpublished both
4. Hundreds of letters of Bhagat Singh comrades to Late Ram Singh Baghele and N Ramchandran
5. Hundreds of journals on Bhagat Singh
6. Hundreds of pages of archival documents from National Archives, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, British Library London etc.

7. More than 20 GB Digital data including hundreds of photographs/monuments relating to Bhagat Singh and revolutionaries

Returned to Punjab after three weeks hectic stay in Delhi. It was primarily to set up Bhagat Singh Archives and Resource centre in Delhi Archives, which was inaugurated on martyrdom day-23rd March by Delhi minister and an old acquaintance of democratic struggles like तीसरा स्वाधीनता संघर्ष Sh. Gopal Rai. It was followed by a two-day national seminar on The role of Bhagat Singh and revolutionaries in Indian freedom struggle. The inaugural lecture of the seminar was delivered by Prof. Mridula Mukherjee, the audience included Prof. Romila Thapar. Valedictory address on 24th March was delivered by AMBEDKAR University DELHI Pro Vice-Chancellor Prof. Salil Mishra. Three nephews of Bhagat Singh-SHEONAN Singh, retired Major General, Prof. Jagmohan Singh and Kiranjeet nephew of Bhagat Singh chaired different sessions along with Prof. S. Irfan S Irfan Habib, Prof. Shashi Bhushan Upadhyaya, Prof. Amar Farooqi and Prof. Sucheta Mahajan,all Professors along with senior Prof. Irfan Habib from AMU and Abhey Singh Sandhu nephew of Bhagat Singh are members of Advisory committee for Bhagat Singh Archives and Resource Centre. Prof. Ronki Ram Ram, Akhar Bandyopadhyay, Bhairab Lal Das, Harish  Sharma ,Pramod Kumar Srivastava,Garima Chaudhary, Raghuvir Singh, Saurav Kumar,Rajmani Srivastava, Simona Sawhney, Neeru Anand and RAHUL Inqlab, presented papers/views, followed by discussion. In the Valedictory session, Sangeeta Besoya young archivist presented a report of the seminar. Young scholar Akhar Bandopadhyaya earned laurels for his power point highly intellectualised presentation, though he has yet to pass his +2! It was my dream project, which has gone through many phases, it is like P C Joshi Archives of JNU, which was set up by P C Joshi himself in 1976! I wish it to grow and expand like P C Joshi Archives. Delhi Govt. Political leadership has cleared and supported the project and present Govt. will keep supporting, but bottlenecks can come from unforeseen places like Bureaucracy, though not necessarily, as Bhagat Singh name is not so easy to harm and my terms based legal agreement has some safety valve for the Resource centre. Abhinandita Mathur
Apart from organising the Resource centre and seminar, also delivered a lecture on Bhagat Singh vision at Benaras social activist conference on 17th March, in P G Arya College Panipat on 21st March and in Gandhi Peace Foundation on 22nd March on Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar.
          The original idea to develop this archive came to my mind, when I first conceived of Bhagat Singh Chair to be set up in JNU during Bhagat Singh birth centenary year in 2007. I had joined JNU in 2005 and was President of JNU Teachers Association in 2007. After drafting a proposal for it, I campaigned massively for it. The Tribune carried my article for it on Oped page with signatures of major political leaders from the left parties and well-known academicians. In the meantime Shashi Bhushan, a veteran Congress leader and ex-MP, who had his Secular House building just in front of JNU East gate, became a good friend and with his influence in UPA Government, was able to get first ever Bhagat Singh Chair in JNU, ironically not filled even once in last one decade! I had drafted chair proposal which should have Bhagat Singh Archives also as part of Chair-the proposal was-
      Shaheed Bhagat Singh Chair and Archives for Revolutionary movements(1757-1947)
     In the birth centenary year of Bhagat Singh, programme implementation committee for national centenaries of Govt. of India, in its meeting on 6th March 2007, has decided to set up Bhagat Singh Chair at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. This is a welcome step in the right direction and was long overdue.
          This proposed Chair should not only focus upon  research on Bhagat Singh and his comrades revolutionary activities for national freedom, it should also build archives as well for all revolutionary movements fought against British colonial occupation of our country. Beginning from 1757 itself, when British occupying forces won the battle of Plassey and started the process of colonizing India through East India Company. East India Company overran almost whole country in one century and British imperial Govt. took over the control of it after the war of independence of 1857 failed to defeat the British occupying forces. From 1858 to 1947, India was under the direct control of British imperial Govt. and the nation got its sovereignty back only on 15th August 1947.
       During the period of almost two centuries, there was not a day, when British colonial rule did not face resistance, in some part or the other of the country, from Indian people. There is a long history of resistance by Indian people in various parts of the country, which remains largely neglected, because of non-availability of documents. Most of these resistance movements were armed in nature, while there were few peaceful struggles too.
     Bhagat Singh became the symbol of the ideological development of these resistance struggles of Indian people when he reached the conclusion of not only overthrowing British colonial rule but of building socialism as well, in the country in the post-colonial restructuring of the nation. Bhagat Singh was influenced by the study of Marxism and Bolshevik revolution of Soviet Union in 1917, in reaching this conclusion. Jawaharlal Nehru was impressed by this aspect of Bhagat Singh most and both had a mutual fascination for each other at the level of ideology. The resistance struggles in the country continued even after the execution of Bhagat Singh, but most of the comrades of Bhagat Singh and of later movements, such as from Chittagong movement of 1932 or from Navy revolt of 1946, were influenced by Bhagat Singh’s ideas and they either joined left movements or remained close to these movements. There are vast documentary data, personal memoirs and other material regarding these movements, which needs to be collected at one place and studied objectively and patiently. To conduct this study, a research network is a must. Bhagat Singh Chair would be an ideal unit to study these movements. Apart from conducting research on these movements, this Chair should also build archives on these movements, by collecting documents, publications and other literature, relating to these struggles of two centuries.
          To begin with, as per JNU rules, there should be:
(i)                   A Professor on Bhagat Singh Chair
(ii)                 One Research Assistant/Associate
(iii)               One computer analyst/steno and
(iv)                One peon
                 This Chair could have a structure like P C Joshi archives, but with the provision of students from S.S.S/S.I.S/SLL&CS/SAAS etc. registering for a research degree. They can conduct research on the different aspects of these movements. Chair must have a number of Fellowships for research students, for which creation of endowment fund is essential, so that NRI’s and resident Indians, having interest in these projects could liberally contribute in this fund. Already a faculty member of JNU( Prof. Chaman Lal) has offered the royalties of his books on Bhagat Singh for this chair. There could be many others in JNU and outside, who could also do the same, which can help the chair to create many fellowships. This should be over and above the Govt. grants for the chair.
              Bhagat Singh Chair should conduct following activities throughout the year:
(a)          To hold annual Bhagat Singh memorial lecture on 23rd March.
(b)         To hold a national seminar every year on different revolutionary movements of this period, with special attention on Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) and its related activities like Naujwan Bharat Sabha, Punjab Students Union etc.
(c)          Collection of data through continuous fieldwork in both India and abroad.
                    Bhagat Singh Chair should start functioning at the earliest on solid grounds from the very beginning and should have an able scholar to head it. Chair should preferably begin working before 28th September 2007, 101st birthday of Bhagat Singh.

                                                     Archives proposal was-
           Proposal to set up Bhagat Singh Archive to preserve documents relating to Revolutionary freedom struggles in India from 1757 to 1947
    Bhagat Singh Archives: Documents of Revolutionary Movements (1757-1947)
                 In 2006, I gave a proposal of Bhagat Singh Chair to be established in JNU. The proposal included apart from other points, to set up a Bhagat Singh Archive, which should not only have documents relating to Bhagat Singh and his organization-HSRA, but also from all other revolutionary movements launched and fought in different parts of the country from 1757 onwards, when East India Company after winning Plassey war against Indian rulers, started occupying whole of India, resulting in Queen of England’s direct take over after first war of Independence in 1857. This proposal was accepted in Toto by MHRD and funds released to establish the chair and archives as early as in 2007 or 8. While filling up the chair may have some problems, setting up archives was not such a big problem. JNU has infrastructure in its library and already some other archives exist as well.
            There are hundreds of such movements fought by different sections of Indian society in far away parts of the country, including movements by tribal’s and other poorer sections. Documents of most of these movements are in Indian languages, which are not translated either in Hindi or English, except few. A large number of these documents may even have been lost, because of no institution or Government taking any interest in their collection or preserving of these since independence. Only National Archives of India and Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in Delhi have some documents collected and preserved, but that too not in proper sections.
      During Bhagat Singh birth centenary and 1857’s 150th anniversary in 2007, some sensitivity has grown about revolutionary aspects of Indian freedom struggle, which still had remained confined to Indian National Congress, Muslim League kind of mainstream mass movements. But that is neither a complete history of freedom struggle nor of undivided India or of later India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Mainstream processes in a society or nation may have a hegemonic presence in the academic world, the significance of other processes, though not considered mainstream, cannot be ignored. Nor the documents of Indian languages depicting the history of these processes can be overlooked by any enlightened academic institution.
         I have got nearly 1500 books/journals/photocopied documents in Hindi, Punjabi, English, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam, Gujarati, Marathi, and Telugu etc. from various sources relating largely to revolutionary movements and freedom struggle in general in my own collection. These include photocopies of many rare and now unavailable books. These include almost hundred plus books on Bhagat Singh alone, hundreds of books/documents on HSRA, Gadar party, Chittagong revolt, INA of Netaji Subhas Bose and more. While I can part with this collection of mine to gift it to Bhagat Singh Archive, if JNU can plan and execute it, though I need to keep working upon and consult these documents for at least another decade or so, till the time my health permits me to work. However, this archive cannot be set up without proper shape. There are different sources to collect material from, like:
1.         National Archives of India.
2.         Nehru Memorial Museum and Library
3.         State Archives of almost all states, particularly of UP, West Bengal, Punjab, Bihar, Delhi etc.
4.         Archives of Pakistan and Bangladesh, even Nepal and Afghanistan, where Indian revolutionaries took shelter.
5.         Gadar party archives of the University of California, Berkeley campus, New York Public Library, Singapore and many more countries’ different institutions.
6.         Desh Bhagat yadgar Hall, Jalandhar, Shaheed Smark Lucknow and Agra and more such institutions.
7.         Digital records-I myself have hundreds of photographs on my computer, of family, friends, comrades, monuments/posters etc. of Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries, which can be enriched further with more collections
                             I have seen P C Joshi archives in JNU library, which is focused on Communist movement in India, but which does not have much material on revolutionary movements of the pre-1947 period. Bhagat Singh Archives should specifically focus on revolutionary movements and its documents, in the form of books/journals/pamphlets/handwritten documents/police reports/home deptt. Documents etc.
     Any foreign University of repute, which is having strong South Asia study centre, shall be happy to acquire this collection, even paying for it, yet it will not serve the purpose, surely it will preserve documents well. This collection can also be gifted to institutions like Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall Jalandhar, Shaheed Smark Lucknow or Agra, but these institutions do not have resources to expand the archives and serve as research centres for lack of infrastructure. Nehru Memorial Museum and Library may still be the best and ideal institution for such collection, and if JNU is unwilling to set up such archives, I shall have to approach it. However, despite a lot of frustration, I still wish that JNU could have such collection from me, as well as from other places, in which I can play a facilitating role if JNU is willing for that. But this can be done only in proper conducive atmosphere and respect for such collections.
        I am submitting this proposal for one last time, if JNU does not wish to consider it, it is up to it. But that will certainly make scholars world over think that are there some deep routed prejudices at work against revolutionary movements and its documentation in Indian languages, to be focused in JNU, which has a progressive image world over, but which is not proved to be so, many times by its choices and preferences in academic elitism and its overemphasis on English language hegemony!
                I do wish that this treasure may not get lost for lack of interest on the part of academia in JNU, which may force me to gift it or arrange its handing over to some other institution. Though Teenmurthi (Nehru Memorial Museum and Library) is the best place for its upkeep, yet I prefer JNU, due to the presence of a large number of students on the campus and many more visiting the place. I wish these documents to be available to a maximum of interested readers for consultation, but without taking out of the premises. I also think that archives should be located in Central Library like the place, which is open and has easy access to JNU community and others concerned. Both JNU and Nehru Memorial Museum and Library are visitor friendly institutions, but JNU can have much more utility of these documents for purpose of research and inspiration to youth to inculcate national values and sense of dedication towards nation, society and people.

Chaman Lal, Retired Professor
JNU, New Delhi-110067,, mobile no.-09868774820
            Professors Romila Thapar, J S Grewal and Sabyasachi Bhattacharya recommended the setting up of archives to JNU Vice-Chancellor Prof. S K Sopory, who wished to set up the archives in JNU, but got no support from concerned centres and library. After his term was over, there was no question of setting up under new dispensation in JNU. As Delhi University got Vice-Chancellor from JNU Prof. Yogesh Tyagi, he wanted this archives to be set up in Delhi. He formed a committee too for the purpose, a meeting or two were held in a period of one year and then silence.

            While visiting Delhi Archives, so close to JNU, in s casual chat with HOD Sanjay Garg there, he asked that why I don’t think of Delhi Archives for this purpose, as it has funds as well as space for setting up special section. I responded that I will think over it. Later when I sent proper proposal with terms and conditions, no response came. So then Atishi Marlena and Abhinandita Mathur, two advisors to Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia came into picture. They arranged my meeting with Deputy CM, having Education and Culture under his control, he agreed with my proposal and gave green signal to set up Bhagat Singh Archives and Resource centre as a special section within Delhi Archives in Qutab institutional area. My meeting was Deputy CM was held on 8th December 2017 and he wished to get the archive be inaugurated on 23rd March on martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh-Rajguru and Sukhdev. Yet things were moving quite slowly. In between Delhi Government has problems with its bureaucracy. I submitted my terms and camped in Delhi from 6th March 2018 onwards to see the things moving. All government offices, including Delhi archives, have a shortage of staff and there were not many experienced people to move the files smoothly. The material to be moved from Patiala to Delhi archives was an urgent requirement to get it properly displayed in time. Only on 15th March material was moved, the same day an agreement was signed between Special Secretary/Director Delhi archives Kulananad IAS and myself, after receiving agreement around 4 pm on my Whatsapp, I allowed the material to be moved from my residence in Patiala, another round was taken by Delhi archives vehicle to move the material, which could not be fitted into vehicle on 15th March. The notification for the advisory committee for the proposed archives as per agreement took place even later, but before 23rd March. Mr Sanjay Garg, chief archivist at Delhi archive also suggested holding two days national seminar on the role of Bhagat Singh in the freedom struggle. I reluctantly agreed, as the time was too short and getting good scholars in short notice of about ten days was almost impossible. Yet I did take up the responsibility as academic coordinator of the seminar without any remuneration and conducted the seminar in a best possible manner with the presence of best scholars in the area. I had suggested to book few rooms in nearby government educational institutions with good guest houses rather than booking any hotel, but Delhi archives officials preferred to book a hotel, where some participants faced some inconvenience.
         In the absence of competent help, I had to organise the preliminary display of books and other material for the purpose of inauguration single handily. The panels with photographs with text were arranged by Delhi archives but without consulting me, so many errors erupted in many panels, some of which had to be removed for correction. Finally, the inaugural function was held on 23rd March at 11 am in lawns of Delhi Archives, which went on very well. Labour minister Sh. Gopal Rai inaugurated the archives and resource centre spending quite a bit of time in watching books and panels. He spoke on the occasion quite well. Sheonan Singh retired major general and nephew of Bhagat Singh also spoke well. I welcomed and introduced the archives and resource centre. From afternoon the two day, national seminar on The role of Bhagat Singh and revolutionaries also got good start.
     Yet as per the agreement, Delhi Government has to issue notification designating me as honorary lifetime advisor with an office in the centre. Since the archives is modelled on PC Joshi archives of JNU, I wish to oversee as per my duty as advisor its development to greater heights.

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