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बिपन चन्द्र: एक युग का अवसान

Bipin Tiwari

बिपिन तिवारी

हंस, अक्टूबर 2014 

31 अगस्त 2014 की अलसुबह इतिहासकार प्रोफेसर बिपन चन्द्र नहीं रहे। बिपन चन्द्र का जाना एक सामान्य खबर नहीं है। उनका जाना एक संस्था का जाना है। वह संस्था जिसने इतिहास लेखन की एक अलग परम्परा शुरू की और भारतीय राष्ट्रीय आंदोलन का एक नए तरह से पाठ किया। बिपन चन्द्र के पहले तक राष्ट्रीय आंदोलन की जो समझ विकसित की गई थी वह माक्र्सवादी इतिहासकारों और साम्राज्यवादी इतिहासकारों की देन थी। माक्र्सवादी इतिहासकार जहां इसके चरित्र को बुर्जुआ सिद्ध कर रहे थे और आजादी को झूठी आजादी मान रहे थे, वहीं साम्राज्यावदी इतिहासकार राष्ट्रीय आंदोलन को जन आंदोलन मानने को तैयार नहीं थे। बिपन चन्द्र खुद माक्र्सवादी थे लेकिन उनका माक्र्सवाद रजनी पामदत्त जैसे कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी के माक्र्सवादियों से अलग था। इसीलिए वह आजादी को झूठी कहने की पार्टी की जो लाइन थी उसको अस्वीकार करते हैं। इसके बारे मंे वह एक किस्सा सुनाते थे कि जब वह पीएच.डी. कर रहे थे तो उन्होंने प्राक्कल्पना ;भ्लचवजीमेपेद्ध जो बनाई थी और जो तथ्य मिल रहे थे वह उसके विपरीत थे, इस समस्या को उन्होंने अपने दोस्त प्रसिद्ध कम्युनिस्ट नेता मोहित सेन से बताया। मोहित सेन ने कहा कि जो तथ्य मिल रहे हैं उसके हिसाब से अपने निष्कर्ष प्रस्तुत करो। इस सूक्ति को वह अपने जीवन भर अपनाए रहे, जिसकी कीमत भी उनको विभिन्न रूपों में चुकानी पड़ी। उनको कांग्रेसी इतिहासकार कहकर अपमानित किया गया जिसमें कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी के लोग भी शामिल थे।
साम्राज्यवादी इतिहासकारों के जवाब में उनका तर्क था कि भारत के राष्ट्रीय आंदोलन की शुरुआत जरूर कुछेक बौद्धिकों ने की थी परंतु आगे चलकर इसका स्वरूप विकसित होता चला गया। जिसमें किसान, व्यापारी, मजूदर आदि समाज के सभी लोग शामिल थे। खासतौर से गांधी के आने के बाद उनके आंदोलनों में इस तथ्य को देखा जा सकता है। बिपन ने अपनी इतिहास की समझ केवल चुनिंदा किताबों या पुस्तकालयों-अभिलेखागारों में बैठ कर ही नहीं बनाई। अस्सी के दशक में अपने छात्रों-सहयोगियों के साथ टीम बनाकर पूरे देश में घूमे। छोटे शहर, कस्बे और यहां तक की गांवों में भी गए। स्वतंत्रता संग्राम सेनानियों से साक्षात्कार लिए और उन सबकी समझ को अपनी समझ से मिलाया। यह साक्षात्कार अभी छप नहीं सके हैं, लेकिन जिस दिन दुनिया के परदे पर भारतीय जनमानस की यह आवाज सामने आएगी तो लोग और बेहतर समझ सकेंगे कि बिपन चन्द्र होने का क्या मतलब था और है।
बिपन चन्द्र ने साम्प्रदायिकता के खतरे को लेकर इतिहासकारों में सबसे आक्रामक ढंग से काम किया है। वह आम जनता में बैठे सांप्रदायिक विचारों की परत-दर-परत पड़ताल करते हैं। इसके पीछे वह ब्रिटिश राज के इतिहास लेखन को उत्तरदायी मानते हैं। जिसे आगे चलकर साम्प्रदायिक शक्तियों ने और समृद्ध किया और उसका जनता में प्रचार किया, जिसके भयानक परिणाम भारत की मिली-जुली संस्कृति को उठाने पड़े। बिपन चन्द्र ने साम्प्रदायिकता को विचारधारा के रूप में विवेचित किया है, जो धीरे-धीरे लोगों को साम्प्रदायिक बनाती है। जिसे आजादी के बाद के समय में देखा जा सकता है। राम मंदिर आंदोलन के समय जिस तरह से राम के मर्यादा पुरुषोत्तम रूप की जगह संहारक की छवि निर्मित की गई वह इसी साम्प्रदायिकता का ही नतीजा थी। अब राम का ध्यान आते ही उनकी छवि धनुष की प्रत्यंचा पर तीर चढ़ाए हुए संहार के लिए आतुर रूप में दिखाई पड़ती थी।
बिपन चन्द्र का मानना था कि साम्प्रदायिकता का जिस तरह से मुकाबला राष्ट्रीय आंदोलन और आजादी के बाद के वर्षों में नेहरू ने किया उस तरह से बाद में कांग्रेसी और गैर कांग्रेसी राजनेताओं ने नहीं किया। एक समय ऐसा भी आया कि जब कांग्रेस विरोध के नाम पर धर्मनिरपेक्ष, वामपंथी राजनेता भी साम्प्रदायिक शक्तियों के साथ खड़े हो गए, जिससे साम्प्रदायिक शक्तियों को धीरे-धीरे वैधता मिलती चली गई। जो आगे चलकर बाबरी मस्जिद विध्वंस और गुजरात के भीषण दंगों के रूप में प्रकट हुई।
प्रोफेसर बिपन चन्द्र के लिए इतिहास लेखन एक जिम्मेदारी थी। जिसे एक किस्से के जरिए देखा जा सकता है। एक बार एनसीआरटी की ओर से बच्चों के लिए इतिहास लिखने की जिम्मेदारी बिपन चन्द्र को मिली। बिपन ने प्रसिद्ध इतिहासकार रोमिला थापर से प्राचीन भारत पर किताब लिखने के लिए कहा। रोमिला थापर ने मना कर दिया। उन्हें बच्चों के लिए लिखना बहुत कठिन लग रहा था। इस पर बिपन ने कहा कि यदि तुम आने वाली पीढ़ी के लिए कुछ भी सरोकार रखती हो तो तुमको जरूर लिखना चाहिए। यह थी उनकी इतिहास के प्रति निष्ठा।
इसके अतिरिक्त बिपन चन्द्र ने समकालीन मुद्दों को लेकर भी इतिहास लेखन किया है, जिसमें आपातकाल, पंजाब का आतंकवाद आदि प्रमुख हैं। आपातकाल को लेकर उन्होंने जेपी और इंदिरा गांधी दोनों की भूमिका की आलोचना की है। उनका मानना है कि दोनों नेताओं ने गैर संवैधानिक रास्ता अपनाया था, जिसके कारण ही दक्षिणपंथी शक्तियों को मजबूत होने का मौका मिला। हिमाचल प्रदेश के कांगड़ा में में जन्मे (1928) बिपन चन्द्र की शिक्षा दीक्षा फोरमैन क्रिश्चियन काॅलेज लाहौर, स्टैन फोर्ड यूनिवर्सिटी अमेरिका और दिल्ली विश्वविद्यालय में हुई। वह दिल्ली विश्वविद्यालय, जवाहरलाल नेहरू विश्वविद्यालय, इंडियन हिस्ट्री कांग्रेस, नेशनल बुक ट्रस्ट आदि संस्थाओं से जुड़े रहे। बिपन चन्द्र के इतिहास लेखन से न केवल इतिहास पढ़ने वालों को एक नई दिशा मिली है अपितु इसका लाभ समाज विज्ञान, मानविकी पढ़ने वालों को भी मिला है। जिसे उनकी पुस्तकों के हिंदी संस्करणों से प्रमाणित किया जा सकता है।

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A Respected Teacher of History

V. Krishna Ananth

Economic and Political Weekly, Volume XLIX No. 41, October 11, 2014

Bipan Chandra’s contribution to the historiography of Indian nationalist thought was decisive and unparalleled. A scholar who saw immense value in a Marxist reading of history, his sorties into India’s post-1947 political history laid him open to the slur of being a Congress sympathiser. Yet he remained true to his principles, a stand that time has vindicated. Above all, he was a teacher who loved the thrust and parry of the classroom, and the framework he devised for a Marxian approach to nationalism will endure.

Bipan Chandra (1927-2014), historian, activist, teacher, and, above all, a human being, did not wake up on Saturday, 30 August 2014. The author of many publications, beginning with Rise and Growth of Economic Nationalism in India(1966), Bipan was not just one of the historians who blazed a trail in the 50 years after the 1960s. He dominated the discourse. His contribution to the historio­graphy of Indian nationalist thought was decisive and unparalleled. His works were such that one could dis­agree with him, but not ignore him.

Economic nationalism, based on his doctoral thesis, stirred a debate. Bipan belonged to a generation of Marxists who had to reckon with Karl Marx’s Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, which came out in print later, and his argument marked a departure from R P Dutt’s India Today (1940), which had long been held as a fundamental text for the Marxist interpretation of India’s struggle for freedom. Bipan’s position raised some questions, but notably seemed to provide the framework for a Marxian approach to nationalism. Rather than sticking to the conventional understanding that nationalism belonged to the bourgeoisie, Bipan’s prefix – economic – laid the basis for a new thinking. Note that he did this in the 1960s, at least a decade and half before Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities or Edward Said’sOrientalism.

Bipan will be remembered for having separated the husk from the grain. He set a paradigm from which it was possible to distinguish attempts to attribute a right-wing character to nationalism by defining it in only cultural terms. For Bipan, nationalism was not imagination; it was the response of a colonised people. He disagreed with Marx’s views (in the aftermath of 1857) on British rule in India, like Marxists of his time, but differed with them on locating the Indian National Congress and M K Gandhi as representatives of the nationalist bourgeoisie. One must, however, add that Bipan did not stray away from the Marxist approach to history. His presidential address to the Indian History Congress session in Amritsar in December 1985 clearly established this, notwithstanding the knee-jerk reaction by a section of mainstream Marxist scholars.

The 1985 address, best known for the struggle-truce-struggle (S-T-S) strategy, was attacked. Bipan did not wilt. In due course, it sunk in that the address was not only about strategy. Bipan built on his 1966 position, and established a continuity between the pre-Gandhi phase of the struggle and the movements that came after Gandhi emerged as a leader. He traced the evolution of the nationalist discourse, from the moderate to the extre­mist, long before Gandhi arrived in India. He said,

Historians and other social scientists, as also contemporary political commentators, have tended to concentrate on Gandhiji’s philosophy of life. But, in fact, his philosophy of life had only a limited impact on the people. It was as a political leader and through his political strategy and tactics of struggle that he moved millions into political action.

A Marxist Historiography

Between economic nationalism and the 1985 address and later, Bipan’s works sought to establish the objective reality in which nationalism emerged in India. He underscored the nature of British rule and the colonial state in India (semi-hegemonic and semi-authoritarian), unlike Adolf Hitler’s Germany or Czarist Russia or Fulgencio Batista’s Cuba, and of this reality shaping the struggle against colonialism. In this and elsewhere, Bipan’s approach was drawn from Marx’s classic statement on history that “mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve” (A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy 1859). He thus put in place a Marxist historiography of the Indian national movement, which until then was guided by Dutt’s work arguing that Gandhi and the Indian National Congress were simply handmaidens of the national bourgeoisie.

This is not to say that Bipan glossed over the class approach – he stuck to it. In discussing the freedom movement as a crucible where different classes contested, he invoked the concept of hegemony. India’s Struggle for Independence: 1857-1947 (1988), which he authored with K N Panikar, Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee, and Sucheta Mahajan, was a wholesome study in which the contributions of the working class, the peasantry, and various other subaltern groups in the freedom struggle was foregrounded. The book was based on a scrutiny of official records, private papers, and, most importantly, a number of interviews the team conducted with men and women who participated in the struggle but whose experiences had been unrecorded till then. This work remains a text as much as Sumit Sarkar’sModern India: 1885-1947 (1983), and will continue to be one for students of history for long. Bipan initiated an attempt to challenge the Cambridge school of historians, as much as he contributed to revealing the infirmities Dutt’s work suffered from in relation to a Marxist approach.

Bipan’s analysis of Gandhi was clinical. Describing the post-1918 phase, he held that the basic task at that stage “was to destroy the notion that British rule could not be challenged, to create among the people fearlessness and courage and the capacity to fight and make sacrifices, and to inculcate the notion that no people could be ruled without their consent’’ (“The Long Term Dynamics of the Indian National Congress”, Presidential Address, IHC, 1985). In this, he sought to dispel the notion that Gandhi contributed to dampening the struggle. This had been mentioned earlier in a different context by Ram Manohar Lohia. Addressing the conference of the Socialist Party in 1955, Lohia said, “A sterile Gandhism has come into existence which concentrates almost exclusively on changing the heart of the well-placed to the utter neglect of change of the poor man’s heart.’’ Well, Bipan would not have taken kindly to it if he had heard me associate him with Lohia.

History, for Bipan, was not just a project meant to be used by professional historians or students of the discipline. He said in his 1985 address that India’s struggle for independence was

the only actual historical example of a semi-democratic or democratic type of state structure being replaced or transformed, of the broadly Gramscian theoretical perspective of a war of position being successfully practiced. The study of its experience can yield many insights into the processes of historical change and state transformation, both in the past and in the present, both to the historian and the political activist.

This idea of history led to his foray into the history of post-1947 India, an area many established historians have been reluctant to enter. India After Independence (1999; renamed India Since Independence) saw Bipan commenting on contemporary events and living personalities, which exposed him to some criticism because he was seen as defending the Congress Party and its leaders. Some draw a link between his position on the Indian National Congress and the struggle for freedom, and his prognosis of the Congress as a party that of the establishment.

Bipan found Lohia to have contributed to the decimation of some of the institutions that were built on the foundations of the freedom struggle. And his view on Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) and his campaign was important for the same reason, articulated in In the Name of Democracy: JP Movement and the Emergency (2003). He had by then moved away from his peers of younger days. Among them was Randhir Singh, with whom he used to ride across Delhi to organise schoolteachers to mobilise them to fight for their demands. Singh took a contrary view of the mainstream left and associated with platforms that were identified as far left, while Bipan remained with S A Dange and Mohit Sen, seeing a ray of hope in the Congress Party’s socialist bloc.

Bipan did not repudiate the Emergency of 1975-77 very strongly. He blamed JP for attempting to destroy institutions by refusing to wait for the general elections (which was due in March 1976), and Indira Gandhi for not stepping down after the Allahabad High Court disqualified her election to the Lok Sabha. But Bipan suggested that Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha had been part of a conspiracy to destabilise constitutional democratic institutions, which were sacrosanct because they had been raised on foundations laid by the freedom struggle. It is another matter that he seemed to think like Gandhi and her cheerleaders on the Allahabad High Court verdict, and on the Supreme Court decision in theGolaknath case, where the bench sought to forbid legislation that intended to put certain socialist principles in place.

More Than a Teacher

Bipan’s position in these was guided by the Nehruvian imprint on the constitutional scheme, and he did not conceal this at any time. India Since Independence was a sequel to India’s Struggle for Independence, and even while he was attacked by erstwhile friends, Bipan stood firm. But none could accuse Bipan of insisting that his students agree with him. He did not expect implicit obedience; he would argue, and do that with force, but insist that one should agree to disagree. He was more than just a teacher to his students. As someone put it, Bipan was not just a teacher to those who sat in his classes in Delhi University or Jawaharlal Nehru University – he taught history to a generation and left behind a school of thought.

One may have found it difficult to agree with Bipan when he criticised the anti-Congress consolidation brought about by Lohia. It was based on the apprehension that such a movement would eventually lead to the consolidation of the right in our political space. Madhu Limaye, a socialist and Lohia follower, expressed this in the context of the Janata Party in 1978. Bipan persisted with it a decade later when he refused to celebrate V P Singh and his crusade against corruption. The historian was right, and he stood vindicated on 16 May 2014 when the general election results came. Bipan did not live long enough to score a point. But then, those who knew Bipan well knew he would not have wasted time doing so. And with his health deteriorating, he knew that his battle for secularism would have to cease.

Apart from his significant contributions as a historian and a political activist, Bipan will be remembered as a human being and a teacher – one who never let his students down.

V Krishna Ananth (krishnananth@gmail.com) teaches history at Sikkim University and was Bipan Chandra’s student at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Professor Bipan Chandra (1928-2014)

Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, Economic and Political Weekly, Volume XLIX, 11 October 2014

Sabyasachi Bhattacharya

Few historians of modern India have had as much widespread influence as did Bipan Chandra. A popular and engaged teacher, history research and writing was never a dispassionate exercise for him. His contributions to Marxist and nationalist interpretations of modern India remain important markers of historiography. This article traces his long intellectual journey and flags the important shifts.

Sabyasachi Bhattacharya (bhattacharya.sabyasachi@gmail.com) taught history at the Jawaharlal Nehru University along with Bipan Chandra. He is the General Editor of the Towards Freedom documentation series of the Indian Council of Historical Research.

When Bipan Chandra passed away on 30 August 2014 an era came to an end. That was the era which saw in post-Independence India the growth of the Nationalist School of historians and the rise of the Marxist school as well. Among the foremost in that generation of historians, ­Bipan Chandra played an important role in constructing and reconstructing both these schools or styles of thinking. His first and his best work of research, The Rise and Growth of Economic Nationalism in India (1966), remains unsurpassed, a locus classicus. The empirical richness of that work was not to be matched later, but in general his contribution to and critique of both Marxist and nationalist historiography constituted a set of readings no student of history can do without.

There is another reason why he ranked among the foremost of historians. He was an admirable teacher who brought to each lecture he delivered an infective enthusiasm and a passionate commitment which influenced a huge number of students at Hindu College and the University of Delhi, and later at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. While Bipan Chandra’s work of research or his lectures might have been influential, there is a third reason why his name spread beyond the circle of his professional peers and the walls of his classroom and became a household word. He was the author of a textbook on modern Indian history which was read by hundreds of thousands of people. Written for the National Council of Educational Research and Training for the senior secondary schools, the book was read by students ranging from those in schools to those in graduate courses, aspirants for government jobs through competitive examinations, and all manner of people who are described in publishers’ argot as general readers. For all these reasons, Bipan Chandra became one of the most widely recognised historians of his generation.

Since Bipan Chandra was a colleague of mine for a score of years or more at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, the temptation is great to draw upon personal reminiscences and experiences. But that will be inappropriate here for more reasons than one. I choose to observe the usual conventions of writing an obituary and address his life and work as a public intellectual.

The Historians’ Business

Bipan Chandra spent his boyhood and youth in British India and he was already on the verge of adulthood when India obtained Independence. Possibly in the minds of many people of his generation that experience might have been a formative factor in shaping their attitude to colonialism. Their approach to the so-called modern period in India was deeply coloured by not only the history but the memory of colonialism. Perhaps this is one of those things which those of the next generation need to be reminded of. Further, young Bipan’s experience of being in politically and culturally vibrant Lahore as a student in Forman Christian College – after his early schooling in his birthplace in Kangra, then in Punjab – was also an intellectually formative factor. He earned the MA degree at Stanford University but he returned to India to do his PhD under the supervision of Bisheshwar Prasad at Delhi University and to teach at Hindu College. As far as I remember he lived with his charming wife Usha and two children on the campus. This privilege which he enjoyed as the warden of the hostel, allowed him to interact with students and indeed with visitors from distant places who sought him out.

In the somnolent Department of History at that University he caused a stir by organising a Marxist study circle. His lectures were attended by hordes of students, some of them came from other colleges and departments. The generation of Marxist intellectuals Bipan Chandra interacted with included Mohit Sen, Randhir Singh and Sulekh Chandra Gupta in Delhi, Baudhayan Chattopadhyay and Satyesh Chakravarty in Calcutta, A R Desai in Bombay, R S Sharma in Patna, Khaliq and Shafiq Naqvi and Irfan Habib in Aligarh. These are some names which readily come to mind. Some of them and a great many others contributed to the Marxist journal, Enquiry, which this college teacher edited; some articles were contributed by his colleagues in other disciplines, like Amartya Sen. Today we tend to forget those years in the obituaries of Bipan Chandra which underline that he was awarded the Padma Bhushan (2010), the national professorship (2007), and his elevation to the chairmanship of the National Book Trust (2008) and so forth. This signified recognition from the government in power; but at one time Bipan Chandra was way out of line with the establishment. He was at that time a leading Marxist historian. However, in the long run the trajectory of his intellectual life was such that his contribution to nationalist historiography was greater.

Today when we look back at the Nationalist School of historians in India we tend to overlook and take for granted the studies and argumentation that led to the formation of the nationalist approach to overcome colonial intellectual hegemony. That school of history writing produced great persuaders and so great was their success, so much of their ideas were widely accepted, that those ideas became commonplaces of political thinking in India and hence taken for granted. Their very success has taken away the credit that was due to them.

Arguably Bipan Chandra emerged in the 1980s in the front rank in that school of historians. And among them he stood out for the passionate commitment he brought to narrating the history of ­India’s growth towards nationhood and freedom. His emotional involvement was intense. In this respect I saw a difference between him and our colleague Sarvepalli Gopal. In what Gopal wrote or said there was no great effort to persuade his reader or interlocutor; he seemed to pursue his own train of thought regardless of the effect he produced, ­almost as if he was talking to himself. While, true to his vocation and style of thinking, he developed arguments to establish the probability of his interpretation being right, he left open the possibility of uncertainty, the possibility of alternatives.

Bipan Chandra’s style of exposition and argumentation on the ideological implications of historical issues was different because there was an activist in him, persuading his readers mattered to him, because that mattered in making an intervention in the evolving history of the nation. This difference was not irre­concilable, they supported and endorsed each other, but there seems to be an undeniable difference in this regard.

To my mind, these are two different paradigms, two different approaches to the frequently unasked question: What is the historians’ business? Generally ­academic persons do fail to ask that sort of question, we forget the words attributed to Socrates in Plato’s Dialogues that a life unexamined is not worth living. ­Bipan Chandra was quite certain what the historians’ business ought to be.

Marxian Phase

If one looks at the trajectory of the evolution of historiography in Bipan Chandra’s writings one might see three distinct phases. From the publication of his doctoral thesis in 1966 to the early 1980s, by and large his work was generally within the Marxian framework and certainly Marx-inspired, provided one allows into one’s Marxian interpretation a special case for India on account of its own historical specificities. His doctoral thesis and first published work, The Rise and Growth of Economic Nationalism in India (1966), was infused with a strong nationalist spirit; at the same time his exposition of the growth of economic nationalism was qualified by a Marxian perspective. The question of the class character of that discourse was therefore inescapable to him, unlike earlier authors who visited the site of his research such as Biman Bihari Majumdar, or B B Misra, or the venerable S R Mehrotra.

Chandra argued that the spokespersons of only Indian nationalism, roughly from 1880 to 1905, were not only “basically anti-imperialist”, which was obviously beyond question, but also that “they tried to represent the interests of all classes of Indian society”. Further, “they were intellectuals, their thinking was guided, at the level of consciousness by thought and not by interests”. While no doubt a mechanical interpretation of class interest in terms of personal origins and class location was rightly rejected by Chandra, there were sections of left historians who remained unconvinced of the non-class position of nationalist leaders heading a multi-class movement. Despite such difference with some sections of Marxist opinion, Chandra’s approach by and large approximated to the Marxian position.

In his presidential address to the Modern History Section of the Indian History Congress, entitled “Colonialism and Modernisation” (December 1970), he pushed beyond the arguments he had made in his monograph of 1966. He castigated the then fashionable “tradition-modernity model”, promoted by the Chicago School among others, as irrelevant because that bypassed the essential historical features of colonial India. At the same time he was also critical of the infirmities of the “initial conditions approach” which many economic historians considered to be the key to understanding the “Great Divergence” between the West and the Rest (that phrase, however, remained to be coined by the best-selling pop historian of our times, Niall Ferguson).

Five years later, in an essay on “Jawaharlal Nehru and the Indian Capitalist Class” (1975), Bipan Chandra expressed the view that in the mid- 1930s Nehru was able to break out of the Gandhian framework towards a radical path, though his Marxist radicalism sadly tapered off to assume the form of some sort of Fabianism. Three years later we find that Chandra was deep in the most esoteric of Marxian discussions in a long essay “Karl Marx, His Theories of Asian Societies and Colonial Rule” (1978). This was partly in response to E J Hobsbawm’s edition of Pre-capitalist Economic Formations, extracted from Marx’s hitherto untranslated early writings, as well as Chandra’s perception that at least a ­beginning should be made in the “scientific analysis of Marx’s views on colonial rule and colonialism which has yet to be made”. His dissatisfaction with orthodox Marxism was already evident. Although some of Marx’s observations were insightful, he concluded, “Marx’s over-all analysis of Asian societies and colonialism has proved to be inadequate and does not stand the test of hind-sight”.

Nationalist Departure

In the middle of the 1980s a new phase is marked by the long essay which was originally delivered as his address as the general president of the Indian History Congress, entitled “The Long-Term ­Dynamics: Gandhiji and the Indian ­National Movement” (1985). One can see here a radical departure from an earlier position he had taken, a revision of his previous approach which comes out more clearly in a revised version of this paper in 1988. In anticipation of the criticism that the essay tended to be reductionist in equating the nationalist movement with the Indian National Congress (INC), and the Congress with Mahatma Gandhi, thus taking out of the core of the narrative alternatives and concurrent forces at work within the freedom struggle, it was stated:

The study of the INC before 1947 has to be ….at the heart of centre of the study of India’s anti-imperialist struggle, though it need not occupy the sole position.…There were of course many other strands in India’s struggle for freedom….[However] at no stage did these become alternatives to the main stream of the national movement, nor were they ever quantitatively and qualitatively of the same class [as the INC].

It will be wrong to think that the message was that the Left and the rest were, so to speak, among those who “also ran” – they played out their role but the inevitable winner in the race was the Congress. To focus on the INC was on the agenda of research or generalisations from research in this second phase, roughly from the mid-1980s to the end of the 1990s. The erstwhile Marxian links appear to atrophy and this is when the claim of the Nationalist School to ­acknowledge him as one of their own begins to look plausible and substantial.

His essay on “Colonial Rule, Transformation from a Colonial to an Independent Economy: A Case Study of India” (1989) heavily underlines his differences with Marxist scholars. He begins with his perception of the errors in the assumptions which flawed the approach of the Comintern at its Sixth Congress in 1928, he criticises what he calls the “CBF Model”, i e, the perspective of the Comintern, Paul Baran and Andre Gunder Frank, and rejects clearly their view that no independent economic deve­lopment in the ex-colonial countries was possible unless they are delinked from the world capitalist system and take the socialist path.

In the early 1970s Chandra would have argued that to break away from the world capitalist system towards socialism was the way out, but now he believed that the Indian economy might and indeed did succeed in taking to the path of independent development while being within the capitalist system; he saw straws in the wind indicating that the postcolonial state would succeed in the path it had taken to reach the goal of independent development. (Incidentally, Bipan Chandra did not take part in the debate on the class character and potentials of the “intermediate regimes”; possibly he was put off by the theoretical nature of the debate set off by Kalecki’s writings and the response from K N Raj and others in India and he scarcely gives any attention to it.) He concluded that “India has been successfully developing along the path of independent capitalism” and that “a major reason why socialist forces have not grown” has been their failure to focus on its capitalist character rather than its dependent character.

The revision of his own earlier views were made in several essays in this phase in the 1980s and an essay written at the end of the decade contained this statement:

People like me were harsh critics of Nehru when he was alive and active, partially ­because we wanted him to go farther and faster on his own road. But with hindsight and with the experience of nearly twenty-five years since he passed away, we can say that Nehru’s life and work, his legacy, his ­social vision and his achievements are a great strength to us ….

This was his conclusion to a remarkable essay, “Jawaharlal Nehru in Historical Perspective”, which was Chandra’s D D Kosambi Memorial Lecture at Mumbai University delivered in 1990 but published in 1994. In this essay, reminiscent of his empirically rich earlier writings, he argues quite contrary to his earlier essay of 1975 on Nehru. Chandra now held up Nehru’s approximation to the Gandhian strategy as the true way forward for the national movement. Bipan Chandra argued that Marxists, including D D Kosambi, were wrong in adopting an “economic deterministic and class-reductionist approach” and in holding the view that “through Nehru it was the Indian bourgeoisie which was ruling India”. Although the very phraseo­logy used here in criticism of Kosambi is redolent of the stuffy cell meetings of the Communist Party as they were or are at certain times, the rejection of the Left approach was loud and clear. Chandra’s sustained critique of the left, in evidence through this phase, was topped up in this essay of 1994 with this summing up:

Unfortunately both the Communists and the socialists failed to understand the Nehruvian efforts and strategy ….making crude class-political analysis and basing their politics on the belief that Nehru was the political representative of the capitalists and landlords.

These positions taken by Chandra in the second phase instantiate the great distance Bipan Chandra had travelled since 1975.

Engagement with Communalism

In the third phase from the mid-1990s till the last pieces of writing which Bipan Chandra managed to complete despite immense health problems, the trend of his thinking is not so clear, partly because many of these writings of the last 15 years have not yet been properly collected and edited. Most of the writings I have referred to were collected in a series of volumes: Nationalism and Communalism in Modern India (1979), Communalism in Modern India (1984), Indian NationalMovement: The Long-term Dynamics (1988), Essays on Contemporary India (1999).

Some of his later writings have been collected in The Writings of Bipan ­Chandra (2012, edited by Aditya Mukherjee). In the third phase, from the mid-1990s, Bipan Chandra continued to write occasional pieces, fighting bravely old age and ailments, of which the worst ­perhaps was the macular degeneration of his eyes. He was working on two long-term projects, his memoirs and a biography of Bhagat Singh. Only a fragment of his work on the latter project appeared in the form of an introductory essay on a new edition (2006) of Bhagat Singh’s tract, Why I am an Atheist. Among the occasional writings in this phase were the texts of several lectures on “Gandhiji, Secularism and Communalism” (2004) and the Patel Memorial lecture on pre-Gandhian political thought (2007). On the whole, he believed,

Gandhiji’s usually inspired understanding proved to be shallow where communalism was concerned….To fight communalism successfully it was necessary to have a deep comprehension of communalism in all its complexity and opacity – its ideological elements, its sources and social roots, its social base, reasons for its growth, and stubbornness in the face of the nationalist attack. Gandhiji and other nationalist leaders as well as the nationalist intellectuals failed to meet the intellectual challenge in this respect.

There is one insightful essay on “Fundamentalism and Communalism” (1994) where he makes a very useful conceptual distinction between fundamentalism and communalism. Fundamentalists look back to the past, communalists may pay lip service to the glories of the past but their gaze is fixed on the modern world and the future. He points out that “in our country the communalists have often not only not been fundamentalists but have not been even religious”, and “to confuse fundamentalism with communalism is to provide the latter with an alibi”. The essay on Gandhi is also remarkable for the clarity with which Bipan Chandra reviews that deeply religious thinker’s approach to secularism.

It is probable that these reflective writings are not as widely read as Bipan Chandra’s writings on communalism in the polemical vein. In fact it is discouraging to reflect on the trend to over­simplify Bipan Chandra’s thoughts, some­times in formulas such as “S-T-S” (struggle-truce-struggle) or “S-C-S” (struggle-compromise-struggle), etc. Such a trend is inconsistent with and unjust to the inner complexity and structure of a system of thought. Both his admirers and his critics might bear in mind what Bipan Chandra wrote, in the ripeness of wisdom at the age of 77, in a rare reflective essay, “Enlightened History” (2005): “the social power of intellect and the importance of ideas” must be given due weight and value and it is incumbent on intellectuals “to remain humble…for the world is too vast to be grasped in an arrogant manner through claims of superior wisdom”.

प्रोo बिपन चन्द्र: भारत के विश्व बुद्धिजीवी

सौरभ बाजपेयी, फ़िलहाल, पटना, अंक 19-20, अक्टूबर 2014  

इतिहास किसी भी राष्ट्र की चेंतना का निर्माण करता है। उन्होंने आधुनिक भारत के इतिहास को साम्राज्यवादी इतिहास दृष्टि से पैदा हुयी आत्मविश्वासहीनता, राष्ट्रवादी इतिहासलेखन की अपूर्णता और परंपरागत मार्क्सवादी इतिहासलेखन के रूढ़ियों से आधुनिक भारत के इतिहास को बाहर निकाला। वे एक जन- इतिहासकार थे। जिन्होंने अपनी सामाजिक जिम्मेदारी को समझते हुए हमेशा आम लोगों तक बात पहुँचाने की कोशिश की। अपनी सामाजिक उत्तरदायित्व की भावना के चलते ही उन्होंने अपनी सबसे लोकप्रिय किताब “भारत का स्वतंत्रता संघर्ष” समाज को समर्पित कर दी थी। वे उसकी रॉयल्टी नहीं लेते थे।

विश्व प्रसिद्ध मार्क्सवादी इतिहासकार बिपन चन्द्र नहीं रहे। पिछले दिनों 30 अगस्त 2014 को उनका लम्बी बीमारी के बाद निधन हो गया। 1928 में हिमाचल प्रदेश, जो तब पंजाब का हिस्सा हुआ करता था, के कांगड़ा जिले में जन्मे बिपन चन्द्र 86 वर्ष के थे। वे ऐसे इतिहासकार के रूप में हमेशा याद रखे जाएंगे, जिन्होंने आधुनिक भारतीय इतिहास लेखन को पूरी दुनिया में प्रतिष्ठित जगह दिलाई। उनके नेतृत्व में इतिहासकारों के एक समूह ने भारतीय इतिहास लेखन की साम्राज्यवादी धारा के वैचारिक आधारों को गंभीर चुनौती दी। उनका यह योगदान इतिहासलेखन में इतना महत्वपूर्ण माना गया कि उनके नाम पर इतिहासलेखन का एक पूरा “स्कूल ऑफ़ थॉट” ही बन गया। जिसे बिपन चन्द्र स्कूल ऑफ़ हिस्टोरिओग्राफ़ी के नाम से जाना जाता है। वे एकलौते भारतीय इतिहासकार थे, जिन्हें इस तरह की पहचान मिली।  जो जगह एरिक हॉब्सबॉम और ईo एचo कार की ब्रिटिश इतिहासलेखन में है, भारतीय इतिहासलेखन में वही स्थान बिपन चन्द्र का है। उनके लेखन ने हमारे दिमागों को उपनिवेशवाद के प्रभाव से इतना मुक्त कर दिया है कि यह बात उनकी श्रद्धांजलि लेख में पूरे आत्मविश्वास से कही जा सकती है।

बिपन चन्द्र को तमाम तरह से भारतीय बौद्धिकता के इतिहास में याद रखा जाएगा। उनकी क़िताबें और उसमें समाये उनके विचार आने वाले समय में हमारा मार्गदर्शन करेंगे। इतिहास किसी भी राष्ट्र की चेंतना का निर्माण करता है। उन्होंने आधुनिक भारत के इतिहास को साम्राज्यवादी इतिहास दृष्टि से पैदा हुयी आत्मविश्वासहीनता, राष्ट्रवादी इतिहासलेखन की अपूर्णता और परंपरागत मार्क्सवादी इतिहासलेखन के रूढ़ियों से आधुनिक भारत के इतिहास को बाहर निकाला। एक धर्मनिरपेक्ष, वैज्ञानिक और लोकतांत्रिक राष्ट्र के निर्माण में उनके इतिहासलेखन ने नींव बनाने का काम किया है। उनकी लाखों- लाख की सँख्या में बिकी किताबें इस बात का प्रमाण हैं कि वे भारतीय जनमानस को छूने वाले विद्वान थे। गंभीर शोध- छात्र, नौकरशाह, सिविल सेवा के अभ्यर्थी से लेकर इतिहास में सामान्य रूचि रखने वाले सामान्य पाठक तक बिपन चन्द्र की चेतना के वाहक हैं। इसीलिए भारत के छोटे- छोटे शहरों और कस्बों तक जब कभी आधुनिक भारत के किसी मुद्दे पर बात होती है, तो बिपन चन्द्र के लेखन का ही हवाला दिया जाता है। वे एक जन- इतिहासकार थे। जिन्होंने अपनी सामाजिक जिम्मेदारी को समझते हुए हमेशा आम लोगों तक बात पहुँचाने की कोशिश की। फ़िराक़ गोरखपुरी कहते थे साहित्य इतना सरल होना चाहिए कि आठ साल के बच्चे से लेकर अस्सी साल के बूढ़े तक को समझ आये। बिपन चन्द्र ने तो इतिहास जैसे कठिन विषय को भी इतनी सरलता से पेश किया कि वो भी इस कसौटी पर खरा उतरता है। अपनी सामाजिक उत्तरदायित्व की भावना के चलते ही उन्होंने अपनी सबसे लोकप्रिय किताब “भारत का स्वतंत्रता संघर्ष” समाज को समर्पित कर दी थी। वे उसकी रॉयल्टी नहीं लेते थे।

सवाल दर सवाल 

वे अपने जीवन के शुरुआती दिनों से ही प्रश्न पूछने के आदी थे। उनकी शुरुआती शिक्षा लाहौर के फोरमैन कॉलेज में हुयी। उन दिनों वे अंग्रेजी बोलने में असमर्थ थे। लेकिन क्लास के दौरान उन्हें तमाम प्रश्न पूछने का मन करता था। इसलिए वो अपने गहरे दोस्त, जिनकी अंग्रेजी अच्छी थी, के कान में प्रश्न बता देते थे। उनके दोस्त वही प्रश्न अंग्रेजी में खड़े होकर दोहरा दिया करते थे। एक बार टीचर ने उन्हें इस बात के लिए डाँट लगायी कि वे क्लास में खुसुर- फुसुर क्यों करते रहते हैं। तब उन्होंने टीचर को सच्चाई बताई। टीचर ने खुश होकर उन्हें हिंदुस्तानी में ही प्रश्न पूछने को कह दिया। इसके बाद तो उन्होंने क्लास में सवालों की बौछार कर दी। उन्होंने ताउम्र यह आदत नहीं छोड़ी।

पूरा जीवन वे अपनी जिज्ञासा में सवाल पूछते रहे। और उन सवालों का जवाब तलाशने के क्रम में उन्होंने परंपरागत इतिहासलेखन की जाने कितनी मान्यताओं को ध्वस्त कर दिया। यही सीख उन्होंने अपने तमाम छात्रों और अन्य लोगों को दी। वे अपनी क्लास में खूब बहस- मुबाहिसा पसंद करते थे। एक बार जेएनयू के किसी सीनियर छात्र ने उनसे पूछा कि उस साल का बैच कैसा है? उन्होंने निराश होकर कहा कि उस बैच में तो कोई सवाल ही नहीं पूछता।

बिपन चन्द्र ने भारतीय इतिहासलेखन पर पहला बड़ा सवाल अपने पीएचडी शोध प्रबंध के दौरान उठाया। जब उन्होंने आरंभिक राष्ट्रवादियों पर अपना काम शुरू किया तो उनकी परिकल्पना पहले के दो मार्क्सवादी विद्वानों के अध्ययन से भिन्न नहीं थी। रजनी पाम दत्त और एo आरo देसाई जैसे शुरुआती मार्क्सवादी विद्वानों ने दादाभाई नौरोजी, गोपाल कृष्ण गोखले, एमo जीo रानाडे, जीo वीo जोशी और रोमेशचन्द्र दत्त आदि की भूमिका को नज़रअंदाज़ कर दिया था।  उनका मानना था कि यह आरम्भिक नेता ब्रिटिश साम्राज्य की अच्छाइयों में यकीन करने वाले लोग थे। जो अपनी समस्याओं के समाधान के लिए घोर संवैधानिक तरीकों से याचिकाएँ देने में यकीन रखते थे। उनके वर्ग चरित्र को उन्होंने “बिग बुर्जुआजी” माना। देसाई ने उन्हें नए बुर्जुआ समाज के प्रतिनिधि और शिक्षित समाज और व्यापारिक वर्गों के प्रवक्ता माना था। लेकिन जब बिपन चन्द्र ने अपना अध्ययन शुरू किया तो उन्हें भिन्न निष्कर्ष मिले।

उन्होंने सबसे पहले इस स्थापना को खारिज किया कि बुद्धिजीवी नेतृत्व हमेशा अपने वर्ग के फायदों की दृष्टि से ही सोचता है। और, विचारों की चेतना का निर्माण विचार के स्तर पर होता है, न कि नफा- नुक़सान के आकलन से। उन्होंने सिद्ध किया कि आरंभिक राष्ट्रवादी अपने निजी हितों की लड़ाई नहीं लड़ रहे थे। भले ही उनका व्यापक दृष्टिकोण औद्योगिक पूँजीवाद को समर्थन करता था। इसकी वजह यह थी कि तत्कालीन भारत में औद्योगिक पूँजीवाद सबसे बड़ी जरूरत था। सबसे बड़ी बात थी कि वे संभवतः दुनिया के पहले ऐसे बुद्धिजीवी थे, जिन्होंने उपनिवेशवाद को विस्तार से परिभाषित किया। इस तरह यह तथ्य सामने आया कि ब्रिटेन भारत का जबर्दस्त आर्थिक शोषण कर रहा था। पूरा देश एक जैसे शोषण-चक्र में फँसा है, यह देखकर लोगों में एकजुटता की भावना आयी। यहीं से भारत में आर्थिक राष्ट्रवाद की नींव पड़ी।

यहाँ उन्हें एक द्वन्द का सामना करना पड़ा। वे एक मार्क्सवादी इतिहासकार थे। उस समय तक आधुनिक भारतीय इतिहास की मार्क्सवादी समझ रजनी पाम दत्त और एo आरo देसाई की मान्यताओं पर आधारित थी। 1946 में ही पार्टी ने “पीपुल्स वार” की लाइन ले ली थी और 1947 में ब्रिटिश उपनिवेशवाद से मिली आज़ादी को झूठा कहकर ख़ारिज कर दिया था। नयी स्थापनाओं से पार्टी में उथल- पुथल मचना स्वाभाविक था। लेकिन उन्होंने और उनके खास दोस्त मोहित सेन (जो अपने समय के प्रभावशाली कम्युनिस्ट नेता थे) ने यह तय किया कि एक मार्क्सवादी इतिहासकार की तरह जो निष्कर्ष मिलें, उन्हें निडर होकर स्वीकार करो। और यहीं से बिपन ने अपने जीवन में निडर रहकर हर तरह की रूढ़ियों के खिलाफ सवाल उठाये। उन्हें इसकी कीमत भी चुकानी पड़ी लेकिन उन्होंने खुद भी ऐसा किया और दूसरों को भी ऐसा करने का हौसला दिया।  इस मामले में वे गजब लोकतान्त्रिक थे। वे नए विचारों को स्वीकार करने को हमेशा तत्पर रहते थे। लेकिन उन पर लड़ने- भिड़ने की हद तक बहस के बाद।  उनका कहना था कि हर विचार की हरसंभव कसौटी पर परीक्षा की जानी चाहिए।

बिपन चन्द्र ने इतिहास की समझ सक्रिय राजनीतिक भागीदारी के मार्फ़त बनाई। अपने अमेरिका प्रवास के दौरान जब वे स्टैनफोर्ड यूनिवर्सिटी में थे, उन्होंने समसामयिक राजनीति में दिलचस्पी लेनी शुरू कर दी थी। वहाँ वे मार्क्सवादियों के सम्पर्क में आये और अमेरिकी राष्ट्रपति पद के लिए हुए चुनाव- प्रचार में हिस्सा लिया। जब वे भारत लौट के आये तो उनका उद्देश्य सम्भावित क्रान्ति का हिस्सा बनना था। लेकिन धीरे- धीरे वे समझ गए कि एक भिन्न समाज होने के नाते क्रांति उन रास्तों से नहीं आएगी, जिन पर भारतीय कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी काम कर रही थी। उनके इस अनुभव ने उन्हें भारतीय समाज के चरित्र का नए सिरे से परीक्षण करने को प्रेरित किया। इस काम में उन्होंने अन्तोनिओ ग्राम्शी की अंतर्दृष्टियों को अपना आधार बनाया।

ग्राम्शी का मानना था कि पूंजीवादी वर्ग सत्ता को हासिल करने और उसे बनाये रखने के लिए बहुतेरे तरीकों से अपना प्रभुत्व स्थापित करता है। बिपन चन्द्र ने इस अंतर्दृष्टि को आगे बढ़ाते हुए इसे औपनिवेशिक समाजों पर लागू किया। उन्होंने कहा कि उपनिवेशों के भीतर औपनिवेशिक सत्ता अपनी जनता पर प्रभुत्व बनाती है। जैसे ब्रिटिश राज ने भारतीयों के मन में दो धारणाएं गहरे तक बैठा दी थीं। पहली, ब्रिटिश राज भारतीयों के भले के लिए है। या दूसरे शब्दों में अंग्रेज भारतीयों के “माई- बाप” हैं। और दूसरा यह कि “ब्रिटिश राज का सूर्य कभी अस्त नहीं होता”। यानी ब्रिटिश राज अजेय है। जिसे जीता नहीं जा सकता। यानी अपने दुखों को भोगना ही एकमात्र चारा है, प्रतिरोध करना बेकार है। इसके जवाब में भारतीय राष्ट्रीय आन्दोलन ने अपनी हेजेमनी स्थापित करने की कोशिश की। और धीरे- धीरे लोगों के भीतर से अंग्रेजी राज का भय मिटा दिया।

राष्ट्रीय आंदोलन की पुनर्व्याख्या 

उनकी यह धारणा 1980 के मध्य में और मजबूत हुयी। उन्होंने एक मौखिक इतिहास परियोजना (ओरल हिस्ट्री प्रोजेक्ट) शुरू की। जिसका उद्देश्य यह जानना था कि जिन लोगों ने उपनिवेशवाद- विरोधी आन्दोलन में भाग लिया था; वे उस आन्दोलन को कैसे समझते थे। अपनी टीम के साथ उन्होंने लगभग पूरे देश में हजारों स्वतंत्रता संग्राम सेनानियों से बातचीत की।  तक़रीबन 3000 घण्टे के साक्षात्कार इस दौरान रिकॉर्ड किये गए। साक्षात्कार देने वालों में कम्युनिस्ट, गांधीवादी, समाजवादी, नेहरूवादी, सुभाषवादी, क्रांतिकारी, पूँजीपति और यहां तक भूतपूर्व आईसीएस अधिकारी तक शामिल थे। इस अनुभव ने उनकी इतिहास-दृष्टि पर आमूलचूलकारी प्रभाव डाला।  उनकी तमाम पुरानी मान्यताएँ इन साक्षात्कारों के सामने बदल गयीं। एक बार फिर उन्होंने नए विचारों का तहे- दिल से स्वागत किया। उनके विचारों में आये इस बदलाव को उन्होंने अपने छात्रों के साथ “भारत का स्वाधीनता संघर्ष” नामक किताब में संकलित किया।  यह काम एक तरफ तो बिपन चन्द्र स्कूल के लिए मील का पत्थर बन गया।

दूसरी तरफ़ उनकी तमाम मौलिक स्थापनाओं ने उन्हें कम्युनिस्ट और परंपरागत मार्क्सवादियों के बीच अलोकप्रिय बना दिया। हालाँकि हमेशा गहन ऐतिहासिक शोध से निकले अपने निष्कर्षों के प्रति बिपन की आस्था अडिग बनी रही। उन्होंने कभी राजनीतिक रूप से सही रहने की कोशिश नहीं की। न ही लोकप्रिय होने के लिए इतिहास की सहज प्रचलित मान्यताओं को दोहराया। उनके लिए तो इतिहास समाज को जागरूक बनाने का जरिया था। न कि केवल अकादमिक बहसबाज़ी का माध्यम।

उनकी यह किताब भारतीय राष्ट्रीय आंदोलन की ग्राम्शियन दृष्टिकोण से पुनर्व्याख्या है। जो उनके खुद के पहले के कामों से एक बहुत बड़ा शिफ्ट था। उन्होंने कांग्रेस के नेतृत्व में लड़े जा रहे उपनिवेशवाद विरोधी आंदोलन को विभिन्न वर्गों का एक सम्मिलित संघर्ष माना।  उनके मुताबिक़ आंदोलन के रणनीतिकारों ने संघर्ष के प्राथमिक और द्वितीयक संघर्ष को पहचान लिया था। जिसमें प्राथमिक संघर्ष उपनिवेशवाद विरोध था। उसको हासिल करने तक अन्य द्वितीयक संघर्षों को टालने की समझदारी थी। कांग्रेस को उन्होंने विभिन्न वर्गों के सम्मिलित उपनिवेशवाद विरोधी आंदोलन का समुच्चय कहा। जोकि अंग्रेजी सत्ता के खिलाफ एक ऐतिहासिक ब्लॉक का निर्माण करती थी। और साथ ही साथ औपनिवेशिक प्रभुत्व को चुनौती देती थी। उन्होंने कांग्रेस के नेतृत्व को औद्योगिक बुर्जुवा के प्रभाव में मानते हुए भी सब वर्गों का प्रतिनिधि कहा। इस तरह, कांग्रेस एक पार्टी नहीं थी बल्कि एक आंदोलन थी।  जिसके भीतर विभिन्न वर्गों के लोग अलग- अलग वर्गीय हितों के होने बावजूद उपनिवेशवाद- विरोध के नाम पर एकजुट थे।

गाँधी को भारतीय राष्ट्रीय आंदोलन में उनका उचित स्थान दिलाने का श्रेय बिपन चन्द्र को जाता है। यदि वे गांधी को लेकर इतिहासलेखन की परंपरागत समझ को चुनौती न देते तो गांधी “जोनाह (बाइबिल का एक ख़राब चरित्र) ऑफ़ रेवोलुशन” (क्रांति से गद्दारी करने वाले) और “मैस्कॉट ऑफ़ बुर्जुआजी” ही बनकर रह जाते। उन्होंने गांधीवादी रणनीति को “संघर्ष- शान्ति- संघर्ष” के तौर पर व्याख्यायित किया। और कहा कि अहिंसा उनके लिए कोई पवित्र मूल्य नहीं था, बल्कि आंदोलन का हथियार था। इसीलिए जो गांधी 1922 में चौरी- चौरा के बाद असहयोग आंदोलन वापस ले लेते हैं, वही 1942 में हुयी जबरदस्त हिंसा की आलोचना करने से इंकार कर देते हैं। यह कहते हुए कि यह तो ब्रिटिश शासन द्वारा की जा रही हिंसा की प्रतिहिंसा है।

बिपन चन्द्र ने हिंसा की क्रांतिकारी अनिवार्यता को ख़ारिज करते हुए भारतीय राष्ट्रीय आंदोलन को दुनिया की अन्य क्रांतियों के समान एक क्रान्ति माना। जो कि किसी ऐतिहासिक पल में घटित न होकर एक प्रक्रिया के तौर पर घटित हुयी थी। और, जनभागीदारी की दृष्टि से वह दुनिया की सबसे महान क्रान्ति थी। इस तरह उन्होंने गाँधी को लोकतांत्रिक और अर्ध- लोकतांत्रिक समाजों में चलाये जा रहे  उपनिवेशवाद विरोधी आंदोलन का सबसे सफल नायक बनाया। स्वतंत्रता संग्राम सेनानियों से मिले अनुभव के बाद वो गांधी से इतना प्रभावित हुए थे कि बाद के दिनों में वे खुद को गर्व के साथ गांधीवादी कहने में भी नहीं हिचकिचाते थे।

भगत सिंह की वैचारिकता 

आंदोलन को एक प्रक्रिया के तौर पर देखने से एक बड़ा फायदा हुआ। विभिन्न विचारधाराओं के लोग और विभिन्न धाराओं के आंदोलन को एक साथ पिरोकर देखने में इससे बड़ी आसानी हुयी। इसीलिए एक तरफ तो वे गांधी के प्रशंसक थे, तो दूसरी तरफ भगत सिंह जैसे क्रांतिकारी को भी हिन्दू कट्टरपंथियों के कब्जे से छीन कर भी वे ही लाये। वरना इसके पहले भगत सिंह की तस्वीर आरएसएस के दफ्तरों में शान से लगाई जाती थी।

बिपन चन्द्र ने भगत सिंह के आलेख “मैं नास्तिक क्यों हूँ” को एक जबर्दस्त प्रस्तावना लिखकर प्रकाशित करवाया। जिससे कि यह पता चला कि भगत सिंह कोई रोमांटिक क्रन्तिकारी मात्र नहीं थे। वरन वे तो एक ऐसे क्रांतिकारी थे, जिनके पास अपनी एक वैज्ञानिक समझ थी। उन्होंने भगत सिंह को एक राजनीतिज्ञ और विचारक के तौर पर प्रतिष्ठित कराया। प्रोफ़ेसर चमनलाल ने भगत सिंह पर बाद में बहुत काम किया। उनका मानना है कि भगत सिंह को सम्मान दिलाने का श्रेय बिपन चन्द्र को जाता है। उन्होंने तो बस बिपन चन्द्र की परंपरा को आगे बढ़ाया। बाद के दिनों में जब वो एनबीटी के चेयरमैन बने उन्होंने क्रांतिकारियों पर खूब किताबों का प्रकाशन करवाया। ग़दर आंदोलन पर किताब उनमें बहुत महत्वपूर्ण है।

उन्होंने सावरकर के क्रांतिकारी दिनों की भी कद्र थी। एक बार अंडमान के काला पानी पर लिखी एक किताब प्रकाशन के लिए आयी। उसमें सावरकर की माफ़ी का ज़िक्र करते हुए उन्हें सिरे से खारिज कर दिया गया था। बिपन चन्द्र ने लेखक से उस हिस्से को हटाने का अनुरोध किया। उनका मानना था कि सावरकर के क्रांतिकारी जीवन का सम्मान किया जाना चाहिए। इतना खुला दिमाग रखते थे बिपन चन्द्र।

अपने अंतिम दिनों में वे भगत सिंह पर एक किताब पूरी करने की कोशिश कर रहे थे। उनका मानना था कि भगत सिंह को समझने के लिए जरूरी है कि उन्हें एक ऐसे व्यक्ति के तौर पर समझा जाए, जो क्रांतिकारी बनने की प्रक्रिया में था। और जोकि व्यापक जनभागीदारी वाले संघर्षों के लिए अहिंसक आंदोलन के महत्त्व को समझने लगा था। ध्यान रहे भगत सिंह ने अपने जीवन के आखिरी दिनों में किसान- मजदूर एकता के आधार पर आंदोलन खड़ा करने पर विचार किया था। जोकि उनकी व्यक्तिगत क्रांतिकारी गतिविधियों वाली छवि से एकदम विपरीत बात थी।

साम्प्रदायिक पूर्वाग्रहों की गहन पड़ताल 

बिपन चन्द्र ने साम्प्रदायिकता के खतरे को बहुत शुरुआत में ही पहचान लिया था। 1960 के मध्य में उन्होंने एनसीईआरटी के लिए लिखी पाठ्यपुस्तक में साम्प्रदायिकता को विस्तार से समझाया था। बाद में 1969 में उन्होंने तत्कालीन इतिहासलेखन में मौजूद सांप्रदायिक पूर्वाग्रहों की गहन पड़ताल की थी। इस साल उन्होंने रोमिला थापर और हरबंस मुखिया के साथ मिलकर “कम्युनलिज़्म एंड द राइटिंग ऑफ़ इंडियन हिस्ट्री” नाम की पुस्तिका लिखी थी। इसके बाद अपने विचारों को उन्होंने व्यवस्थित आकार अपनी किताब “कम्युनलिज़्म इन मॉडर्न इंडिया” में दिया। यह किताब साम्प्रदायिकता की वैज्ञानिक विवेचना के बौद्धिक आधार तैयार करती है। इसके पहले ऐसा कोई आधारभूत स्रोत मौजूद नहीं था।

साम्प्रदायिकता को परिभाषित करते हुए उन्होंने उसे उदार और उग्र साम्प्रदायिकता में बांटा। जिनमे पहली इस विश्वास पर आधारित थी कि एक धर्म के मानने वालों के सामाजिक- आर्थिक हित एकसमान होते हैं। और, उस धर्म को मानने वाले ने केवल एक धार्मिक बल्कि राजनीतिक इकाई का भी निर्माण करते हैं। अपनी चेतना के दूसरे चरण में साम्प्रदायिक विचारधारा उग्र, चरमपंथी और फ़ासीवादी हो जाती है।  इस दौर में माना जाने लगता है कि अलग- अलग धार्मिक समुदायों के हित न केवल भिन्न होते हैं, बल्कि एक दूसरे के विरोधी होते हैं। यानि एक के हितों के पूरा होने का मतलब है, दूसरे का अहित। इसलिए, यह माना जाने लगता है कि कोई भी दो धार्मिक समुदाय एक साथ नहीं रह सकते। इसकी चरम परिणति अलग- अलग देशों की मांग में होती है।  इसे ही द्विराष्ट्र सिद्धान्त के तौर पर जाना जाता है। जिसके मुताबिक़ हिन्दू और मुसलमान दो भिन्न राष्ट्र माने जाते हैं। सावरकर और जिन्नाह इस विचार के प्रतिपादक थे।

बिपन चन्द्र ने साम्प्रदायिकता को राष्ट्रवाद से अलग एक विरोधी विचारधारा के रूप में पहचाना। उनका मानना था कि धर्म आधारित राष्ट्रवाद एक मिथ्या चेतना होता है। जो न तो सामाजिक यथार्थ को सही ढंग से समझ पाता है, न ही उसका समाधान। इसलिए राष्ट्र का नाम दरअसल साम्प्रदायिकता को छुपाने के लिए लिया जाता है। इसके अलावा लोग राष्ट्रवाद का नाम लेने से आकर्षित होते हैं। बिपन चन्द्र ने उपनिवेशवाद- विरोधी आंदोलन के समय और फिर आज़ाद भारत में साम्प्रदायिकता की समाज में नकारात्मक भूमिका को उद्घाटित किया। जो कि वास्तव में राष्ट्रीय चेतना, राष्ट्रवाद और राष्ट्र तीनों की दुश्मन विचारधारा है।

राष्ट्रवाद भारतीय सन्दर्भों में एक ऐसी चीज़ था, जिसे वे एक सशक्त विचारधारा मानते थे। वह उन्हें अपने समय, समाज और राजनीति के प्रति उत्तरदायी बनाता था। वे कहा करते थे सामाजिक उत्तरदायित्व के बिना अच्छा इतिहास नहीं लिखा जा सकता। 1960 के दशक में जब प्रोo रोमिला थापर को एनसीईआरटी की किताब लिखने को कहा गया, तो उन्होंने पहले मना कर दिया। उनका कहना था की बच्चों के लिए एकदम सरल किताब लिखना बहुत मुश्किल है। लेकिन  बिपन चन्द्र ने उनसे कहा कि अगर तुम्हारे अंदर कोई सामाजिक उत्तरदायित्व है, थोड़ा सा भी राष्ट्रवाद है; तो यह किताब जरूर लिखो। प्रोo थापर ने यह किस्सा खुद बिपन चन्द्र की श्रद्धांजलि सभा में सुनाया।

इस प्रतिबद्धता के लिए उन पर सवाल भी खड़े किये गए। उन्हें राष्ट्रवादी कहकर नकारने की कोशिशें भी हुईं। क्योंकि भारतीय राष्ट्र की अवधारणा पर कई बौद्धिक प्रहार किये जा रहे थे। लेकिन बिपन चन्द्र ने राष्ट्र की चेतना को दक्षिणपंथी ताकतों के विस्तृत सन्दर्भ में समझा था। उनके मुताबिक़ साम्प्रदायिक ताक़तों के मुकाबले के लिए राष्ट्रीय पहचान ही सबको जोड़े रख सकती है। उनकी यह बात समकालीन सन्दर्भों में सौ फ़ीसदी सच साबित हुयी है। राष्ट्रवाद को हिन्दू अस्मिता के साथ जोड़कर प्रचारित करने से ही साम्प्रदायिक ताकतें आज आम लोगों की नज़र में इज्ज़त हासिल कर सकी हैं।

अनूठे गुरु

वे एक अनूठे गुरु थे। उनकी शिक्षा का पहला सबक इतिहास से शुरू नहीं होता था। उन्होंने हमेशा कहा कि एक अच्छा इंसान ही अच्छा शोधार्थी बन सकता है। क्योंकि एक अच्छा इंसान खुद से अच्छे सवाल पूछता है। इसलिए वो अपने शोध में भी अच्छे सवाल पूछेगा, ये लाजमी है। दूसरा सबक था- मजबूत बनो। ये सबक उन्होंने अपने लम्बे अकादमिक जीवन में सीखा था। वे अपने शोध के प्रति पूरी तरह सजग रहे। हर विचार को तर्क की सान पर चढ़ाया। और फिर जो भी निष्कर्ष मिला, उसको हिम्मत के साथ स्वीकार किया। इसके लिए उन्होंने जान तक की परवाह नहीं की।

1984 में ऑपरेशन ब्लू स्टार के करीब एक पखवाड़े पहले वो अपनी टीम के साथ केरल में थे। एक व्याख्यान के दौरान उनसे पूछा गया कि वो भिंडरावाले के बारे में क्या सोचते हैं। उस वक़्त भिंडरावाले एक बहुत बड़ी चुनौती बन चूका था। पंजाब और दिल्ली में उसके खिलाफ बोलना खतरा मोल लेना था। लेकिन बिपन ने दो टूक लहजे में कहा- उसका सफ़ाया कर दिया जाना चाहिए। ये वही वक़्त था जब सत्यपाल डंग और कमला डंग जैसे कम्युनिस्ट पंजाब में सिख साम्प्रदायिकता से डटकर लोहा ले रहे थे। और, इस कोशिश में तकरीबन 200 कम्युनिस्ट कार्यकर्ताओं की जान जा चुकी थी। बिपन चन्द्र के साथी उनकी इस बेबाकी पर चिंतित हो उठे। क्योंकि बिपन चन्द्र को तो फिर दिल्ली ही लौट कर आना था। लेकिन उन्होंने उतनी ही बेफ़िक्री से सारी चिंताओं को हँसी में टाल दिया। इतिहास समझने की सारी कवायद तो इन दो सबकों के बाद शुरू होती थी।

उनसे पढ़े छात्रों के बीच बिपन की क्लास एक मिथ बन चुकी है। दो घण्टे की क्लास (जेएनयू में एक क्लास दो घण्टे की होती है) कब चार- चार घण्टे की हो जाती थी, पता नहीं चलता था। बिपन बिना तैयारी बोलना कभी पसंद नहीं करते थे और न ही हाथ में नोट्स लिए बिना। उनके हाथ में एक गड्डी इंडेक्स कार्ड्स के पलटने के साथ- साथ उनकी क्लास की ऊर्जा बढ़ती जाती थी। वो पसीने से तर- बतर हो जाते थे। अपनी शर्त उतार कर पढ़ाने लगते थे। लेकिन उनकी क्लॉस तमाम किस्सों और रोचक उदाहरणों के बीच विकसित होती थी। उसमें एकालाप नहीं होता था। ज़ोरदार बहस- मुबाहिसा होता था। उसमें छात्रों की भी सक्रीय सहभागिता होती थी।

आख़िरकार उन्होंने कभी अपनी बौद्धिकता छात्रों पर नहीं थोपी। उनको सहज बनाने के लिए, अपने बराबर लाने के लिए उन्होंने हमेशा खुद को ‘बिपन’ बुलाया जाना पसंद किया। किसी भी हद तक बहस करने की आज़ादी दी। खुद से मतभेद रखने वालों को और बहस के लिए प्रोत्साहित किया। वो हमेशा किसी भी टीम के सबसे छोटे सदस्य को सबसे पहले बोलने को कहते थे। यह कहते हुए कि नए विचार तो उनके ही पास हैं। खुद उनका और उनके सीनियर स्टूडेंट्स का दिमाग तो एक ख़ास तरह से सोचने का आदी हो चुका है, यह कहकर वो नए छात्रों का आत्मविश्वास सातवें आसमान पर चढ़ा देते थे।

उनके छात्र उनके व्यापक परिवार के सदस्य बन जाते थे। उन्हें अपने छात्रों के बीच रहना बहुत अच्छा लगता था। इसलिए कभी वे जेएनयू में टहलने निकलते या बाज़ार जाते, किसी न किसी छात्र को साथ ले लेते थे। उनकी फिएट कार भी खुद में मिथ है। जिसमें हर किसी को लिफ्ट मिल सकती थी। और किसी को भी उसके बंद होने पर धक्का लगाना पड़ सकता था। वो बहुत ज्यादा बात कर लेना चाहते थे। ऐसा लगता था जैसे कहने को बहुत ज्यादा हो और समय बहुत कम। कभी- कभी बातचीत में वे इतना उत्तेजित हो जाते थे कि कार का स्टीयरिंग ही छोड़ देते थे।

वो हर वक़्त सोच- विचार की प्रक्रिया की प्रक्रिया में रहते थे। कुछ इंडेक्स कार्ड्स हमेशा उनकी जेब में रहते थे। उनका मानना था कि विचार कभी भी आ सकता है। यहाँ तक कि सोते वक़्त भी। उनकी चिंतन प्रक्रिया का एक किस्सा लेखक को जेएनयू स्थित एक बाल काटने वाले ने बताया। एक बार वे बिपन चन्द्र के बाल काटने के लिए उनके दक्षिणपुरम स्थित घर पर गए। बाल कटाते- कटाते अचानक बिपन को कोई विचार आया। उन्होंने दो मिनट रुकने को बोला और पहली मंजिल पर अपने स्टडी रूम में चले गए। जब तकरीबन आधा घंटा हो गया और वो नीचे नहीं आये, तो नाई ने घर के बाहर जाकर फिर से घंटी बजायी।  वही तौलिया गर्दन में ठीक उसी तरह लपेटे बिपन नीचे आये। दरवाज़ा खोलते ही पूछा- “कहो शंकर कैसे आये?” वो अपने विचार के साथ ऐसे मशगूल हुए कि उन्हें यह याद ही नहीं था कि वो बाल कटा रहे थे।

उनकी एक बड़ी खासियत थी गैर अंग्रेजी भाषी छात्रों को विशेष प्रोत्साहन देना। छोटे- छोटे शहरों और गाँवों से आये छात्रों को उन्होंने हमेशा एक विशेष स्थान दिया। उनका मानना था कि ये छात्र सामाजिक अनुभव के धनी होते हैं। यदि उन्हें ठीक ढंग से शोध के लिए प्रशिक्षित किया जाए, तो उनकी मौलिकता शोध को विशिष्ट बनाएगी। इसीलिए बिपन चन्द्र के छात्रों की फ़ेहरिश्त में पूरे देश से लोग मिल जाएँगे। उनमें तमाम जब जेएनयू आये तो उन्हें अपनी मातृ भाषा के अलावा कुछ नहीं आता था। लेकिन बाद में उन्हीं लोगों ने आधुनिक भारतीय इतिहास में महत्वपूर्ण योगदान दिए। यहाँ तक उन्होंने उन छात्रों को भी अपने सानिध्य में लाने का मौक़ा नहीं छोड़ा, जो किन्ही कारणवश दिल्ली नहीं आ सकते थे। उनके व्यापक परिवार में सबकी जगह थी।  इसीलिए बिपन चन्द्र के छात्र और उन्हें चाहने वाले आज भारत ही नहीं दुनिया के कोने- कोने में फैले पड़े हैं।

उनके एक छात्र जयरस बानाजी की विद्वता का पश्चिम यूरोप और लैटिन अमेरिका के विश्वविद्यालयों में लोहा माना जाता था। एक बार जब बिपन वहाँ गए, तो लोग उनसे मिलने के लिए आतुर थे। वजह थी- यह देखना कि जब उनका शिष्य ऐसा है, तो गुरु कैसा होगा? आज उनके जाने के बाद भी उनके तमाम शिष्य उनकी परम्परा के वाहक हैं। जिनको देखकर यह अंदाजा लगाया जा सकता है कि जब उनके शिष्य ऐसे हैं तो उनका गुरु कैसा रहा होगा!

(लेख़क सेंटर फॉर हिस्टॉरिकल स्टडीज़, जेएनयू, नयी दिल्ली में इतिहास के शोध-छात्र हैं।)

Historian of Courage

Prabhat Patnaik, Frontline, 3 October 2014

 

Bipan Chandra (1928-2014) was an outstanding historian with a passion for making quality academic work available to a wider public and an indomitable fighter in the cause of secular anti-imperialism.

BIPAN CHANDRA, Emeritus Professor of the Centre for Historical Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, who passed away on August 30, was an outstanding historian, a major figure in the country’s intellectual life, and an indomitable fighter in the cause of secular anti-imperialism.

Born in Kangra in pre-Independence Punjab (now in Himachal Pradesh), he had his education in Forman Christian College, Lahore, and later at Stanford University, California. Forced to leave Lahore during Partition, he was, like many sensitive intellectuals of his generation, drawn to Marxism, which made him give up his pursuit of an engineering degree in favour of a study of economics and history. While at Stanford, he attended the lectures of Paul A. Baran, the renowned Marxist economist and author ofThe Political Economy of Growth, a pioneering Marxist analysis of the genesis of “underdevelopment”. He also came into contact there with communist activists. Because of his communist associations, he was forced to leave the United States, which was then gripped by the McCarthyite anti-communist witch-hunt.

Back in India, he was appointed to teach history at Hindu College in the University of Delhi, where he completed his doctoral dissertation, subsequently published as The Rise and Growth of Economic Nationalism in India. In it, he recovered the sophistication that had characterised the economic-theoretical thinking of early nationalist writers such as Dadabhai Naoroji, R.C. Dutt and G.V. Joshi. His work restored to the early nationalists, usually dismissed as “petition-wallahs” who only appealed to the British government to treat its Indian “subjects” better, the status of being the theoretical pioneers of India’s anti-colonial struggle.

No struggle can take off until its basic theoretical foundations have been built, and the early nationalists, Bipan (as he was affectionately called) argued, not only provided that foundation but also developed a theoretical corpus that was, notwithstanding the personal mildness and moderation of its individual authors, implacably opposed to the colonial regime in an objective sense. The “drain” theory developed by Naoroji, for instance, showed the systemic exploitation of India under colonial rule and led to the inescapable conclusion that the “drain”, which constituted the basis of the poverty of the Indian people, could come to an end only with the end of colonial rule.

While at Hindu College, Bipan started a journal called Enquiry, which drew in several outstanding academics of the country of that time as authors and where some of the most thought-provoking pieces of Professor Irfan Habib, Bipan’s long-standing friend, were first published. Among these were Habib’s critique of Karl Wittfogel’s theory of “Oriental Despotism”, his assessment of the potentialities for capitalist development in Mughal India, and his remarkable analysis of the agrarian causes of the downfall of the Mughal Empire. I recollect, as a student, the sheer excitement with which we used to await the forthcoming issue of Enquiry.

He also engaged in 1968, along with Tapan Raychaudhury and Toru Matsui, in a debate in the pages of The Indian Economic and Social History Review with Morris D. Morris over the latter’s attempt at a “reinterpretation” of 19th century Indian history that sought to portray colonial rule in a more favourable light. Bipan’s rejoinder to Morris constitutes to this day in my view the most succinct and forthright indictment of the economic consequences of colonial rule in India that one can find in any academic article.

Approach to National Movement

After his doctoral dissertation on the early nationalist writers, Bipan moved on to a study of the national movement at its apogee and the role of leaders such as Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, a task that was to occupy him for the rest of his life. In fact, he became the historian par excellence of the national movement. He not only studied it but invested it with a meaning and historical significance that no other historian had done. In his view, the national movement and its culmination, India’s achievement of Independence, was one of the three most significant historical events of the early 20th century, the other two being the Bolshevik and the Chinese Revolutions. And he perceived the national movement in a manner that was different not only from the way that “imperialist” and “subaltern” historiographies do but even from the understanding of the traditional Left with whom, notwithstanding all his differences and all his explicit criticisms of its conduct, he always had a close and non-antagonistic relationship.

Unlike the traditional Left that saw the national movement as being led by the bourgeoisie through the instrumentality of the Indian National Congress, which it considered to be a bourgeois party (because of which E.M.S. Namboodiripad had even characterised Gandhi, notwithstanding his outstanding personal qualities and unique philosophical positions, as a bourgeois leader in his book The Mahatma and the Ism), Bipan came to view the Congress as an open-ended organisation that was potentially capable of being changed in a socialist direction and was even actually moving Left-ward.

He saw the national movement not as a “structured” movement of different classes, each having its contradictions with imperialism, each standing on a different footing in terms of the degree of its antagonism vis-a-vis imperialism, and each occupying and maintaining, more or less, a particular position within the movement; he saw it rather as a movement of the nation as a whole that stood in an antagonistic relationship with imperialism but with the relative strengths of the different classes within the movement having a degree of fluidity and malleability.

Whatever one may think of Bipan’s position, which will surely be a subject of much debate in the years to come, it was both sui generis and displayed enormous courage. Standing alone, remaining true to one’s convictions, not only vis-a-vis the Cambridge School of historians of India or the historians of the “subaltern studies” school but evenvis-a-vis the traditional Left, which included most of his friends, required immense courage. Likewise, highlighting nationalism, even of the anti-imperialist variety, as a positive historical phenomenon at a time when it was fashionable to frown on all nationalisms, including even anti-imperialist nationalism (and when the term itself is used in a portmanteau sense to cover both anti-imperialist secular nationalism and Hindu communalism), required immense courage. Bipan however was never lacking in courage.

His own views on the national movement underwent a change in the course of time. He had the courage to revise his views and admit his own earlier errors, as he saw them, without flinching. While he was closer, despite differences, to the traditional Left position of seeing the Congress as a predominantly bourgeois party in his earlier writings, he came to the afore-mentioned understanding of a fluidity in that party in his later writings.

And what changed, along with this changed understanding of the national movement, was his perception of Left praxis itself, which moved increasingly in a Gramscian direction, away from what the Comintern under Stalin had come to inculcate. The fact that his changed understanding of the national movement paralleled a changed understanding of Left praxis reveals, in my view, a very important facet of Bipan’s intellect.

Whenever Christopher Hill, the renowned Marxist historian of 17th century Britain whose theoretical endeavours had unearthed the “English Revolution”, was asked by eager young students in the radical days of the early 1970s what he thought of Stalin or the Soviet Union or any such burning topic that attracted attention at the time, he would invariably reply: “Read my book on the 17th century.” Hill, in other words, had tried to develop a unified understanding in which his historical research, his politics and his views on contemporary political issues figured together. Bipan sought to achieve a similar unity of understanding. It was not just a question of his politics informing his research or his politics deriving its basis from his research; it was a question of unity between his general understanding of political praxis and his historical research. Very few historians seek to achieve the unity of thought that Bipan attempted.

He disseminated this understanding through his lectures and writings with enormous energy, passion and intensity. Never a person to shy away from controversy or debate, he simply overwhelmed one with the passion and vigour of his intellect and personality. Even when it was difficult to agree with him, it was even more difficult to disagree with him: such was the force of the argument with which he put across his position.

He was a charismatic teacher, whose lectures, whether one agreed with him or not, were always an intellectual treat. In his Delhi University days, he, along with Randhir Singh, his friend and colleague in the Political Science Department, influenced generations of students. Students from diverse disciplines, not just young historians, would flock to hear him; most of them owed their radicalism, even their interest in a life of the intellect, to the hours they spent listening to his lectures.

And he continued to wield this charisma when he moved to Jawaharlal Nehru University to set up the Centre for Historical Studies there, along with Sarvepalli Gopal, Romila Thapar and Satish Chandra. The faculty members of that centre, notwithstanding their different areas of research and intellectual positions, were unified in their commitment to a secular anti-imperialist nationalism, one manifestation of which was a little pamphlet, but highly influential at the time, that Bipan, Romila Thapar and Harbans Mukhia brought out critiquing communalism in the study of Indian history. The centre was to continue this struggle against communalism in its later years. It stood tall in its opposition not just to the communal act involved in the demolition of the Babri Masjid but, in particular, to the entire historiographical justification that was advanced in defence of that horrendous act of vandalism.

Bipan’s contribution to the building of that centre, and to the university within which it is located, did not come only from his academic work or his organisational ability or his enthusiasm for collective praxis on academic projects. It came from his extraordinary personal generosity towards students and colleagues; he unstintingly provided whatever help they needed, a fact I can vouch for from personal experience.

Textbooks for children

Bipan shunned “academicism”. He did not want to be read only by a handful of “experts”; he did not want the whiff of academic discourse to remain confined only to the cognoscenti. He wanted quality academic work to be accessible even to schoolchildren, which is why he exhorted all his colleagues and friends to write textbooks for them. As a result, we had the remarkable spectacle of the most distinguished professors in some of the most outstanding institutions of higher learning in the country writing textbooks for schoolchildren in a bid to raise the quality of school education.

Bipan carried both his immense energy and his passion for making quality academic work available to the wider public to the National Book Trust (NBT) when he became its executive head. He greatly expanded its publication programme, pored personally over papers and manuscripts despite failing eyesight, and roped in some of the finest academics of the country, such as Irfan Habib, Amit Bhaduri and others, to write monographs for the NBT on subjects of their choice, which were then distributed at extremely low prices. It is a common presumption in the Left that making ideas available to the people is a necessary condition for progress, which is why Bertolt Brecht had written: “Hungry man, reach for the book.” Bipan completely shared this presumption.

The loss of his wife, Usha, some years ago had left him forlorn, and he himself had been ailing for some time. Even so, his passing away comes as a shock. It is difficult to believe that such a helpful, generous, intense, brilliant, passionate, and energetic person, such a tornado of a man, is no longer amongst us.

 

A Professor for 3 Generations at Delhi University, JNU

Anand K. Sahay, The Asian Age, 31 August 2014

Professor Bipan Chandra, who passed away at 86 on Saturday, was a glorious historian of the Modern India period who steered three generations of students at Delhi University and JNU to a grasp of the colonial era in India, and its consequences.

Several of Prof. Chandra’s students, themselves fine practitioners of the craft, went on to question some of their guru’s understanding of the forces that moved history in the field of which he was an acclaimed authority. This was particularly true of those who allied themselves to the subaltern school of study.

Nevertheless, Bipan Chandra’s reputation for providing us insights into colonial history, as evidenced in India, always rested on firm foundations. His findings could be built upon or moderated, but not repudiated.

Prof. Chandra’s students can be found in virtually every college or university campus in India and in leading centres of historical study overseas. Through the ‘80s and the ‘90s, even school students benefited from his impressive scholarship through his book written for the CBSE’s high school syllabus on Modern Indian history.

The late professor went from links with the RSS in his own school years to Marxism as he matured as an intellect, but the wide spectrum of his intellectual acquaintance and acceptance perhaps settled on Gandhi as the prime mover of anti-colonial transformation, with Nehru as a protégé who offered a modernistic ideological foil to his master.

This can perhaps be a useful starting point to refresh discourse in the period of Bipan Chandra’s interest at a time when those presiding over the governance destiny of the country have sought to appropriate other stalwarts of the freedom movement.

To Prof. Bipan Chandra “Bipan” to his students and admirers goes the credit of engendering an appreciation of Gandhi and his stupendous contribution to the anti-colonial struggle among subscribers of Leftward thought.

The late professor also rightfully claims our attention for proposing in his works that India’s freedom struggle against colonial rule was no less than a multi-class “revolution”, an aspect of revolution study overlooked by Marxists and non-Marxists alike.

Professor Bipan Chandra wrote extensively over a 50-year span, with deep knowledge and sympathy for India’s “revolution” by standing up against anti-colonial and anti-communal mores. These are aspects of his tradition of historical work that seem especially valid today.

 

Bipan Chandra

Barun Das Gupta, Frontier (a weekly edited by Timir Basu), founder editor Samar Sen, 4 September 2014

Bipan Chandra, an outstanding scholar and chronicler of modern Indian history, passed away on August 30. A life-long crusader against communalism and rewriting of history by giving it a false communal twist, he left us at a time when his presence in our midst and the flow from his pen we needed most. I was surprised when I read the news that he had died at the age of 86. He used to address me as Barun-da, which gave me the impression that he was younger than me. But in fact, he was full six years older. It bespeaks of his innate humility, civility, gentility and modesty. His vast learning did not make him proud or arrogant but humble, soft-spoken and easily approachable.

Here is an instance of his humility. Many years ago I had once asked him whether it is true, as is asserted by some people, that there were no Hindu-Muslim communal riots or clashes during the Mughal rule, that communal riots were the direct result of the divisive politics played by the British imperialists. He paused for a few seconds that replied quietly, “You see, my field of study is modern Indian history. It would not be proper for me to comment on anything during the Mughal period. Kindly put your question to Ms Romila Thapar.” I did not know Prof Thapar, nor did I have any occasion to meet her. So I never got the answer to my question.

I shall be going far beyond my depth if I try to make an assessment of his contribution or place as a historian. But from my very limited study of India’s freedom struggle, I had a strong impression that Bipan Chandra was the only historian to bring out an important aspect of that struggle, namely, that though the struggle for independence was, to use a Marxist term, a National Question that united all classes and though the  main leadership of that struggle was provided by the Indian National Congress, the party of India’s colonial bourgeoisie, there was a contradiction between them and the peasantry and the working class all through that struggle. The national bourgeois leadership ignored the interests of these two classes and played down their role in the anti-colonial movement. Bipan Chandra brought out this neglected facet of that struggle and focused on it. This makes him different from all other historians of the freedom struggle.

For instance, when the provincial elections were held in 1937, under the Government of India Act of 1935, the Congress won in many of the provinces including Bihar and the United Provinces (the present Uttar Pradesh) and formed the government.  The year before, 1936, the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) was formed with Swami Sahajananda as president. The newly formed Congress governments in Bihar and UP immediately came into conflict with the AIKS over the two major demands of the latter, namely, abolition of the Zamindari system and liquidating the farmers’ debts. This was inevitable because both the feudal and the nascent national bourgeoisie had a very strong influence on the Congress and its top leadership.

The pro-feudal – and consequently anti-farmer – attitude of the Congress leadership became manifest again at the time of the Ramgarh Congress of the party in 1940. Swami Sahajananda led a huge peasant rally to the venue of the Congress session to apprise the Congress leaders of the problems of the farmers and to solicit the former’s support for their struggle. But no Congress leader, from Mahatma Gandhi to Vallabhbhai Patel, Babu Rajendra Prasad, C. Rajagopalachari and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (who was elected president of the party at Ramgarh) agreed to come out and address the peasants to express their sympathy for the struggle of the exploited peasantry. The only Congress leader who did come out of the session to meet and address the peasants was Jawaharlal Nehru.

In his book India’s Struggle for Independence: 1857-1947, Bipan Chandra has focused on the contribution of the parallel stream of the movement of the peasantry and the working class to the mainstream of national liberation movement. He has devoted two chapters of the book, The Rise of the Left Wing and The Peasant Movements in the in the 1930s and “40s to bring out the distinct contribution of the two neglected classes to India’s battle for freedom.

It is from his book that the present writer came to know that there was a school of historians known as the Cambridge school which denied that there was ever an anti-imperialist movement in India. To quote Bipan Chandra: “Colonialism is seen by them primarily as foreign rule. They either do not see or vehemently deny that the economic, social, cultural and political development of India required the overthrow of colonialism. Thus, their analysis of the freedom movement is based on the denial of the basic contradiction between the interests of the Indian people and of British colonialism and the causative role this contradiction played in the rise of the national movement. Consequently, they implicitly or explicitly deny that the Indian national movement represented the Indian side of this contradiction or that it was anti-imperialist, that is, it opposed British imperialism in India. They see the Indian struggle against imperialism as a mock battle (‘mimic warfare’).

To revert to the attitude of the Congress to peasants on the one hand and landlords on the other. Bipan Chandra dwells on the fact that for the Congress governments in the provinces to pass any legislation it was necessary to have a bill passed in both the lower and the upper chambers of the legislative bodies. But the upper houses of these bodies were “dominated by landlords, capitalists and money-lenders, with the Congress forming a small minority.” Faced with such a situation the Congress decided not to force the issue with these entrenched vested interests but chose to compromise with them to continue in power. “Thus the Bihar Government negotiated a compromise with the zamindars on its tenancy bills while the UP Government conciliated the moneylender and merchant members of its upper house by going slow on debt legislation so that their support could be secured for tenancy legislation.” (India’s Struggle for Independence, p. 329)

Three chapters of the book, The Rise and Growth of Communalism, Communalism – the Liberal Phase and Jinnah, Golwalkar and Extreme Communalism trace the origin and development of the process of communalization of the Indian polity that began before independence. In fact both this book and the other one The Rise and Growth of Economic Nationalism in India are ‘must reads’ for every serious student of the contemporary history of India.

The void created by his death will be felt acutely by all those who are in the struggle against the rabid communal forces which are now, having won a majority in the parliament and having formed the government at the Centre, are trying to transform the secular, democratic polity of free India into a fascist Hindu Rashtra and targeting the religious minorities. But the wealth of historical research that Bipan Chandra has left us will continue to provide us with the ammunition needed to combat these forces which are out to supplant history with pseudo-history.

(http://www.frontierweekly.com/views/sep-14/4-9-14-Bipan%20Chandra.html)