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Editorialising History - II

Editorialising History - II

Anup Kumar Sinha
The Organiser
March 12, 2000
Title: Editorialising History - II
Author: Anup Kumar Sinha
Publication: Organiser
Date: March 12, 2000

The Leftists continue to crow about the ICHR non-issue, conveniently glossing over, if not to hide, their sins committed in the past.

When, in 1967, Ram Manohar Lohia raised the issue of writing the history of the deciding years of India's Freedom Movement, Communists saw in it an opportunity to set right their wrongs.  The idea was lapped up by eager politicians and soon a project was chalked out, now known as "Towards Freedom".  Since its inception, the project was dogged by power struggle among historians, administrators as well as some busybodies.  The National Archives of India and the new-born ICHR jointly set about the onerous task.  The former opted out soon and the project fell into the lap of the latter.  R.S.  Sharma, a committed Marxist historian, was then the Chairman of the Council.  The work chugged along under the editorship of Dr S.  Gopal, another Marxist sympathiser.  Funds allocated to the project were frittered away and after a few years, the extravaganza stopped with Dr Gopal resigning from the project "in disgust" in 1977.  Government decided to wind up the project.  Somehow, the project was salvaged with much difficulty by the then director and at present, Chairman, Dr B.R.  Grover.  The project was now to be completed by the year 1985.

Not happy with the experiment of an honorary General Editor, a full-time Editor was appointed.  Dr P.N.  Chopra, the erudite scholar, was appointed, first on an honorarium and other benefits co-terminus with the project and later, he was put on a monthly salary.

In the meanwhile, two large groups of research assistants were working on the project, dishing out-no, not documents, but mostly paper-clippings from national dailies.  Funds continued to be wasted.

With Dr Chopra at the helm, the staff was reduced substantially and the first volume covering the year 1937 appeared in a record three years' time.  The volume was in chronological order and strictly adhered to the original guidelines.  Obviously, the volume won worldwide acclaim.  Writes Prof Stanley Wolpert, an authority on the history of this part of the globe: What a fine work it is, and how excellent a job you have done in putting together so valuable a primary source for that tumultuous decade of recent Indian history, to critical a prelude to freedom and Partition.  Prof Horst Kruger of the Institute of World History called it a "must" for a scholar working on the period.  National dailies, back home, echoed their observations.

The celebration, however, was short-lived.  The Marxist dragnet spread out in 1986 with Prof Irfan Habib joining as Chairman of the ICHR, thanks to the left-bureaucracy nexus prevailing at that time.  The axe first fell on the published volume and it was withdrawn from the market.  The decision cost the ICHR a heavy sum.  It is learnt that by this time, the Council had earned a royalty of more than one lakh.

Meanwhile, the second volume pertaining to the year 1938 was ready.  It was duly sent to the honourable chairman, Dr Irfan Habib-on May 20, 1987.  Dr Habib's comments on the manuscripts came along predicted lines.  He wrote to Dr Chopra: "The year 1938 saw considerable growth of the Kisan movement.  This is not, however, reflected in the documents.  The AIKS (All India Kisan Sabha) documents themselves do not appear to have been used, nor the papers of Swami Sahajanand, the famous peasant leader of Bihar.

"Similarly, while there are documents concerning strikes, etc, the documents of the trade union movement themselves do not appear to have been used.  On the Communist Party the documents are usually external and no internal party document seems to have been used".

While, this was the "immediate reaction" of Dr Habib, every objection was duly answered by Dr Chopra: "Our colleagues have again made a search for the private papers of Swami Sahajanand, but have not been able to find any relevant material for the year 1938.  As you might have noticed, there are a number of references to Swami Sahajanand and even included some documents dealing with his activities.  We have been able to lay our hands on some additional material from contemporary Newspaper/Weeklies, which have been included.

"There are no separate files available on the All India Kisan Sabha.  We have consulted the Hindi Weeklies, viz.  Janata of Patna and Sangharsh of Lucknow which cover extensively the Kisan Movement and selected a few documents which have been translated into English.

"There are hardly any papers available on the Communist Party of India for the year 1938 as the Party was banned during this period.  However, we have looked into some of the old issues of the New Age and the National Front and selected a few documents."

But, the hidden agenda was to be implemented.  Neither volume II saw the light of the day as was promised, nor was the manuscript returned to the author.  (Later, another volume appeared under the editorship of Dr Basudev Chatterji pertaining to the same year.  It contains 505 documents as against the 517 documents in the one edited by Dr Chopra.  The two volumes deserve to be compared).  What was done instead was that without consulting the Chief Editor, Dr Chopra, a number of decisions regarding the future of the project were taken.  Not satisfied with what many termed "abject humiliation of Dr Chopra", Prof Habib went a step further.  Dr Chopra was given marching orders on February 26, 1988, a month before his contract was due to come up for possible extension.  A terse note, accompanied by a cheque for three months' salary informed him that his services were no longer required.  His telephone connection was also promptly disconnected soon.  The ICHR gates were flung wide open to Marxists and fellow travellers.  The project guidelines were suitably amended to propagate the ideology.  Since then what has come out in the name of history, is known to all.

No wonder, recalling the volumes compiled by fellow Marxists has led to orchestrated protests.  After all, it is a question of face-saving.


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