Academicians miffed by NBT’s decision to stop reprinting Bipin Chandra book

Several academicians are fuming over the National Book Trust’s decision to stop printing the Hindi edition of renowned historian Bipan Chandra’s book, Communalism – A Primer. In a statement released by the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT) artists, academics, and activists have stated that they view this decision by NBT as a “gross violation of freedom of views.”

They also said that these decisions are taken to “set an agenda” in the educational bodies and this particular move ‘amounts in effect to the assumption that communalism is now the official doctrine of the country and no criticism of it or its practitioners can be permitted.”

When contacted, the officials of the NBT did not provide any official clarification on the matter, but a Hindu report said, “a source pointed out that this was a routine process, We routinely analyse the present status of books to take a call as to whether they should be reprinted. Professor Chandra’s book is just one in relation to which we have decided not to order reprinting. The move is independent of ideology. It is also not as if any such book is taken off forever. This is our present assessment and holds true for now.”

Meanwhile, the academicians allege that this move is “Bharatiya Janata Party’s attempts to purge history textbooks,” and “the BJP has been trying to popularise the Sangh Parivar’s version of history that has been dismissed for being communal and politically-motivated many times by serious academics.”

Interestingly, NBT is a state-funded autonomous publisher of low-cost educational books which was started by Jawaharlal Nehru to encourage reading and build scientific thinking in the country. Bipin Chandra, a respected economic historian who died in 2014, served as the chairman of the NBT. It is, therefore, academics of all hues, who see the decision as disrespect to the historian. “Professor Bipan Chandra was not only one of India’s foremost historians, but also one of the most uncompromising defenders of the secular and democratic cause in this country. As chairman of the National Book Trust (NBT), he breathed a new life into it,” the statement read.

Such move it not a first of its kind as even in the past Chandra, who is a great critique of Hindutva communalism, has been targeted. Back in April 2016, Delhi University (DU) had stopped the sale and distribution of the Hindi translation of Chandra’s popular book India’s Struggle for Independence, saying that the Smriti Irani led MHRD has taken this step after listening to objections over the usage of the term “revolutionary terrorist” for Bhagat Singh from his family.

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