New Delhi–Sahmat, an activist group based in Delhi, on Wednesday denounced the National Book Trust (NBT) decision to remove eminent historian Bipan Chandra’s book “Communalism: A Primer” from its Hindi catalogue.
The decision to stop the reprint of the Hindi title of the 104-page book “Sampradayikta: Ek Praveshika” was taken last month.
The statement said: “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, he breathed a new life into it.”
“We are shocked to learn that the very National Book Trust, over which he once presided, has revoked the reprint order for the Hindi version of his book ‘Communalism – A Primer’ and it is reported that the English and Urdu versions of the book are also being withdrawn,” the Sahmat statement read.
“Such action on part of the NBT is a gross violation of freedom of views, and 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.”
The statement added that such actions on part of the NBT in respect of Bipan Chandra’s book portend the imposition of an authoritarian regime. “We, therefore, demand that the NBT remove its ban on the book and continue to reprint and publish it.”
Among the signatories to the statement are academics like Irfan Habib, Romila Thapar, D.N. Jha, Prabhat Patnaik and K.N. Panikkar.
This is not the first time Bipan Chandra’s work has been caught in a controversy. Earlier, the Delhi University too stopped the sale and distribution of the Hindi version of Chandra’s book ‘India’s Struggle for Independence’ after objections were raised over the terming of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh a “revolutionary terrorist”.
The NBT, however, still lists ‘Communalism: A Primer’ in its English language catalogue.