Having born in early nineties, my first brush with nationalism happened while watching Hindi cinema. Bhagat Singh was the flavour of the season in early 2000s when we saw a number of movies after him, lionizing all his acts against the British. After this spate of movies arrived on screen, Bhagat Singh quickly became our hero. While his astounding bravery moved us, his composure during his gait to the gallows made us ask our elders if all this was even true. It made us amazed how one can be so aggressive in action, while being astute in thoughts and ideologies and so calm before execution.
But the real shock was yet to come. The unmatched bravery of Bhagat Singh was not a shocker. His diminutive status – in the annals of history forced on us – was. In ‘India’s Independence movement’ chapter of the NCERT History textbook which we read during 2006-07, there was a mention of Bhagat Singh. Around (just) half a page was devoted to his acts which was neither extolled, not even glorified. It was just a report, an account of what he did and how it was taken by the British. Gandhi’s condemnation of Bhagat Singh (and his acts) was not mentioned. Sukhdev and Rajguru found a lesser mention in words as well as tone. Initially it was a bit difficult to understand why our heroes were not important for the historians. While almost the complete chapter was dedicated to Congress, Gandhi and Nehru it was then surprising why the former trio was being ignored. While the three gallants who kissed the executing rope with a smile were being ignored, we were forced to remember a detailed account of Congress’s president’s names and backgrounds. It was out of scope of a 14 year old’s imagination to even think of what was happening. But, now I know what had happened.
What I clearly remember was a ‘boxed’ section in the text book. A ‘boxed’ section was ‘additional information’ which is for reader’s knowledge, but out of syllabus from testability’s perspective. Fortunately the historians writing NCERT textbook for 14 years olds decided to ‘differentiate extremism and terrorism.’ Bhagat Singh was alluded to as being an extremist and an assertion was placed that it has to be different from terrorist. It created a lot more confusion. Primary question here was, why the heck one even considers Bhagat Singh as being a terrorist? Why the clarification that he was not a terrorist? The differentiation felt like one comparing the mechanics of a bicycle with that of a centipede – so different – and not an iota of similarity between the two. Isn’t a terrorist a bad guy and wasn’t Bhagat Singh a good guy! Well, it was presumably to avoid a furore, and a right decision I would say. However as i grew up I learnt that Bhagat Singh was a terrorist according to the intellectuals, and ordinary people like me who are neither ‘scholars’, nor ‘academicians’, nor ‘persons of eminence’ have to shut up.
It is bewildering that for the last twenty years, DU syllabus contained references of Bhagat Singh as being a terrorist and Congress did not blink an eye.
Now deputy RS chairman P Kurien from Congress ‘has told the government to remove any such references’ and have an enquiry about how it happened. He should ask his masters if they were sleeping for the past 18 years. BJP, supposedly the party with a difference, will be an equal partner in crime if this reference continues. With Ms Irani at the helm, it is highly possible that she will correct the wrong at the earliest.
Anurag Thakur of BJP has alleged patronage of Congress to Bipin Chandra who was chairman of NBT (National Book Trust) for an extended period. While ‘noted historian’ Mridula Mukherjee, who co-authored the referenced book with late Bipin Chandra ‘clarified, that the term terrorism was not derogatory and was used for lack of a better word’ we can expect a quick correction, at the strong objection raised by Singh’s family. But the pattern has always been clear. With decades long rule of Congress, they gave rise to a swarm of historians, all Marxist in nature, gave them ‘eminence’ so that anyone contradicting them would be immediately discarded as either ignorant or the new buzz word – sanghi.
Leader of the pack of Marxist historians has been Romila Thapar. While her works has been full of rigor, her interpretations reek of prejudice towards the Islamic invaders. Sample this –
1) When Mahmud of Gazni broke Shivalinga of Somanatha and ransacked the temple, and went on to claim that he beheaded fifty thousand Brahmins (in his records which may not be correct as this is nowhere found in Indian records), she tries to alleviate his acts by –
- a) Suggesting this might be political, and not because of religious reasons
- b) Mahmud might have got confused between Shivalinga ( a black stone) with the similar ones described in Quran as being that of the three (Pagan) Goddesses (before Kaaba was turned into a mosque ) and the desecration might be a result of the confusion. Really? What about the hundreds of temples that Arun Shourie gave proofs of being desecrated? What was the confusion there?
2) Mr Rajput was appointed by Vajpayee government to have a check on history and its interpretations so that it does not hurt religious sentiment of communities which gave various suggestions. One of them was to soften down a reference in which it was blatantly being said that the first 23 Tirthankaras in Jainism is a figment of imagination. It was advised that taking care of the evidences, probably the outright negation of 23 Tirthankaras can be avoided. This (among others) did not go well with Thapar and her gang and they wrote an elaborate concern how ‘history was being saffronised’. 
3) The audacity with which she seems to question authenticity of Tirthankaras go missing, when it comes to, let’s say the historicity and authenticity of moon-splitting- a miracle by Muhammed. While she comfortably questions the presence of Tirthankaras in several centuries BC, ‘citing evidence’ she never found the courage to try to question moon splitting. And the reason is simple – she fears for her life completely knowing non-violent Jains would not raise objections to such conjectures.
Coming back to Bhagat Singh, it is important to note that the issue does not stop here. Even Subhash Bose among other stalwarts has never been given their true position in Indian history that most of us studied. In the name of academic rigor, a cartel has been created which will go to any extent to stop it from being discredited and broken. Award-Wapsi drama of these good for nothing ‘eminents’ will not stop any time soon, as the stock pile of such awards is huge. Post-independence, such awards are the weapons that will be used in creating a false narration regarding ‘intolerance debate’ and others. We have a bunch of insiders who will be happy projecting a wrong image of India as intolerant and will celebrate Modi’s defeat (and India’s defeat) if we slip in economic ranks. Slowly and steadily these cartels are to be broken. Heroes have to be given respect. ‘Eminents’ like Nehru, who also called Bhagat Singh’s act of killing (accidently murdering) Saunders as terrorism  has to be confronted and questioned. The likes of Congressis lurk within our community and would pounce at any opportunity to twist the tale. For them Bhagat Singhs and Sukhdevs will always be terrorists and Nehrus and Gandhis the only saviours we had. And if the few of us want to change this, it will be possible only if we read more and question them more.
 Somanatha – By Romila Thapar
 A Quora post
Featured Image Courtesy: Indian Express