Bipan Chandra was a renowned Indian author, historian, and professor. He is considered one of the distinguished Indian historians. He is known for his famous book ‘India’s Struggle for Independence.’ He had a specialization in Modern Indian History. His first publication was ‘The Rise and Growth of Economic Nationalism in India: Economic Policies of Indian National Leadership, 1880-1905’ published in 1966. Bipan Chandra’s last published book was ‘The Making of Modern India: From Marx to Gandhi, Orient Blackswan” in 2000.
Bipan Chandra was born on Saturday, 24 May 1928 (age 86 Years; at the time of death) in Kangra, Punjab, British India (Now in Himachal Pradesh, India). The Tribune His zodiac sign was Gemini. Bipan Chandra, an emeritus professor of modern history at Jawaharlal Nehru University, was an Indian author, a teacher, and a prominent historian. During the Indian Independence Movement, Chandra was an active participant in the movement. He was a great scholar and an author, who wrote many books on Mahatma Gandhi. Bipan Chandra did his graduation from Forman Christian College, Lahore in 1946. After that, he earned a master’s degree in history from Stanford University, California, United States in 1949. He received a Ph.D. degree from the University of Delhi in 1963.
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Family & Caste
Wife & Children
Bipan Chandra’s wife’s name was Usha Chandra, and the couple had two children.
After Senator McCarthy campaigned to deport Bipan Chandra to India, following Chandra’s alleged connection with Marxists in the United States, Chandra returned to India in the 1950s, where he started teaching as a lecturer at Hindu College in Delhi. During this time, he also pursued his doctoral studies at Delhi University. His doctoral dissertation titled ‘The Rise and Growth of Economic Nationalism in India” re-established the efforts of early patriots including Dadabhai Naoroji, R. C. Dutt, and G. V. Joshi. These patriots started India’s anti-colonial struggle.
Mr. Chandra started teaching as a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in the 1970s, where he was declared “Professor Emeritus” after his retirement in 2007. In 1985, in Amritsar, Punjab, the Indian History Congress designated professor Bipan Chandra as its general president. Bipan Chandra was honored by UGC as the national professor in 1970. The National Book Trust appointed him as a chairman, a post that he held from 2004 to 2012.
Contributions to Modern Indian History
Bipan Chandra started a journal ‘Enquiry’ in the early 1950s and was a member of its editorial board for a long time. Chandra taught history at Delhi University for 43 years. The book titled ‘Communalism in Modern India (1984)’ was Chandra’s complied analytical work on communalism. Bipan Chandra wrote a monograph titled ‘In the Name of Democracy: JP Movement and the Emergency’ (2003) in which he related the past events of Indian history with the present affairs of Modern India. In this monograph, he conveyed his tense feelings towards Indira Gandhi’s enforcement of the Emergency between 1975 and 1977. The same monograph also stated that many principles of the constitution of India were violated by Jayaprakash Narayan’s movement, which supported communal faces.
The curriculum of the NCERT, especially the textbooks on Modern Indian History for the senior secondary schools in India, was written by Bipan Chandra. Many books for the government jobs entrance papers and competitive examinations including UPSC were contributed by Bipan Chandra.
Bipan Chandra wrote a book ”The Long Term Dynamics of the Indian National Movement” in which he stated that-
The Indian National Movement led by the Indian National Congress was as much a people’s struggle for liberation and had as much to offer to the world in terms of lessons in social transformation and bringing about change in the state structure as the ‘British, French, Russian, Chinese, Cuban and Vietnamese revolutions. The strategic practice of the Congress-led and Gandhi-guided national movement [has] a certain significance in world history being ‘the only actual historical example of a semi-democratic or democratic-type state structure being replaced or transformed, of the broadly Gramscian theoretical perspective of a war of position being successfully practiced. The renowned Italian Marxist Gramsci evaluated this ‘as the only possible strategy’ for social modification ‘in the developed countries of the west.”
‘Communalism in Modern India’ is one of the notable works of Bipan Chandra. He wrote ‘Communalism in Modern India,’ a standard text, for those who want to know and understand how communalism grew and spread at the beginning of the second half of the 19th century. This basically focussed on those readers who wanted to raise voice against communalism in India.
Contributions to Indian Economic History
Bipan Chandra majorly came up with Economic History. He argued in one of his Economic History writings that-
Colonialism did not lead to ‘partial modernization’ or ‘restricted growth’ and whatever little spurts of growth the colony witnessed during the colonial period were not a result of colonialism but were a product of the breaks or the ‘loosening of the links’ from the colonial stranglehold, caused by various crises faced by the metropolitan countries such as the two World Wars and the Great Depression.”
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- 2007: The National Professorship
- 2008: Chairmanship National Book trust
- 2010: Padma Bhushan
- 2013: Itihas Ratna from Royal Asiatic Society of Bihar plaque
One of the famous books of Bipan Chandra ‘India’s Struggle for Independence,’ was published in 1987 mentioned Bhagat Singh as a ‘revolutionary terrorist.’ In 2006, a letter was sent to HRD Minister Smriti Irani by the Hindutva activist Dinanath Batra, stating that the book ‘India’s Struggle for Independence’ should be “banned, recalled from everywhere and destroyed.” Dinanath Batra wanted an interrogation against the authors of Delhi University and the officials of the varsity who developed the curriculum. Reportedly, the same charges were also imposed by the Bhagat Singh’s family members. Over 20 years, the book ‘India’s Struggle for Independence’ written by Bipan Chandra,’ had been a part of Delhi university’s curriculum. Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Surya Sen, and others were mentioned as “revolutionary terrorists” in chapter 20 of the book. In 2016, many popular historians and authors including Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, and Amar Farooqi stated that the martyrs had used the term “revolutionary terrorist” for themselves, when they were fighting for the freedom of India and these authors stated that banning the sale of the book by Delhi University showed ignorance globally. The Hindu
On the demise of Dr. Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee, a historian and former director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library said-
He transformed our understanding of the Moderates (1885-1905) till then seen by many as ineffectual petitioners. Chandra proved how they were actually the founding fathers of India’s economic nationalism. Similarly, Bhagat Singh was primarily looked at as a revolutionary. He brought out Bhagat Singh, the thinker, and the intellectual, to the fore.”
Political scientist C P Bhambhri said on deceased Bipan Chandra –
He was a formidable scholar whose writings contested colonial and communal historiography.”
- During the partition of India, Bipan Chandra had to leave Lahore, and soon, he inclined towards Marxism that led him to quit his engineering studies and prompted him to opt for Economics and History.
- While pursuing his education at Stanford University in the United States, Bipan Chandra developed connections with some communists. Later, he was deported to India after he was caught during the anti-Communist campaign run by Senator McCarthy.
- Bipan attended the lectures of Paul Baran, a well-known Marxist and the author of ‘The Political Economy of Growth,’ during his studies in the US.
- The renowned Indian economist Amartya Sen contributed his writings in other disciplines to the journal ‘Enquiry’ that was started by Bipan Chandra.
- At Delhi University, Bipan Chandra’s lectures were so prominent and noteworthy and full of new ideas that the students and learners from other colleges and departments were often seen standing in the corridors outside his class.
- Bipan Chandra was very energetic, confident, and a much-admired professor at Delhi University, Delhi.
- In one of his articles on Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, Chandra mentioned that Nehru had become revolutionary during the years 1933 to 1936. This article covered the steps Nehru took to scare the Indian capitalists and the insurgents in Congress who wanted to create distress in the Indian National Congress party.
- By the 1980s, Bipan Chandra’s contributions to Modern Indian History had established him as an eminent historian in India.
- Many noted historians and scholars have incorporated Chandra’s doctrines and ideologies into their doctoral researches. One of such scholars and historians is S. Irfan Habib who was also inspired by Chandra’s works. In an interview, while talking about this, he said,
I also didn’t want to spend two years learning Persian. But, while in JNU, I came across an article by Bipan Chandra, published in 1973, on the ideological foundations of revolutionary terrorist movements. I realised at once that is what I wanted to research. It was in JNU that I found the germ of my doctoral thesis. I expanded on Chandra’s article through archival research and field work.”
- Bipan Chandra’s first doctoral published work was ‘The Rise and Growth of Economic Nationalism in India’ in 1966.’
- Bipan Chandra insisted that the Indian Nationalists who were active from 1880-1905 were ‘basically anti-imperialist.’ He focussed that these nationalists also tried to act for the interests of all classes of Indian society.
- The “Traditional Modernity Model” was promoted by the Chicago school in 1966. This model was condemned by Bipan Chandra, stating that it was irrelevant as it ignored the major historical properties and characteristics of colonial India.
- Chandra wrote a long essay on “Karl Marx-His Theories of Asian Societies and Colonial Rule,” which was a response to E J Hobsbawm’s edition of “Pre-capitalists Economic formations” in 1978. This “Pre-capitalists Economic formations” edition was written from the untranslated early writings of Karl Marx, which Bipan had criticized that it lacked scientific analysis of Marx’s views on colonialism.
- On Mahatma Gandhi’s views on secularism and communalism, Bipan Chandra stated in one of his writings that-
It was because of Gandhiji’s total opposition to communalism and a strong commitment to secularism that both Hindu and Muslim communalists hated him and conducted a virulent campaign against him, leading in the end to his assassination by a communal fanatic.’’
- Bipan Chandra was a critique of colonialism and its structure in India. He persistently notified that colonialism will not emerge capitalism, industrialization, or modernization in India.
- Chandra dedicatedly contributed to Modern history writings that included the scientific temper, secularism, ideological honesty, and the focus on Indian economic and social history.
- Bipan Chandra used to deliver his lectures at Delhi University in a good mix of Hindi and English languages. His accent was typical Punjabi. During his lectures in the class, his pitch was very loud and clear. He was a great savant who was always ready for intellectual debates. Chandra was fully convinced of his own perceptions and views on the subject matter.
- Reportedly, Chandra spoke against the reservation policy of the government of India and opposed it too. He particularly mentioned the OBC category in India that excluded the ‘creamy layer’ from the reservation category. Mr. Chandra stated that imposing reservations would discourage the educated sections among the OBCs from the race to get placement in the universities and government jobs. Forwardpress
- Chandra was attracted towards the ideologies of congress, which was lead by the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. After the death of Nehru, when caste, tribe, class, and gender contradictions grew up, Chandra found himself in the company of an old-fashioned congress.
- A Hindi documentary ‘Inquilab,’ was made by Gauhar Raza, which was based on the revolutionary acts of the Indian freedom fighter Bhagat Singh. Bipan Chandra narrated a piece of the script along with Zohra Sehgal, Kuldip Nayar, Irfan Habib, and Swami Agnivesh in 2008.
- The book ‘India Since Independence by Bipan Chandra was co-authored by Mridula Mukherjee and Aditya Mukherjee. On the remarks on Bhagat Singh as a ‘revolutionary terrorist’ in the book- India’s Struggle for Independence, the co-authors came out with the public statements that Bipan Chandra had considered using some other terms like ‘Revolutionary Nationalism’ or ‘Revolutionary Socialism’ when controversy raised in 2016.
- The History Congress from Thiruvananthapuram, India said on lifting the ban on Dr. Chandra’s book ‘India’s Struggle for Independence’ in 2017-
The book describes them as revolutionary terrorists, making it clear that no pejorative meaning was intended in using the word ‘terrorists’, a description Bhagat Singh and his associates used for themselves, and “stifling” of scholarly work should not be allowed in the future.”