Noted historians Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib and Amar Farooqi believe that banning the sale of a book by DU because it refers to Bhagat Singh as a "revolutionary terrorist", is display of "ignorance" to the world as martyrs had used the term for themselves.
"Clearly, today many of us would not like to call our national heroes Bhagat Singh or Surya Sen or Chandrashekhar Azad 'terrorists'. But if we claim to be nationalists, we should at least know more about our national movement and not forget that there was a time when this tag was borne with pride by people who actually died for the cause of country," the historians said in a joint statement.
"So let us not go about demanding changes in books, or banning them altogether and so display our own ignorance to the world. In recent days it seems to have become a habit of some latter-day 'nationalists' to raise divisive or non- substantial issues to parade their patriotism," they added.
The statement issued by Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust has been signed by 102 people, including historians and academicians.
"The withdrawal of the translation of the book by the Delhi University and the hounding of the authors on TV shows and at law courts that has now begun is particularly odious and only too characteristic of such campaigns by the RSS and its various fronts," it further said.
The book titled "India's Struggle for Independence", which has been part of DU's curriculum for over two decades, mentions Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Surya Sen and others as "revolutionary terrorists" in Chapter 20.
Authored by Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee, Sucheta Mahajan and KN Panikkar, the book also called the Chittagong movement a "terrorist act" and the killing of British police officer John Sanders an "act of terrorism".
Its Hindi version "Bharat ka swantrata sangharsh" was published by DU's Directorate of Hindi Medium Implementation in 1990.
Following objection by Bhagat Singh's kin and uproar in Parliament over the issue, HRD ministry had asked DU to consider the issue.
Delhi University decided to ban the sale and distribution of the Hindi version of the book which was published by it, while maintaining that it had no control over the English version as the varsity had not published it. Penguin India, which had published the original book, has already stated that they are working with the authors for a revised edition.
"The critics are forgetting that this (revolutionary terrorist) was really a term the martyrs had practically used for themselves. Their conception of 'terror' as a method of revolutionary action actually derived from a tradition that went back to the Russian revolutionaries' struggle against Czarist tyranny," the statement by the historians said.
"Now, however, in the last two or three decades, terror has come to mean almost all over the world the killing of innocent men, women and children. And it has thus assumed a heavily pejorative sense, not necessarily borne by it in the 1920s and 1930s," it added.