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Documenting the Colonial Archives on the Freedom Movement

Towards Freedom: Documents on the Movement for Independence in India - 1939, Part 1 and Part 2 edited by Mushirul Hasan (New Delhi: Oxford University Press), 2008; pp xxii + 980, Rs 3,950 and pp xxvii +1978, Rs 3,950, respectively.

Towards Freedom: Documents on the Movement for Independence in India - 1945 edited by Bimal Prasad (New Delhi: Oxford University Press), 2008; pp xxvii + 1082, Rs 3,950.

(viz, the restoration of Bakasht lands, re-

Documenting the Colonial Archives

on the Freedom Movement
duction of arrears of rent, etc) to the abolition of landlordism – a “promise” that had swept the Congress ministries to power in the elections. Alongside, the government backed the capitalists while encountering Biswamoy Pati problems related to the working class or

T
he “arrival” of some of the Towards Freedom volumes in the post-National Democratic Alliance (NDA) censorship regime – especially those edited by Sumit Sarkar and K N Panikkar – has indeed been a celebratory occasion not just for historians, but for anyone who believes in democracy. At the same time, there is an element of irony as well. Thus, after India’s hard-won freedom one would not have, normally, expected a return to the days that were marked by censorship and “control”. In this sense at least, “free” India’s tryst with the freedom of thinking has had a rather turbulent existence, if one keeps in mind the efforts to use antiquated colonial weapons to silence critics. These have been used both by the Congress (during Indira Gandhi’s “Emergency”) and the Bharatiya Janata Party, especially when it comes to the world of history and historians, as well as institutions connected with both. Perhaps these two political formations and the Indian political system ought to learn how to let institutions, like the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR), work independent of governments, unaffected by political interference.

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