Maybe, on P.C. Joshi’s suggestion Syed Sibte Hassan, who had been a close comrade of P.C. Joshi before Independence might have collected all the unsigned material published in the NYDT on the 1857 Revolt, which would not have been very difficult in USA and chosen to arbitrarily attribute its authorship to Karl Marx.
Relying on Iqbal Hussain’s Karl Marx on India (Delhi, 2006), based on his research in USA and following the public pronouncements of Prof. Irfan Habib, I was also led to believe that the process of attributing the authorship to Marx and Engels of the unsigned articles published in the NYDT on the 1857 Revolt must have started in the year 1953. Prof. Iqbal Hussain wrote, “The volume on Britain by Marx and Engels, published from Moscow in 1953, included the article “The Indian Revolt”, published in the Tribune (NYDT) on September 16, 1857, thus bringing to the notice of Indian readers for the first time the fact that Marx had also written on the 1857 Rebellion, the article concerned had been printed in the Tribune without Marx’s name.” (Iqbal Hussain, Karl Marx on India, Delhi, 2006 p. XV).
However, only last week, in the course of my independent investigation, I discovered that the process of attributing these unsigned articles to Marx had begun much earlier and that too, in India itself. In fact, a monthly magazine India Today, started by the former CPI General Secretary P.C. Joshi in May 1951 from Allahabad, had reproduced two unsigned articles on 1857 Revolt from the NYDT and attributed them to Karl Marx in its September 1952 issue, under the title “Marx on Revolt of 1857”. Highlighting the importance of these articles, a caption was printed at the top, Two hitherto undiscovered articles by the founder of Marxism. One of these articles carrying the date line Wednesday, July 15, 1857 was published in the NYDT under the title “Indian Mutiny” on August 4, 1857 and the other one with a dateline London, July 17, 1857 was published on August 14, 1857 under the title, “The Revolt in India.”
Revealing the source of this important discovery, India Today wrote, “A few years back a communist journalist Syed Sibte Hassan (now incarcerated in a Pakistan prison) discovered in USA, some hitherto unknown articles on India by Karl Marx. India Today is very proud to print two of them for the first time in English. We hope to print the rest of the articles in future issues”Ed.”
This promise of publishing the rest of the articles could not be fulfilled because Joshi under strict orders of the Party leadership, had to close down the publication of India Today and the issue of September 1952 turned out to be the last issue. Significantly, this editorial note admits that Syed Sibte Hassan had sent a larger bunch of articles on 1857 Revolt published by the NYDT but nowhere it is mentioned that all these articles were unsigned and many of them were printed as the leading articles without carrying the names of Marx and Engels as their writers. Similarly, it is also not explained as to how Sibte Hassan was able to attribute their authorship to Marx and Engels or was it done by him or by Joshi.
A perusal of the file of total eleven issues of India Today, which P.C. Joshi was able to bring out, testifies to his keen interest in the 1857 Revolt. In the November 1951 issue he published an article written by P.M. Kemp-Ashraf (wife of the Communist leader Dr K.M. Ashraf), under the title “Indian Revolt of 1857 and the Early British Labour Movement.” (pp. 25-30). In this article Smt. Ashraf underlined the influence of the Chartist leader Ernest Jones on Karl Marx’s understanding of India. The article says, “Most important of all, in these years he (Jones) had come into direct personal contact with Karl Marx… The articles written by Marx between May and July 1853, published in the NYDT, cover much the same ground and use much the same material as a series of articles published by Jones, partly about the same time and partly earlier. The probable explanation is that Jones, …may have handed over notes or suggested sources to Marx” (India Today, November 1951, p. 27.)
Carrying it further, Joshi in the February-March 1952 issue of India Today, published an article under the title “The Indian Mutiny” written by Satinder Singh, who has been introduced as a young journalist working for the Akali paper Spokesman in Delhi (India Today, February-March 1952, pp. 48-56). The same Satinder Singh, under the pseudonym of Talmiz Khaldun had contributed an elaborated version of the above mentioned article under the title “The Great Rebellion” (pp. 1-70) in the Rebellion-1857: A Symposium edited by P.C. Joshi and published by the CPI’s official publication outfit “People’s Publishing House” in July 1857. Satinder Singh explaining this shift in the titles of the two articles from “The Indian Mutiny” in 1952 to “The Great Rebellion” in 1957 says in a footnote to the 1952 article, “I use the word “Mutiny” because of the currency it has gained. I do not characterise this event as Mutiny.” (India Today, op.cit. p. 48).
It is evident that P.C. Joshi had an unsual interest in the 1857 uprising and unlike the earlier Communist intellectuals like M.N. Roy and Rajni Palme Dutt, he was keen to project it as a national rebellion or revolt and not as a feudal outburst.
Maybe, on P.C. Joshi’s suggestion Syed Sibte Hassan, who had been a close comrade of P.C. Joshi before Independence, might have collected all the unsigned material published in the NYDT on the 1857 Revolt which would have not been very difficult in USA and chosen to arbitrarily attribute its authorship to Karl Marx.
Curiously, P.C. Joshi in his 1957 publication Rebellion 1857 as well as in the August 1957 special issue of the New Age monthly on 1857, does not refer at all to the articles on 1857 published earlier in his own magazine India Today and also does not mention the name of Syed Sibte Hassan, who had for the first time supplied the unsigned articles on 1857 Revolt published in the NYDT to him. Was it just a loss of memory or could it be a case of a deliberate suppression.
By Devendra Swarup