Statement of Aligarh Society of History and Archaeology [ASHA] On the Demise of Professor Arjun Dev
A man of vast knowledge and myriad of interests, Professor Arjun Dev would always be remembered most for his singular and remarkable two volume textbook on Story of Civilisation which he once wrote for the NCERT. Not only the students of Class XI and XII consulted them, but it was a must for all those who thought of preparing for the Civil Services. “Read Arjun Dev” was the sane advise given to anyone appearing for the public services! He along with Bipan Chandra, Satish Chandra, RS Sharma and Romila Thapar was a sure way to success. Even now, when the NCERT have withdrawn the books of these stalwarts, they are still read by any one preparing for the competition.
Prof. Arjun spent much of his life with the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and wrote a number of extremely popular textbooks for the NCERT on Modern and Contemporary India and the World. One of the books, Story of Civilisation (in two parts) which was discontinued by the NCERT under the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime in 2002 was republished by Orient Blackswan as History of the World: From the Late 19th to the Early 20th Century and has remained a very widely read text.
After his retirement from the NCERT, Prof. Dev took up the work of the multi-volume Towards Freedom Project of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR, New Delhi). It was a project conceived as a rejoinder to the British government-inspired Transfer of Power Volumes which documented the history of the last ten years of colonial rule in India in a manner that did scant justice to our great national liberation struggle. Started under the General Editorship of Prof. Sarvepalli Gopal, the first two volumes came out in 1997 and were published by the Oxford University Press. With the coming to power of the Vajpayee government, two volumes in the press were withdrawn and the project stalled. The project could be restarted only in 2005, and Prof. Arjun was the indefatigable coordinator of the project with Sabyasachi Bhattacharya as the General Editor.
As a person, Dev was a jovial and easy going man. When I first met him, I had expected a straight faced and sober Marxist scholar. What I discovered was a man of wit with a scientific temperament who was soft spoken and full of humour and wit. I can never forget his countenance with a cigarette dangling either from his lips or clutched between well smoked fingers and a cloth jhola tossed casually around his shoulder. His softness however would disappear if it was a question of ideology! He was a person who did not budge from his ideals and was thus a beacon of hope for the present lost generation.
Our heartfelt condolences to all the students of History and the bereaved family. May he rest in peace.
Professor Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi
Professor Syed Jabir Raza
Professor Farhat Hasan
Professor Manvendra Kumar Pundhir
Dr Shivangini Tandon
Dr Amita Paliwal
Dr Syed Ali Kazim
Dr Enayatullah Khan
Ms Lubna Irfan