College Social Science Textbook Revisions in India Kick Up Controversy

The Indian authorities’s determination to take away important sections from college Social Science and Historical past textbooks has stirred controversy, as historians understand it as an try and rewrite historical past.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Occasion (BJP) authorities is eager to control the historical past of India that kids are taught in colleges.

Final month, the Central Board of Secondary Schooling (CBSE) eliminated chosen matters from college Social Science and Historical past textbooks. Among the many matters that have been deleted from textbooks in grades 6 to 12 are the historical past of the Mughal courts, the communal riots in Gujarat, the Emergency, Dalit writers, the Naxalite (Maoist) motion, and the battle for equality.

Whereas the CBSE described the exclusion of those matters as a “syllabus rationalization” train, the Nationwide Council of Academic Analysis and Coaching (NCERT), which publishes the textbooks adopted by CBSE colleges, mentioned that the deleted content material was “overlapping” and “irrelevant.”

Educationists, nonetheless, are usually not satisfied. What the federal government dismisses as a mere “deletion” train, political scientist Suhas Palshikar argues “want(s) to be taken extra critically” as an “act of rewriting.” The revision, he writes, reveals the federal government’s imaginative and prescient of the way it “imagines” democracy and state-citizen relations needs to be. The federal government, he says, intends “to not point out inconvenient details.”

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In response to a query in parliament on the “rationalization” train in NCERT textbooks, India’s junior Minister for Schooling Annapurna Devi mentioned that throughout the pandemic, college kids struggled to be taught by on-line courses. Considerations have been raised about “curriculum overload,” she mentioned, justifying the deletion of matters from the textbooks.

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Nevertheless, there are extra complicated motivations behind the BJP authorities’s agenda to revise textbooks. It’s rewriting India’s historical past. A take a look at deleted matters gives some helpful insights.

A complete chapter on the contributions of the Mughals (a Muslim dynasty that dominated throughout the medieval interval) and their manuscripts has been faraway from the Grade 12 historical past textbook. The BJP and its Hindutva votaries have usually argued that the NCERT texts presently in use give undue significance to Mughal rule. They need to shift the main focus to the achievements of historical India, which of their view is primarily a Hindu India. Of their perspective, the medieval interval was basically a Muslim interval, a view that historians have contested.

Drawing consideration to “the deletion and downscaling of the Muslim/Mughal historical past from a lot of the textbooks,” eminent historian Irfan Habib argues that “the main focus of all of the curriculum adjustments” is predicated on “what pays most electoral dividends.” Those that revised the textbooks “appear to have solely a single-minded agenda of implementing the regressive and sectarian imaginative and prescient, an exclusivist concept of India,” Habib writes.

In impact, they’re selling the Hindutva imaginative and prescient of India at school textbooks.

A number of the deletions level to a whitewashing of the file of BJP leaders. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was Gujarat’s chief minister throughout the riots in 2002. The deletion of this matter appears geared toward erasing this inconvenient truth from textbooks.

As well as, a critique on the Emergency that was imposed by former Congress Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and the excesses that have been dedicated throughout the 1975-1977 interval when it was in power, has been faraway from the Political Science textbooks. This deletion seems to be an try and take away from college curriculums any important understanding of authoritarianism.

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The elimination of discussions of social inequality and caste-based discrimination from textbooks displays the discomfort of Hindutva ideologues with any dialogue of issues in Hindu society, comparable to caste-based oppression. Considerably, the chapter on inequality and the battle for equality by minority and marginalized teams has been deleted from the textbook on Modern India.

The BJP has at all times alleged that “distorted” historical past written by Marxist historians has been taught in colleges hitherto and that this curriculum has ignored the historical past of Hindu kings and their contributions.

Consequently, when it got here to energy for the primary time in 1998, it set in movement efforts to rewrite historical past textbooks. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led authorities was criticized for making an attempt to “saffronize” historical past (the colour saffron is usually related to Hindutva). That was subsequently reversed when a Congress-led coalition authorities took over in 2004.

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With the BJP again on the helm since 2014, efforts to right “historic wrongs” have accelerated. A parliamentary committee on schooling was mandated to “eradicating references to unhistorical details and distortions about our nationwide heroes from textbooks, making certain equal or proportionate references to all durations of Indian historical past, and highlighting the function of nice historic girls heroes.”

Objecting to allegations that NCERT books presently in use are replete with “unhistorical details and distortions,” over 100 eminent historians wrote to the parliamentary committee final 12 months that the train of the textbook revision can’t be carried out with the intention of placating a specific ideology.

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However these objections, the NCERT, in the meantime, is within the technique of revising textbooks which can be more likely to be prepared by subsequent 12 months. The brand new textbooks will likely be written to align with the Nationwide Schooling Coverage NEP 2020, which talks about an “schooling system rooted within the Indian ethos.” Whereas critics allege the textbook revisions are politically motivated, the federal government describes it as a routine train to maintain the syllabus up to date.

The implications of the revision of textbooks will likely be far-reaching.

The range of India is a “historic truth,” Habib writes, pointing to the “numerous races, religions, cultures that descended right here over the centuries and received immersed and assimilated into an Indian id.” Nevertheless, Hindutva ideologues have already declared who’s Indian and who just isn’t and it’s their model of historical past that will likely be taught. Consequently, “the approaching generations will develop up completely unaware of those ‘others’ of their textbooks,” laments Habib.