Ever since the BJP came to power in 2014 under the leadership of Narendra Modi, efforts to convert India into a Hindu Rashtra have been intensified. The centenary of the foundation of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 2025 is going to be a landmark in the process of transforming India in accordance with the Hindutva ideology of the Sangh Parivar. The large-scale cuts made in school textbooks recently by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) have to be viewed from this perspective.
The Sangh Parivar has adopted a multi-pronged strategy to realize its dream of making India a Hindu Rashtra, totally different from the vision of India as delineated in the preamble of the Indian Constitution. Strategy number one was creating a sense of victimhood in the majority community by manufacturing and propagating the perception of “appeasement” of minorities by the Congress and other secular parties. Along with the appeasement theory, a disdain for secularism (nicknamed as sickularism) was created in the minds of the Hindus.
The second strategy was presenting Muslims and Christians as enemies of India. This was the idea invented by M S Golwalkar, the second Sarsanghchalak of RSS, in his writings, especially “Bunch of Thoughts” and “We or Our Nationhood Defined”. Muslims are caricatured as terrorists with allegiance to Pakistan and other Muslim countries and Christians are accused of converting poor people to Christianity. Even now the same strategy is being used to polarize Hindu votes in favour of the BJP.
Along with the hatred towards Muslims and Christians fomenting communal riots was used as another strategy. Organizing religious processions on the occasion of Hindu festivals which often resulted in communal violence and further polarization of the Hindus was another strategy. The Ayodhya Ram Mandir movement was very decisive in the process of transforming the mindset of a large section of Hindus in favour of Hindutva ideology. Processions in many parts of India in connection with Ramnavmi celebrations have become an annual feature in recent years. These processions often end up in communal riots. Presenting Maryada Purushottam Ram as an aggressive warrior is central to both Ayodhya movement and propagating the Hindutva ideology.
RSS was opposed to the Indian Constitution when it was adopted, and favoured a Constitution based on Manusmriti. Undermining secular democratic institutions has been another strategy, especially whenever the BJP came to power at the centre. Christophe Jaffrelot in his book, “Modi’s India” and Aakar Patel in his book, “Price of the Modi Years” have elaborately explained how the Parliament, bureaucracy, judiciary, Election Commission and investigation agencies like CBI, ED, NIA etc., have been systematically weakened. Misuse of the investigation agencies to harass and imprison all those who are critical of the policies of the Prime Minister and the RSS-BJP combine has become a day-to-day affair.
In a democracy, the media is considered the fourth pillar and its role is critical in analysing and assessing the policies and functioning of the government and presenting a realistic and objective picture before the people. All governments try to bring the media under its control; but under the Modi regime, most of the media have become the propaganda machine of the government, so much so, it is called ‘godi media’. Carrot and stick policy is being adopted by the government to keep the media under its thump.
Rewriting history and meddling with school textbooks have been a strategy to brainwash the young generation and deprive them of knowing facts. Saffronisation of history and textbooks intensified since 2014, though the process was started during the regime of Atal Behari Vajpayee. According to a report in The Indian Express, the NCERT text books have been revised thrice since 2014. The first round of revision took place in 2017 in view of updating the textbooks to reflect the recent events, including the legislation on GST. In fact, it was termed a “review” rather than revision. It resulted in 1,334 changes across 182 books and increased content on ancient Indian knowledge and practices and a focus on nationalist icons who had been overlooked, according to the BJP and the right-wing advocates.
The second round of revision was undertaken by NCERT in 2018 at the initiative of then Education Minister Prakash Javadekar and it is known as “textbook rationalization” to reduce “syllabus burden” on students. This exercise led to a 20% reduction, primarily in social science textbooks.
The presumed objective of the third review that took place in 2022 was to reduce the curriculum load further, and to help students recover from learning disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. In June 2022, the NCERT had made public a list of changes and deletions in the reprinted textbooks that came to the market recently. As per the report of The Indian Express, the printed textbooks have deletions that were not included in the list made public in June 2022. For example, the portions related to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi were not part of the list officially published by the NCERT in June 2022. Hence, the purported reason for ‘rationalization of textbooks’ appears to be a lame excuse to excise many portions that are not palatable to the Sangh Parivar.
The deletions in general include removing all references to the 2002 Gujarat riots, reducing content related to the Mughal era and the caste system, dropping chapters on protests and social movements and excesses during the emergency. The last round of deletions covers mainly three subjects: History, Political Science and Sociology from Class VI to XII. Removal of a mention of Mahatma Gandhi’s unpopularity among Hindu extremists and of the ban imposed on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the aftermath of his assassination has attracted the wrath of many historians, scholars and political leaders.
Rajmohan Gandhi in his write up in The Indian Express under the title, “You can’t delete Gandhi’s truth” has quoted the portion related to Gandhi that is deleted.
“He (Gandhi) was particularly disliked by those who wanted Hindus to take revenge or who wanted India to become a country for the Hindus, just as Pakistan was for Muslims…
His steadfast pursuit of Hindu-Muslim unity provoked Hindu extremists so much that they made several attempts to assassinate Gandhiji…
Gandhiji’s death had an almost magical effect on the communal situation in the country….The Government of India cracked down on organizations that were spreading communal hatred.”
In his article, Rajmohan Gandhi has given the probable reason for the deletion. “I see the deletions as part of an ongoing process of piece-by-piece obliteration that aims, finally, to remove all evidence that Gandhi was killed because of his insistence that India belongs to all who live in it, including Muslims, Christians, and not just to Hindus,” he wrote. It is an attempt to kill the thought of Gandhi that India belongs to everyone because the Hindutva ideology claims that India belongs to the Hindus only. As one author has mentioned, “At this rate, I imagine that in a few years, we will be told that Nathuram Godse was a great patriot (that’s already happening), that the Muslim League killed Gandhiji and poor old, innocent Godse was framed for the murder”.
Speaking or writing anything good of Muslims of the past or present is intolerable to the protagonists of the Hindutva. Home Minister Amit Shah had made a statement on November 25, 2022, “No one can stop us from rewriting history to free it from distortions”. That could be the reason for a major cut in the section of Mughal history, especially the contributions of Mughal emperors like Akbar and Shahjahan. It is an attempt to portray Muslims as barbarians who invaded India only to rape, pillage, plunder and murder.
In the run up to Assembly elections in Karnataka a lot of mudslinging is going on Tipu Sultan. Students in olden days were taught that Tipu Sultan was a great patriot who fought valiantly against the British East India Company. Unfortunately, of late he has been presented as a tyrant and a “mass murderer” of Hindus by the right-wing groups.
Children have a right to know the facts. Dislike of Mahatma Gandhi by Hindu extremists and the ban of RSS after the assassination of Gandhi, the positive impact of Gandhi’s death on communal situation in India in the aftermath of the partition are facts recorded in several ways not only in India but also in other countries too. Hence by simply deleting from the textbooks these facts the future generation cannot be kept in complete darkness about them. At the same time, the young generation should not be fed with distorted facts and wrong notions. Portraying India’s diverse heritage to the new generation is essential for the survival of secular democracy in India.
Against this backdrop, the civil society organisations and the school authorities have a responsibility to ensure that what is deleted from the curriculum today, is not forgotten tomorrow. The schools and civil society organizations can share these facts with the students as part of value education and co-curricular activities. For example, street plays depicting the life and contribution of Mahatma Gandhi can be enacted on October 2 and January 30. Videos depicting the facts about the life of Mahatma Gandhi can be uploaded on YouTube and other online platforms.
History is a witness to the fact that truth cannot be suppressed forever. Dictators and fascists like Hitler and Mussolini tried to suppress facts and truth, but the cruelties and inhumanities they had committed were revealed to the world later. All those who try to suppress facts and truth may remember what Abraham Lincoln said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”