The saying “those who control the present can rewrite the past” is finding its fruition as the country is entering the last leg of the second term of the Narendra Modi government. The whimsical and covert deletions of chapters partially or fully from the NCERT textbooks for secondary and senior secondary students and the surreptitious altering of college-level syllabus by the University Grants Commission betray the hidden agenda of the Sangh Parivar-monitored government. A path is being readied for portraying the nation in a partisan manner. To understand the outrageous changes in textbooks to make it in tune with the right-wing ideology, one should look at the speed with which the present regime is pressing the delete button, especially in the history text books.
One must get a broad idea of the gamut of distortions and culling of facts from the text books for the current academic session. Without batting an eyelid, the NCERT has removed numerous references which are not to the liking of the Hindutva extremists. According to reports, some of the topics that faced the axe are: description of the motive leading up to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu Brahmin from Maharashtra; several chapters on the Mughal empire; narration on the Gujarat riots; description of agrarian unrest in Vidharbha region of Maharashtra; references to caste system in the portion on ancient India; and Akbar’s policy on religious tolerance.
History is not the record of one’s likes and dislikes, but a stream of events as they evolved. Deleting them or rewriting them according to the whims and fancies of someone or some organisation is the greatest injustice to history and its chronicling. The government’s argument that the deletions made in text books or changes in syllabi are ‘to reduce the curriculum overload’ seems bizarre. A couple of examples are enough to expose the hollowness and ulterior motive of this moronic argument. The sentence “His (Gandhiji’s) steadfast pursuit of Hindu-Muslim unity provoked Hindu extremists so much so that they made several attempts to assassinate Gandhiji” and similar ones do not find a place in the Class 12 political science book. To say that such deletions would reduce the workload of students is nothing less than being dishonest and deceitful.
Yet another argument by the government that some of the deleted chapters have been covered in lower classes too falls flat as what is taught in lower classes is basic and sketchy while the same subject gets a much detailed description in higher classes. This is because the power of cognition of students grows as they advance to higher classes. There is no doubt that revision and changes in text books are necessary because advanced studies and research might throw light on new aspects or dimensions of an issue. These have to be done after proper consultations among experts in the field. But nothing of that sort seems to have happened in the latest revision of textbooks, the third during the Modi regime. The opaque way the changes have been carried out seems to say that there is more to it than meets the eye. A plausible answer for the ‘textbook tampering’ could be the discomfiture of the present regime and its mentors with the anti-Hindutva contents in some of the textbooks.