By Krishna Jha
This year, the Independence Day celebrations and the prime minister’s speech from the ramparts of Red Fort would not make us proud of our architectural achievements, its aesthetics, since Red Fort stands bereft of its history. Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world, would turn into virtual reality. Like our great poet Rabindranath Tagore had called Taj Mahal, “a drop of tear on the eternal folds of time” (kalerka pol to leek binduashrujol, Taj Mahal). But it is also a fact that no one can tear away the entire medieval period from the weave of time. There is the issue of consistency, and the running chronology of culture, creativity, progress and finally the civilisational truth.
The very first war of independence against the colonial rulers was fought under the leadership of Bahadur Shah Zaffar, the last Mughal emperor. Ours was one of those countries where the vast masses from all regions, communities and political adherence joined the freedom struggle with one single aim, freedom from the British colonialism. As the struggle concluded, it was an easy shift towards democracy, with modern ideals and values. The Constitution was prepared during the years of 1947-49, taking care of our demographic profile. It was adopted in 1950 with a preamble that promised us a sovereign, secular, democratic republic. Any shift in these premises would be against the spirit of our Constitution. We, the people, who have survived partition, its blood soaked days, had still voted for secularism and democracy in the first general election itself, which showed that the values are sacred like our lives itself. Yet there are challenges.
Several passages from the periods of Delhi Sultanate and Mughal empire have been deleted. There are missing sections in textbooks released by NCERT in early April covering several hundred years of Mughal Empire. There are also missing sections from post independence period like assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, Gujarat riots among others. There are also the issues like caste, class and religion and their relationship with power that have been deleted. NCERT has tried to justify taking these steps as not to overload the students in COVID days. They also said it was part of the normal process of rationalisation only.
The result is students would be deprived of the chapters handling the period between fifteen hundred AD to the middle of seventeen hundred AD, that is, the entire Mughal period. NCERT books are studied by large number of students all over the country. The recommendations have come on the pretext that these deletions would not affect the students’ pursuit of knowledge. The fact is that in our country, Hindu form eighty percent of total population, while Muslims have a share of fourteen percent.
According to historians, there is an attempt to belittle or totally delete the Muslim contributions in the nation building process of the country. Similar attempts were made during the reign of Atal Behari Vajpayee from 1999 to 2004, when history books published by the NCERT and written by several renowned historians, including RS Sharma and Bipan Chandra, were taken away from circulation.
It is not deletion alone, there are also attempts to distort certain valuable parts of history with suppression of facts. In class twelve history text books, there are passages on Gandhi that have been under the axe like, “Gandhi’s pursuit of Hindu Muslim unity provoked Hindu extremists…RSS was banned.”…Then, “…He was particularly disliked by those who wanted Hindus to take revenge or who wanted India to become a country of Hindus like Pakistan. Gandhiji thought that these people were misguided. He was convinced that any attempt to make India into a country only for the Hindus would destroy India.” Then also “…His steadfast pursuit of Hindu-Muslim unity provoked Hindu extremists so much that they made several attempts to assassinate Gandhiji…He refused to take armed protection.” The rest of the passage that was not deleted, says, “Finally on January 30, 1948, one such extremist Nathuram Vinayak Godse walked up to Gandhiji during his evening prayers and fired five bullets at him, and killed him.”
That was not all. The passage that spoke about the communal situation in the country in Gandhiji’s post-assassination days was also among those deleted: “Gandhiji’s death had a magical effect on the communal situation in the country. Post Partition related anger and violence suddenly subsided. The government of India cracked down on organisations that were spreading communal hatred. Organisations like Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh were banned for some time. Communal politics began to lose its appeal.”
There has been deletion of protests also that became social movements in the country in the textbooks of class 6 to 12. A chapter on the rise of popular movements has been dropped from class twelve textbook, ‘Politics in India since Independence’. In the same book with reference to Human Rights Commission’s criticism of Gujarat government for failing to contain the violence, there is a deleted passage that says, “Instances like in Gujarat alert us to the dangers involved in using religious sentiments for political purpose. This poses a threat to democratic politics.”
In fact it has become a regular practice for the NCERT to review text books and it is the third one since 2014. In 2017, there were 1334 changes and also data updates, additions made in 182 books. Then again in 2019, on the pretext of reducing the burden on students, deletions were made. (IPA Service)