Kerala has said an emphatic “No” to the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT)’s attempt to replace ‘India’ with ‘Bharat’ in the social sciences textbooks for schools.
This is in response to the recommendation made by a panel set up by the NCERT that ‘India’ be replaced with ‘Bharat’ in all social science textbooks up to Class 12. Chairman of the committee CI Issac said that the panel has also suggested replacing ‘ancient history’ with ‘classical history’ and introducing the Indian Knowledge System in the syllabus for all subjects. Another suggestion by the panel to highlight ‘Hindu victories’ in text books has also evoked a sharp reaction from the Opposition.
Issac said it was a unanimous decision to replace the name ‘India’ with ‘Bharat’ in the textbooks for students across classes. The recommendations, he added, have been shared with the Education Ministry.
In a quick reaction to the NCERT proposal, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said it was part of parochial politics. Pinarayi also urged all citizens “to unite and safeguard the essence of ‘India’, a nation founded on the principles of unity in diversity.”
State’s education minister V Shivankutty came down heavily on the Union Government for failing to consult the States before recommending such drastic changes. The Union Government’s attempts to change historical facts to distort the past is a matter of great concern. “We vehemently oppose these proposed changes, which we believe are incompatible with our democratic values,” he pointed out.
The Minister further said Kerala had, in response to the Union Government’s previous attempt to effect similar changes, published additional textbooks to cover topics removed from the NCERT syllabus. Since Education is a topic in the Concurrent List, States had the authority to take a final decision in the matter, he added.
Out of the 124 textbooks for classes 11 and 12 in the state, 44 are NCERT books. The remaining are from SCERT. If NCERT tries to distort history, through their contents, the state will resist it, Sivankutty said, adding that the state will explore options to prepare these 44 textbooks in the state itself. The curriculum committee will also examine the contents of thee 44 textbooks in use.
The opposition parties have joined the Kerala Government’s criticism of the NCERT’s decision. Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president K. Sudhakaran accused the Union Government of trying to communalise the country. The KPCC chief said the congress will vehemently object to the Sangh Parivar agenda and defeat its politics of hate being inflicted on the minds of students at a young age. The BJP Government, which is notorious for changing names is trying to divide the people in view of the Lok Sabha elections due in 2024, he said.
CPI(M) state secretary M V Govindan joined the chorus of criticism against the Union Government’s mover. Schools following State syllabus will resist the NCERT’s move to inject “science-fact-and-history-denying Sangh Parivar rendition of India’s past into younger generations. Kerala school textbooks, he said, would cite the country’s name as India as articulated in Article 1 of the Constitution. “They will dwell on subjects dropped by the Sangh Parivar-led Central Government, including Darwin’s theory of evolution, the Mughal Empire and the life, times and assassination of Mahatma Gandhi,” he said. The Centre was deliberately ignoring its commitment to the Supreme Court that no circumstances warranted changing India’s official name to Bharat. The spokesperson of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) Saravanan Annadurai accused the BJP of resorting to name-change politics to divert attention of the people from its misdeeds.
The reaction of the BJP in the State was on expected lines. The party encouraged the use of Bharat because it was ‘an emphatic rejection of the country’s colonial past. Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan identified himself with the sentiments expressed by the BJP.
Incidentally, Bharat was officially used for the first time when the Union Government sent out G20 invitations in the name of ‘President of Bharat’ instead of ‘President of India’. The nameplate of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the G20 summit in Delhi also read as Bharat instead of India. (IPA Service)