PROF RAM PUNIYANI
TEXT books of schools are also a site of contestation between differing versions of nationalism. The two inheritors of colonial India, India and Pakistan show this in a parallel and opposite ways. In Pakistan since the country came up in the name of Islam, it taught a history in schools which began with Mohammad bin Kasim ruling in Sind in eighth century. The Hindu kings and Hindus are shown in a poor light to the extent that an average child in Pakistan school will refer to a Hindu in a very derogatory way.
India had a much different trajectory and succeeding the early historians, an attempt was made to make the history scientific and rational. Religion was not the sole marker of the king’s rule or diverse aspects of history, till BJP ruled NDA came to power in 1999, when Murli Manohar Joshi as MHRD minister undertook project of ‘saffronisation of history and syllabus’. Saffronisation term was broadly put to promote the view including understanding of History around Hindu nationalist discourse. It was based on the ‘glorious Hindu kings versus evil Muslim kings’. In addition the faith based subjects like astrology were made part of the curriculum. Rituals like ‘Putra Kameshti Yagya’ (ritual to have a son) found a place in the new syllabus.
With UPA coming to power (2004) an attempt was made to undo part of this saffronisation. Now with BJP in the saddle the process of communalisation is being brought back, in the name of ‘rationalisation’. NCERT on the pretext that Covid epidemic and the lockdown has put extra pressure on the students so there is a need to lighten the burden of students is deleting portions of the books which are a sore to the eye of ruling dispensation. Aghast by the rash and unthoughtful ‘deletions’ which break the link of the whole many historians have expressed their dismay to the whole process, as portions related to Mughal history are being deleted while the portions relating to Vijayanagar Kingdom continue to be retained.
In the Hindu nationalist view of the ruling dispensation, Islam is a ‘foreign’ religion and Muslim kings were aggressors who came here and spread Islam on the point of the sword. The syncretism and social interactions during this period stands erased. How will these ideologues present the rise of great Sikh religion, Bhakti and Sufi tradition during this period remains to be seen. The Mughal period or any other period, cannot not be understood solely around the religion of the king. This pattern was introduced by British to pursue their policy of ‘divide and rule’. Particularly during the medieval period the alliances between Muslim and Hindu kings will have to be erased by this method of History writing. Just a single example, how will it be explained that in the battle of Haldighati Akbar’s commander in Chief was Raja Mansing and amongst the two generals of Rana Pratap, one was Hakim Khan Sur.
This aspect of ‘deletion’ of Mughals, though at present in part, has been the most glaring part of the present process of rationalisation. The accompanying other deletions go on to tell us the whole agenda of the ruling party.
Gandhi’s life was the supreme example of promoting fraternity, mainly Hindu Muslim unity in the country. Now this stands deleted. The deleted portion is as follows “His (Gandhi’s) 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 organisations that were spreading communal hatred. Organisations like the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh were banned for some time…”
The other major aspect, the outcome of communal politics is the rise of communal violence. The carnage in Gujarat, which was orchestrated on the pretext of Godhra train burning, now its reference is being dropped from the books, particularly where the role of BJP is indicated by National Human Rights Commission in failure of the Government to control the carnage. It was possible to control the carnage but the large military contingent which was available to the state Government was put on hold for three long days! The deleted passage includes an apt observation, “Instances, like in Gujarat, alert us to the dangers involved in using religious sentiments for political purposes. This poses a threat to democratic politics.” It also deletes the advice of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to CM of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, “My one message to the Chief Minister (of Gujarat) is that he should follow ‘raj dharma’. A ruler should not make any discrimination between his subjects on the basis of caste, creed and religion.”
One of agenda of communal politics is to stifle democracy and undermine to suppress the mass movements. Many such movements which took place during last several decades stand omitted from the new books. The one aimed at preserving environment, Chipko Movement is out and the movement Narmada Bachao, which aimed to preserve Adivasi’s rights and also save environment will not be there anymore. Communal politics also wants to ensure that the Dalits-OBC remain on the lower strata of society. While the communal politics adopts complex tactics for this, the books will not mention the significant rebellion of Dalits in the form of Dalit Panthers, which awakened the Dalit masses to their plight and rights in the decade of 1970s. The most democratically empowering ‘Right to Information’ movement, the main achievement of democratic struggles will stand deleted from the new books.
Origin of caste which has been from within the social norms and religious practices has been mostly attributed to the foreigners, Muslims in particular. So such a para has no place in the new books, “The priests also said that these groups were decided on the basis of birth… Later, they classified some people as untouchable. These included some crafts persons, hunters and gatherers, as well as people who helped perform burials and cremations. The priests said that contact with these groups was polluting…” “…Caste rules were set which did not allow the so-called “untouchables” to take on work, other than what they were meant to do. For example, some groups were forced to pick garbage and remove dead animals from the village. But they were not allowed to enter the homes of the upper castes or take water from the village well, or even enter temples. Their children could not sit next to children of other castes in school…”
And of course Nehru’s vision of temples of Modern India has no place in the scheme of things practiced by communal forces today. How can this vision of the Architect Modern India can withstand the communalisation of our text books, “Which place can be greater than this, this Bhakra Nangal, where thousands and lakhs of men have worked, have shed their blood and sweat and laid down their lives as well?”
Similarly chapters like ‘Democracy and Diversity’ along with comments on the Emergency when the media and civil liberties were stifled stands deleted. All in all the deletions are total reflections of the political agenda of communal politics and it is not just the deletion of Mughals.
Ram Puniyani is an eminent author, activist and former professor of IIT Mumbai. The views expressed here are personal and Clarion India does not necessarily share or subscribe to them.