By YKA Staff: History will most likely be re-written, quite literally, as the process to rewrite and saffronize NCERT books may have begun. Between June 8 and 12, a workshop conducted by NCERT was attended by scholars from across India – including three from the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR). The purpose? To discuss the “obvious problems with textbooks” and their replacement.
The ICHR, in January this year, invited 3 academics from the Sangh Parivar’s history wing to join their top panel, among the 18 panelists proposed by the chief, Sudershan Rao. Sudershan Rao has himself been a part of Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana (ABISY), RSS’s history wing.
Before the workshop, a meeting was held in the HRD ministry to discuss the “mistakes and controversial issues in history textbooks,” said a member of the ICHR.
While saffronization of the text books has emerged as a hot issue, this isn’t anything new or restricted to the right wing alone. As famous historian Ramchandra Guha told YKA’s Artika Raj in an exclusive interview, “There have always been people who have tried to change this (history education). It’s not just the right wing. The left wing also tries to indoctrinate. In Kerala when the communists were in power, they tried to promote the ideas of Lenin. In Sonia Gandhi’s case, everything is named after Jawaharlal, or Indira or Rajeev. It’s also short sighted. It rebounded against them (as it did against the communists in Kerala).”
However, the constant change in curriculum and textbooks also raises serious concerns about the changing narratives that students are made to deal with. While one generation of school-goers have a different version of the history, the next are served with another, depending on the Government of the day.
Early threats to change of textbooks came with the inclusion of Jan Sangh in the Janata Government in 1977. In 1999, when BJP came to power, all textbooks were changed. In 2004, with the oncoming of the UPA Goverment, the books were changed again. And now, the Sangh Parivar seems adamant to change the books.
An ICHR member, Sardindu Mukherjee, who attended the workshop pointed out the problems with the current curriculum which gives Jinnah as much space as Gandhi, and does not mention many other revolutionaries. He also added that the emergence of nationalism does not get proper treatment.
However, the larger question remains – should students have to study multiple versions of the Indian history, or is it high time a panel of neutral historians came together to set the textbooks once and for all? As Guha adds, “It is the job of a historian to oppose all misreading.“