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CBSE Reduces Syllabus: This Year’s Batch Will Pass Without Learning About Democracy And Partition

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2020 has been the year of uncertainty as it has had, and is still having, a huge impact on nearly all economic sectors. Students worldwide are facing the brunt of the ongoing pandemic, and have witnessed many ‘firsts’ this year, including the cancelling of a few Board examinations, classes shifting online, not having had the chance to graduate with their batchmates, and so on and so forth.

In another first, we saw ICSE reducing its syllabus for the current academic year by 25%, and a day later, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) reduced its syllabus even further. As per reports, Ramesh Pokhriyal (Human Resource Development Minister) made an announcement on 7th July, 2020, about a 30% cut in syllabuses of Classes 9 to 12 for the current academic year.

Fair enough, right? Considering how students will miss out on several important lectures and in-person lessons, this move is a rather welcomed one, especially for the ones who don’t have the means to access these online classes and swanky apps (one of the few businesses whose sales have gone up-up-up).

Not Essential To Learn Secularism And Partition During A Pandemic?

The CBSE announced the removal of chapters on citizenship, secularism and nationalism for Class 11 students. In a rather shocking move, however, the chapter on Understanding Partition: Politics, Memories, Experiences for Class 12 has also been removed by the authorities for the academic year 2020-2021. This chapter talks about the history of discord between communities in the Indian subcontinent, and how these communities have existed simultaneously with mutual love and respect prior to the division of the subcontinent.

Partition is not a thing of the past. In fact, it is very much a part of our present. Urvashi Butalia has rightly said that Partition is not an event, it’s a process. This process is always in motion and partitions keep happening in our minds, whether we like it or not.

It is crucial for a country as diverse as ours to focus on a major happening that has shaped the future and the present we are all living in. It has changed the face of South Asia by dividing the subcontinent into three unequal parts, thus introducing three new countries into the already convoluted world of politics and international relations.

Partition has affected the demographics of not just the states that were partitioned, but of many cities in the entire country. It becomes essential to make this known to children at the school level itself, so that they are able to comprehend such sensitive topics well while pursuing their higher studies.

India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have faced numerous challenges in rehabilitating refugees who had to migrate to their side from their homes on the other side. The migration continued till as late as the 1960s due to certain stints of communal friction. In certain other parts of the countries with more porous and permeable borders, this percolation of people continued till much later.

The ongoing tension over Kashmir has been a result of the Partition, and the political relationship between India and Pakistan remains far from healthy due to this. The major bone of contention is Kashmir, so much so that media houses never face a drought when it comes to their 9 PM Primetime discussions.

Minorities in these countries remain vulnerable to this day, and mind you, it’s been 73 years since the country was divided (India-Pakistan Partition) and people chose (read: had to) sides. But an alarmingly large section of the population still faces the brunt of this and is answerable for questions it didn’t sign up to attempt in the first place! Seventy three years later, the shadow of Partition looms large on us, and refusing to accept that or worse, cold-shouldering it, will do no good to anyone.

Today, people in their 20s-30s are unable to understand what conspired during the largest migration that ever took place in recorded history, because Partition for them is nothing but a shrunken paragraph or a chapter in their textbooks. The upcoming generation needs to understand the implications of Partition, and with the removal of this chapter from the CBSE syllabus of Class 12, the task becomes even more taxing.

As it is, there has been very little research on the subject of Partition, and removing a vital chapter even for a year cannot be vindicated. The now-removed chapter contains heart-warming stories of people affected by the Partition that are essential to foster a feeling of empathy in readers. It teaches the students that not everything that transpired was black and white, and not every ‘other’ was a villain.

“India-haters in Pakistan and Pakistan-haters in India are both products of Partition. At times, some mistakenly believe that the loyalties of Indian Muslims lie with Pakistan… Partition generated memories, hatreds, stereotypes, and identities that still continue to shape the history of people on both sides of the border. These hatreds have manifested themselves during inter-community conflicts, and communal clashes, in turn, have kept alive the memories of past violence.” (NCERT’s Understanding Partition: Politics, Memories, Experiences)

This paragraph from the said chapter of the NCERT book of political science explains the situation that we are in today, by taking cues from history. We need to learn and imbibe within ourselves that our ‘today’ has been shaped by the legacy of Partition and the hatred generated by it has been exhibited into communal clashes/ riots like the one we recently witnessed in the country’s capital.

As a nation, we should not shy away from our history, try to omit it, or be in denial, even if it’s for one year, because we would be tampering with the future of lakhs of students who shall be appearing for their Class 12 Board exams next year.

Removing this crucial chapter from the syllabus reeks of obliviousness, especially towards people who were directly affected by the Partition, had to migrate into a new country, lost their loved ones in the violence of Partition, or never got a chance to bid farewell to their friends, people who came to a new country and were forced into poverty for no fault of theirs, had their share of hard days, struggled, and eventually established themselves and made this new land their own. How can we omit the history of these brave people who were survivors of an affair so magnanimous and psychologically testing?

The chapter talked about the history of Partition, and also probed into the why and how of it. It mentions oral histories as sources and Partition Literature, and throws light at how these sources are essential to write a differential history of something that has so far been seen as a monolith when its much grander and diverse, both in character and experience.

We are fast losing out on the population that was directly affected by the Partition, and that’s another reason why we need to be more inclusive of a chapter like Understanding Partition in the curriculum of school children. They must imbibe the criticality of an issue so important and base their arguments by developing critical thinking from an early age. We need to edify the younger generation about Partition, about studying stereotypes created back then, and how they are still overpowering the mindset of people in both the countries.

They need to get themselves acquainted with post-war developments and also look at Partition from the lens of gender to understand what women through and how their struggles and miseries were distinct in nature. As a nation, it is our responsibility to nurture responsible and well-articulated pupils who would go on to become policymakers, civil servants and academicians, and rationalising syllabus due to a pandemic by removing critical chapters on ‘Democracy and Diversity’, ‘Caste, Religion and Gender’, and ‘Challenges to Democracy, Federalism, Citizenship, Nationalism and Secularism’, along with the chapter on Partition would be nothing less than shaking the historical foundation of the country.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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