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).
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.