The University Grants Commission (UGC) has recently released a proposed draft history syllabus with various wholesale changes. A lot of these changes have been termed as ‘saffronisation’ and peddling Hindutva propaganda. In the past, the commission only gave suggestions about syllabus and readings, and this is the first time that it has come up with an entire syllabus.
The proposed changes to the history syllabus have been termed as saffronization by many.
This new syllabus focuses on ‘Bharat Varsha‘ and adds a lot of religious Hindu history. “Justice to the glorious past and vast canvas of Indian History can only be done by providing the much-needed space at micro and macro levels” is the justification given by the UGC.
Concepts around Bharatvarsha and Hindu religious mythologies have been added in a syllabus for history, where facts should be the guiding principle. Ancient secular texts have been dropped, so have authors like Irfan Habib and RS Sharma for visibly pro-sangh authors.
Shaurya Singh Thapa, a student of history who just completed his Bachelors Of Art in the subject from Hindu College in 2021 reflects on the syllabus and the need for changes. He says “ The Indian History Curriculum is not Hinduphobic in any way. I don’t understand the need to add ancient Indian concepts like Bharatvarsha, Ayurveda, etc. when we are already studying Vedic and Aryan concepts (precursors of the so-called “Hindu civilization”).“
Yes, there might not be sole chapters dedicated to Ayurveda but I can assure you many history readings, including a best-seller ancient history book by Upinder Singh, which is widely read among students, do touch upon contributions of visionaries like Charak, and Sushrut (both medical geniuses of their time).”
He further elaborates on this by saying that the jingoist nature of these changes is based on the fact that Mughal history is studied a lot in history, but Mughals did rule a majority of India for a long time and also had a lasting impact on India’s culture. He points out that in ancient India, they do study Vedas, Hindu rulers, other texts, and for Modern India, the role of Gandhi and the Freedom struggle. Mughal history is simply a part of a larger syllabus.
He further laments that if changes were to be made, different changes had to be made. “My personal opinion is to educated students more about regional histories such as North-east and south India. Along with diversifying modern Indian history with more perspectives on Dalit reformers and so on. The modern India paper largely is dominated by Gandhi and his roles in various movements and history of partition, both of which are important but the freedom movement was way more diverse than what we read for the course”, he says.
The student wing of the RSS has been known to attack campuses and students critical of the Sangh regime.
The larger picture that this proposed change is a part of aims to push Hindutva propaganda, kill critical thinking and saffronize all of Academia. From the hiring of administration that is pro-BJP in major universities to changes to the syllabus to physical attacks by the student wing of the RSS (ABVP) on dissenting students and events that don’t stick to their Hindutva propaganda.
The recent news of Pratap Bhanu Mehta resigning from Ashoka caused a stir, but the quiet resignations of professors in DU and other public universities for having views that go against the ruling party have gone unnoticed.
All of this, along with the NEP, one of the goals of which is to ‘simplify’ the syllabus is to kill critical thinking, so that students cannot question or analyze what the ruling party is saying or doing effectively.
Students and professors have been at the forefront of mass movements in the country and the world for decades, if not centuries. Students represent a radical future, but attacks on academia such as these will only push the country towards a dark past that is the BJP is striving to reach.