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Opinion: The Proposed UGC History Syllabus Is Part Of A Larger Attack On Students

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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.

A History Student’s Opinion On The Changes

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.

JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh addresses the media after an alleged attack by ABVP students on campus.

The student wing of the RSS has been known to attack campuses and students critical of the Sangh regime.

The Bigger Picture

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.

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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.

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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.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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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.

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