Disproportionate attention to caste, Muslim chroniclers in NCERT, Kerala textbooks: Thinktank tells Parl Panel

A research report by a think-tank, presented before the parliamentary committee on education recently, has claimed that the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) history books pay “disproportionate attention” to Mughal rulers.

The report states that there is an average of 97 references to Emperor Akbar, 30 references to Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb and Jahangir each, as opposed to just eight mentions of Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji, and almost no reference of Rajput kings Rana Sanga and Maharana Pratap.

The report has criticised NCERT and Kerala textbooks for giving more weightage to accounts of Muslim chroniclers such as Ibn Batuta and Al Baruni, and social reform movements such as the Brahmo Samaj and reformers such as Raja Ram Mohan Roy, ignoring the work of Indians such as Chanakya, Bodhayan, Bhaskaracharya, Aryabhatta and the work of social reformers such as Swami Dayanand Saraswati and Swami Vivekananda.

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The report, put together by the director of Public Policy Research Centre (PPRC) Sumeet Bhasin, researcher Chandni Sengupta, Deepa Kaushik and Sanket Kate, called ‘Distortions and Misrepresentation of India’s past: History textbooks and why they need to change’, has compared the history textbooks mandated by the education boards of the Kerala and Gujarat governments.

“There is an average of 97 references to Emperor Akbar…and almost no reference of Rajput kings Rana Sanga and Maharana Pratap.”

— – Report

The Parliamentary standing committee on education, women, children, youth and sports, chaired by Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, held its last round of consultations on textbook reforms recently, hearing from PPRC that was previously headed by Sahasrabuddhe when he was the BJP vice-president.

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The panel is expected to come up with its own report on redesigning the curriculum shortly, even as the Centre mulls changes to textbooks, those in know of the matter said. Rewriting history textbooks has been a priority for the Sangh Parivar, a move that has often been criticised by experts for erasing the contributions of Muslims and sanitising caste violence.

The think tank has claimed that Kerala textbooks have “blacked out” references to ancient India and the Rig Veda, and amplified the caste of saints who led the Bhakti movement, “downplaying their philosophy and teachings”. The report praised the Gujarat government for “underplaying the caste system, valourising Rajput women and talking about the important role women in ancient India played in society”.

Former Kerala finance minister and CPM politburo member TM Thomas Isaac tweeted on Sunday: “Public Policy Research Centre Report strongly criticises Kerala school textbooks. Our crimes: Not much on Vedic period and prominence to Muslim rulers. Focus on Nehru rather than Patel. Social reformers’ links to western liberalism promoted. We plead guilty to the charges.”

The PPRC report, criticising NCERT textbooks for the “excessive use of words such as gotra, jati, varna” said, “Gujarat textbooks, while mentioning the four varnas have not gone into their details, and have chapters on different temples of the country and how they survived assaults by invaders, an account missing in Kerala and NCERT textbooks. Kerala history textbooks, according to the research, has just a few passing references to the 1857 uprising, while NCERT makes it centred around Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, as opposed to Gujarat textbooks that have highlighted the role of Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, Tatya Tope and Nanasaheb.

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The report claimed that textbooks of classes eight to twelve, in their chapters about modern India, gave prominence to Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, while leaders such as Sardar Patel, Lokmanya Tilak, Bhagat Singh, Surya Sen, Khudiram Bose hardly finds mention.

The report has made nine recommendations, including one to stop publication of textbook content that glorify the “invasions by Arabs, Turks and Mughals” and has proposed a history re-writing project that “will highlight the glorious past of India, its civilisational greatness, rationality of Vedic rituals, development in the field of medicine and importance of Sanskrit”.

It has also recommended that desecration of Hindu and Jain temples be taught, particularly in the cases of Somnath temple in Gujarat, Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque in Delhi, Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra in Ajmer and others, and highlight stories of Hindu kings such as Raja Dahir, maratha and Rajput rulers such as Tanhaji, Rani Durgavati and Rani Kiran Devi Rathore in the textbooks.

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The Indian History Congress, the largest academic and professional body of Indian historians with over 9,000 members, has condemned attempts to “combine myth and history”. In its recent resolution, it expressed concerns over the alleged attempts by the Centre to rewrite history and said the body was “perturbed to hear voices being raised in certain influential quarters on the need to rewrite Indian history through an abundant use of ancient mythology and speculative chronology.”

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