Around 250 historians from India and abroad have condemned the recent changes made in textbooks issued by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). Issuing a joint statement, they said that the decision of the NCERT to drop entire chapters from History textbooks for Class 12 and delete statements from other textbooks is a matter of deep concern.
The historians are from leading academic institutions such as Delhi University, University of Hyderabad, Columbia University, Indira Gandhi National Open University, Jadavpur University and Princeton University.
The changes which include dropping of entire chapters on history of Mughal courts, references to the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, the Naxalite movement, and mention of Dalit writers, have been done using the argument of lightening the load of the curriculum, they said.
In this light, it is deeply troubling that a chapter on the Mughals has been deleted from part-II of the history textbook for Class 12, while two chapters on modern Indian history have been removed from part-III of the history textbook, they further said.
“There has been no attempt to consult members of the teams that had prepared the textbooks, which included historians and schoolteachers, apart from members of the NCERT. The books were developed through a process of consultation and wide-ranging discussions. This was valuable not only in terms of content, but also in terms of pedagogy, which ensured an organic unity and a graded development in understanding from the middle to the senior school,” the statement adds.
NCERT Chief Dinesh Saklani earlier said the syllabus was "rationalised" in June last year itself, and there has been no trimming of the curriculum this year. "However, notwithstanding the NCERT Director’s denial, the selective dropping of NCERT book chapters which do not fit into the larger ideological orientation of the present ruling dispensation exposes the non-academic, partisan agenda of the regime in pushing through amendments to school textbooks," the statement said.
Deletion of chapters
The chapter titled ‘Kings and Chronicles: The Mughal Courts (c. sixteenth-seventeenth centuries) has been deleted from part-II of the history textbook. “This is despite the fact that the Mughals ruled several parts of the subcontinent for a substantial period: making the history of these times an inseparable part of the subcontinent’s history. In medieval times, the Mughal empire and the Vijayanagara empire were two of the most important empires in the Indian subcontinent, both of which were discussed in the previous textbooks,” the statement explains.
Calling out the retention of Vijayanagara Empire in the revised version and deletion of the chapter on Mughals, the statement said that the, "exclusion exposes the wider communal undertones, based on an inaccurate assumption about India’s past -- that the religion of the rulers was the dominant religion of the times. This leads to the deeply problematic idea of a ‘Hindu’ era, ‘Muslim’ era, etc. These categories are uncritically imposed on what has historically been a very diverse social fabric."
The statement also pointed out deletions from the textbook for political science, which includes sections on the rise of popular movements, the 2002 Gujarat Riots, and the mention of the report of the National Human Rights Commission.
"Guided by a divisive and partisan agenda, the NCERT by selectively deleting several important themes from school textbooks is not only doing great disservice to the composite heritage of the Indian subcontinent, but betraying the aspirations of the Indian masses," they further said.