National

Politics Of Deletion: Revising Textbooks Or Rewriting History?

Revisiting Outlook's July 2022 issue titled 'Errors, Ommissions, Insertions', which looked at the present syllabus rationalisation process by NCERT in the context of politicisation of history and the politics of exclusion. 

Riyas Komu’s Holy Shiver on cover of Outlook
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History cannot be changed. It can be written, re-written and revised to change the way we look at the past. But can rewriting history undo the wrongs of the past, real or imagined? 

The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is being criticized by several sections of the population in India including historians and academics after it trimmed out entire chapters and topics related to the Mughals in its senior secondary history books. According to reports, the board has removed chapters and topics related to 'Kings and Chronicles; the Mughal Courts (C. 16th and 17th centuries)' from history textbooks. The development comes following a syllabus rationalization process that was initiated in December 2021.

As per the new books following the rationalisation, Class 12 students of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) as well as the Uttar Pradesh Board will no longer study the history of the Mughal courts or wars. As per reports, other key portions of Indian history and political science books has also been banned.

Around 250 historians from India and abroad have condemned the recent changes. 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 changes have also been criticised by leaders from opposition parties. The NCERT, however, claims that no curriculum trimming has happened this year and the syllabus was rationalised last year in June. It was also said previously that the rationalisation was done to reduce the load of students. 

The changes have once again brought to light an old debate that Outlook visited in its earlier issue: Should curricula not reflect the ‘truth’? And whose truth? Recent deletions and additions come wrapped in a concern for ‘heritage’, but are also dyed in a deep disquiet over other zones of contestation—caste and gender—beyond religion.

Outlook's July 2022 issue titled 'Errors, Ommissions, Insertions', looked at the present syllabus rationalisation process in the context of politicisation of history and the politics of exclusion. 

In an exclusive for Outlook, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor wrote about how the present government, "with its insistence on the purity of Hindu Rashtra, would sadly reduce the soaring generosity of their founding vision to the petty bigotry of majoritarian chauvinism".

Historian Arshia Sattar also elaborated on how history has become the new battleground in the clash of political and religious ideologies. 

In its October 2021 issue 'Out Of Syllabus' also looked at the issue of erasure and deletion in the context of the removal of 'Draupadi' from the Delhi University syllabus.

Outlook is revisiting these stories in a bid to add context to the current conversation. 

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