Attempts to rewrite textbooks, which critics call saffronisation of education, by the BJP government in Rajasthan created news this year.
The revised textbooks have glorified the role of Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar in the Indian independence movement, called the Congress a nurtured baby of the British and declared Maharana Pratap a victor in the Battle of Haldighati in 1576 against Mughal emperor Akbar.
In the chapter on British rule and Indian struggle for Independence in Class 10 social science textbook, an entire paragraph with a subhead has been dedicated to Savarkar, while Mahatma Gandhi’s name has been mentioned only in passing in the chapter.
While the Hindutva ideologue is the only Indian leader to have a dedicated paragraph, Nehru’s name does not even find a mention in the entire chapter. In 2016, the government removed the name of Nehru from the Class 8 textbooks.
While state education minister Vasudev Devnani defended the move saying that Nehru has been given ample space in the Class 9 textbook and that every leader can’t be included in every textbook, critics slammed the revision calling it “brazen saffronisaiton”.
“Those who supported the colonial empire and succumbed to it, like Savarkar, have been heroised in the revisions,” Rajiv Gupta, retired professor of sociology from University of Rajasthan had said.
One of the textbooks introduced in the BJP-ruled state even describes the first crop of Congress leaders as “mostly moderates who were prosperous, middle-class intellectuals, hailed from big cities and had no connection with the masses”.
The Class 10 social science textbook claims the Congress moderates wanted to prolong British rule in India because they felt the latter’s exit would lead to lawlessness in the country.
The revised textbooks also do not shy away from making a case for BJP’s policies or hailing the Narendra Modi-led central government’s demonetisation move as a drive for cleansing the country of black money.
The political science textbook of Class 12 lauds Modi’s foreign policy vis-à-vis Pakistan, while downplaying the policies of his predecessor Manmohan Singh. Modi’s efforts towards normalising ties with the neighbour have been termed as a “positive initiative”, while the India-Pakistan ties during Singh’s regime have been slugged as “waarta dar waarta nateeja shoonya” or zero results despite repeated talks.
Another chapter in the book bats for a uniform civil code, arguing that different laws for different communities and sections create a sentiment of separatism. The chapter also makes a case against appeasement and the grant of any special facility or relaxation to any religious community.
These are not all. The physical and health education textbook of Class 10 advises the students to chant mantra before meals – mentioning the Sanskrit mantra in the chapter – and to think of food as ‘prasad’ (religious offering), while consuming it. In addition, the book says that eating meat causes a lot of harm to the body.
The Class 12 history textbook describes the Maharana Pratap’s act of fleeing from the Haldighati battleground as “turning the battle towards the hills”. Most historical accounts say that Pratap had fled from the battlefield and later continued his guerrilla warfare against the Mughals. The chapter also claims that Pratap prevailed in the war, whereas the dominant view about the outcome of the battle has so far remained in the favour of the Mughal army.
The universities too have been accused of politically-hued revisions. A book titled Rashtra-Ratna Maharana Pratap by Chandra Shekhar Sharma that projects Pratap as the victor in the battle, was included in the syllabus of MA History at University of Rajasthan, Jaipur. The book was included after suggestion by a BJP MLA in a meeting of the university’s governing body.
The revision of Haldighati history, critics say, is an attempt to create a binary narrative of Hindu-Rajputs versus Muslim-Mughals that serves the BJP’s ideological interests.
The BJP leaders, on the other hand, said that the students were reading “distorted” versions of history earlier and they are only bringing those leaders to the fore, who were purposely ignored by the “communist” historians.