Remodelling of textbooks

Author: 
Harihar Swarup

If the BJP and its ideologues think they can erase the names of great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and others by rewriting India’s history from the public memory, they are sadly mistaken. A quiz book prepared by the BJP to be used as the basic text to judge the general awareness of nearly 15 lakh school children in Uttar Pradesh has expunged name of Mahatma Gandhi from the list of India’s great personalities. A chapter titled “India’s first” covers everything except the country’s first Prime Minister Nehru.
The indoctrination exercise is part of a sweeping saffronisation project under the aegis of Pandit Deendayal Upadhayay Birth Centenary Celebration Committee that is organizing the mega general knowledge quiz on August 20 for school children from across the state from across the state, based on this book.
The book also claims that Indian astronauts have gone and come back from the moon. Nehru finds practically no place in the 70-page book that is primarily woven around the life of right-wing ideologue Deendayal Upadhyay. Gandhiji finds passing reference three or four times and that too not in relation to his contribution to the independence movement – though Sardar Patel’s Baradoli Satyagraha has been mentioned— but in contravention to, in one instance, Babasaheb Ambedkar. While Gandhi and Nehru have been kept out, those included in the great personalities list are VD Savarkar, RSS founder KB Hedgewar as well as Jan Sangh leader and ideologue Nanaji Deshmukh.
The list includes Sardar Patel from the Congress pantheon, and Ambedkar, two leaders the saffron outfit has been trying to appropriate since assuming power. It also includes tribal leader Birsa Munda, Sikh Guru Govind Singh and Madanmohan Malaviya. The life history of Ambedkar, incidentally, does not mention his role as Dalit redeemer or his conversion to Buddhism in his quest against Brahmanism.
Subhash Chandra Bose and Lal Bahadur Shastri too find passing mention. The Congress reacted sharply on the issue. “It is unfortunate that a time has come when a mainstream party has tried to expunge the contribution of the Father of Nation and trying to distort history in such a blatant manner. Having said that, these personalities — Gandhi and Nehru—are not indeed in need of some book to declare them heroes. Their contribution is well known”, say Congress leaders.
The book, say BJP leaders, would serve for a wide dissemination of party’s ideology. “This book is intended to teach students about Indian nationalism and glory of Indian culture. It is also intended to make students of UP aware about the hitherto neglected aspects and agencies of national movement, and the history at large”, they say.
Moreover, no Muslim — from the modern or medieval times—finds mention in the list. However, the book quotes poet Iqbal in reference to Indian nationalism, a person the right-wing has so far deprecated for having moved to Pakistan after Independence.
While medieval part of Indian history too is conspicuous by its absence, the ancient period has been characterized as one in which “varnashram dharma, Purushartha and sixteen Samaskaras were ideal for all”. There are several references to foreign invaders who “corrupted” Indian culture, and also some of the blame is put on state broadcaster Doordarshan. “Affliction of other cultures have crept into Indian culture owing to DD, cable TV etc…. Corruption and inequality in India are diseases that came with foreign invaders in the past for few centuries, otherwise they were absent in the days of Ashoka and Vikramaditya…”
Only such instances of Muslim history have been mentioned in which either a Hindu king vanquished a Muslim king or had been the victim of torture and excess of some Muslim king. For instance, a question in the book says: “Which Muslim invader was cut like carrot and radish by Maharaja Suheldev?
The chapter on Indian economy starts only with 2014, when the BJP came to power at the Centre. Though it doesn’t deal with much of Indian economy, it does point out that the RSS’s labour wing —Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh — is the biggest workers’ union in India. The chapter on current affairs is just a list of the schemes and flagship programmes launched by Prime Minister Modi. Notable mentions are GST and demonetisation as well as digital India.
The book asks several questions about who the founder of Jan Sangh was to who imprisoned Shyama Prasad Mukherjee in Kashmir. “Who is credited with for keeping Jammu and Kashmir as an integral part of India despite article 370 and “who is the first martyr for the unity and integrity of the nation”. (IPA)

Saturday, 12 August, 2017