Parliamentary panel spars over history textbooks

AM Jigeesh New Delhi | Updated on January 13, 2021

Opposition objects to RSS-backed outfit suggesting changes in textbooks

A meeting of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education on Wednesday witnessed heated debate between the Opposition and the ruling coalition members over the agenda of “removing references to unhistorical facts and distortions about national heroes from text books”. The argument started over the presence of members from Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal (BSM), an RSS-affiliated organisation of teachers, in the meeting.

The representatives of the BSM made a presentation before the panel that history should be taught as a continuum and the divisions like ancient, medieval and modern are not sustainable parameters. “They started by supporting inclusiveness and its importance in education. They wanted mythological texts to be considered as history, which we opposed. We questioned their presence and their locus standi. We suggested that only registered bodies of teachers or students must be allowed to be present before the panel,” an Opposition member in the panel said.

The Education Ministry, however, refuted the charges that textbooks are being tailored to suit one particular ideology. “In their presentation, officials told us that the new generation textbooks, particularly history textbooks, will take thematic, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches to highlight Indian culture, traditions and its national heroes including women achievers. They also told us that the NCERT is in the process of constituting a committee to analyse and address some of the issues with regard to un-historical facts and distortions about national heroes,” another member said.

The Congress, however, has seen the development seriously. TN Prathapan is learnt to have submitted a note to Chairman Vinay P Sahasrabuddhe that the BJP is trying to change history texts according to the teachings of RSS whenever they come to power — be it in States or at the Centre. He has reportedly said in his note that education is in the concurrent list and the Centre should hold discussions with States before trying to make any changes in textbooks. “His note said that the committee should not encourage the attempts to create a new history, by cooking up random heroic stories to whitewash somebody who criticises for being apologetic to the British empire during freedom fight or being communal during and after freedom struggle,” the Opposition member said.

RSS’s student outfit ABVP has also sought time from the panel to present their views. “It was our first meeting on the agenda on Wednesday. We will hold more such meetings,” another member said.

Former director of NCERT JS Rajput is learnt to have told the meeting that because of ideological biases and political considerations suffered by it in past, Indian history writing needs a thorough professional review. He told the panel that history writing remained confined to the hegemony of a select group of few academics over five decades. He is learnt to have told the meeting in a presentation that new facts have emerged on Aryan invasion theory, Saraswati river and Ram Setu and they cannot be ignored.

Published on January 13, 2021

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