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|November 9, 2002|
The Rediff Special/M Chhaya
Read: Distorting History 1
The communists, ideological opponents of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, also stand accused of distorting textbooks, especially in West Bengal, where the Left Front, led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist, have ruled continuously since 1977.
Years ago, the Communists started rewriting history -- both Indian and world -- with what appears to the clear intention of furthering its political ideology through the school textbooks. And some five million students in the state-funded schools are today learning history from textbooks that have been heavily scrutinised, censored, and, claim critics, "calculatedly distorted" by the leftists.
In 1989, the Marxist-led government made major changes in the school curriculum when it ordered, through an official notification, that the new syllabus should avoid mentioning the atrocities and/or tyranny of any Muslim invader or ruler.
Accordingly, students up to class 12 of government schools study a version of Indian history does not see Mahmud of Ghazni as a plunderer [his armies raided the Somnath temple in Gujarat at least 11 times, some historians claim more] and finds little mention of national heroes like Subhas Chandra Bose [who supported Nazi Germany against Britain and the Soviet Union in World War II, which was opposed by the Communist Party of India then].
Some samples of what the different textbooks now state:
* References to loot and plunder, rape and murder, destruction of Hindu temples and forceful conversions by Muslim invaders and rulers have been deleted from the history books.
Further, history books of West Bengal's government schools say: "... Islam and Christianity are the only religions which treated man with honour and equality..."
Nevertheless, School Education Minister Kanti Biswas insists there are no "calculated distortions."
"We don't politicise education. Academics and experts draw up our syllabuses," he claims, adding, "Our history books are not distorted unlike the ones being pushed by the BJP and the other custodians of Hinduism."
Immediately after the BJP-led central government started moving on changing the school syllabuses as prescribed by the NCERT in 2000, the West Bengal government too prepared to do its bit to consolidate a "Marxist view" in the history course taught in the state's schools.
A Schools Education Committee was formed in September 2001. The committee is expected to suggest guidelines for framing a new school syllabus.
"We hope to finish drawing up the guidelines by end of December. The secondary board and the higher secondary council will then prepare the syllabuses. We are working on 13 points of reference given by the government," says Mohammed Refatullah, a member of the committee.
Another committee member, requesting anonymity, admits, "Some major changes in the science, history and geography syllabuses are in the offing."
Refatullah refutes the suggestions that Marxism is being glorified and mentioned over several chapters in the schoolbooks. "I have no idea if that is happening. But may be some pro-poor pieces are there. This is a pro-people government, so there could be some pro-poor pieces. Is that wrong?" he asks.
There are also allegations are that the government is planning change the chapters on the Indian Freedom Struggle and to reduce the course content of civics in school syllabus so much so that it will deprive students of even the basic knowledge of the Indian Constitution.
Supriya Chatterjee, a member of the opposition Trinamul Congress and who earlier headed the party's education cell, alleges, "The school level history and civics syllabus is being changed in a phased manner over the past couple of years, in which the civics part is being reduced step by step. From being worth 13 marks out of 100 in the exam paper, it has now been reduced to just four marks."
What the effect of tainting books with ideology will be on children in the coming years remains to be seen.
Image: Rahil Shaikh
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