The references to freedom fighter and India's first education minister Maulana Azad in Class 11 textbook were dropped way back in 2013 and should not be linked to the curriculum rationalisation exercise undertaken last year, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has said.
Certain references and subjects being quietly dropped from the new NCERT textbooks without any notification has kicked off a political controversy with the Opposition accusing the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of 'whitewashing with vengeance'.
The Congress, which was in power at the Centre in 2013, lashed out at the government last week over the removal of references to Azad in the new NCERT class 11 Political Science textbook, saying there is a concerted attempt to 'rewrite' history and pass on a 'distorted legacy built on lies'.
A top NCERT official said, "While exploring the matter in earlier editions of the textbook, it was found that from 2014-15 onwards the name of Maulana Azad was not there in the referred para. This textbook for the session 2014-15 was finalised for printing in October 2013 as per the record of the Publication Division. It should not be linked to the current rationalisation exercise."
Asked whether the change was notified then, the official said, "This was done as a regular practice of reprinting of NCERT textbooks which includes updating and correcting the information."
In the class 11 Political Science textbook's first chapter, titled Constitution: Why and How, a line about Constituent Assembly meetings, which now reads 'Usually, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Patel or BR Ambedkar chaired these Committees', previously had mention of Azad too.
Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor had on Friday slammed the government over the removal of Azad references calling it a 'disgrace'.
'What a disgrace. I have no objection to adding neglected figures to the historical narrative, but deleting people, especially for the wrong reasons, is unworthy of our diverse democracy and its storied history,' he had tweeted.
As part of its 'syllabus rationalisation' exercise last year, the NCERT, citing 'overlapping' and 'irrelevant' as reasons, dropped certain portions from the course including lessons on Gujarat riots, Mughal courts, Emergency, Cold War, Naxalite movement, among others from its textbooks.
At the heart of the present row is the fact that while the changes made as part of the rationalisation exercise were notified, some of these controversial deletions weren't mentioned in them.
This has led to allegations about a bid to delete these portions surreptitiously.
The NCERT has described the omissions as a possible oversight but refused to undo the deletions, saying they were based on the recommendations of experts.
Earlier council director Dinesh Saklani had claimed that the changes which were 'missed' in the rationalisation booklet will be notified soon.
However, later it issued a statement on Friday saying 'minor deletion or addition' is not notified in view of avoiding any confusion at the level of teachers and students.
'In the context of rationalisation exercise also some minor deletions (a sentence or a word or a phrase, etc.) were done, which were not included in the details of the notification of the rationalisation, as this was under the regular process of reprinting of textbooks. NCERT firmly stands on its version that nothing has been removed or deleted after rationalisation undertaken in academic session 2022-2023,' it said.
'Gandhiji's death had magical effect on communal situation in the country , 'Gandhi's pursuit of Hindu-Muslim unity provoked Hindu extremists and Organisations like RSS were banned for some time' are among the texts missing from the class 12 Political Science textbook for the new academic session.