The recent changes in the NCERT textbooks have created a furore among the Leftist and Left-leaning circles of the country. A picture is being painted that the ‘Hindutva’ Government is trying to erase facts from the history books to serve its ideology. It is being alleged that the Mughal period has been completely removed from the history books. As a reaction to these alterations, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) Government in Kerela has even announced that it will continue teaching the removed parts in the schools.
One has to give it to the Leftists that their propaganda machinery is always on its toes to twist the facts. Although, the NCERT has clarified that even after the said deletions the Mughal period is adequately covered in the textbooks, still a narrative is being set that the NCERT books we had were epitome of scholarship and perfection and BJP is replacing them with falsehoods; and that the people protesting against it are concerned about the education of the children. Anyone fairly acquainted with the history of textbook writing in India knows that nothing can be farther from the truth. Political and ideological interferences have always been there, especially in writing about the history.
Political Interference in History Writing
Soon after the independence, erudite and respected historian like RC Majumdar was supposed to write the history of freedom movement; but his ideological differences with the Congress school of history-writing cost him his position. Majumdar mentions in detail in his History of the Freedom Movement in India Vol. 1, that how the executive powers of the committee appointed for writing the history was vested in the hands of government officials “none of whom had any knowledge of history”. Later Majumdar published his work independently and also became the editor of the scholarly 11 volume ‘The History and Culture of Indian People’ published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan.
In place of RC Majumdar, historian Dr. Tara Chand was given the task of writing the history freedom movement. It is the same by Dr. Tara Chand who propounded the absurd theory that Adi Shankaracharya’s philosophy of Advaita Vedanta was influenced by Islamic theology of Monotheism. According to him, Arab Muslim merchants arrived in Kerela in 8th century and through them Adi Shankaracharya learned the lessons of Monotheism which resulted in his Advaita Vedanta philosophy.
One can have difference of opinion about RC Majumdar’s stance that the revolt of 1857 wasn’t the first war of independence, but at any rate Majumdar was speaking out of his conviction. Government historians on the other hand were trying to manipulate history with ideological motives; just to achieve some illusory goal of national integration. It is for this goal that Congress politician and Gandhian historian Bishambhar Nath Pande pushed a theory that Aurangzeb did not destroy Kashi Vishwanath Temple due to religious bigotry, but it was destroyed because when the queen of Kutch went to Kashi Vishwanath for darshan, the priests kidnapped her, looted her jewellery, molested her, and hid her in a secret chamber in the Temple. Aurangzeb was pained by this desecration of a holy place and ordered to destroy it! Bishambhar Nath Pande was awarded with Padma Shri, made a Rajya Sabha MP and later made the Governor of Odisha.
It just gives a glimpse of how historical facts were twisted for ideological indoctrination. This process of indoctrination happened in more than one waves. Most importantly after 1970s when Leftists got access to power. Mostly this was done under the cover of ‘National Integration’.
In 1961, National Integration Council was set up by Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru. In 1981, National Integration Council (NIC), sponsored by the Ministry of Education, issued guidelines to make changes in the NCERT books. At that time, Shri Sitaram Goel wrote a series in the ‘Organiser weekly’ critically analysing these guidelines and the ideology behind them. A look into those changes gives a glimpse of how Leftists have indoctrinated generations of Indians. This article revisits those changes and their criticism by Shri Goel.
Guidelines to NCERT
One of the guidelines issued by NIC was- “Warning against over-reliance on and use of myths as history”. Need not to say that this is meant for our traditional itihas, Ramayan and Mahabharat. Goel commented “One wonders what harm these noble stories can do to ‘national integration’. Hindus have been sustained by these stories for ages past. What has happened now that their children are to be deprived of this spiritual fare?”
There shouldn’t be any doubt that more than anything else it’s the sacred lore of Ramayan and Mahabharat, which contributed to the true national integration of India. It is this negative attitude towards our traditional itihas which was reflected in 2007 affidavit by the UPA government that Ramayan has no historical basis.
Goel further writes about the guideline “the general recommendation is summed up in a single sentence ‘over-glorification of the country’s past is forbidden.’ The specific instance is also provided immediately- ‘the Gupta Age can no longer be referred to as the golden period of Hinduism.’
Goel comments –
Every nation has glorified one period or the other of its past history. The Chinese have their Ming period, the Persians their Age of Cyrus the Great, the Greeks their Age of Pericles, the Romans their Age of Augustus, the Arabs their Age of the Abbasids, the English their Age of Elizabeth, the French their Age of Reason and Revolution, the Germans their Age of Bismarck, and so on. A period of greatness in which a people can take pride, provides a point of self-identification to that people. The soul of a nation is nourished by legitimate pride in a period when its creativity attained a pinnacle.
If one wonders what harm does celebrating Gupta Age pose to the students, then the answer can be seen in the Ancient history book written by Communist historian DN Jha, where it dismisses all the achievements of Gupta Age just because of existence of casteism. In Jha’s words “The truly golden age of the people does not lie in the past, but in the future”. The takeaway being- all that in past was loathsome, the paradise (promised in the Communism) lies in the future. Even the thin veneer of ‘national integration’ gets dropped here, and the ideology is thread bare visible.
Another guideline recommended that “Muslim rulers cannot be identified as foreigners except for early invaders who did not settle here”.
How confused these guidelines could be is understood by Goel’s criticism that what exactly is meant by “here”. Ghazni and Ghori invaded India from Afghanistan, so did Babur. Turks had settled in the areas of Afghanistan, and many other areas which now come under Pakistan but were always a part of India; hence all of them become as Indian as any other indigenous community. And if one subscribes to the claim that Indian is a nation in making and there was no Indian nation before 1947, then why shouldn’t rulers of Delhi & North Indian regions (like Ghori and other Sultanates) be considered as “foreigners” in Maharashtra and Gujrat, etc. where they invaded? This was just in an embarrassingly ridiculous attempt to put invaders like Mughals at par with native rulers like Rajputs, Marathas, Vijaynagar, etc. And, it is to undo this convoluted indoctrination that an overhaul of our history books is needed.
The lengths to which NCERT guidelines went to accommodate Mughals gets even more ridiculous with the recommendation that: “Aurangzeb can no longer be referred to as the champion of Islam”, and that “Shivaji cannot be overglorified in Maharashtra textbooks”!
Nothing more is left to be said after Goel’s scathing response to this:
“It is sheer mischief to suggest that Shivaji is glorified in Maharashtra alone. The fortunate fact is that he is honoured by every Hindu worth his name, wherever that Hindu may reside in the length and breadth of India. Rabindranath Tagore, who was not a Maharashtrian, paid his homage to Shivaji in a long poem pulsating with the great poet’s image of a Hindu hero. Many more poems and dramas and novels about Shivaji’s chivalry and heroism are to be found in all Indian languages. It is, therefore, presumptuous on the part of some very small people to lay down that Shivaji shall not be overglorified. The fact is that he cannot be overglorified, such is the majesty of his character and role. The historian who will do full justice to the personality of Shivaji as well as to his role in Indian history is yet to be born. Some puny politicians pretending to be historians are trying to cut Shivaji to their own size. They are like street urchins spitting at the sun.
Looking at these guidelines one wonders that is the so called National integration even worth if the cost is forgetting our sacred lores, our heroes and their sacrifices?
The basic idea behind these guidelines becomes clear by the following dictat:
Characterisation of the medieval period as a dark period or as a time of conflict between Hindus and Muslims is forbidden. Historians cannot identify Muslims as rulers and Hindus as subjects. The state cannot be described as a theocracy, without examining the actual influence of religion. No exaggeration of the role of religion in political conflicts is permitted ? Nor should there be neglect and omission of trends and processes of assimilation and synthesis ?
It’s a childish attempt which thinks that simply by hiding the religious motive they could wish it away. Surely one should not try to incite hatred based on the happenings of history, but expecting Hindus to neglect the religious motive behind the destruction of their holiest sites like Kashi, Mathura, Ayodhya and countless others is plain injustice. White washing the religious bigotry of Mughals and others is an insult to those who laid their lives for the sake of Hindu Dharma and culture. This falsification of the history was not limited only to NCERT books, but Goel also mentions and AIR programme itihas ke jharokhe se which tried to glorify mediaeval Muslim rule.
The current attempt of changes in NCERT is just an attempt at undoing this indoctrination. And, the heartburn it’s causing among the Leftists is because they know what games they’ve played with the education system. Their pain is not for children or their future; their real pain is that the empire they built with so much effort is crumbling brick by brick. When we look at these facts it becomes clear that a complete revisit of history book is not only necessary but long overdue in India.