The right-wing of India now seeks to re-write NCERT text-books of history. Some state governments have already re-written key portions of history.
The history of India as written over the years is the work of renowned historians like Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, Bannerjee etc. The line of history taken by them has been largely objective and impartial. However, in their search for the elusive even-handedness of India’s Muslim and ancient Hindu traditions, they have tended to play down a lot of ancient Indian history as myth, while elaborating largely on the non-mythical history of the Sultanates and Mughals.
Indian history avowedly tows the European line of the Aryan Invasion Theory, while many alternative theories have not even been given a cursory consideration; or for example the history and royal lineages as listed in the Puranas, Mahabharata and Ramayana etc have been dismissed as myths, while similar lineages mentioned in the Greek texts is accorded legitimacy of history. No historian has ever given me a satisfactory answer to the fact that Christ is taken as a ‘historically proven’ figure while Ram and Krishna are not; while if the same historical yardstick of some ‘independent non mythical record’ is applied on Christ, there is no proof of him either except the texts of the Holy Bible.
Or for example, the history of the Sikh dominance of north India from 1750s to 1840s (especially 1790 onwards) is not even mentioned in the NCERT text books. They dominated the political landscape from the Khyber to the banks of Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh, why is India blind to that history?
Or for that matter, the impact of Indian National Congress in the Independence Struggle has been covered in painful detail, to the detriment of the contribution of the militant ideologies of Bhagat Singh, Azad or Bose; all this while Britain’s Prime Minister Lord Atlee himself attributes the British decision to grant independence to India to Bose inspired mutiny in the Indian Armed Forces. In a History Book of my son, I noticed: Bose gets one paragraph, Bhagat Singh gets one Text Box and Congress gets six or seven pages.
The sustained genocide of Indians by invaders like Ghazni, Ghori, Abdali or Timur and by Sultans/ Mughals of Delhi is glossed over and is given no place in any of the text-books. Seems we have been erring on the side of caution, so as to maintain coherence in the present society. No problems with that, but some of those facts need to come out so that we learn from the mistakes made in the past.
So history needs to be rationalised to some extent; but the fear is that rationalisation exercise can lead to radicalisation. The agenda of Hindu Right-Wing can be said to be totally skewed towards glorification of Hindu elements and denunciation of great rulers like Akbar etc.
We need to analyse the pitfalls of radicalisation of education in the context of what has been happening in Pakistan. It was President Zia Ul Haq of Pakistan that started the Islamisation of Pakistan Textbooks with the official policy stating that “highest priority would be given to the revision of the curricula with a view to reorganizing the entire content around Islamic thought … to refashion society according to Islamic tenets”. (Exactly the same thought mirrored towards Hindu thought is being sought by RSS in India).
In the textbooks and official history of Pakistan, the impression is made that both communities were at constant war with each other for centuries. For example:
- Pakistan’s history is taught as if it began with the conquest of Sindh by the Umayyad army, led by the young General, Muhammad bin Qasim in 711 AD. A Text Book of Pakistan Studies claims that Pakistan “came to be established for the first time when the Arabs under Mohammad bin Qasim occupied Sindh Multan’; by the thirteenth century
- Invaders like Muhammad bin Qasim, Mahmood Ghaznavi and Muhammad Ghauri are glorified as heroes who attacked the subcontinent to propagate Islam.
- Akbar is presented as a villain because he married a Hindu woman and tried to include them in his ruling circle.
- On the other hand, Aurangzeb is referred to as a hero for his extremist views and his “services” to Islam
- Pakistan Text books say that at one point of time (during Mughal rule) Pakistan extended upto the Deccan and India was a small country limited to Kerala. Sample the language : “by the thirteenth century ‘Pakistan had spread to include the whole of Northern India and Bengal’ and then under the Khiljis, Pakistan moved further south-ward to include a greater part of Central India and the Deccan’. […] The spirit of Pakistan asserted itself’, and under Aurangzeb the ‘Pakistan spirit gathered in strength’; his death ‘weakened the Pakistan spirit’”.
- This great historic discovery is taught to Std V students, “Previously, India was part of Pakistan.”
- Most textbooks in Sindh at least do mention Moenjodaro and the Indus Valley civilisation, but it is not discussed in a meaningful way and there is no discussion about its extent and culture.
- Important periods and events during subsequent centuries are also skimmed over, like the Aryan civilisation which introduced its powerful social system and epic poetry (Mahabharata in which Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa play important roles), the Brahmin religion, a thousand years of Buddhism with its universities and the Gandharan civilisation which was spread throughout present day Pakistan.
- No students of Pakistani schools can tell us that Asoka whose capital was in Pataliputra in the east of the subcontinent also counted Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab as part of his domain.
Accordingly, what began with Zia has now resulted in a situation where the history of Pakistan is thoroughly islamised and is quite delusional. For those who can understand Hindi; I wrote some lines on the radicalisation of education in Islam, which imminently was the reason for the killing of school-kids in Peshawar by the radicalised Jehadis.
कुछ सच कुछ झूट का शोरबा पकाया
इतिहास की किताब में दबाया
घोट घोट के पिलाया, जिगर के टुकड़ों को
और वो शोरबा भी क्या गज़ब था
उबलता रहा, पसरता रहा
पड़ोसी के घर, कहर बन बरसता रहा
जब नींद खुली लिज्ज़त की, तो देखा
वो जिगर का टुकड़ा था
घर अपने ही, राक्षस बन चड़ा था
Similar attempts at Hinduisation of History are now being done in India. What we in India need to ponder is whether we are prepared to face the inhumane result of such radicalisation? India is not a homogenous monolithic country. It is an amalgmation of different nations each vociferously proud of their respective heritage. Any attempt to homogenise the history of India with saffron colours is likely to have a severe backlash; besides the risk of creating a Frankensteinian Monster twin of the Islamic Jehadi.
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