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In the Name of History

Examples from Hindutva-inspired school textbooks in India

Communal historiography is quite old in India but the new additions reflect greater contemporary use in dividing society along communal lines. They are also stronger in the language and expressions used. Communal bias is woven into school textbooks with preposterous ‘facts’ in a way that can only have dangerous consequences for the educational standards in this country.

In the name of curriculum reform there is an attempt to rewrite textbooks along communal lines on a scale that will submerge all secular interpretations in school level teaching. A whole generation would grow up with their collective memory of a shared heritage destroyed and with ideas and information that have no basis in reality. A successful implementation of these texts on a widespread scale will mean the triumph of unreason as well as a tremendous and sudden deterioration in the quality of education, where the minimum criteria of correct empirical data and a scientific temper and reason are thrown to the winds. Our children will be little suited to face the real world or the world of scholarship

These books already form an integral portion of the curriculum in the 20,000 or more Vidya Bharati schools and also the Shishu Mandirs. The introduction of these texts into the Government schools in the BJP ruled states has massively increased the number of children who are being being made victims of this second rate and poisonous ‘knowledge’ The take over of educational bodies from the highest levels to those determining the syllabi in schools, will carry this wave of fascist propaganda into the entire educational process. Coupled with other forms of popular education they could change our entire ways of looking at ourselves, and also propel our political visions along fascist rather than democratic lines.

We give below a sampling of these texts:

SOME GEMS FROM THE SANSKRIT GYAN TEXTS

Sanskrit Gyan texts are taught in Vidya Bharati schools and Shishu Mandirs. The recent RSS sponsored agenda paper on education that the Central Government tried to present before the Conference of the State Education Ministers suggested that these and similar texts be made compulsory for all schools.

The students are tested on dubious ‘facts’ such as:

Ram Janmabhoomi is the birthplace of Ram.
Iran was first settled by Indians (Aryans).
Homer adapted Valmiki’s Ramayana into an epic called Iliad.
Greek philosophers like Herodotus and Aristophanes were influenced by the Vedas.
The Egyptian faith was based on Indian traditions according to Plato and Pythagorus.
The language of the Native American Indians evolved from ancient Indian languages.
The cow is the mother of us all, in whose body Gods are believed to reside.
The Ayurveda is the finest medical system of the world, and it naturally evolved in India
Jesus Christ roamed the Himalayas and drew his ideas from Hinduism.
In the text books distributed in Vidya Bharti schools the map of India is shown as including not only Pakistan and Bangladesh but also the entire region of Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet and even parts of Myanmar ( "punnya bhoomi Bharat" )

A SAMPLE FROM THE HISTORY TEXTS


These texts are being used in Shishu Mandirs and Government Schools in BJP controlled states.

Ancient history:

Rama and Krishna took birth here to destroy evil and defend justice, religion and Sarasvati, and god took birth here many times to make this land pure. India is referred to as Sone ki chiriya and jagadguru( p 4 ,Gaurav Gatha (henceforth GG), the textbook for Class 4, Sarasvati Shishu Mandir, written in an extremely emotional and provocative style.)

Our land has always been seen with greedy eyes by the marauders, barbarous invaders and oppressive rulers. This story of invasion and resistance is our 3000 year long Gaurav Gatha . When this proud tradition actually began is difficult to say because no books were written at that time…but we believe that the first man was born in this land(p. 8 GG)

To our ancestors these marauders were like mosquitoes and flies who were crushed (p. 8 GG)
Bacchus and Dionysis, among the earliest invaders, suffered such a defeat that feelings of terror ran in Greece(p. 9, GG) Darius had to face such a defeat that never could Iran raise its eyes towards India (p. 10 GG)

About 2200 years ago India’s trade was spread far and wide; foreign markets were filled with goods made in India. Heaps of gems and jewels and gold and silver filled the treasures People of the entire world used to look to India rith greedy eyes(p. 12 GG)

Mahapadma Nanda had so much wealth that if divided among the population, every person would get Rs. 50 lakhs each (p. 13 GG)

Alexander’s army was defeated at the hands of Puru and Alexander himself had to seek forgiveness(p., 15 GG)

Then came Demetrius …the preaching of ahimsa had weakened North India. The Kshatriyas--followers of the Vedic religion were-feeling frustrated….the ruler of Magadha was a Buddhist. So he did not come forward to fight. But then was the country enslaved/ Did the enemy become victorious in the birthplace of Bhagwan Rama? No, no (p. 31, GG)

Pushyamitra destroyed the Greeks. After this the people of Greece could not attack Bharat Later they came only as refugees. As beggars they begged for their lives but never dared to look with proud eyes…the great man who destroyed the Greek power from its very roots was emperor Pushyamitra. India is proud of him even today. Every day we remember his name.(p. 35-37, GG)

Asoka advocated ahimsa. Every kind of violence came to be considered a crime. Even hunting, sacrifices in yajnas and use of arms began to be considered bad. It had a bad effect on the army. Cowardice slowly spread throughout the kingdom. The state bore the burden of providing food to the Buddhist monks. Therefore people began to become monks. Victory through arms began to be viewed as bad, Soldiers guarding the borders became demoralised. (p. 30, GG)

With the finds of bones of horses, their toys and yajna altars, scholars are beginning to believe that the people of the Harappa and Vedic civilisation were the same. (High School Itihaas Bhaag (henceforth HSIB)1, p. 43, history textbook for secondary schools, Government of U. P. revised in 1992 to suit the communal interpretations of Indian history. This book seals with the history of India from pre- historic times to 1526.)

Aryan culture is the nucleus of Indian culture, and the Aryans were an indigenous race. " But about the Aryans who were the builders of Bharatiya Sanskriti in Bharat and creators of the Vedas, this view is gaining strength among the scholars in the country that India itself was the original home of the Aryans."(P. 48, HSIB 1.) Archaeological and literary evidence does not support this theory.

Chanakya desired to "see the entire Bharat united into one nation."(P. 77, HSIB 1) empire building is deliberately confused with nationhood.

In a revised textbook three lines have been interpolated which reflect an utter disregard for facts. These lines are"It is worth mentioning that inspite of such a large empire, Asoka had got his edicts engraved only in one script (Brahmi) and one language Pakti-Sanskrit). This symbolises the national unity of the times".

The entire period of Indian history from the death of Harsha till the 12th century has been described as the Rajput kaal (p. 168).

The qualities of ancient traditional self-pride, love of freedom, the feeling of pride towards Indian culture among Rajputs confirm the view that the Rajput race is the descendent of ancient Kshatriya families (p. 170 HSIB 1). That they had their ancestry in certain invaders is dismissed as a conspiracy of western historians.

Medieval history:

The religious factor was the predominant factor in policies and conflicts throughout the medieval period
Muslim rule in India was a foreign rule ( the reference is to the medieval period of Indian history when the rulers were Muslims, although factually even this is incorrect if one takes the entire country into account)
Lakhs of foreigners came during these thousands of years…but they all suffered humiliating defeat….There were some whom we digested…when we were disunited , we failed to recognise who were our own and who were foreigners, then we were not able to digest them. We were not able even those who for some compulsion had separated from us. Mughals, Pathans and Christians are today some of these people." ( Itihaas Ga Raha Hai for Class5 in Shishu Mandir schools)
Islam spread in India solely by way of the sword. The Muslims came to India "with the sword in one hand and the Qoran in the other"…"Numberless Hindus were forcibly converted to Islam on the point of the sword. This struggle for freedom became a religious war, Numerous sacrifices were made in the name of religion. We went on winning one battle after another. We did not let the foreign rulers settle down to rule, but we were not able to reconvert the separated brothers to Hinduism."( Itihaas Gaa Raha Hai)
Arabs (barbarians) came to convert people to their religion. Wherever they went, they had a sword in their hand. Their army went like a storm in all the four directions. Any country that came in their way was destroyed, Houses of prayers and universities were destroyed. Libraries were burnt.. religious books were destroyed. Mothers and sisters were humiliated. Mercy and justice were unknown to them. (p.s.52-53 GG)
The second phase of the freedom struggle began with the invasion of India by Mahmud of Ghazni (Gaurav Gatha Class 4)
Mohammad Ghori killed lakhs of people, Visvanath Temple and Bhagwan Krishna’s birth place were converted into mosques. In turn he was killed by Prithviraj Chauhan( p.s. 67-68, GG )
Qutb Minar was constructed by Samundragupta, and its original name was Vushnu Sthambha ( p. 73, GG)).
The ‘foreign’ ruler Muhammad bin Tughlak transferred his capital from Delhi to Deogiri in South India out of fear of the Hindu kings (p. 73, GG ).
When Peshava Madhav Rao came to the throne no one could raise his eyes. The English, the French and the Portuguese shivered; they presented gifts in homage in his court with their heads bowed. Delhi’s emperor was his puppet. Moghul power had ended. Nizam and other Muslim states with bowed heads sought his (Peshava’s ) refuge. The entire country was in a sense independent (p. 111 GG)
Due to the circumstances, it ( Islam )gradually assumed the form of a military religion ( sainik dharma) and with the force of arms, with a lightening speed it advanced and became an international religion.( p. 184, HSIB 1)

Now the sword of Islam was transferred from the Caliphs to the Turks (p. 189, HSIB 1)
The aim of Mahmud of Ghazni and Mohammed Ghori in coming to India , apart from plunder was the spread of Islam in India(p.s. 190, 195, HSIB1).

Allauddin imposed 50% land revenue on the Hindus. ( p. 228 HSIB 1).

Hindus acceptd turkish political supremacy only under compulsion. They retained their identity even while leading the life of insult and humiliation. (p. 260 HSIB 1).

Most of the Sultans adopted a policy of religious intolerance. They commited atrocities against hindus, demolished idols and temples.because of this the Hindus had surrendered to the Sultanate but they were always making efforts to destroy the Sultanate ( p.278 HSIB 1 )

The followers of Islam in this country whether they came as traders or as invaders-but with this country they could never establish full cultural harmony. One basic reason for their seperateness was the basic principle of their religion which is monotheism…there was continuous mutual struggle between the two cultures (p. 280, HSIB 1)

The indian society during the Sultanate period was divided into two main classes-ruling or muslim classes and ruled or non-Muslims of whom the Hindus were the majority) the majority of the population of the state was hindu but the Muslim class was patronised by rulers. Hindu was merely the payer of taxes . Inspite of being conquered in the political field, Hindus did not lose courage. To regain their lost independence, they went on raising their voices from time to time. Because of this historians have called it the "period of resistance". (p. 281, p. 283, HSIB 1)

In India the nature of the mussalman state was a religious state (p.282, HSIB 1)

By adopting jauhar vrat, women defended their religion and chastity.(p. 183 HSIB1)

Child marriage, jauhar, sati, purdah, jadu-tona and superstition were all due to the fear of the muslims (p.,. 284 HSIB 1)
The Babri Mosque was constructed after destroying a temple, which in turn stood on the exact spot where Rama was born.( High School Itihaas Bhaag 2, p. 146. This book covers the period from invasion of Babur to recent events)

The epithet intolerant is constantly used for Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb

The Qoran was the basis for the state policy of Aurangzeb, and whatever policy was adopted for running the Government was basically for promoting Islam9 HSIB 2, p. 119)

Destruction of temples and schools attached to them and the building of mosques in their place was a general policy with Aurangzeb .(HSIB 2 p. 120)
Shivaji and Rana Pratap were fighters for national liberation. All the ‘Hindu’ kings who fought for their kingdoms against the Moghuls are presented as such.
In the text books from Maharashtra, the medieval history of Maharashtra begins and ends with Shivaji. All other historical figures exist only in reference to him.

Modern Indian history:

About 190 pages of the book deal with the history of modern India, of which only 20 pages are devoted to the nationalist movement (HSIB 2), of which 3 pages are devoted to Dr. Hedgewar. Important nationalist leaders are mentioned incidentally in comparison. Quit India movement has ½ page, Jinnah is the villian.

Although there are 60 pages on the entry of the British and establishment of british rule, there is nothing that would promote an understanding of colonialism (HSIB 2)

Peoples movements find no place.

The book is full of factual errors, inconsistencies, and chronological lapses.

The Muslims are solely blamed for the partition of India.

The RSS as an organisation is presented as central to the Freedom Movement. Dr. Keshavrao B. Hegdewar is one of the tallest leaders of the freedom struggle. Statements of a large number of national leaders have been quoted in praise of the RSS.

In the section dealing with the movement against the partition of Bengal the name of Hegdewar has been added as a leader of the movement, the other names mentioned being those of Tilak, Aurobindo Ghose, Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chandra Pal.

In the context of the civil disobedience movement there is no mention of the Lahore Congress or Purna Swaraj.

The shishu mandir text book is worse on all these counts, and the RSS and its leaders are said to have removed the evils which hundreds of years of slavery had given…this Sangathan became an object of pride for the country ( p. 86 )

SUBSTANTIAL amendments and additions that suit the RSS ideology have also been made in grammar, literature and political science books for Classes IX, X, XI and XII in Rajasthan.
In one of the texts, "A New Collection of Poems and Literary Writings" (Nutan Gadya Padya Sangrah--the original title in Hindi), prescribed for Class IX, there are, among others, four articles, one each by Prof. Rajendra Singh (Rajju Bhaiya), RSS chief; Tarun Vijay, editor of the RSS weekly Panchajanya; K.C. Sudarshan, also an RSS ideologue; and Dr. Jalamsingh Ravlot of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch. All four articles were added this year.

In a textbook for Class XI, titled Political Science - An Introduction and Indian Political Thinkers, a chapter on Deen Dayal Upadhyay has been added. This 1998-99 edition describes him as a person who had deep respect for "ancient and highly sophisticated culture of India", who envisaged an "ideal Dharmarajya" and who was upset that "while designing the Indian Constitution, the natural and national values had been ignored." The 20-page section highlights his belief in "Akhand Bharat" which was all for dissolving the 1947 Partition and cites the occasion in April 1964 when he along with Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia conceived of a "Mahasangh" in which India and the partitioned countries (Pakistan and Bangladesh) would be included.

Rana Pratap’s heroic deeds are the subject of a poem in the High school Hindi syllabus. The poem Haldighati, written by Shyam Narain Pandey was banned in 1975 as it was found to incite communal feelings.

 

Bred on hatred, ready for the Bomb

Be it India or pakistan, the state, the mainline media, teachers and text- books, and the family connive to poison young minds

However different the focus and approach of over 28 different peoples’–level peace efforts between Pakistan and India in the past half century, it is not insignificant that scores of individuals and organisations involved in these efforts have, while owing allegiance to varied initiatives thrown up similar conclusions.

A common resolution at the end of every India–Pak peace conference is to work towards a winding down of the hate/hysteria consciously spawned about “the other” by the respective states of India and Pakistan, by large sections of the mainline media of both countries, and, most spuriously, by our respective text books and oral education in schools. The rather less visible but more permanent impact of prejudice and stereotype unleashed within the family is a factor that also needs to be taken into consideration.

The fact that the Pakistan-India rhetoric often gets blurred and confused into the dialectics of the Muslim–Hindu discourse with its own set of imposed prejudices is, in a sense, unavoidable given the peculiar circumstances behind the creation of both countries, a division of two nation states on communal lines. So, if Pakistan was sought and attained as a “land of the pure” for Muslims, post–1947, community lore in majority India, spawned consciously and systematically by Hindu right wing organisations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Hindu Mahasabha, has created an army of young minds, prepared to hold and defend the motherland’s honour (from future divisions) for whom the country carved out was “Paapistan” (land of the sinner) and remains as such, sinister in design, even today.

Pakistan’s text books manipulated history and even systematically demonised any evidences of composite cultures or united struggles or shared allegiances of region or language outside religion. But ours have not been unblemished either. If the shared history of several thousand years was sought to be overlooked by the systematic attempt to Islamise history in Pakistan, a process during which even the word ‘Hindu’ was demonised, our own systematic efforts, at one level more subtle, at another as crude, have not been unblemished.

Columns on these pages in the past have dealt with the demonisation of today’s Indian Muslims and the marginalisation of other minorities through, among other things, the systematic manipulation and distortion of historical events (“invasions and attacks by Mohammedans” among other things) and images to suit the Hindu communal design. For today’s argument, however, I shall restrict myself to the Pakistan-India discourse and attempt to show how even “superior and magnanimous India’s text-books” have not just been singularly wanting but served the overall purpose of both nation states post–1947 — that is, keeping hate sentiments on the boil. A book of national songs (“Hamare rashtra geet”) used in schools and recommended in the curriculum in New Delhi and some parts of Uttar Pradesh has two songs that bear mention. One, called Pakistan ki jhanki (A glimpse of Pakistan) and the other titled Pakistan ki history (The history of Pakistan.) seek to whip up sustained contempt and aversion to a neighbour, “a country of the devil carved out of the motherland.

Hamara Itihas aur Nagrik Jeevan, (Our history and civic life), the part 3 text book for schools in UP has a chapter, number 13, on “Our Neighbouring Countries.” After lamenting at the outset of this section that poverty, famine, drought and disease are the outcomes of war, the first para concludes: “at the time of the 1962 Indo–China and 1965 and 1971 Indo–Pak wars, it is evident that it was because of the selfishness of the leaders of our neighbouring countries and their expansionist policies that they declared war on our great, peace–loving nation and disrupted our progress.”

In the sub–section in the same chapter that deals with Pakistan particularly, the text book reads: “Pakistan is our closest neighbour. Before Independence, a part of India...To date, the history of Pakistan is one of sectarian strife, political assassination, individual aggrandisement and conflict..... Fundamentalism, fanatical sloganeering and mass hysteria have marked Pakistan’s governance. Its leaders have used such sloganeering to divert the attention of their toiling masses from real issues...India has always believed, and followed a policy that it is only through friendship and co–operation that India and Pakistan can progress. Even today we carry the hope our relations with Pakistan improve and both developing nations grow with speed towards prosperity.”

Do these words display scant honesty to facts and a fair share of superiority? Has the Indian leadership always been magnanimous in extending a hand of friendship to the land and people across the border? Was the 1971 war launched by Pakistan? Did former prime minister Indira Gandhi and now Atal Behari Vajpayee never use the forever convenient “external threat” to let loose a fear psychosis, win an election, declare Emergency, test the bomb?

Our hope however is the minds of the young. The great thing about young minds is their hyper–activeness, their abiding curiosity, their desire to shock and scandalise and — what may defy any such demonising efforts eventually — their ability to pursue a strand of thought that challenges them to take a fresh or new direction. The rider however is that one makes sustained and consistent efforts to open channels of communication with them.

That has been my experience with Aman, the South Asia studies and Peacepals programme. Launched on a hunch with the abiding support of Mrs. Gomti Venkateshwar, former principal of the Bombay International School, Mumbai and Mr. Sami Mustafa, principal of the Centre for Advanced Studies, Karachi, we have together ensured that over 75 children between Karachi and Mumbai are in regular touch with each other. Writing letters, asking questions, having arguments and disagreements even... but communicating.

How did we begin? It was close to August 1996, the onset of the 50th year of Independence for both countries. Through my research for Khoj, the secular education module that is being compiled, and my obsession for different facets of the struggle for Independence against the British, gross lacunae in our printed text–books had begun to stare me in the face.

Believe it or not, despite half a million lives lost and over eight hundred thousand persons displaced during partition, followed by a half century of reflection on the tragedy, our text books and our teachers had nothing more than trite phrases laced with the ever-prevalent prejudice to offer to future generations on Partition.

A period that had caused unimaginable trauma and displacement, scarred lives, distorted visions, even reassured some with hope in humanity. But we refused to impart fair and even–handed knowledge to our children. Formation of the Muslim League, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Lahore Declaration, Direct Action Day — these are the four sub–heads with three paras each that we deal with the entire period. The result? Confusions, question marks, ripe condition for manipulation and prejudice coming from other sources to breed.

We were going into the 50th year of independence of both countries. What better start to the next 50 years than opening up a channel of communication between some children of India and Pakistan. Freeing them of “our”, “the adult” burden that we have been forcing them to carry all these years, and allowing them, as all genuine learning should, to make their own choices, ask their own questions, make up their own minds.

I asked one batch of the children at BIS in Mumbai if they would like to write to children in Pakistan, become penpals with them. On two conditions, was the startling, but actually predictable, reply: Provided you first do a module on Partition — why, how, what happened? And Kashmir — why and what is happening with us? Done. We had a detailed discussion on the two subjects requested and animated, excited and endless discussions that followed. Only after that did the Peacepals exchange begin. It is, fortunately, still continuing.

What is as heartening is that through CC’s Learning pages and Khoj pull-out (it will resume next month), the message of Aman has spread to a wide network of readers. And youngsters — who have joined in the Aman exchange, desirous of a friend across the border, perturbed by the latest round of hate–mongering which has reached unprecedented proportions with the testing of nuclear bombs by first India and then Pakistan — write to us every month.

Apart from Syed Hasan Zia Rizvi of Class VII’s touching poem that we reproduce next month on the Khoj pull–out pages in full, Aahana Nivedhita’s prompt and short letter is telling (see quote). After outlining her address, her hobbies etc, she pours her heart out.

We share your concern and sense of disquiet, Syed Hasan and Aahana. And if the little that we are attempting helps stem your distress and emboldens you to share your feelings that appear to swim against the tide, our efforts would have been meaningful. That’s when we may together realise that it is we who speak for the majority, not they.

 

Teesta Setalvad

 

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Last updated: February 23, 2000 .