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"Textbooks said Lenin inspired freedom struggle"

"Textbooks said Lenin inspired freedom struggle"

Publication: India Today
Date: September 30, 2002

Union Human resource development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi has never fought shy of controversy, the most talked-about one being his initiative to revise school syllabi. He spoke to Associate Editor Rajeev Deshpande about allegations that his ministry was overseeing "saffronisation" of school texts.

Q.: What are the implications of the Supreme Court verdict clearing the new curriculum framework?
A.: The verdict has vindicated our position. The so-called saffronisation charge is negated.

Q.: Was there any need to revise schooltexts prescribed by the Central Board for Secondary Education?
A.: Upgradation of texts is an ongoing process. There have been significant advances in the fields of information and communication technology, bio-technology and environmental sciences. Should students be denied the benefits of these developments? President A.P.J. Kalam has written a thoughtful document on his vision for the future. Should not at least part of it be available as a school text? 9/11 is important; students should know that there is a global war against terrorism.

Q.: What were the specific problems with previous textbooks?
A.: The idea is to have textbooks that are sensitive towards the sentiments of all communities and which help generate harmony. References to one community as plunderers or another as having indulged in rapine are unnecessary. We believe in sarva dharma sambhav. We have tried to reduce the load schoolchildren have to carry in their bags and make academics less difficult.

Q.: Your critics insist that a Hindutva agenda is being enforced.
A.: Have they seen the books? If there are objections, we are prepared to examine them.

Q.: You had once suggested that certain aspects of social studies and history are deliberately overlooked.
A.: That is happening. For example, the discoveries involving the Saraswati civilisation are ignored as they are in conflict with the oft-parroted view that Aryans invaded the subcontinent and subsumed existing cultures. In West Bengal, textbooks show Lenin as the inspiration of the Freedom Struggle. Writing on history and social sciences was politically motivated to cater to Marxist vote banks. It is appeasement through textbooks. Since they have been guilty of biased writing, they now feel that others will do the same.

Q.: The introduction of study of religions has kicked off a controversy.
A.: Knowledge about religions, if imparted in classrooms, may be better than picking up information on the street or from a prejudiced author.

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