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Hallowed be thy name

Hallowed be thy name

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Statesman
Date: July 25, 2005

Minister must probe the charge

The Nehruvian Left's task of repackaging history has only just begun;but more urgent is the need to make amends for what must rank as a disgrace to historiography, if confirmed. Incredibly derogatory remarks have allegedly been made against Ramakrishna in the NCERT-approved Class X textbooks for the CBSE.

The HRD minister is guilty of appalling ignorance when he admits that he hasn't come across the book; he need not have laboured the obvious by suggesting that "if such a thing has happened it should be looked into". Had the Congress been in the Opposition, it would have played merry hell on the issue, as it invariably did whenever the Bharatiya Janata Party interfered with the functioning of such institutions as the NCERT and the ICHR. Paying homage to Ramakrishna and Vivekananda in the company of swamijis was a readymade photo-opportunity both in Kolkata and Belur. Arjun Singh was unabashedly evasive when told that the historian had referred to Ramakrishna as "illiterate and mentally unstable".

Wholly beside the point too was his homily on historiography: "History is a subject which should be written very carefully and after verifying all facts and figures''. Of course the inference and interpretation have to be based on irrefutable data, but libel can only endanger the discipline as indeed rational discourse. No one expected the minister to answer EH Carr's query - "What is History" - in his interaction with the media and then plead ignorance about something reportedly libellious.

If indeed he is serious about "rewriting history", the least that his ministry can do is to withdraw the book from the curriculum, get it vetted by a panel of historians and delete the offensive portions if the charges are confirmed. No less important is to ascertain the timing of the publication; it certainly is cause for alarm if it was written over the past one year and after the repackaging job was commissioned. In a word, there is need to clear the air; hedging will only bring the NCERT under a cloud.

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