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Jholawallahs junk our past, add reams without rhyme

Jholawallahs junk our past, add reams without rhyme

Author: Udayan Namboodiri
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: November 26, 2005

Mr Krishna Kumar's much-hyped "load reduction" scheme, which was used to push NCERT's Curriculum Framework-2005, has evidently been torn apart by HRD Minister Arjun Singh's jholawallah brigade which was recruited to draw up the History component of the Social Science pedagogy.

The new syllabus, which will come into effect from March 2005, imposes 11 chapters under the History "unit" alone for Class VI students. After that, the child of 11 has got to cover six chapters under Geography followed by some half a dozen chapters on "diversity" and "government".

Then, in Class VII, the students would have "Our Pasts II" (sic) which covers 10 chapters, "Our Environment" with seven and at least 10 more on "Why Democracy" and "State Government". This torment continues in Class VIII where "Our Pasts-III" (sic) comes with 13, "Our Environment with seven and a huge section taking under its sweep virtually everything from traditional economics to 'understanding media'."

To call this anything less than punishment in the name of education would call for skills in mental gymnastics. Far from a general smattering of information, the syllabus is pretty extensive without really teaching the child anything.

Take a sample. "The Nationalist Movement" is Chapter 12 for Class VII. It has three components - a) Overview of the nationalist movement from the 1870s to the 1940s; b) Diverse trends within the movement and different social groups involved, and, c) Links with constitutional changes.

Class VII students have a chapter called "The Creation of an Empire" where everything about all the Mughal kings, their relations with other rulers, administration and the court, agrarian relations and a "case study of Akbar" is mentioned. It is followed by a chapter on architecture and another "case study" - this time on Shah Jehan.

Meanwhile, the old Marxist tactic of discriminating against the challengers of Islamic hegemony is amply evident. Under "New political formations in the 18th Century", the Marathas make up only a "case study". There is no mention of Shivaji or Rana Pratap.

The greatest injustice is meted out to the Sikhs. Under "Popular beliefs and religious debates", a chapter for Class VII, there is no mention of Guru Nanak at all though Kabir is a "case study". The Khalsa Panth did not happen. Guru Govind Singh and Guru Teg Bahadur, who were insulted repeatedly by Marxist Satish Chandra have been simply ignored this time. As for the great Banda Bahadur, he too did not exist. The valiant Jats are given short shrift as well.

So, despite the humungous sweep of the syllabus, the panel of historians recruited by HRD Minister Arjun Singh has taken care to whitewash any trace of the genie of nationalism. This follows from the jholawallah-Marxist theory that before British rule, the Indian people did not have a conception of nationhood. The textbook writers - whoever they are is a top secret even to NCERT's own Social Science department - have been given the latitude to depict the Tughlaqs and Mughals as "Indians" and whoever resisted their pillage as inconsequential.

Is it possible to read Indian history without Mahmud of Ghazni's plunders ? NCERT seems to think so. Prithviraj Chauhan ? Irrelevant. Even Kautilya, the author of the Arthashastra, one of the world's most famous works on politics and statecraft, is obliterated from the study on ancient India. Adi Shankaracharya, who united India by setting up the four mathas and preaching Advaita is found undeserving of mention. Moving to the modern era, one finds the Brahmo Samaj and its founder, Raja Rammohan Roy, given the quiet ignore. Doubtless, Roy's name would be packed in during a discussion on "debates around sati" (Chapter 7 for Class VIII) but what about his profound views on the Upanishads?

The list historic personalities, their contributions and events left out and the caricature of is long enough to be a national shame. It is as if the collective memory of India has undergone a silent implosion. No government anywhere has done so much to massacre its own past.


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