In a decision taken on the first week of August this month, the BJP led Maharashtra government decided to revise the history syllabus of the state board to make it more Martha centric. While the move was appreciated for Maratha Empire is not given a significant amount of exposure in history even though they were politically the strongest empire in the 1760’s; a section of the educated society raised its eyebrows for the parts that were left out.
While a chunk of history including the rise of Islam and French movement was excluded an entire chapter on Mughal history was also cut out. While the official line of the ministry is to make students aware about their native history the backdrop of this entire practice reveals something entirely different.
To put things into perspective, there were three syllabus changes in the last two years that made a little amount of buzz in the national media. While Maharashtra State Education Board has deemed the history of Mughals and western countries ‘irrelevant’ for Class VII and IX students, Rajasthan Board last year, excluded the former Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru from its history books and quoted Savarkar as the greatest hero of the Indian freedom movement who tried to stop partition till the very last moment, “only brave revolutionary to be sentenced not just to one but to two terms of life imprisonment … and he made tremendous efforts to stop the Partition.” It doesn’t even bother about the fact that Savarkar had begged for forgiveness from the British authorities when he was imprisoned in the Cellular Jail in the Andaman Islands. In a mercy petition to the British, “The Mighty alone can afford to be merciful and therefore where else can the prodigal son return but to the parental doors of the Government?”
A disappointed Ram Swaroop, political science teacher of a Rajasthan Board school doesn’t look forward to teaching his class anymore “I’m sad about it. Even if political parties make changes, there has to be some balance, some logic. How can you compare Savarkar’s contributions to that of Gandhi’s or Nehru’s?”
Last year all the Kendriya Vidyalayas were forced to write all the official letters in Hindi, while the government hide their face behind promoting the native language, there is no escaping the fact that there is an aggressive manipulation of the history to create books the instil a sense of nationalism in the students.
Most of the schools under the state boards are for students that are not from a very affluent class of the society; their parents are not highly educated and send their children for a formal education with the hopes that they achieve success in life.
Last time when the BJP government tried to change syllabus under Atal Bihari Vajpaye, they did not have the numbers in the states, but now omitting the fact that India lost the war to China in 1962 has become easier.
But what happens when these children are exposed to false narratives? Some fear that the party is turning an entire generation into foot soldiers of Hindu nationalism to fight its battles in future elections. With an entire generation growing up with nationalistic ideology where no one knows who Nathuram Godse was and what he did, there will be no one to oppose a totalitarian regime.
Strike when the iron is hot, BJP’s targeting of young minds that needs shaping is probably the best and the worst exercise of propaganda the country has seen in current times. In these turbulent hours of the Indian democracy an old Chinese proverb comes to mind.
May we live in interesting times.
Sources: FirstPost, Indian Express