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Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

NCERT throws High Court order to winds

New textbooks contain objectionable references the court ordered to remove
By Pramod Kumar

Commenting on the violation of the High Court order Shri Dina Nath Batra said they would go to the court again and would also protest against the NCERT and the HRD Minister Shri Arjun Singh. He said their agitation would continue and they would not tolerate this kind of insult to the freedom fighters. He pointed out that a criminal case has already been filed for the deletion of objectionable and unconstitutional words from school textbooks.

The social science textbook for class VIII on page number 87-88-89 says: “Muslims are considered to be marginalised community in India today because in comparison to other communities, they have over the year been deprived of the benefits of socio-economic development.” How does one think the impressionable minds of school children will react to such a depiction of Muslims? Isn’t this chapter promoting discrimination and hatred? Is this all we can say about the Muslims?

Buddha Charita—a biography of Gautam Buddha written by Ashva Ghosh—was so far a part of the class VIII Hindi curriculum. Now this has been replaced with Nehru’s Bharat Ek Khoj. Earlier, the BJP had been blamed for saffronisation and influencing the school textbooks. Now the UPA has resorted to a sort of Nehru/Gandhi-centric vision.

The UPA government and the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) have no regard for even the court. It is evident from the fact that the Delhi High Court in its order on January 30 this year had directed the NCERT to withdraw everything from its textbooks that hurts the sentiments of any community or denigrates the freedom fighters. But this denigration continues in the NCERT textbooks for the academic year 2008-09. The textbooks not only still have some old objectionable passages but also contain some new similar passages.

The High Court order had been delivered on a petition filed by Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti. The Samiti had pointed out 75 objectionable passages in various NCERT textbooks being taught in various schools and colleges of the country. The NCERT too in the court had admitted that all objectionable passages would be removed from the books from coming academic year. But nothing happened.

Delhi High Court had issued directions to NCERT in January this year but the HRD Ministry took five months to take cognizance of it. Shri Gulab Singh, Under Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource and Development (Department of School Education & Literacy) wrote to the Secretary, NCERT on June 9, 2008 citing the court order that “care may be taken to ensure that no objectionable passage is included in NCERT textbooks in future.”

Despite clear directions from the High Court, the distortion of textbooks continues on the part of the NCERT. See the NCERT’s class IX textbook Kshitij that depicts Nana Saheb as a “deserter who ran away, leaving his daughter behind to be burnt alive by the British.” “History vouches for the fact that Nana Saheb played a commendable role in the War of Independence in 1857. Is this how we want our children to remember him? Are we ready to allow our freedom fighters to be insulted in such a manner?” asked Shri Dina Nath Batra, national convener of Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti.

The social science textbook for class VIII on page number 87-88-89 says: “Muslims are considered to be marginalised community in India today because in comparison to other communities, they have over the year been deprived of the benefits of socio-economic development… Like other minorities, Muslim customs and practices are sometimes quite distinct. Muslims may wear a burqa, sport a long beard, wear a fez, and these become ways to identify all Muslims. Because of this, they tend to be identified differently and some people think they are not like the ‘rest of us’. Often this becomes an excuse to treat them unfairly, and discriminate against them… Do you remember reading in your Class VII book about how the Ansaris were finding it difficult to rent a house? This social marginalisation of Muslims in some instances has led to them migrating from places where they have lived, often leading to the ghettoisation of the community. Sometimes, this prejudice leads to hatred and violence… Recognising that Muslims in India were lagging behind in terms of various development indicators, the government set up a high-level committee in 2005. Chaired by Justice Rajindar Sachar, the committee examined the social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community in India. The report discusses in detail the marginalisation of this community.”

How does one think the impressionable minds of school children will react to such a depiction of Muslims? Isn’t this chapter promoting discrimination and hatred? Is this all we can say about the Muslims?

See another objectionable passage in social science textbook for class IX, page 108: “Do you notice references to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in the news collage on this page? These references reflect the growing awareness of human rights and struggles for human dignity. Many cases of human rights violations in diverse fields, for instance, Gujarat riots, are being brought to the public notice from across India. Human rights organisations and the media often criticise government agencies for not seriously pursuing these cases or catching the culprits. Someone had to intervene on behalf of the victims.”

“This is outright prejudicial. If communal riots are being taken as examples of human rights violation, why single out the Gujarat riots? Why not mention the 1992 riots in Mumbai, the 1984 riots in Delhi? Isn’t this an attempt to create prejudice in the minds of students about a particular government?” asked Shri Batra.

The BA Part-I sociology textbook, Human Rights, Gender and Environment, chapter “Women and Laws in India”, page 207, says, “In India, religious texts and political treatises also did not accord the same legal status to women. The Rigveda regards the birth of daughter as a curse. It also equates a woman to a dog, crow and a ‘shudra’. A woman is considered bereft of intelligence. The Atharva Veda regards marriage as necessary for producing offspring i.e., sons only and women are considered as property.”

Scholars in India are outraged at this shameless distortion of the ancient Indian literature. All the Vedas have shown utmost respect for women in the society. In fact, there are 31 women rishis (saints) who have been termed as mantra-drishtas (composers of shlokas) in the Vedas. This is how illumined our ancient culture was. Why these attempts to demean the women like this?

The NCERT also replaced a book on Gautam Buddha for the eighth standard with Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India. Buddha Charita—a biography of Gautam Buddha written by Ashva Ghosh—was so far a part of the class VIII Hindi curriculum. Now this has been replaced with Nehru’s Bharat Ek Khoj. Earlier, the BJP had been blamed for saffronisation and influencing the school textbooks. Now the UPA has resorted to a sort of Nehru/Gandhi-centric vision.

Despite the Delhi High Court order some unconstitutional words have rampantly been used in the school textbooks. See some examples—chamar in Antara-I, Class XI (p. 53), achhoot in Sparsh, class IX (p. 106), Baman tere haath ki roti khavega… akal mari gayi teri?—Antara-I, class XI, page 66, Apne kaam se kaam rakho, in chamaron ke chakkar mein kyon padte ho?—Antara-I, class XI, page 67, etc.

The Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti has filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in Delhi High Court regarding the depiction of Muslims in the social science textbook for the class VIII. A PIL has also been filed in Delhi High Court regarding the negative portrayal of women while erroneously quoting the Rigveda.

Commenting on the violation of the High Court order Shri Batra said they would go to the court again and would also protest against the NCERT and the HRD Minister Shri Arjun Singh. He said their agitation would continue and they would not tolerate this kind of insult to the freedom fighters. He pointed out that a criminal case has already been filed for the deletion of objectionable and unconstitutional words from school textbooks.

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