The omission of the epochal Mughal era (1526-1857) and references to the importance Mahatma Gandhi attached to Hindu-Muslim unity as also his assassination by a Hindu/RSS fanatic in 1948, in the model class XII history textbook written and commissioned by the National Council for Educational Research & Training (NCERT) — an autonomous subsidiary of the Union education ministry — has sparked nationwide outrage. Over 250 respected historians have written to the Union education ministry protesting acts of omission and commission in this model NCERT approved history textbook which is likely to be approved by a large number of state governments and prescribed for CBSE-affiliated and state schools countrywide.
NCERT spokespersons have justified the deletions on grounds that because of learning loss during the 82-week pandemic shutdown of schools countrywide, it had become necessary to lighten the curriculum load of students. However, the protestors including academics highlight that the deletions from history texts are conveniently customised to suit the electoral campaign messaging and anti-Muslim prejudice of the BJP which is ruling at the Centre and in several states.
In support of their contention, they point out that the new class XII textbook fails to mention that Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by Nathu Ram Godse, who was a member of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), the ideological mentor organisation of the BJP. Nor does it mention that Gandhiji died in the cause of Hindu-Muslim unity.
The incumbent chairman of NCERT is Dr. Dinesh Prasad Sakhlani, hitherto professor of ancient history at HNB Garhwal University, Uttarakhand. He and other board members of NCERT underscore the BJP government’s proclivity to appoint relatively obscure academics with greater interest in the pre-Delhi Sultanate and Mughal periods to high positions in academia.
Be that as it may, protest of the 250 academics about omission of 300 years of Mughal rule over India from the history texts of school-leaving class XII students can hardly be brushed aside. It’s pertinent to note that the 28,560 schools affiliated with the Central Board of School Education (CBSE) — the country’s largest national exams board which includes schools top-ranked by EducationWorld — are obliged to teach these fractured, distorted histories to their school-leaving students. With no knowledge of Mughal rule, how will they explain the Taj Mahal, Qutb Minar, Red Fort and other grand monuments of Mughal India to their children? Or the presence of 215 million Muslims in India? Or indeed the music, cuisine and sartorial fashions of the country?
Crass American tycoon Henry Ford famously opined that “history is bunk”. On the contrary, it is perhaps the most important subject of all. It tells us who we were, how we got here and why we are who we are. That’s vitally important knowledge.