Textbooks being tweaked to discourage critical thinking

Distorting history to suit its political agenda has been a defining feature of the BJP’s strategy. School textbooks become easy targets for such ideological propaganda. Selective deletion or tweaking of historical events and giving a biased perspective on important phases in the country’s history have been the preferred template of the NDA government while making changes in the school curriculum. The recent revision of the NCERT textbooks is bound to evoke outrage because it reflects the bizarre logic of whitewashing contemporary events, skipping uncomfortable moments in India’s history and ignoring the incidents of violence and protest. For instance, the revised political science textbooks for Class 12 do not mention the Babri masjid but refer to it as a “three-domed structure.”

Many sections have also been deleted from the book. These include BJP’s ‘rath yatra’ from Somnath in Gujarat to Ayodhya; the role of kar sevaks; communal violence in the wake of the demolition of the Babri masjid, and the President’s Rule in BJP-ruled states. A two-page table detailing the achievements of Mughal emperors such as Humayun, Shah Jahan, Akbar, Jahangir and Aurangzeb has also been removed. The new political science textbook of Class 11 now says that political parties “give priority to the interests of a minority group” with an eye on “vote bank politics,” which leads to “minority appeasement.” Even the changes that take note of new research on the Indus Valley civilisation seem to emphasise a deeply contested and politically loaded narrative that harps on continuity between the Harappan and Rig Vedic epochs. Such tweaks in the textbooks violate the fundamental premise of education, which is to inculcate critical thinking. Denying essential reading material is a disservice to the student community.