January 17, 2007

Return of the Rightwing Textbook

17 January 2007)

A new Rajasthan book equates Indianness with the Hindu identity and trashes Muslims and other communities. Is anyone listening?

by Apoorvanand

Textbooks are back in news. This time it is the turn of the Social Sciences book for Class x students prepared by the Rajasthan Madhyamik Shiksha Board, Ajmer. One needs to remember that this book results from the decision of the Rajasthan government to reject the new National Curriculum Framework for School Education 2005 evolved by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). All bjp-ruled states had declared that they would prepare their own textbooks as the books prepared by the NCERT were biased according to them. It would be interesting to see, therefore as to how they fight out the bias of the NCERT books in the books prepared by their own objective teams.

This is how the Rajasthan social sciences experts do it. The first chapter of the book seeks to introduce the students to the basics of the Indian Culture: Our culture is known as Arya sanskriti, Bharatiya sanskriti and Hindu sanskriti. Lest there be any confusion in the minds of the readers, the book explains it further: in fact these three nomenclatures are synonyms. What happens to the non-Aryans then? Where would the Adivasis, dalits go? The book does not forget them. Adivasis are called Vanya Jatis who were once organised and reformed by none less than Ramchandraji himself. Elsewhere you find Baba Ramdeo (a folk guru of Rajasthan) inculcating good habits in them. The assumption is that they are essentially backward and repository of many ills and they need one Ramchandra or Ramdeo to be cured of these ailments. After extolling the virtues of Bharatiya sanskriti in great detail, which you know is nothing but Hindu and Arya sankriti, it goes on to ask the students to answer these questions:

• (Choose any one) The ultimate goal of human life is: 1. Dharma, 2. Artha, 3. Moksha, 4. Kaam;

• Write the names of the four Ashramas;

• Write the definition of Bharat and Bharatiya on the basis of Vishnu Puran.

Uzma Mohsin
India is superior to other countries (or nations) because elsewhere they have only two-three seasons, whereas in India we have six of them. India is great because, can there be any doubt, astronomy, mathematics, medical science, surgery and even plastic surgery originated here only (Don’t you remember the famous case of the head of an elephant transplanted on Ganesh?). Biology, metallurgy, name any science or branch of knowledge, we had everything here before any other nation or culture, that is what makes us a great nation and culture. Since everything was already here, how can trade unionism be something we learnt from the West? The book informs its readers that workers revered Vishwakarma and exploitation was always fought with organisation.

Since the book has this “objective” view of what actually constitutes Indianness, in all the chapters it seeks to give the students an overdose of Hindu religion. Description of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, religious festivals, places of pilgrimage cover three-fourths of the book. If you ask as to how and why it should be called a Social Sciences book at all, you would be labelled as anti-Bharat.

The writers of the book have no ambiguity about the enemies of Bharat. On more than one occasion they are identified as a Samudaya Vishesh (a particular community) which lives on the borders of Rajasthan, pampered by both Pakistan and India, who keep going (where?) and coming back. This Samudaya Vishesh has been encouraging infiltration and there was also rampant trafficking of cows and minor girls before the good Seema Jan Kalyan Samiti (SJS) informed Rajiv Gandhi about the irregular allocation of land to the illegal infiltrators who then got them cancelled. sjs, incidentally, is one the many RSS outfits. Readers are informed that the people who live on the international borders are poor, uneducated, and superstitious owing to their dharmic shraddha. But Hindus can never be superstitious as Hindu religion is very scientific. Is it difficult then to guess who form this Samudaya Vishesh? When the chairman of the Board was told by a journalist that Muslims were very upset with this description, he retorted that the book had never named them and if they felt upset then it is what you say in Hindi: Chor ki daadhi mein tinka.

The book violates the basic principles of the Constitution and can’t be allowed to be inflicted as school knowledge on the defenceless children of Rajasthan. Some of us who have been trivialising the debate on textbooks need to take a hard look at it
The book also suggests that the growth in population of this community needs to be monitored closely, steps be taken to stop conversion and its appeasement.

The book dwells at length on the problem of terrorism. It states that in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) there are more than 100 terrorist organisations (Do not ask for the source of the data, it is more a matter of astha). It goes on to claim, without batting an eyelid that the J&K government works under pressure from terrorists and some leaders are in league with them which is why the Rehabilitation Act got passed (do not ask what exactly the “Act” is called), a temporary provision in the form of Article 370 was made in the Constitution which is being kept alive under the policy of appeasement. It says that there is an imbalance in the number of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats allocated to the Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Ladakh.

The book actually makes a prescription for abolishing terrorism. It asks for tough laws to prevent religious conversion and infiltration, to abolish all kinds of appeasement, political vested interests (whatever that means). It calls for the destruction of the bases of organisations like the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and removal of the names of infiltrators from electoral rolls, among other things.

After seeking an immediate repeal of Article 370, it demands poori chhut for the armed forces to finish off terrorism. And you thought that there are populations fighting for the repeal of Acts like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. It calls for an end to the discrimination against the Jammu and Ladakh regions and suggests that we need to talk to Pakistan in a language of power.

While discussing political philosophies, it is stated that fascism is significant as it removes the deficiencies of democracy, spreads the spirit of patriotism, allows a leader of strong will to take firm decision immediately without any hesitation.

Somebody said that this book is a crude copy of an rss pamphlet and need not be taken seriously. Written in a pedestrian language and full of howlers on almost every page, this book does need to be taken seriously as it is going to be imparted as the official and final knowledge to lakhs of students of Rajasthan who do not have the resources to go for any source of knowledge other than this State-sponsored textbook. It has been written in a very offensive manner belittling Adivasis, dalits and casts aspersion on the governments of J&K and Muslims. Its approach is militarist and it seeks to realise the project of an upper paste Hindu male nationalism. It violates the basic principles of the Constitution and cannot be allowed to be inflicted as a respectable school knowledge item on the defenceless school children of Rajasthan. Some of us who have been trivialising the debate on school textbooks by asserting that all governments seek to propagate their ideologies through textbooks need to take a hard look at the Class x Samajik Vigyan book discussed above. Parliamentarians, civil rights activists need to ask for its immediate withdrawal. Courts of the land need to take suo motu cognisance of this blatant violation of the right of an average Indian to live in dignity by the Rajasthan Madhyamik Shiksha Board and hold them accountable. Let us not allow ourselves to suffer from textbook controversy fatigue and keep talking about it.

Apoorvanand teaches at the Delhi University

[The above article appeared in Tehelka (India), 20 January 2007 edition; It is being reproduced in public interest]