Before House panel, RSS affiliate flags ‘distortions’ in NCERT school textbooks

The meeting was attended by representatives of the department of school education, NCERT and CBSE.

Deposing before a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Tuesday, the RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN) flagged “distortions” in NCERT’s school textbooks, which included a chapter on late artist MF Husain in the Class 11 Hindi textbook and references to Mughal rulers giving grants to support the building and maintenance of places of worship in a Class 12 History textbook.

The Nyas, which is headed by Dina Nath Batra, a former head of Vidya Bharati, the education wing of the RSS, was invited to the meeting of the parliamentary standing committee on education, women, children, youth and sports on Tuesday to depose before members on textbook reforms and “removing references to un-historical facts and distortions about our national heroes from textbooks”.

Rajya Sabha member Vinay Sahasrabuddhe heads the panel. The meeting was attended by representatives of the department of school education, NCERT and CBSE. Former NCERT director J S Rajput, Shankar Sharan of NCERT, SSUN and RSS-affiliate Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal (BSM) deposed before the committee on Tuesday.

The committee is expected to meet again in a week to hear further depositions. “The committee had sought feedback on the topic on social media. It was through this exercise that some organizations requested to be heard in person,” said a source on the invitation extended to SSUN and BSM.

The backdrop

The parliamentary panel has taken up the issue of textbook reform at a time that the government has already started the groundwork for the development of a new National Curriculum Framework (NCF). All NCERT textbooks will be revised based on the new NCF.

In its submission to the panel, SSUN objected to a chapter on painter M F Husain in the Class 11 Hindi Textbook “Antral”. The Nyas felt it was inappropriate for students to study the life of a person who was accused of promoting obscenity and outraging religious sentiments. The Supreme Court had refused to allow Husain’s prosecution on the charges of obscenity.

SSUN protested references to Mughal rulers adopting a flexible policy towards their non-Muslim subjects and giving grants to repair temples damaged during war in the Class 12 History textbook titled “Themes in Indian History – II”. SSUN stated that these sentences amount to the glorification of foreign invaders.

The RSS affiliate also objected to the section on “Varnas” in the Chapter 5 of the Class 6 History textbook that states that the “priests divided people into four groups, called varna” and that “the priests also said that these groups were decided on the basis of birth”. The Nyas asked whether it was appropriate to promote hostility towards one section in Class 6 students’ minds.

In its suggestions to the parliamentary panel, BSM said that history should be taught as a continuum and that dividing history into ancient, medieval and modern creates confusion. It also stated that teaching of History should promote national unity, inspire national renaissance and inculcate high self-esteem in students.

The department of school education in its submission to the parliamentary committee informed members that the NCERT is in the process of setting up a panel to analyse and address complaints with regard to “un-historical facts and distortions” about national heroes and events.

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