Mohd Ismail was seven when he vowed to free Bharat Mata from British rule. He joined his father Karamdin, who had migrated from Kashmir to Amritsar, at the Jallianwalla Bagh meeting, and was among those killed in the 1919 massacre. Ismail’s story is one such of children and young adults defying the British to participate in India’s freedom struggle, which could soon be part of moral education textbooks for school students in Haryana.
Compiling them in a book called Bal Krantikari (Child Revolutionaries), Dinanath Batra, who spearheads the right-wing Shiksha Bachao Aandolan and has been taken on board as consultant by the Haryana government, hopes these stories will act as “stimulants” and steer students towards “patriotism” and “values”.
The book, which was published in the 1990s, has not found many takers over the years, but Batra is hopeful that the current government will “recognise the merit of inculcating good values” in students and include them in the curriculum.
Batra has also shot off a letter to Union HRD minister Smriti Irani to consider including this book of 18 stories, based on the lives of youngsters from ages 7 to 20.
Some of the stories are documented, like those of Kanaklata Barua, who was shot dead while leading a procession bearing the National Flag during the Quit India movement, and Hemu Kalani, who was hanged for trying to derail a train carrying British soldiers.
However, Batra claims to have discovered other accounts, like those of Sitaram and Dondi Santu from Dalit families in Sangli, Maharashtra. When asked for the source of these stories and the authenticity of these occurrences, Batra said, “I travelled across the country to collect information about these Bal Krantikaris.” He wants them to be part of the curriculum because “it is easier for children to be encouraged by the stories of those who are closer to them in age”.
Sources in the HRD ministry said that there has been no decision on Batra’s request. Haryana education minister Ram Bilas Sharma also told HT that a final decision to include the book had not been taken yet. “The book has not yet been published and only its blueprint is with us and we would take a decision on it and its content by next month. Also, we would be deleting from it anything which would be disputable or unnecessary,” he said.
Meanwhile, noted historian Arjun Dev told HT, “Writing to inspire children can be imaginative but not imaginary.” He pointed out that the stories based on individuals need to be backed by evidence.