Maharashtra: History lessons, Maratha style
There is a continuous attempt to rewrite the history textbooks in the state to give adequate space to the Maratha warrior.india Updated: Sep 23, 2017 19:18 IST
The new class 7 history book, published by the Maharashtra government, has come under fire for allegedly reducing the role of Mughals and other empires in Indian history.
Except for a few chapters, the entire book titled ‘History and Civics’ is dedicated to the rise and fall of the Maratha empire. Chapters on Mughal empire and other empires such as the Vijayanagara and Bahamani empires, the Delhi Sultanate, the Palas, Cholas and Rajputs have been condensed into a single chapter titled ‘India Before the Times of Shivaji Maharaj’.
Bapusaheb Shinde, who was a member of the subject committees of the new as well as the old textbook, denies that there has been any attempt to omit any part of history. “We didn’t cut anything. All the kings find mention in the book. But we can’t provide all the historical details due to limited pages of the book,” he said.
However, many history teachers are unhappy with the new book. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a teacher from Nanded said, “There’s nothing wrong with teaching about the Marathas, but one should have a sense of proportion. The hundreds of years of Mughal rule cannot be relegated to a few paragraphs. The students will never get to learn about them in their school years,” he said.
The curriculum is being seen as a counter to the ‘Delhi-centric’ narrative of the history being propagated by books published by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and other state boards.
“There’s a sense that all our history books, including NCERT books, are north-centric. The academicians of Maharashtra appear to be doing exactly the opposite,” said a Pune-based historian associated with the Maharashtra State Council for Educational Research and Training.
Agreed Sadanand More, chairman of History subject committee of Maharashtra State Bureau of Textbook Production & Curriculum Research. “The earlier book didn’t have a proper place for Maharashtra. The NCERT history book, too, has mere one and half pages for Marathas. There’s no picture of Shivaji Maharaj in the book. Shouldn’t students get to read about Marathas?” he said.
Some historians also suggest that it’s an attempt by the right-wing National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by BJP ruling the state to appropriate Shivaji for political gains. Historians point out that at various times, Shivaji has been hailed as a Hindutva icon, promoter of Brahmins and protector of backward categories.
“History is the first casualty of any appropriation of historical figures caused by a change in power,” said Arvind Ganacharya, former professor at the University of Mumbai’ s History department. He adds that while it’s necessary that the children should learn the history of the region, in Maharashtra, the textbooks neglect much of the state’s history at the expense of Shivaji.