Even as human resource development (HRD) minister Smriti Irani criticised Don Bosco School in Matunga for using a handbook for Class 4 history teachers authored by activist Teesta Setalvad in her statement in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, the school said it discontinued the use of the controversial textbook a decade ago.
Under attack for the manner in which the government treated students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) for allegedly indulging in “anti-national” activities, Irani quoted from the handbook, claiming it created differences between students on religious lines.
School principal Father Bernard Fernandes confirmed the school had stopped using the textbook around 2004. “These books were used by some of our schools on an experimental basis for a year,” said Fernandes. “But they were discontinued after a year. Today, none of our teachers use these books.”
The school authorities were surprised how Irani got a copy of the book. “Our teachers don’t use the book anymore, so we do not know how the HRD got a copy of it, claiming it was from our school,” said an official from the school.
The handbook had led to a controversy in the state a few years ago. Members of the Shiv Sena had objected to the textbook, which reportedly claimed brahmins from the state refused to coronate Shivaji as he was a shudra.
In the Lok Sabha, Irani raised objections to the book, saying, “The book says we should not perpetuate the theory that ancient India was Hindu and medieval India was Muslim.” She quoted two other textbooks to support her argument that problematic school curricula fostered an “anti-national” mindset among college students. “The book says when we teach Shivaji versus Aurangzeb, we need to decide which Shivaji we take into the classroom,” she said.