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History shouldn’t be coloured by political ideology in UP textbooks

A committee of historians has been tasked to rewrite history in textbooks for students in Uttar Pradesh. It is likely to present Mughal emperors Babar and Aurangzeb as plunderers.

analysis Updated: Sep 20, 2017 13:50 IST
Sunita Aron
Sunita Aron
Uttar Pradesh,Textbooks,BJP
UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath (left)  with deputy chief minister Dinesh Sharma. According to a senior BJP leader, it is not important if the parents and their children are on the same page in knowing history.(PTI)

In an informal discussion at a dinner party, Lucknow’s who’s who are busy discussing the BJP’s agenda of rewriting history. Some want to wait and watch, while others opine, ‘Let the victors of and at all times revel in the artificially created temporary euphoria of having done a great service to their ilk, as history, an event of time, will always be recorded with a human bias.’

The discussion in Union Home minister Rajnath Singh’s constituency soon becomes both spicy and hot as many feel the political rulers of today should create history and not rewrite it.

“No rule is eternal. What if the Congress returned to power, will they again rewrite history? Look at Rajasthan. Jawaharlal Nehru doesn’t figure as the first Prime Minister of the country in the textbooks. Are we going to start from the second Prime Minister?”

Nonetheless, future parents are bound to have a difficult time with their children as the history they know will be sharply different from the one their wards would be taught. They won’t be on the same page. While the parents will eulogise Shah Jahan as the creator of the marvel, the Taj Mahal — that draws dignitaries and tourists from all over the world — the students of tomorrow will also talk about him as the destroyer of extraordinary skills of artisans.

The new chapters in history books will highlight Shah Jahan as someone who chopped the hands of artisans after they had completed the seventh wonder of the world. “It is not in our culture to chop off the hands of a builder who created the Taj Mahal. Our culture honours scientists,” Uttar Pradesh’s deputy chief minister Dinesh Sharma had recently shared his mind with the public. Nothing new, as rewriting history has always been on the RSS agenda which the BJP-ruled states are now pursuing diligently.

I scanned the ICSE middle school history and civics books and could immediately spot the paras that are likely to be chucked off: “Shah Jahan’s reign was an age of splendour and cultural brilliance. He is known as the Engineer King. His patronage of architecture is legendary and is one of the most important characteristics of his reign.” Nowhere does the book mention him as a ruler who also stifled artisanship.

Akbar, the Great King is a chapter in textbooks that has been taught in the schools for decades. It starts with, ‘Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar was the greatest ruler of the Mughal dynasty and the greatest ruler of India. He brought glory to the empire and is called Akbar, ‘The Great.’

But the new textbooks would want the children to know that he perpetrated cruelty and forced conversions.

Dinesh Sharma demanded to know if Akbar was ‘great’, then what about Maharana Pratap? And how can anyone forget the influence of Birbal in transforming his personality by giving him the right advice. “How can we glorify Babar and Aurangzeb as our ancestors, they were actually plunderers.”

Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was the only exception. The deputy chief minister described him as a good ruler as he supported Mangal Pandey during the 1857 Independence struggle.

Now a committee of historians has been tasked to rewrite history that was earlier written by Europeans, Turks, Mughals, French, Chinese and Communists, who had painted Indian greats in poor light. The new textbooks will learn about our true ancestors and their legacy – Ram, Krishna, Guru Nanak, Mahavir, Gautam Budh, Shivaji et al. Wondering if the long-drawn battle over the birth places – Ayodhya (Ram), Kashi( Shiv) and Mathura( Krishna)- will be included in the new text books. After all Maharashtra textbooks focus on the Maratha ruler, Shivaji, while reducing the reference of the Mughals.

According to a senior BJP leader, it is not important if the parents and their children are on the same page in knowing history. What is important is what is being fed to the new generation. History is more about our sacrifices and traditions than frustrations and invasions.

As far as I know, history should not have any colour as it only plunges us into a dark controversy.

First Published: Sep 20, 2017 13:21 IST