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Don’t teach students about Hindu-Muslim, caste riots as they turn into activists: ICSSR chief

Braj Bihari Kumar, a self-proclaimed admirer of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was named chairperson of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) this month.

education Updated: May 28, 2017 09:30 IST
Neelam Pandey
Neelam Pandey
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
ICSSR chairman,Braj Bihari Kumar,Indian Council of Social Science Research
The new chairperson of the Indian Council of Social Science Research, Braj Bihari Kumar, told HT in an exclusive interview that history of riots in the country should not be taught to students.(

India’s school textbooks should drop lessons on Hindu-Muslim or caste riots as they turn students into activists instead of making them learners, the new chief of the country’s premier body promoting research on social science has said.

Braj Bihari Kumar, a self-proclaimed admirer of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was named chairperson of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) this month, an appointment criticised by a section of scholars who questioned his academic credentials to lead the body.

“Class 6 textbook of social sciences mentions Hindu-Muslim riots, caste riots... They (the writers) want to create social activists rather than students or learners. Do you think anti-Muslim riots should be taught to class 6 or 7 students? Even in class 12, they shouldn’t be taught,” Kumar, 76, told HT in an exclusive interview.

“People who have written history and social sciences books had their own agenda,” he said, amid a move by the NCERT to drop “anti-Muslim” riots from a headline in a class 12 textbook. The NCERT – the National Council of Educational Research And Training -- is the government’s think thank on school education.

Kumar, a known critic of contemporary scholars in social sciences and humanities, said the textbooks mention the hardship faced by BR Ambedkar as a Dalit.

“...But they should also inform students what positive steps Ambedkar himself took, which have an effect on the society. But they won’t,” he said, adding NCERT books were lacking on many counts and need a complete overhaul.

The opposition accuses the BJP government of trying to impose its ideology and erase secular thoughts from textbooks. In the past three years, BJP-ruled states such as Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana and Maharashtra faced allegation of saffronising education by changing schoolbooks.

Kumar said his priority will be to find areas where there is “over research and the areas in darkness due to dearth of research”.

“The quality of work is very low. I am going to create an inventory of scholar and research because there are areas where there is massive duplication of work and then we have areas of darkness where hardly any thesis is being done...,” he added.

Kumar, who was the principal of a college in Nagaland, is the founding member of Astha Bharati, an NGO promoting “unity and integrity”.

He said atrocities against Dalits are highlighted much more than similar incidents between the “so-called non-Dalits”.

“Is there a study? You are projecting one thing and not the other. We should have a total picture and study of conflict,” he said.

The BJP-led government at the Centre is facing criticism for allegedly failing to protect abuse of Dalits and other lower castes. The Opposition blames the ruling party for the recent caste clashes in Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh and earlier incidents such the assault of Dalit youth in Gujarat’s Una over suspicion of cow slaughter.

Kumar also rejected the “colonial myth” about higher-caste Hindus not allowing the lower castes to acquire education.

“Brahmins are the poorest aristocracy in the world and that is in their value system. You read Vedas, Mahabharat...the poorest lifestyle is the ideal lifestyle. A very less number of Brahmins were going to school...,” he said.

He said all children of all castes including Dalits were attending schools.

Describing Narendra as the worst victim of intolerance, Kumar criticised the “other side called liberals, those who celebrate when poor people are killed by naxalites, those who want India to be divided and I am very clear that they are anti-nationals.”

He also said the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders were “more honest” than the liberals, a term used by the Hindu right-wing to attack those opposed to its ideology.

He picked out Jawaharlal Nehru University as a hub of “anti-national” activity and said if its students don’t mend their ways, society will force it upon them.

“If there is a slogan of breaking India, we simply take it as a anti-national act and if a university produces only such kind of students, something was wrong in establishing that university,” he said in reference to a controversy over alleged anti-India sloganeering during an event in February last year.

“Things must be changed and things can be changed. People will think about that. Either the university will change or society will bring the change,” he added.

Kumar also attacked historian Ramchandra Guha, one of his critics, describing him as a “nobody” and “not a scholar of mainstream”.

“You know who should have questioned my appointment. The Marxists, the liberal intelligentsia should have but have you heard any opinion of theirs? Who is Ramchandra Guha?”

First Published: May 28, 2017 09:28 IST