Education has been considered a weapon for betterment. But more than creating a ‘better nation’ or ‘better future’, has it just ended up becoming a rendition of the voice of the powerful?*
They said “Padhega India tabhi toh badhega India” but what if the things India is studying aren’t history, or political theory, or literature, but rather an anomaly crafted out of politics and agendas, moulded to the needs of those upper-class, upper-caste, 60-year-old men sitting in high chairs?
Education has always been the easiest, most accessible, and most influential sphere in any society. From Communist propaganda in the Soviet Union to the widespread antisemitic beliefs in Nazi Germany, education has been at the centre of it all, watching the world catch on fire, while helping this fire find its stronghold in new minds.
But this isn’t just a lamentation about something plucked out from a page of some book of the past, but rather a lamentation about the present, and more importantly about the future. In a very recent case, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed at the Delhi High Court, explicitly seeking the removal of portions teaching the history of the Mughals from the NCERT textbooks. In the past, this trend has been observed in the cases of state boards as well, making this not just an isolated incident that could be ignored and buried. Maharashtra state board removed the history of rulers like Razia Sultan and Muhammad Bin Tughlaq, deeming such history “irrelevant” for the students, replacing the space with an elaborate history of other rulers such as Chhatrapati Shivaji. A similar case from Rajasthan led to a controversy over the rewriting of the “distorted” history in textbooks, the concern being that of the ‘Battle of Haldighati’. On the other hand, the suffix ‘the Great’ from Akbar’s name was removed in textbooks. Following this was the recent decision of a committee to revise the Karnataka board textbooks, including the removal of a chapter about the introduction of religions like Jainism and Buddhism from the books.
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But all this exaggerated focus on schools doesn’t mean that college curriculums are safe. From the re-placement of poems by Dalit writers, and deletion of the feminist interpretation of the Ramayana as well as sections from the “Interrogating Queerness” paper in the English curriculum a few years back to the deletion of an essay on the Ramayana by A. K. Ramanujan (one considered of extreme importance in the study of history by academicians) as well as the sidelining of (you guessed it right) the Mughal history, even Delhi University itself hasn’t been spared.
So, has this just ended up becoming a propaganda-driven education, changing with every election? Does it mean that more than inculcating representation or inclusiveness, it has just become a hollowed-out skeleton in the hands of a selected few? Maybe India’s secularism has been hidden in a corner, blindfolded, and tied up so that there are no questions.
But all of this has still ended up raising questions— Till how long can the remaking of history, be passed off under the veil of revision? If these revisions were really to correct distortions, why have their end results ended up as distortions too?
*This article first appeared in our physical newsletter Volume 15, Issue 18. Don’t forget to grab your copy of the latest edition of our newspaper every Wednesday!
Featured Image Credits: The Citizen