Date: 8/1/2004


Lalu, Sonia, Priyanka, Rahul in textbooks

By: Narendra Kaushik

August 1, 2004


New Delhi: “The present walks by his side and the future is in his sight. Whether it is West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh or any other corner of the country, Laluji’s name and voice draw masses...Lalu may not be a mathematician but he has left behind the best of mathematicians in solving the questions of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division etc in practical life... Like Gandhi and Nehru, Lalu bhaiya has firmed up a new relationship with the society.”

Had this been a pamphlet circulated by Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav’s party Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) during the polls in Bihar, it might not be shocking. But this is a portion of what is being taught to students of class VIII in the state ruled by Lalu’s wife Rabri Devi.

Written by one Harivansh Narayan and titled Mitti Ke Gaurav, the chapter on Lalu Yadav is part of a Hindi book approved by the director of elementary, secondary and adult education of the Bihar Government.

The book has been in circulation for over a decade. Interestingly, it is Lalu and his party who have been making the loudest noises on the NDA’s changes in history books. M A A Fatmi, an RJD MP and Minister of State (MoS) in the HRD ministry, has been vociferous about a return to the earlier syllabus.

However, Lalu Yadav is not the only ruling politician trying to capture the imagination of the next generation. From West Bengal and Gujarat to Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu to Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, or any other state, textbooks and examination papers have become a tool in the hands of ruling class to promote themselves or their ideology.

How else would you explain A Family Tree, a chapter in a class V textbook, written by Annie Koshi, principal, and two other teachers of St Mary’s school, Delhi. It requires students to remember the names of Priyanka Vadra, husband Robert Vadra and brother Rahul Gandhi.

Additionally, they are also asked to stick their photos in boxes provided against the names. Rahul Gandhi has made it to the current Lok Sabha but Priyanka and Robert are yet to have a contribution written against their names.

Similarly, in Karnataka, the state ruled by the Congress-JD (S) combine, Hindi textbooks of class X place Sonia Gandhi beside Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi in the chapter Bharatanari. Gandhi has been described as a great woman working for the emotional integration of the nation through Rajiv Gandhi Pratisthan (Rajiv Gandhi Foundation).

It might be interesting to see how many people have heard of the RGF or its contribution to the country’s social fabric.

Communists spearheading the campaign for restoration of books of Left historians are no less at fault. In fact, when Atal Behari Vajpayee took oath as Prime Minister in 1999, they used textbooks to make fun of India’s alleged subjugation to America.

Class VI students of the Municipal Corporation’s medium high school in Bardwan (West Bengal) talked about a picnic put together by Pervez (Musharraf), Atal and Bill (Clinton).

For the picnic, Bill lent equal amounts of money to the other two to buy provisions. The question then specifies Pervez and Atal’s purchase amounts and students are asked to calculate how much Bill gave them.

Another inter-school higher secondary test examination of Hindi asks the students to write on ‘Lal kile par laal nishan, maang raha hai Hindustan’ (India is demanding communist rule).

Ironically, the promotion of ruling politicians in textbooks is an issue that raises the hackles of all historians, and even disparate saffron and communists join hands to decry it.

“There is no sense in teaching day to day history. Politicians like Laloo are bent upon destroying history. You find this problem in all the states — may be in different degrees,” says Delhi University professor and an anti-saffron historian D N Jha.

Sandhya Jain, a critic of the Left historians, agrees. “It is not normally done. It should not be done. It’s too political to evaluate current politicians,” said Jain, while talking to this correspondent.

Fight club

HRD minister Arjun Singh has ordered that books written by Left historians be brought back in 2005-06, provoking saffron historians and the Sangh Parivaar to launch a movement for continuation of curriculum formulated by the NCERT under Murli Manohar Joshi.

President A P J Abdul Kalam has given a new twist to the controversy by criticising ‘indiscriminate and too frequent’ changes in school textbooks.

Last heard, the Cabinet Committee on Appointments (CCA) was to decide on the appointment of Delhi University professor Krishna Kumar to the post of NCERT director.

Earlier, the HRD ministry recommended Kumar’s name to the CCA from a panel of historians comprising Krishna Kumar, Vinod Raina and Vijay Kumar.

Sonia Gandhi

Hindi textbooks of class X, in Karnataka, place Sonia Gandhi beside Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi in the chapter Bharatanari. Gandhi has been described as a great woman working for the emotional integration of the nation through Rajiv Gandhi Pratisthan (Rajiv Gandhi Foundation)

Lalu Prasad Yadav

Titled Mitti Ke Gaurav, a Hindi textbook in Bihar has a chapter on Lalu Yadav. The textbook has been approved by the director of elementary, secondary and adult education of the Bihar Government and has been in circulation for more than a decade.

Priyanka Gandhi

Although they have not made it to the Parliament, they have made it to the history textbooks of class V students in New Delhi. The textbook requires students to remember the names of Priyanka Vadra and husband Robert Vadra

Rahul Gandhi

A history textbook in New Delhi asks students to stick Rahul’s photo in a box provided against his name

The Sangh Parivar’s transgressions

Like the communists and Congressmen, politicians owing allegiance to Sangh Parivaar too have missed no opportunity to propagate their ideology. Gujarat is often cited as an example where history has allegedly been communalised and minorities treated like foreigners.

According to Professor Arjun Dev, a historian in the national capital, there were allegations against Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa in the early 90s that she was getting the school syllabus rewritten to boost her rating.

Dev was then member secretary of National Steering Committee, which was supposed to review the textbooks with a view on national integration. The committee was denied extension by Murli Manohar Joshi, the Human Resource Development (HRD) minister of Vajpayee government.

Joshi has been charged with showing bias against Left historians in reviewing textbooks. J S Rajput, then director of the National Council of Education, Research and Technology (NCERT), who claimed to have got the entire syllabus up to XII rewritten, ordered deletion of several portions from history books authored by the Left-oriented historians. These portions were related to Sikh guru Teg Bahadur, Jat rulers of Bharatpur, Ayodhya, Mathura and Aryans.

Portions deleted from the textbooks under the NDA

*In 1675, Guru Teg Bahadur was arrested with five of his followers, brought to Delhi and executed. The official explanation for this, as given in some later Persian sources, is that after his return from Assam, the guru, in association with one Hafiz Adam, a follower of Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi, had resorted to plunder, laying waste the whole province of Punjab.

*Meat was served as a mark of honour (although in later centuries Brahmanas were forbidden to eat beef)... If a man killed another man, he had to give a hundred cows to the family of the dead man as punishment (Ancient India by Romila Thapar, p.40-41).

*They (Jats) founded their State of Bharatpur wherefrom they conducted plundering raids in the regions around and participated in the court intrigues at Delhi. (Modern India by Arjun Dev and Indira Arjun Dev, p.21).

8The Puranic tradition could be used to date Rama of Ayodhya around 2,000 BC, but diggings and extensive explorations in Ayodhya do not show any settlement around that date... Similarly, although Krishna plays an important part in the Mahabharata, the earliest inscriptions and sculptural pieces found in Mathura between 200 BC and AD 300 do not attest his presence. (Ancient India by R S Sharma, p.20-21)

*The cattle wealth slowly decimated because the cows and bullocks were killed in numerous Vedic sacrifices. (Ancient India by R S Sharma, p-90).

*People (living in the old age in South-eastern Rajasthan, western Madhya Pradesh, western Maharashtra and elsewhere) certainly ate beef, but they did not take pork on any considerable scale (Ancient India by R S Sharma, p.45).

*The anti-sacrifice attitude of Buddhism and of Ashoka naturally brought loss to the Brahmanas, who lived on the gifts made to them in various kinds of sacrifices. Hence in spite of the tolerant policy of Ashoka, the brahmanas developed some kind of antipathy to him. (Ancient India by R S Sharma pp.137-138).

*What was done by slaves and other producing sections in Greece and Rome under the threat of whip was done by the Vaishyas and Shudras out of conviction formed through brahmanical indoctrination and the Varna system. (Ancient India by R S Sharma, pp.240-241).