Bengal teachers unhappy with UGC’s new version of history

This is the first time there is an attempt to saffronise college textbooks, says expert.

Updated - July 08, 2021 07:32 pm IST

Published - July 08, 2021 07:26 pm IST - Kolkata

Representational Image

Representational Image

The University Grant Commission’s new curriculum framework for history in undergraduate classes has come under criticism from teachers in West Bengal for being excessively Hindu and Hindi.

“The emphasis is on what is known as the Indic culture, which is their way of saying India is home to Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism and therefore implying — though not saying so in as many words — that Islam is alien,” Prof. Kingshuk Chatterjee, who teaches history at the University of Calcutta, told The Hindu .

The proposed syllabus, to the surprise and amusement of many teachers, makes no mention of Emperor Akbar and largely depicts Mughals as people resisted by the Rajputs and the Marathas. It uses the term “Indus Saraswati Civilisation”, in place of Indus Valley Civilisation; emphasises on the Vedas; and seeks to educate students on, among other things, “Indian perception of Dharma and Darshan” and “Science and Technology in Ancient India.” The module on the Glory of Indian Literature, they pointed out, makes no mention of the Arthashastra or Charaka Samhita while the module on the History of Communication in India recommends the examples of “Narada, Krishna, Buddha, Shankar, Vivekananda and Gandhi.”

“When the BJP came to power the first time [under Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee], there was an attempt to tinker with the school syllabus. This is the first time there is an attempt to saffronise college textbooks,” said Prof. Chatterjee, adding that it was not mandatory for States to accept this syllabus.

The biggest irritant for teachers is the inclusion of a large number of Hindi books in the lists of ‘suggested readings’ for each paper. Books by well-known historians such as Irfan Habib and R.S. Sharma are conspicuous by their absence. “[The Hindi books] would be completely useless in non-Hindi-speaking States. And many of these are hardly of any calibre and cater to a particular political line of argument,” said Prof. Chatterjee.

Prof. Ashis Das, who teaches history at the Rabindra Bharati University, agreed: “You may or may not agree with Irfan Habib’s approach to history, or you may want to include another point of view, but the authors of these Hindi books are not even historians — they are more into mythology.

“Everybody who came to India — apart from the British — adopted Indian customs and traditions. If the Sultans and the Mughals wanted to convert Indians to Islam by force, they could have, but they didn’t. But the people in power today want to change the narrative.”

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