NCERT Textbook Row | 33 academicians ask to remove their names from textbooks

The academicians say that NCERT cannot make substantive changes, minor or major, and then claim that the contributors and chief advisors under whose guidance the books were published, continue to be responsible for the revised text as it now stands

Updated - June 16, 2023 11:19 pm IST

Published - June 15, 2023 05:39 pm IST - New Delhi

Students of a school flipping through the photocopies NCERT text books. Representative image.

Students of a school flipping through the photocopies NCERT text books. Representative image. | Photo Credit: Nagara Gopal

Days after Yogesh Yadav and Suhas Palshikar, advisors for National Council For Educational Research and Training (NCERT), distanced themselves from the “rationalised” political science textbooks, 33 academics from prestigious colleges across India, who were on the textbook development committee, wrote to the NCERT Director D.P. Saklani on June 14, requesting their names be removed from the textbooks. Mr. Saklani acknowledged to The Hinduthat the letter had been received but refused to comment on NCERT’s further reaction on it.

“NCERT is now making changes to the textbooks. These involve deletions of sentences and removal of some sections (even chapters) considered unacceptable with emphasis given to others considered desirable,” the letter said.

It further stated, “The decision of who decides what is unacceptable and what is desirable has been kept rather opaque, violating the core principles of transparency and contestation that, we believe, underlies academic knowledge production.”

“NCERT has the Intellectual Property Rights on the textbooks. This we accept. It can publish the textbooks as they were produced under the guidance of the chief advisors in as many copies and editions that it wishes. But it is not at liberty to make substantive changes, minor or major, and then claim that the same set of contributors and chief advisors continue to be responsible for the revised text as it now stands,” the academicians added.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a political scientist at the Centre for Policy Research, along with Delhi University’s Radhika Menon, Nivedita Menon of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Kanti Prasad Bajpai, Vice-Dean of National University — Singapore, and former JNU professor Rajeev Bhargava, were among the signatories.

The revisions changing the meaning and saying the opposite of what was intended by the contributors, is the principle of consulting them on changes to be made, or at least consulting the Chief Advisors who piloted this collective effort, and getting their approval. Since there are several substantive revisions of the original texts, making them thereby different books, we find it difficult to claim that these are the books we produced and to associate our names with them,” they further added.

“Well-researched”

“With great regret at this turn of events we, therefore, request you to delete our names, as members of the Textbook Development Committee, from the political science textbooks of NCERT,” say the academics.

The 33 academicians emphasised in their letter that the textbooks were the result of extensive deliberations and collaborations among political scientists from various perspectives and ideological backgrounds and that they were meant to spread knowledge about the goals of India’s freedom struggle, the aspirations of the Constituent Assembly, the tenets of our constitutional order, the function of leaders and movements, the features of our federal system, and the optimistic and dynamic future of our country.

Texts about Hindu radicals’ attempts to kill Mahatma Gandhi and the ban placed on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh after his death, were among those removed by the NCERT. The NCERT also removed material last year that was relevant to the Gujarat riots of 2002 and the Mughal reign in India, among other things.

Also Read | Rationalisation of contents fully justified, says UGC chief Jagadesh Kumar

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