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28 June.2003

NCERT's Continuing Assault on History

A major component of the present regime's agenda to communalize education has been its assault on history through the instrumentality of the various organizations which are controlled by the Union government. NCERT during the past three years has been the chief organizaion implementing this agenda in the area of school education. The first set of new history textbooks that it brought out last year were criticised by historians, teachers, other academics, concerned citizens and the press throughout the country for their blatant communal distortions and utter disregard of elementary historical facts. Many schools in Delhi and elsewhere decided that they would not use these textbooks. SAHMAT brought out a compilation the views of experts and
teachers and comments in the press under the title Saffronized and Substandard. NCERT has brought out a few more history textbooks as a part of its new series and even a cursory reading of these shows that there is no let-up in the assault on history; in fact, new dimensions have now been added to the assault.

One of the new textbooks is Modern India for Class XII by Satish Chandra Mittal who retired as a professor of history from Kurukshetra University. In a pamphlet written by him some years ago, this historian had expressed his unhappiness with what he called too much emphasis on Hindu-Muslim unity and composite culture in history books. While the authorities of NCERT decided to discard such books, it naturally chose him for his known antipathy to such notions to write a new book to replace one of the existing ones. In his foreword to the new book, NCERT Director has written, " The whole character of history is affected by new techniques, inventions and outlook". The book presents an example of the 'new techniques, inventions and outlook'. One of the 'new techniques' which informs the author's historical 'inventions and outlook' is the liberty which the author takes with elementary facts of history. The new historians of NCERT, including the present one, seem to have made taking liberties with historical facts into a fundamental right. A few examples of the new historical 'inventions' are given here to indicate
the general quality of this book.

On page 246, ' the former Lieutenant Governor of Punjab, General Dyer' is stated to have been shot dead in 1940. [ General Dyer had died in 1927 of cerebral haemorrhage. The Lieutenant Governor who was shot dead was Michael O'Dwyer.]

Five lines later on the same page [246], quoting a 'scholar- writer', he says that Savarkar suggested to Subhas Bose to escape from the country, 'like his elder brother Rash Bihari Bose'.[ The author is right because all men are brothers and all Boses more so.]

Earlier on the same page [246], it is stated that the formation of the Forward Bloc by Subhas Bose 'invoked sharp reactions from the Gandhiites leading to his resignation from the presidentship of the Congress'.[ Subhas Bose formed the Forward Bloc after he had resigned from the Presidentship of the Congress.]

On the next page [247], the three senior officers of INA are stated to have been 'acquitted'. [In fact, all of them had been found guilty but were released.]

On page 168, the author says, " The Chapekar brothers were caught deceitfully and hanged by two British officials - Rand and Aryst." However, a few pages later [on page 184], the author changes his mind and says, " The Chapekar brothers ... decided to assassinate the two officers[ Rand and Ayerst, the latter's name spelt as Aryst on p.168 and Ayrst on p.184], which
they did on the very day." [ As this is a book for Class XII and would be the basis for public - CBSE - examination, either of the two statements as answers to an examination question would be deemed to be correct. ]

As is to be expected, there is quite a lot about Savarkar in the book, including his advice to Subhas Bose to escape from the country.While there is almost a whole page on Communists' ' opposition' to the Quit India Movement [ pages 243, 244-45], Savarkar only ' directed his followers not to take part in the movement.' [P.243]

On an earlier page [185], Savarkar is stated to have 'engaged himself in the activities of the Hindu organisations' - the organizations including Hindu Mahasabha remain unnamed.It is nowhere stated in the book that he was a leader of Hindu Mahasabha and presided over its annual session in 1937 [and also subsequently] where he expounded his two-nation theory.

On page 185, Jackson is stated to have been assassinated in Aurangabad but on the next page in Nasik.

There is quite a bit about Muslim League and Muslim communalism but only a short box item on Hindu Mahasabha on the same page but nothing on Hindu communalism - Hindu Mahasabha's objective was only ' revival of social and cultural consciousness among the Hindus.'[ In this box, Savarkar is mentioned among those who 'participated in it'. ]

The opposition of the Hindu Mahasabha to the Quit India Movement is not mentioned but it is stated that the 'role of the Sikh community was similar to that of the Hindu Mahasabha'.

The use of the term 'community'etc. by this author is quite original. In the preface to the book, he says, " Varios castes, classes and communities participated in our freedom struggle and sacrificed their life for the sake of their country's freedom." He doesn't say anything about who survived after 'various castes, classes and communities' had 'sacrificed their life' in ' our freedom struggle' for 'their country's freedom'.

Another textbook released last week is Contemporary World History, also for Class XII. The authors are two Readers in History from the faculty of NCERT - Mohammed Anwar-ul Haque and Pratyusa K. Mandal - and a Professor of Ancient Indian History - Himansu S. Patnaik - from Utkal University. There has been some controversy about this book in the press. There was, it seems, another manuscript by another author, who had been commissioned by NCERT,
and there was also a review workshop to review it. In March or April, NCERT decided not to publish it. So the present book was prepared, apparently without a review workshop. This is the only book which does not mention ' Participants of the Review Workshop'; it instead mentions the names of 'Members of the Review Group' which include , besides the three authors, one
Lecturer of a Delhi college, one Principal of a school in Bahadurgarh and two school teachers from Bhopal. Whether this Group met anywhere or the four non-authors reviewed it individually is not stated.

This book adds a new dimension to NCERT's new history - some of it reads like old U.S.-inspired Cold War propaganda stuff of the McCarthyite variety. Soviet Union[ and Communism] are stated to be equally responsible,along with Hitler and Nazi Germany, for the Second World War.[ Pages92, 129, etc.] There was ' universal hatred' for communism which Germany and Japan exploited when they signed that Anti-Comintern Pact.[p.98] Truman Doctrine - of 'containment' of communism - " was necessitated by the Greek situation. After the War, communists of the country started a civil war."[P.170] The anti-communist hysteria and the spy scare of the McCarthy period , long since denounced in the U.S., has found support in NCERT's new history. NCERT historians write, " Stalin told his secret agents all over the world to
steal the US' secrets. The Western countries had many people with communist leanings who viewed the USSR as their true nation. Their treasonable activities helped Stalin get hold of the blueprints for making an Atom Bomb. He then housed his top nuclear scientists in a secret location in remote Kazakhstan and coerced them to develop a bomb." [P.172] [ This year marks
the 50th anniversary of the execution of Rosenbergs on the charge of passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. The execution had shocked the world and remains a blot on USA's judicial history. The New York Times in an editorial on the 50th anniversary of the execution(19 June 2003) wrote, " The Rosenbergs case still haunts American history,reminding us of the injustice
that can be done when a nation gets caught up in hysteria." It should be a matter of some shame that NCERT historians are reviving the atmosphere of that hysteria.]

The secret clauses of the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact , according to our Cold Warriors, provided that Ukraine and Byelorussia would go to USSR.[pp.100-01] Both these countries had been among the founder republics of USSR in 1922, a fact which is unknown to these 'historians'. 

The Non-Aligned Movement just about finds a mention and is denigrated in this Indian book on contemporary world history published by a 'national' body set up by the Government of India. Non-Alignment, it says, " has a nervous existence right from the beginning."[p.175] While there is little on its role during the Cold War and not a word for its contribution to bringing about the collapse of colonialism, the authors see it as an organization like SEATO and CENTO. They write, " After the Cold War ended, there was talk of folding it up along the lines of SEATO and CENTO which had become irrelevant."[p. 176]

Like the other new history books of NCERT, this book abounds in factual errors.That the organization of the book renders it utterly irrelevant to promoting any understanding of contemporary history is too obvious to require any detailed comment. A few examples of the disregard of elementary facts,however, may be in order.

" In October 1922,he[Mussolini] organised a 'March to Rome' in which hundreds of thousands of 'Black Shirts' took part."[Pp.81-82] In fact, there was no march. This is a myth which was inspired by fascists. The reference to 'hundreds of thousands' is our historians' original contribution.

The book makes some references to the developments in China from 1911 to 1915 which are all wrong. It says, " ...Pu Yi,was installed on the throne and in his name an ambitious General, Yuan Shihkai ruled. ...Yuan dealt with them[warlords] strongly, but himself got ambitious in the process. In 1915, he upstaged the child Emperor and crowned himself king."[p.105] There is no
reference to the 1911 Revolution, the overthrow of the Manchu rule and proclamation of the Republic nor to Sun Yat-sen who was the leader of the Revolution. Pu Yi gave up the throne in February 1912, Yuan replaced Sun Yat-sen as President in March 1912, Yuan did not crown himself king, he did not abdicate and he died in 1916.

The authors' geographical knowledge is comparable to Professor Hari Om's who had placed Madagascar in the Arabian Sea.There is a section in the book with the caption - South American State Mexico - which says, " The conjunction of Mexico, a South American State, with Latin American countries in the context noted below has warranted the inclusion of Mexico here." [p.117]There is nothing on the so-called 'conjunction' or on the 'context' below or anywhere else but that is unimportant as there are numerous such meaningless statements in the book but Mexico is certainly not a South American State and is equally certainly a Latin American country. "

In 1974, the Salazar dictatorship was overthrown...." [p.144] Salazar had died in 1970.

Referring to the 1948 Berlin Blockade - the Soviet authorities in their occupied zone in Germany had stopped all road and rail traffic from the west to Berlin - this book says, " The Soviets sealed all roads, rails and canal links between the West and East Berlin. Thus, western aid could not reach the trapped people in East Berlin." [p.170]

On page 172, two different dates are mentioned for the setting up of Warsaw Pact - first 1954,then 1955 .

Ngo Dinh Diem [ Diem Ngo Dinh in the book] who was brought to Vietnam under French and U.S. patronage in 1954 and became the President of South Vietnam is referred to as a leader of the nationalists.[p.187]

There is reference to the Geneva conference and to the war and the responsibilty for war is equally apportioned and, therefore, there is no reference to the Geneva Accords which had called for elections in 1956 to establish a unified independent Vietnam and Diem's and U.S.' refusal to do so.

The examples given above are a small sample of the enormity of the distortions of history and disregard for elementary historical facts in which the two books abound. They must not be allowed to be used as textbooks.