A lot of heat was generated in Rajya Sabha on the issue of allegedly objectionable material in NCERT Hindi and History books, being taught to students. MP’s cutting across party lines went on to the extent of seeking punishment to the scholars responsible for recommending this material. It is very interesting that BJP , who had been after the head of left wing historians, since more than a quarter century, wittingly or unwittingly, got the support from the left itself. That too, just a week or so after, they had been seeking the head of Speaker of Lok Sabha, not because of any genuine reason, but only for being a left nominee to the post.
Is there any solid logic behind the den being raised by BJP MP Ravi Shankar Prasad, who was supported by MP’s from Congress, SP,CPM and RSP? What are the facts of the case? There are multiple issues involved in this debate, if conducted seriously. First of all, the competence question. Who can give more sound and solid opinion on issues relating to education and pedagogy? MP’s are no doubt elected by the people(Though not in Rajya Sabha) and they have a right to make laws and question Govt. policies in any area of governance. My humble question here is just this—Even if one has certain rights granted under constitution, are these rights to be exercised in an enlightened and knowledgeable manner or just as per one’s political agenda and convenience? Do all our MP’s have knowledge about each and everything of India, about which they are supposed to speak in Parliament? And do they speak about each and everything about which they should have been speaking in Parliament? Facts do not support either of the contention. Not to talk of our MP’s, none in the world, be it Amartya Sen or George Bush, can claim to have knowledge of each and everything about the world? Amartya Sen like people have the humility to acknowledge this obvious fact, whereas George Bush like people destroy the world by their cooked up ‘knowledge’, be in Iraq or in West Asia. If cooked up knowledge is too dangerous for the world, ‘half-baked’ information is equally disastrous. Unfortunately, the whole controversy about NCERT books, not only this time, from the very beginning, is based upon half baked informations, often quoted out of context, resulting in social tensions. This is particularly true of History books, authored by Bipan Chandra or Satish Chandra. The comments about Guru Gobind Singh, Guru Teg Bahadur or Jats etc. or calling Tilak ,Pal or Aurbindo as terrorists, which are always ascribed to the authors of these books, are never their comments. Bipan Chandra and Satish Chandra like eminent nationalist historians can never distort history like that. They have discussed the comments made by either colonial historians or communal historians and contradicted and condemned these unfounded comments about our great national heroes with facts and reason. It has again been repeated in Rajya Sabha that Tilak, Aurbindo, Bipan Chander Pal ,Lala Lajpat Rai like nationalist figures have been characterized as terrorists in NCERT history book written by Bipan Chandra. This is factually wrong. In text book ‘Modern India’ for class xii,edition 1994,in a chapter Nationalist Movement(1905-18),Bipan Chandra has written-‘The most outstanding leaders of militant nationalism apart from Lokmanya Tilak, were Bipin Chandra Pal,Aurbindo Ghosh, and Lala Lajpat Rai.The distinctive political aspects of the programme of the militant nationalist were as follows.
They believed that Indians themselves must work out their own salvation and make the effort to rise from their degraded position. They declared that great sacrifices and sufferings were needed for this task. Their speeches, writings and political work were full of boldness and self-confidence and they considered no personal sacrifice too great for the good of their country.
Xxx They had deep faith in the strength of the masses and they planned to achieve swaraj through mass action. They ,therefore, pressed for political work among masses and for direct political action by the masses.”(Pages 192-3)
Nowhere Bipan Chandra used the word terrorist for these nationalist figures, which has been ascribed to him, whether intentionally or by lack of correct information. Since in BJP like parties, reason has no place, so the distortions are rather made at their end to whip up communal passions.
Does BJP knows that first lesson in nationalism to Indians was taught by Karl Marx himself, while writing about 1857, as war of independence, full fifty years before Veer Savarkar wrote it as first war of Independence and has BJP , an iota of respect for Karl Marx for this historical interpretation of 1857, which is called Ghadar by British colonial historians?
So much for the history books, let us now turn Hindi books for facts.
Four or five objections have been raised about Hindi books by NCERT ,prescribed for class XI.One is about the use of unconstitutional words in the stories or poems of prescribed writers. One such word is ‘Bhangi’ used by Prem Chand in his story’Doodh ka Daam’Another such example has been quoted from an eminent Dalit writer Om Prakash Valmiki’s story.Another objection is that why M.F. Hussain’s biographical chapter has been included in the book. Not that something is objectionable in the chapter, but the very name of M.F. Hussain is like red rag to the bull for some sections, though he might be an artist of international recognition. Foreign Universities, colleges or schools might discuss his works, we will not allow his name to be known to our students, this is the approach. One more objection is to the use of certain words in the Sahitya Akademi award winner poet Dhumil’s poem ‘Mochi Ram’ .Yet another objection is to the introduction of Paash, an eminent Panjabi poet, because he is a “Naxalite. ’Even the writer respected by Mahatma Gandhi, Pandey Bechan Sharma Ugar is not spared by this virulent and totally irrational attack.
Earlier also a novel Rangbhoomi by Prem Chand was burnt by Bhartiya Dalit Sahitya Akademi and forced to be withdrawn from course of NCERT, because it has word ‘Chamar’ in the text.
One wonders sometimes the laws made by our law-makers. The spirit behind ban on such word is that in social interaction sometimes, lower classes are subjected to insults and humiliating behavior by upper and powerful classes by using these wo, in this context a ban on use of such words is justified. But in census, in collecting social data, in sociological studies, in creative literature, how can the use of these words be subjected to a blanket ban ?In legal terms also, in matters of reservations, how the castes would not be counted, written and put on record for granting the benefits of reservation or in such contexts. These words would be found in the works of Tagore, Prem Chand or other great writers. Would these writers be subjected to scrutiny, in other words censorship, to remove these words from their texts? Our law makers should ponder over these larger issues.
Paash is one of the major Panjabi poets, whose works are part of syllabuses of all Universities, colleges, teaching Panjabi literature, it is part of UPSC syllabus as well. Paash’s works have been translated into major lndian languages Bengali,Gujrati,Marathi, Telugu, Malyalm , Hindi etc. UGC , in its model course designed during NDA rule has recommended teaching Paash as one major Indian poet. His poetry has been compared to poetry of poets like Neruda. And Paash was murdered at the hands of Khalistani terrorists for confronting them directly through his poetry. A library, in the memory of slain policemen of Haryana, at the hands of Khalistanis, has been named as Paash library, established by Police deptt. itself.Yet our BJP MP can see only a ‘Naxalite’ in him!Paash in one of his poems have referred to’ the critics with red turbans’, had he listened to the interpretation of his poetry in Rajya Sabha, what term he would have coined for such literary critics. Perhaps poets alive will surely find a suitable term for such critics, provided they are not too scared to be jailed for contempt of Parliament! Sahitya Akademi award winner Hindi poet Dhumil already has a word coined for such critics , in one of his other poems, which I myself am too scared to quote here.
The issues in the field of education should be subjected to enlightened debates, based on facts and texts discussed in their proper context. Any out of context quotation from the text books and a narrow and sectarian approach, will harm our younger generations only, which needs to be given most liberal and advanced education. In the words of Jawaharlal Nehru, our youth need scientific temper. True, perhaps our Parliamentarians need it even more!