NCERT Syllabus: Joshi’s Shastras

The new NCERT syllabus is a brazen reflection of the sectarian agenda of the BJP-led NDA regime and has been announced despite widespread protests against the moves to doctor education in social studies and history

Undeterred by the countrywide criticism on the New Curricuilum Framework for Value Education, a criticism that has pointed out over a whole year of heated debate – that education ministers of states were not consulted before the syllabus was framed (CC, Jan01), that CABE concurrence was not obtained, that Parliament was bypassed – the NCERT went ahead and published it’s new syllabus in late January 02.

Two months earlier, in November 01, textbooks authored by eminent historians, Romila Thapar, R.S. Sharma and Satish Chandra had been subject to the saffron sledgehammer and politically inconvenient paragraphs were summarily deleted.

SAHMAT, one of the organisations that has been at the forefront of the mobilisation against these developments challenged the new syllabus through written analyses proferred by eminent historian Irfan Habib.

The yearlong and countrywide protests have drawn in a wide section of Indian academia and social activists. Within Parliament, a handful of thinking Parliamentarians had launched the cross-party Parliamentary Forum of Education and Culture (see CC, May 01). Khoj –education for a Plural India and Communalism Combat had intitiated a debate on the New Curricular Framework as early as January 01, through a letter addressed by independent Member of Parliament, Shabana Azmi. Azmi’s letter to the chief ministers and education ministers of all states accompanied by a detailed note that explained the implications of the new thrust in education policy, urged them to call for an Education Minister’s Conference.

The movement against these developments received a fillip when SAHMAT organised a national convention against the communalisation of education, drawing in nine education ministers to oppose these developments in the beginning of August 01.

Regardless of the depths of these protests, the NCERT, under hard-liner, union HRD minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, has carried on with the proposal to limit and doctor the vision that drives Indian education especially in the area of social studies. New NCERT textbooks written by persons whose names the NCERT refuses to divulge are also expected out in March this year.

A detailed note prepared by eminent historians was released by SAHMAT in New Delhi on January 31, 02. Stung by the opposition, NCERT’s director J.S. Rajput resorted to mudslinging, questioning the ‘willful misrepresentation’ by SAHMAT, to which the organisation has promptly replied. Meanwhile, in a seemingly unrelated development, SAHMAT was evicted from its small premises at VP Bhavan, a space that it has occupied for over a dozen years.

According to the analysis collated by SAHMAT, there are some Specific Errors, Omissions, Comments on the Content Outline in History-Related ‘Themes’ . These include:

Class VI: People and Society in the Ancient period

  • Vedic culture has been made a part of the Bronze Age along with Harappan and Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Chinese civilisations.
  • Iron Age’s relevance only to the Megalithic culture of Deccan and South India
  • No reference to the early South Indian Kingdoms (Cheras, Cholas,Pandyas) and, more importantly, even to the Satavahanas and Indo-Greeks, Sakas, Kushans, Parthians, etc and their contribution to developments during the period 200 BC–AD 300 supposedly covered by the words ‘Central Asians’.
  • ‘Contributions of India to world civilization’ until before 6th Century BC.
  • Projects activities–Konarak, Lingaraja temple, Nataraja at Chidambaram-nothing to do with the period covered in this course.

Class VII : People and Society in the Medieval Period

  • Cholas and Delhi Sultanate along with some others as small kingdoms-Pallavas whose power ended in the 9th century are here as well as in class VI-Turkish rule and Delhi Sultanate as different entities.-The idea of ‘resistance’ introduced here; No art, culture, etc. for this period ( up to about early 16th century)
  • Mughal empire and rise of small states and assertion of independence clubbed together– ‘Assertion of independence’ by Sikhs, Marathas and Rajputs

Class VIII: People and Society in the Modern period

  • World scenario in the Modern period ends with European conquest of Asia and Africa while Indian developments conclude with independence.
  • American and French Revolutions and German and Italian unification placed after Indian independence.
  • Because the world scenario ends with the 19th century, Russian Revolution, the two world wars, etc. are not a part of ‘People and society in the Modern Period’.
  • The Moderates and Extremists referred as Petitioners and Radicals, ‘division of Bengal’ but no reference to anti-partition movement; 1942 movement-the only mass movement referred to.

Class IX : India in the Twentieth century world

  • The 20th Century world presented here covering the period from colonialism to Peace Treaties ( after World War I),
  • ‘Towards to New World’ comprising, among others, ‘Development of fascism and nazism and ‘World After 1945’ in which ‘use of Atom Bomb’ comes after UN Charter and Cold War.
  • ‘India in the Twentieth Century world’ begins, besides some other topics, with the uprising of 1857.

ClassX : The only history-related topic is ‘ Heritage: Natural and Cultural’.

Classes XI: XII : ( History as an ElectiveSubject)

Semester I : Ancient India

  • Unit 1: The relevance of sub-topics relating to tradition and traditional history here will depend on how they are treated in the textbooks. The notion of ‘Eternal India’ introduced here may be unhistorical obfuscation.
  • Unit 3: On the Harappan civilization refers to its ‘Vedic Connection’ which may be unhistorical.
  • Unit 4: is entitled Vedic Culture. The period which this unit is supposed to cover is not clearly stated though the period third to first Millenium BC is mentioned with reference to ‘Mathematics and Science’. Does the Vedic period begin in the third millenium BC The way some sub-topics are worded e.g. ‘Spiritual and religious traditions of the Vedic India’, ‘India as described in Vedic literature’, ‘The antiquity of Vedas and Vedic people’ and various others is meant to project a mythical view. Is the germination high philosophy (unit 6) post-Vedic and does the spiritual and philosophical thought of ancient India consist of Upanishads, Brahmanas and Sutras only and India’s only contribution to the philosophical thought of the world?
  • Unit 9: refers to Chanakya’s efforts for geographical and political unity as well as to Maurya attempts at political unity of India. In unit 12, Guptas attempts to unite India. No such attempt is attributed to the Sultans and even to the Mughals in the syllabus outline for medieval India.
  • No political unit of the Deccan and South, except the Rashtrakutas .is mentioned—not even the Satavahanas, the Pallavas, the Chalukyas, not to speak of the early Cholas, Cheras and Pandyas.
  • There is no reference to the Varna system in the period before 300 BC. The only reference to caste occurs in unit 11 which deals with ‘Social life as reflected in contemporary literature from 200 BC to 300 AD.
  • Numerous units refer to India’s influence on world civilisation in general and some specific regions but none whatsoever of other cultures’ influences India.

Semester II: Medieval India
The content outline of this period of Indian history reflects the total incompetence and appalling historical ignorance of those who have drafted it and is a reflection on the credentials of the academic body which has published it. The denigration of the Sultanate of Delhi and the Mughal empire is clearly meant to ensure that students do not develop any understanding of the place of this period in the country’s history in the growth of India’s composite culture.

  • The syllabus for the period is organised in the form of three units. Unit II which is entitled ‘ The Rise of Ghaznavis’ begins with the first Turkish (Ghaznavid) invasions and covers the history of the Sultanate which had nothing to do with the Ghaznavis (sic) (who had been supplanted much before the end of the 12th century) and some of its successor states. The period covered, though nowhere stated, may be, for some parts of India, up to the 15th century.
  • This unit is followed by the third and the last unit in medieval Indian history which is, oddly given the title ‘ The political Conditions’. Though again the specific period this unit is supposed to cover is not stated, a number of dynasties that it refers to such as the Cholas, had arisen in the 10th century and most of them had ceased to exist before the disintegration of the Delhi Sultanate.
  • It also perfunctorily refers to the Mughal Empire but, of course, not to the political unification brought about by them. The unit also introduces the concept of ‘ resistance’ in the context of Mughal Empire. There is not even a reference to the Bhakti and Sufi movements or to the birth of Sikhism.
  • There was a reference in the media some months ago to the suspicion that the NCERT is going to more or less do away with the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal empire. The present syllabus tends to confirm that suspicion. 

Archived from Communalism Combat, January-February 2002 Year 8  No. 75-76, Debate



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