Tuesday, December 31, 2002, Chandigarh, India





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‘Saffronisation’ alarms historians
Walkout by BJP-backed forum members
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 30
The 63rd session of Indian History Congress today concluded on the note of caution that society should remain vigilant about the subversive activities of communal forces.

However, in an interesting development, the BJP-backed Delhi Historian Forum today left the venue of the Congress before the business session was to pass a resolution to oppose the saffronisation of education.

In a hard-hitting resolution, the Congress expressed reservations about the NCERT’s new curriculum framework on history for Class VI, Class IX and Class XI. It appears that fears expressed about the intentions of the NCERT were not uncalled for. The resolution added that the Press and people of the country had already expressed fear about the grave departures from not only the secular approach but also the elementary requirements of impartiality while dealing with various religious, linguistic and cultural traditions. The historians also criticised books containing serious mis-representations of facts, selective omissions, imbalances and grossly unhistorical statements.

Many states of the country had already decided not to use the new NCERT books in their schools, owning to their inherent defects and tendentiousness. The Congress also appealed to the state governments that many of their own text books should also be reviewed and errors be corrected.

In a strong indictment of politics of communalism being pursued, the delegates while deliberating upon the emergence of the idea of India in history felt that in the present day context, the idea of unified and a composite nation was being sacrificed at the alter of expedient politics to pursue only one set of ideology.

Prof Satish Chandra, a former Chairman of the UGC and presently secretary general of the society for Indian Ocean Studies, said the past history should be the guiding force for the future historians and history should not be treated as a burden. Expressing his views on giving historic validity to pursue the saffron ideology he said no intellectual society could ever allow legitimising a particular set of thought. Selective omissions in history text books had generated tremendous heat leading to the distortion of historical facts which might lead to the presentation of only one school of thought. He questioned the doctrine of Hinduism and tracing its history to that of Harappan civilisation (beginning in 4600BC). He said he was not sure how the author of such books could identify traces of the Hindu religious beliefs and practices of people of the Harappan civilisation.

Prof Satish Chandra said students of history should be exposed to various interpretation of history and should encourage youngsters into rational thinking. The new concept of manufacturing history as underlined by the new history curriculum was most condemnable and the history congress had expressed its serious concern to distort history at the behest of saffron brigade.

Echoing the sentiments of Prof Satish Chandra, the former Vice-Chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University and renowned historian Dr J.S. Grewal said the number of invaders, including Mughals and the British had imbibed the rich Indian culture. The assimilation of such diverse Islamic and the English influence by the liberal Hindu culture was the hallmark of a great religion like Hinduism. He added that all Mughal kings and the British ruling class had imbibed the Indian culture and had become Indianised in their habits of dress, eating and the mannerism.

Indian plural society had been the most secular and tolerant in the religious beliefs and was not carried away by the religious rhetoric currently in practice by the so-called Hindutva forces to polarise it for political games, added Dr Singh. He said that the twentieth century had been the most violent period which had seen the emergence of fascist forces besides being the most technological advance era the man have ever seen, but history should not be used to create animosity among different communities. It should work as a balance between the past and the present.

Prof Irfan Habib described the tainted interpretation of the rich Indian culture by the Sangh parivar to distort the historical facts.
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