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The recent decision of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) to drop entire chapters from the history textbooks for class 12, as well as from other classes and to delete statements from other textbooks is a matter of deep concern. Using the period of the pandemic-cum-lockdowns to argue that there was a need to lighten the load of the curriculum, the NCERT initiated a contentious process of dropping topics like the history of the Mughal courts, the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, the Emergency, mention of Dalit writers, the Naxalite movement, and the fight for equality from social science, history, and political science textbooks of classes 6 to 12. The new editions of these NCERT books have simply made the deletions the norm even when we are in a post-pandemic context in which school education has limped back to normalcy and is no longer in the online mode.

In this light, it is deeply troubling that a chapter on the Mughals has been deleted from part-II of the history textbook for class 12, while two chapters on modern Indian history have been removed from part-III of the history textbook. There has been no attempt to consult members of the teams that had prepared the textbooks, which included historians and school teachers, apart from members of the NCERT. The books were developed through a process of consultation and wide-ranging discussions. This was valuable not only in terms of content, but also in terms of pedagogy, which ensured an organic unity and a graded development in understanding from the middle to the senior school. The attempt was also to make the textbooks as inclusive as possible, and to provide a sense of the rich diversity of the human past both within the subcontinent and the wider world. As such, removing chapters / sections of chapters is highly problematic not only in terms of depriving learners of valuable content, but also in terms of the pedagogical values required to equip them to meet present and future challenges. While we understand the need for periodic revisions of school textbooks, this can only be done in sync with the consensus of existing historical scholarship. However, the selective deletion in this round of textbook revision reflects the sway of divisive politics over pedagogic concerns.

According to the Director, NCERT, the deletions are part of the rationalisation of the school textbooks, and have been done in order to reduce the burden on students. As per the NCERT, during the pandemic the students faced loss in learning, and in the post-pandemic period the students have been feeling overburdened with the syllabus. According to the NCERT, since some of the chapters were overlapping across subjects and classes, it was rational to reduce the content for the overburdened students. The NCERT authorities have denied any ulterior political motive behind this move of rationalisation.

However, notwithstanding the NCERT Director’s denial, the selective dropping of NCERT book chapters which do not fit into the larger ideological orientation of the present ruling dispensation exposes the non-academic, partisan agenda of the regime in pushing through amendments to school textbooks. This becomes abundantly clear when one critically analyses the removal of selective themes in the textbooks in the backdrop of the present central government’s larger ideological agenda of misconstruing the history of the people of the Indian subcontinent as a product of a hegemonic singular (Hindu) tradition.

Driven by such an agenda, the chapter titled ‘Kings and Chronicles: The Mughal Courts (c. sixteenth-seventeenth centuries) has been deleted from part-II of the history textbook. This is despite the fact that the Mughals ruled several parts of the subcontinent for a substantial period; making the history of these times an inseparable part of the subcontinent’s history. In medieval times, the Mughal empire and the Vijayanagara empire were two of the most important empires in the Indian subcontinent, both of which were discussed in the previous textbooks. In the revised version, while the chapter on the Mughals has been deleted, the chapter on the Vijayanagara Empire has been retained. The exclusion exposes the wider communal undertones, based on an inaccurate assumption about India’s past — that the religion of the rulers was the dominant religion of the times. This leads to the deeply problematic idea of a ‘Hindu’ era, ‘Muslim’ era, etc. These categories are uncritically imposed on what has historically been a very diverse social fabric.

Moreover, two very important chapters have been deleted from part-III on Modern India, namely, ‘Colonial Cities: Urbanisation, Planning and Architecture’ and ‘Understanding Partition: Politics, Memories, Experiences’. Also significant is the deletion of any mention of the role of Hindu extremists in the killing of Gandhi. For example, in the chapter titled ‘Mahatma Gandhi and the Nationalist Movement’ in part-III of the history textbook the reference to Nathuram Godse being “the editor of an extremist Hindu newspaper” has been expunged.

It is important to stress that the present retrograde step by the NCERT to delete entire chapters and portions of texts from the history textbooks is not based on any academic or pedagogic consideration. Rather, the chapters deleted from the history textbook are precisely those which do not fit into the pseudo-historical schema of the ruling dispensation. Excising any period from the study of the past would make students unable to comprehend the connecting thread of the past with the present times, and would deprive students of an opportunity to connect, compare and contrast the past and the present, and would disrupt the organic inter-connectedness of the subject-matter of the discipline. Furthermore, removing entire periods of history from history textbooks would not only perpetuate misconceptions and misunderstandings, but would serve to further the divisive communal and casteist agenda of the ruling elites. The books and history syllabi designed earlier by the NCERT were meant to provide an understanding of the Indian subcontinent as a great melting pot of different cultures consisting of various groups, ethnicities, etc. The sequence of the chapters was designed to teach students about the craft of history, and to develop critical thinking about the past. The composite heritage of the Indian subcontinent and historical genealogies of the present times were the main focus of the old NCERT syllabus from which chapters have now been strategically excised.

Apart from deletions in the history textbook of class 12, there are several deletions from the history textbook of class 11, which includes very essential themes like the industrial revolution, inter alia. There are also deletions from the textbook for political science, which includes sections on the rise of popular movements, the 2002 Gujarat Riots, and the mention of the report of the National Human Rights Commission. Similarly, the reference to the 2002 Gujarat Riots has been dropped from the Class 11 sociology textbook ‘Understanding Society’.

Guided by a divisive and partisan agenda, the NCERT by selectively deleting several important themes from school textbooks is not only doing great disservice to the composite heritage of the Indian subcontinent, but betraying the aspirations of the Indian masses. The colonial constructions and their contemporaneous reproduction manifest the misconstruing of Indian civilization as a product of a hegemonic singular tradition, such that categories like ‘Hindu society’ are uncritically imposed on what has historically been a very diverse social fabric. Ultimately, all these deletions present the students with a sanitized history of a homogenous ‘Hindu’ society in the Indian subcontinent. History of this variety has a disturbing preoccupation with the narrative surrounding kings and the wars they waged. It reduces state formations, empire-building, and transformations of the medieval period to an unsubstantiated, perennial contest between an allegedly homogenous ‘Hindu’ society and ‘Islamic’ invaders and rulers. It also projects the idea of presumably widespread social harmony in India’s past which conceals the exploitation and oppression of populations under different state formations along the axes of gender, caste, and class etc. It also overlooks regional diversity. By reducing the study of history to such monolithic accounts, the ground is being prepared for pseudo-histories, especially of a communal and casteist variety, to hold sway.  In any case, such ‘histories’ are widely circulated today through WhatsApp and other social media applications.

We are appalled by the decision of the NCERT to remove chapters and statements from the history textbooks, and demand that the deletions from the textbooks should be immediately withdrawn. The decision of the NCERT is guided by divisive motives. It is a decision which goes against the constitutional ethos and composite culture of the Indian subcontinent. As such, it must be rescinded at the earliest.

A R KhanRetired Professor, IGNOU
Abhijit RoyJadhavpur University
Abigail McgowanProfessor of History, University of Vermont
Adil Jussanwalla
Aditi KanchanbarasUniversity of Hyderabad
Aditya MukherjeeRetd. Professor, Centre for Historical Studies, JNU
Aisarya Dutt RoyUniversity of Hyderabad
Ajeet KumarAtma Ram Sanatan Dharma College, DU
Akanksha SinghLady Sriram College, DU
Akhila MathewAzim Premji University
Alka SaikiaGargi College, DU
Amita PaliwalJesus & Mary College, DU
Anamitra SarkarSt. Paul’s Cathedral Mission College, Kolkata
Anand ChakrabartiFormer Professor, DU
Anand K. Sahay
Anand Patwardhan
Anil KumarMotilal Nehru College, University of Delhi
Anisha SrivastavaSri Aurobindo College (Eve), University of Delhi
Anita RampalRetd. Professor, Central Institute of Education, DU
Anwesha SenguptaInstitute of Development Studies, Kolkata
Aparna BalachandranDept of History, DU
ApoorvanandDept. of Hindi, DU
Archana OjhaKamala Nehru College
Arnav GogoiUniversity of Delhi
Arunangsha MaityTaki Government College, West Bengal
Asha Hans Sansristi
Ashesh Kumar DharUniversity of Hyderabad
Ashish GhoshRetd. Associate Professor, Dyal Singh College (Evening), University of Delhi
Ashoke Chatterjee
Ashwin PadiZakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi
Asshique Ahmad IqbalKREA University
AtaullahZakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi
Avijit SinghResearch Scholar, DU
Avinash KumarCentre for Equity Studies
Barbara D. MetcalfUniversity of California Davis
Bharati JagannathanMiranda House
Bhim TiwariResearch Scholar, DU
Bhupinder K ChaudhryMaharaja Agrasen College, DU
BiswajitDelhi University
Biswajit MohantyDelhi University
Biswaroop ChatterjeeDurgapur, West Bengal
Brij TankhaRetd. Professor, Department of East Asian Studies, University of Delhi
C. SaratchandUniversity of Delhi
Chairashree Das GuptaCentre for Law and Governance, JNU
Chitran DUniversity of Hyderabad
Christiane BrosiusHeidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies
Christine Marrewa-KarwosiColumbia University
D. ManjitDelhi University
Dane KennedyProfessor Emeritus, George Washington University
David BlameyLondon
David LuddenProfessor of History, New York University
Debashree MukherjeeMESAAS, Columbia University
Debjani SenguptaIP College, Delhi University
Denys LeightonOP Jindal University
Devaki Khanna
Devarpita ManjitDelhi University
Dilip SimeonWriter and former Professor, Ramjas College, DU
Dilshad AhmadComposite school SARVAT
Dinesh Kumar SinghBharati College, Delhi University
Dipta Bhog
Farhat HasanDept. of History, DU
Feroze ChandraRetired
G. ArunimaProfessor, JNU
Geeta AryaLakshmibai College, University of Delhi
Gyan PrakashProfessor, Princeton University
Harbans MukhiaRetd. Professor, Centre for Historical Studies, JNU
Inder Salim
Indu Agnihotri
Irfan HabibHistorian and Professor Emeritus, AMU
Ismail VengasseriLady Sriram College, DU
Jabir P.Dept. of History, University of Hyderabad
Jashobanta PanBerhampur University
Jayanti GuptaKamala Nehru College
Jayati GhoshUniversity of Massachusetts Amherst
Justin MathewHansraj College, DU
K N SunandanAjim Premji University
K. SatchidanandanProfessor
K.I. Tuteja
Kanhad SinhaThe Sanskrit College and University, Kolkata
Karuna Dietrich WielengaAzim Premji University
Kavita SinghRetd. Professor, School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU
Kavita SrivastavaPUCL
Keya DasguptaRetired faculty, CSSSC, Kolkata
Krishnakumar M.V.Newman College, Thodupuzha, Kerala
Kumkum RoyCentre for Historical Studies, JNU
Lakshmi SubramaniamVisiting Professor of History, BITS Pilani, Goa
Latika GuptaUniversity of Delhi
Levin N RBharati College,  Delhi University
Lianboi VaipheiIndraprastha College for Women, University if Delhi
Lianboi VaipheiIndraprastha College for Women, University if Delhi
M H IliasMahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam
M V Shobhana WarrierKamala Nehru College, DU
Madhuri Chatterjee
Madhuri SharmaBharati College,  Delhi University
Madhuri SharmaBharati College,  Delhi University
Malavika KasturiDept. of History, University of Toronto
Manu V. DevadevanIIT-Mandi
Martin SökefeldLudwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Germany
Maya JohnJesus and Mary College, DU
Maya Krishna RaoTheatre artist
Md. Hamid HusainZakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi
Meena BhargavaRetd. Associate Professor, Indraprastha College for Women, DU
Meena Megha MalhotraHistory for Peace – The Seagull Foundations for the Arts
Mohd. BilalResearch Scholar, DU
Monmayee BasuHansraj College, DU
Moushami Bhowmik
Mridula MukherjeeRetd. Professor, Centre for Historical Studies, JNU
Mukul KesavanRetd. Professor, Jamia Millia Islamia
Mukul MangalikRetd. Professor, Ramjas College, DU
Naina DayalSt. Stephen’s College, DU
Nandita NarainDelhi University
Nasir TyabjiJamia Millia Islamia
Nayana DasguptaLady Sriram College, DU
Neeru AilwadiDelhi College for Arts and Commerce, DU
Nishtha SrivastavaShivaji College, University of Delhi
Nitoo DasIPCW, DU
P.K. BasantJamia Millia Islamia
Pankaj JhaLady Sriram College, DU
Partho DattaSchool of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU
Parvin SinclairRetd. Professor, IGNOU
Pia MalikResearch Scholar, Delhi University
Poonam KanwalJanaki Devi Memorial College, DU
Prabhu Prasad MohapatraDepartment of History, University of Delhi
Pradip DattaRetd. Professor, JNU
Pragiti MohapatraIndraprastha College for Women, University if Delhi
Pranab Kanti BasuRetired Professor, Visva-Bharati
Pratyay NathAshoka University
Preeti ChauhanLakshmibai College, University of Delhi
Prem KumarDelhi University
Promukh BhattacharyaDurgapur, West Bengal
Puneet YadavKirori Mal College, University of Delhi
Purwa BharadwajDelhi
Rachna SinghHindu College, DU
Radhika ChadhaMiranda House, DU
Rajesh KumarMotilal Nehru Evening College, DU
Rajinder Arora
Rajni Arora
Rajshree ChandraDU
Rakesh KumarRam Lal Anand College, Du
Ram Murti SharmaCIE
Ramesh Dixit
Ranbir ChakravartiRetd. Professor, Centre of Historical Studies, JNU
Ranjan AnandZakir Husain College (Evening), University of Delhi
Ranjan Ghosh
Rashmi PantDelhi University (retired)
Ratan LalHindu College, DU
Ravi AhujaCentre for Modern Indian Studies of Georg-August-University Göttingen
Renu BalaD U
Renuka DevsareGoethe Institit, Delhi
Reyaz Ahmad
Ritu MenonDelhi
Romila ThaparHistorian and Professor Emerita, JNU
Rudrashish ChakrabortyKirori Mal College, University of Delhi
Ruplekha Khullar
S.K. Ehteshan Uddin AhmadDept. of Law, AMU
S.KrishnaswamyRetired Senior Professor Ex Madurai Kamaraj University
Sabina KazmiDelhi University
Sagnik SahaDoctoral Scholar, University of Hyderabad
Sandhya SharmaVivekanand College, Du
Sangeeta Luthra SharmaSt. Stephen’s College, DU
Sanghamitra Rai VermanJesus & Mary College, DU
Sanjeeb Mukherjeeformerly with University of Calcutta
Sanjukta Naskar
Santanu SenguptaPolba Mahavidyalaya, University of Burdwan
Santosh George
Santoshi KumariDelhi University
Sarika SunderDept. of History, University of Vermont
Saumya GuptaJanaki Devi Memorial College, DU
Sayandeb ChowdhurySchool of Letters, Ambedkar University Delhi
Shabnam HashmiAnhad
Shadab BanuWomen’s College, AMU
Shahana BhattacharyaKirori Mal College, University of Delhi
Shailja MenonAmbedkar University, Delhi
Shantha Sinha
Shatarupa BhattacharyaLady Sriram College, DU
SheoduttUniversity of Delhi
Shikha JhinganAssociate Professor, JNU
Shilpi RajpalUniversity of Copenhagen
Shivaji K. PanikkarDelhi/Vadodara
Shobhana M V WarrierKamala Nehru College, DU
Shobna NijhawanYork University, Toronto
Shreekala MVJNU
Shubhra SinhaKamala Nehru college
Shubhra SinhaKamala Nehru College, DU
Simmi MehtaMata Sundri College for Women, DU
Smita SahgalLady Sriram College, DU
Sneha GangulyJesus and Mary College
Snigdha SinghMiranda House, DU
Sonu VincentJesus and Mary college
Souraj Bhan Bhardwaj
Srabani ChakrabortyCentre for Historical Studies, JNU
Sreekala M VJawaharlal Nehru University
SrimanjiriMiranda House, DU
Subhendu DasguptaRetired faculty, Calcutta University
Subir RanaResearch Scholar, JNU
Suchandra GhoshSchool of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad
Sucheta MahajanProfessor, Centre for Historical Studies, JNU
Suchetna ChattopadhyayDept of History, Jadavpur University
Sufiyan Abdul SatharCalicut
Sujata PatelRetd. Professor, University of Hyderabad
Sujato Bhadra
Sujeet KumarDelhi College for Arts and Commerce, DU
Suparna Puri
Surajit SarkarDelhi
Surbhi VatsaMiranda House
Syed Ali Nadeem RezaviProfessor, Dept. of History, AMU & Secretary, Indian History Congress
Tanu ParasharJesus and Mary College, DU
Tasneem SuhrawardySt. Stephen’s College, DU
Tilottama MukharjeeJadhavpur University
Uma ChakrabartiHistorian, DU
Upinder SinghAshoka University
Urmimala Sarkar MunsiJNU
Vaibhav RamaniAshoka University
VandanaKirori Mal College, University of Delhi
Vani SubramanianDelhi
Victoria PotshangbamKamala Nehru College
Vijaya VenkataramanUniversity of Delhi
Vijaya VenkataramanUniversity of Delhi
Vijjika Pandey SinghARSD college
Vinita MalikKamala Nehru College, DU
Virender SinghResearch Scholar, Panjab University
Yasser ArafatDept of History, DU
Yousuf SaeedJamia Millia Islamia
Dinesh VarshneyMotilal Nehru College (Evening
Jaya S. TyagiDept. of History, DU
Bob van der LindenUniversity of Amsterdam
Yael RiceAmherst College
Mekhola GomesAmherst College

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