New Delhi: The so-called renaming of India to ‘Bharat’ for National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) school textbooks was recommended by the focus group set up by the Trust for social sciences, one of 25 groups whose inputs went into the final “National Curriculum Framework”, a blueprint for school syllabi across India.
Kerala is the first state to have plainly rebuffed moves to change textbooks on a whim, especially on a major subject like the name of a country. The state’s education minister, V. Sivankutty, told the media on Thursday, “Citizens have the right to use India or Bharat as said in the constitution. That they are now saying only Bharat should be used as a country’s name is a narrow politics. Kerala cannot accept this.”
He termed it another move by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government to distort historical facts.
“Earlier, after NCERT had removed certain portions, we included them in the syllabus taught in the state through additional textbooks,” he said.
Education was a state subject before being put in the concurrent list, in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. But school education is still an area with considerable say of state governments.
Professor C.I. Issac, head of the sub-committee at NCERT whose recommendation that India be renamed Bharat has stirred up a controversy, while reacting to the fact that NCERT had not included his committee’s recommendations told The Wire, NCERT is nowadays led by “JNU products, who have preconceptions about everything”. He said, “You know the nature of the bureaucracy nowadays.”
Issac added, “The seven-member committee unanimously agreed on it. One member was from NCERT and he did not object either in any of the three or four meetings.”
He expressed surprise that the recommendations did not make their way into the final report. “Our recommendation was not added in the final copy and was submitted to the minister. It is the responsibility of the minister. It is not my responsibility. Minister never called us, never cross verified. Whatever was given, he signed it.”
Ever since the opposition group has been using the acronym INDIA, Modi personally and the BJP have been visibly unsettled and led a controversial campaign to minimise the use of the name of the country. An invitation from the President of India for a dinner during the G-20 introduced the Government of Bharat to the exclusion of India, attracting comments about the deep insecurity INDIA had bred in the ruling party.
Article 1 of the Constitution of India reads, “India, that is Bharat”, with both terms used interchangeably and effortlessly.
Modi had gone to the extent of struggling to rename NDA (adding the phrase ‘Development’, instead of Democratic). He also referred to proscribed groups, the Indian Mujahideen and PFI, trying to make a dubious case that all things with India in their name, weren’t in the interest of India.
“I am not RSS”
Issac has been a member of the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
But he said, “I am not RSS, I am a church going Christian. Who told you I am RSS. I am non-Brahmin. Mine is a 500-year-old Christian family. I have noting to do with RSS. Please don’t bring in RSS. They do not decide these things.”
Issac says the change in name should be taught from Classes 7 to 12. “Up to Class 7, the local body school can decide what name they want to call India by. They can call whatever they want but from Class 7 onwards and up to Class 122, they have to call it Bharat,” he told The Wire over the phone from Sharjah.
“I am doing this in the public interest and the interest of the nation for our future generations. The name India was used for the first time in 1868 when the East India company administration was taken over by the Crown. But the name Bharat has been used for 7,000 years. Kalidasa used it, Tagore used it in the Jana Gana Mana. Till now there has been no controversy. Names keep changing. They changed the name of Bombay to Mumbai, Allahabad to Pragyaraj, only now controversy is starting. I am an academician and I have nothing to do with politics. It was because of my record at ICHR that I was appointed to this committee,” he said.
“Even my ancestors were Hindus. But they converted to Christianity 500 years ago. They had Hindu names but now I have Christian name,” he said.
The proposed change drew a flurry of protests across political parties on Thursday, with members of parliament’s standing committee on education saying they would take this up at the next meeting. CPI(M) Rajya Sabha MP Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya said, “Such recommendations damage Indian unity. This name wasn’t given by the British, it’s a wrong perception and this has already been discussed in the Constituent Assembly. The name Bharat can at best be called a nick name. It arises from one creed, one feudal culture. The name India represents a modern democracy.”
An ex-member had raised the issue of changes being made to the NCERT curriculum en masse and had written to chairman Vivek Thakur and pointed out that history cannot be changed and attempts to do so through the back door must be scrutinised. The member had pointed out that this attempt to change history must stand the test of objectivity and deep scrutiny.
NCERT chief Dinesh Saklani was not available for a comment. Another committee member, Mamata Yadav, who teaches at a school in Haryana, said, “We have given a report as we were asked to give it. We cannot give a comment on what will happen next.”
The committee has consulted “a number of academicians”, Issac said, without specifying any names. “I don’t know what the controversy is. Look at my family. We converted to Christianity but retain our Hindu value system and Christian faith. I have a Hindu name along with my Christian name. It is Raju.”
But Issac pushed back at a mild question of considering ‘going back’ to his own name, Raju, “Why should I do that? In Hinduism we say, sarva deva namaskaram. All gods are equal. No difference between Hindu God and Christian God. That is why I am still retaining my Christian faith.”
The Hindustan Times quoted Karnataka’s deputy chief minister, D.K. Shivakumar, as saying, “Why are we saying the Reserve Bank of India, Indian Administrative Service and Indian Foreign Service? In our passports, we have the Republic of India… Why are they confusing the minds of Indians?… Whatever stand they have taken is completely anti-people, anti-India, and anti-Bharat… I am telling you they (NCERT) have been forced by the NDA government. This is completely wrong… You can’t change the history of India… Karnataka will continue with whatever there was earlier…”
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said that the proposal to replace ‘India’ with ‘Bharat’ in school textbooks is unacceptable and “a continuation of the recent arbitrary exclusion of portions including Mughal history and the banning of the RSS following Gandhi’s assassination” from the curriculum.