Revised NCERT Textbook Plays down Commentary on Politicians, Bureaucracy

Six years after it dropped several “offensive” cartoons from its Political Science textbooks, the educational council has now further toned down the commentary on Indian politics and politicians in its Class X book.

New Delhi: A series of changes are going to be incorporated in National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) textbooks. The first since 2007, the changes are part of the textbook review, initiated by the NCERT last year.

The changes include emphasis on Indian systems of knowledge, more space for particular national icons and incorporation of new questions and cartoons. While in some places the textbooks have retained earlier cartoons, their captions have been changed to convey new meaning to the lessons.

'Democratic Politics-II', Political Science textbook for Class X.

‘Democratic Politics-II’, Political Science textbook for Class X.

For instance, the revised NCERT Political Science textbook – ‘Democratic Politics-II’, for Class X, has retained a cartoon by Surendra from the Hindu in Chapter 5 titled ‘Popular Struggles and Movements’. However, the caption which shows the bureaucracy hindering implementation of the Right to Information Act, has been changed, a report in the Indian Express said.

The text saying “The Right to Information Act is one of the recent legislations passed by Parliament. Who is shown as obstructing the implementation of the legislation?” has now been changed to – “Many democratic governments provide the Right to Information (RTI) to the citizens. The RTI Act, 2005 is a landmark legislation passed by our Parliament. Under this Act, citizens can seek information from government offices pertaining to different activities. Do you think the cartoon exaggerates the obstructionist role of bureaucracy in the implementation of the Act?”.

Six years after dropping several “offensive” cartoons from its Political Science textbooks, the NCERT has now further toned down the commentary on Indian politics and politicians in its Class X book.

In 2012, Opposition parties had protested the use of political cartoons in NCERT textbooks on the ground that political satire wasn’t suitable for young minds. Back then, the BJP too had accused the UPA-II of including anti-politician content in textbooks. The flak forced the government to set up a committee to review content, headed by former UGC chairman Sukhdeo Thorat, to review content. While the panel had recommended deletion of 20 cartoons, the NCERT, eventually, agreed to drop six from Political Science textbooks for classes IX to XII.

According to the Indian Express, revised NCERT textbooks also emphasise a fresh set of nationalist icons, many of whom, the BJP and right organisations lay claim to, and believe, were deliberately sidelined in the country’s collective memory. Spiritual leaders like Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda, freedom fighters Lala Lajpat Rai and Vallabhbhai Patel, Peshwa and Maratha general Bajirao Ballal, Jat king Suraj Mal, Rajput icon Maharana Pratap and Chhatrapati Shivaji, founder of the Maratha empire, have either been introduced, or now have more space dedicated to them in the new revised version of History textbooks.

‘Bharat and its glorious past’

The NCERT is an autonomous organisation that advises Ministry of Human Resource Development on school education. Sources in the NCERT maintain that all the changes, corrections and additions are based on feedback received by the Council last year. “As you are aware, personalities such as Aurobindo Ghosh and Swami Vivekananda were missing from the History textbooks. We have tried to correct that. We can assure you that all changes made are based on public feedback and suggestions,” said an NCERT source who did not wish to be identified.

At a lecture series organised by IGNOU and Bhartiya Shiksha Mandal in August 2017, HRD minister Prakash Javadekar had mentioned that NCERT would work on giving students a better understanding of Bharat and its “glorious past”.

“It is necessary to know and remember the world but this does not imply that we can forget Bharat. It is necessary to understand the Bharat and its glorious past. We will replicate such courses with NCERT because we think our true identity begins with the identity of our nation. Without knowing it, we will not be able to decipher the truth about the world. We are open to discussions about the value of our past,” Javadekar had said.

Not just the NCERT, but there have been instances of several state governments too that have ‘modifed’ their textbook content to glorify the Modi government.

In 2017, the new social science textbooks of the Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education had added chapters on demonetisation, Make in India, the negative impact of non-vegetarian food on health, reporting of terrorist activities by media channels, the prime minister’s foreign visits, cashless transactions, NITI Aayog, the 16th Lok Sabha elections, Swachh Bharat Mission and the Paris Agreement, among the Modi government’s other initiatives.