The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

The Indian government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has decided that the country’s history needs to be rewritten. And its efforts are starting in the classroom.

Recent changes to India’s educational curriculum by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has sparked widespread criticisms. The revisions have been accused of promoting Hindu nationalism, whitewashing the country’s Muslim history, and erasing crucial historical context about caste discrimination and minority communities. The move is seen as a step towards creating a generation of students who lack an understanding of Indian history, social justice, democracy, and diversity.

Critics have pointed out that this is not the first time that Bharatiya Janata Party-led state governments have attempted to revise textbooks. However, the fact that the changes are now being implemented at a national level has raised alarm bells. Scholars warn that the new curriculum will create a distorted view of history, erasing crucial details and contexts that are important for understanding the country’s history.

One of the most concerning aspects of the new curriculum is the deletion of an entire chapter in a 12th-grade history textbook that detailed the Mughal Empire’s rule in India. The Mughal Empire, which ruled over India for over three centuries, played a crucial role in shaping the country’s culture, politics, and economy. By deleting this chapter, the new curriculum erases an important chapter in India’s history and promotes a distorted view of the country’s past.

In addition to omitting details about the Mughal Empire, the new curriculum also slims down or omits chapters on the country’s historic Islamic rulers. This move has been criticized as an attempt to promote a Hindu nationalist narrative that erases the contributions of Muslim rulers and reduces them to mere invaders. The changes also include the pruning of passages that connects Hindu extremism to the murder of Mahatma Gandhi. Critics argue that this move is an attempt to whitewash the role of Hindu nationalists in Gandhi’s murder and promote a distorted view of history that absolves the Hindu nationalist movement of any wrongdoing.

To virtually no one’s surprise, the Bharatiya Janata Party has applauded the changes, with party leaders tweeting that it was a “great decision” and referring to the prior content on India’s Mughal Empire as a “false history.” The move towards revising the curriculum is not unique to India. In the United States, there is an ongoing debate surrounding the teaching of race in schools. Right-wing activists in both countries fear that providing students with the facts as they are, will produce students who are capable of being able to think independently.

Another area of concern for critics is the revision of material related to India’s caste system. The changes to the curriculum have been criticized for glossing over the issue of caste discrimination, an issue that has long plagued India’s society. The textbook revisions are being seen as an attempt to downplay the importance of the issue, which has been a major obstacle to social justice in India. Many scholars and activists argue that the changes to the curriculum are part of a larger attempt by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to rewrite the country’s history and create a homogenous Hindu identity. This has been a central theme of Modi’s political rhetoric, with Modi often speaking of a ‘New India’ that is Hindu and proud of its ancient heritage.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s agenda has been criticized by many as being discriminatory and divisive, and the curriculum revisions are seen as part of this broader strategy. The move has also been criticized by many outside and within India, with human rights groups calling for the government to reverse the changes. Despite this criticism, the government has defended its decision, stating that they are necessary to create a more accurate and truthful representation of India’s history. However, many scholars argue that the changes will ultimately do more harm than good.

As the country continues to grapple with issues of identity and social justice, it remains to be seen what impact the curriculum revisions will have on the next generation of Indians. It is crucial that scholars and educators continue to speak out against attempts to revise history and promote a distorted view of the past. Only by understanding the complexities and nuances of history can we hope to build a better future for all.

Muhammad Imran is a journalist based in Karachi. He has a Master's degree in Journalism from the University of Karachi, Pakistan.