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Textbooks today are aimed at creating “activists” and not educating students, and subjects such as Hindu-Muslim riots and caste-based conflicts should not be part of school curriculum, according to newly appointed ICSSR Chief Braj Bihari Kumar. Kumar, an anthropologist who took over as the head of the apex body promoting research in social sciences last month, also believes that universities like JNU are becoming a “nurturing ground” for activists.
The 76-year-old Kumar also believes that caste-based conflicts and intolerance in the country are “fringe” phenomena and should not be seen as a reflection of the Indian society. “Textbooks are not meant for making students activists but for educating them. Unfortunately the books are driven by an agenda today and there is a need for a curriculum re-haul. Subjects like Hindu-Muslim riots and caste-based conflicts should not form basis of students’ mindset and their grooming,” Kumar said.
“Textbooks are in bad shape today. I had found a map in a social science textbook which was showing Jammu and Kashmir out of India, there was another one not showing north east area as part of the country. There are several lapses in our textbooks,” he added. Kumar, who used to used to edit a journal, Dialogue, before he joined the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), had also written in an editorial in 2016 that “NCERT textbooks are driven by political agenda and are partly responsible for the increasing social conflicts and anarchical trends in society”.
“I had also written two letters to former HRD minister Smriti Irani pointing out the issue but I did not get any response,” he said. Kumar lashed out at “JNU-like universities”, claiming, “If you are part of society and you are not ideologically driven, several persons from a single family are massacred in Chhattisgarh and there is jubilation in JNU and a march in praise of the killers, much cannot be said about the kind of varsity that is.”
Kumar claimed they project themselves to be one of the best universities but “they can’t claim excellence when they are hurting nationality’s sentiments and becoming a nurturing ground for activists and not a place for education. Taxpayers do not pay money for activist-making”. Kumar further said that “caste-based conflicts” and “intolerance” should not be seen as reflection of Indian society.
“Caste-based conflicts, untouchability and intolerance are all fringe phenomena. They should not be treated as general phenomena and reflection of Indian society,” he said. The ICSSR was established in 1969 by the central government to promote research in social sciences. It gives grants to institutions and scholars, and reviews the progress of social science research.