The newly re-structured school curriculum in Rajasthan — which, as reported first by The Sunday Express on May 8, makes only a cursory mention of Jawaharlal Nehru and fails to identify him as India’s first Prime Minister — reflects a strong emphasis on moral education based on “traditional Indian” values through its Social Science, Hindi and English textbooks. Books up to Class 8 have been uploaded on the web site of the Rajasthan Rajya Pathyapustak Mandal; books for Classes 9 and above are expected to be made available ahead of the new academic session that begins in about a fortnight. This is broadly what’s new in the new books.
What has changed?
The previous textbooks were adapted from books on the same subjects by the NCERT; the new ones have been re-structured by the Udaipur-based State Institute of Education Research and Training. They mention Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s monthly Mann Ki Baat radio address and his yoga and Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan projects. They are also packed with tales of saints and religious figures, poems and essays on themes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, success stories of “ancient Indian Science”, chapters on nationalism and local heroes, and even an autobiographical letter from a cow to students of class V.
The one addition that dominates syllabi across subjects, be it Hindi, English or Social Science, is Chittor, or rather the theme of Mewar, incorporating stories and poems about Maharana Pratap. Textbooks of Classes 2 to 8 are full of chapters, poems or exercises on Maharana Pratap and Chittorgarh.
The erstwhile Rajput kingdom of Mewar, with its capital at Chittorgarh, constitutes, along with Udaipur, Bhilwara, Pratapgarh and Rajsamand, the cultural-linguistic region of Mewar in Rajasthan today. Highlighting the Hindu history of Mewar has been an important part of the BJP government’s effort to throw light on the “veer and veerangana” of Rajasthan.
Besides Pratap, two other Mewar stories are featured: one on the famous sacrifice of Mewar ruler Udai Singh’s nurse Panna Dhai, and the other on Mangarh Dham, the Bhil tribal memorial where about 1,500 Bhils were massacred by the British in 1913.
Both the BJP and Congress have tried to appropriate Mangarh Dham to seize the significant tribal vote in the region. The incumbent BJP government held a grand celebration at the site last year, which was attended by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje among other dignitaries.
Pratap over Akbar
Chittorgarh, rather all of Mewar, has been central to the government’s campaign of stoking “local” pride in Rajasthan, with Maharana Pratap as its most visible icon. The push for Pratap has been accompanied by an effort to downplay or discredit the Mughal Emperor Akbar — seen in repeated arguments for rejecting his description as “Great”, which was popular with an older generation of historians. Rajasthan Education Minister Vasudev Devnani, Higher Education Minister Kalicharan Saraf and even union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, have all lamented the alleged ignoring of Maharana Pratap in textbooks in favour of Akbar.
Two of the three kings most commonly cited for their resistance to Muslim rulers — Rana Sanga and Maharana Pratap — were from Mewar; the third, Prithviraj Chauhan, was from Ajmer. The new Social Science textbook says: “Rulers of Mewar posed the most stiff resistance to the Mughals.”
At the meeting of the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha, the RSS’s highest decision making body, in Nagaur earlier this year, a detailed picture gallery highlighting contributions by Maharana Pratap was showcased. The RSS’s hold on Mewar is very strong — IAS officer Ashok Singhvi, accused in a multi-crore bribery scam, had reportedly threatened the late mining baron Sher Khan with fake threats in the Sangh’s name to extract bribes.