WITH the new Class VIII Social Science textbook of the Rajasthan government creating a controversy, Education Minister Vasudev Devnani said on Sunday that Jawaharlal Nehru’s name had not been omitted but was “still there on page 91 and page 177”.
While page 91 has a one-line mention of Nehru presenting the objectives resolution in the chapter ‘Our Constitution’, on Page 177, the only reference is of him having “inaugurated” one of the steps on the course to Rajasthan’s unification.
About Nehru’s name missing from the chapter on freedom struggle and as India’s first Prime Minister, Devnani said it shouldn’t matter which chapters mentioned him as long as he was mentioned.
Even as far as the Constitution chapter goes, the mention of Nehru is drastically shorter compared to the older version of the book, which quoted both him and Babasaheb Ambedkar at length on the statute.
Earlier, Devnani had said the government had no role in the new curriculum and the exercise was carried out by the State Institute of Education and Training, an independent body.
Asked about Nehru’s role being reduced to no more than a footnote in the Social Science book, one of the key members of the panel that wrote the new history chapters said this was “inadvertent” and “should be” corrected.
“It depends on what the government decides. If it asks us again, what to do with it now, we will suggest bringing out a supplement to the main textbook,” Professor K S Gupta said.
The textbook, written following a year-long curriculum restructuring exercise, is not yet in the market but was available on the website of the publisher, Rajasthan Rajya Pathyapustak Mandal. After the changes were brought to light by The Sunday Express, the website (rstbraj.in) remained inaccessible all of Sunday.
Professor Gupta, former head of the department of history at Mohanlal Sukhadia University, Udaipur, denied a deliberate move to downplay Nehru. “We received instructions from the government to include certain aspects, but nothing on excluding anything,” he told The Indian Express. “We were instructed to include and highlight content on local heroes, veer and veerangana of Rajasthan, which we did.”
Gupta is the “chief patron” of the Chittor wing of the Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana, an RSS project on history. An expert in Maharana Pratap history, Gupta is also member of several think tanks and organisations related to the Mewar ruler.
Among the changes in the revised textbook is prefixing of the title ‘great’ to Maharana Pratap and Chanakya, instead of Mughal Emperor Akbar.
“There was no deliberate attempt to remove Nehru. The omission must have happened at the level of the committee. In any case, the government has nothing to do with it,” Gupta said.
BJP state president Ashok Parnami refused to comment on the new textbook, saying he needed more time to study it.
However, party Jaipur (rural) president D D Kumawat said there was nothing wrong in the changes as the BJP was only giving recognition “long due to nationalist leaders”. “What is wrong with it? Who was the bigger leader, Sardar Patel or Nehru? If Patel had not brought about unification of India, would Nehru have become Prime Minister?” he said.
“The idea is to promote nationalist leaders like Patel, Bhagat Singh, Maharana Pratap, and it is upon the BJP government to do that. The Congress needs to introspect why it ignored leaders like Patel,” Kumawat said.
“The Congress only minds if someone from their family is affected,” he added.
Congress leaders Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot slammed the changes.
“It is shameful that the BJP government has removed the name of Jawaharlal Nehru, the builder of modern India and the founder of world’s largest democracy. History is witness that governments which attempt to distort history become history themselves,” Gehlot said.
“The RSS-inspired curriculum has also gone silent on Nathuram Godse, who assassinated Gandhiji. But his bullet couldn’t kill Gandhiji, who lives in our collective memory, so much so that even PM Narendra Modi keeps chanting his name,” he said.
Activists led by the PUCL have issued an open letter to Devnani demanding that the curriculum be changed to correct the “grave ommissions”.