Give the Dalits and Adivasis their due in the school textbooks

By V.B.Rawat

After the saffron forces assumed power in Centre and several states, the first casualty was the education system which according their think tank was suffering from the leftist orientation and had a British legacy. That the Indian culture was always being condemned for nothing and we were being informed about secularism is. Most of these =EBintellectual activists=ED harp on the thesis that a Hindu cannot be communal. He is soft spoken, cultured and respect all other religions and ideologies on the earth and that is why the Sangh Parivar today want the Hindus to 'militarise' themselves. Unfortunately, the Sangh Parivar as well as the self-proclaimed seculars who ruled the country for the last fifty years has something in common. One is the nature of their caste- class and the other their economic ideologies.Both harp on the capitalist thesis and both address their problem to upper caste Indians. Therefore, it is imperative for the saffron ideologues to attack the upper-caste seculars of Gandhian and Nehruvian model for denigrating India=EDs cultural legacy and turning towards the west. It is true that these seculars have problem with the textbooks of the Sangh Parivar when the Sangh tried to reduce the texts on Gandhi- Nehru and their variety of people. The seculars could never protest to the Congress and other governments about the misrepresentation meted out to various nationalities and oppressed communities like Dalits and tribals in their textbooks. Certainly, Gandhi and Congress were not alone in the freedom struggle and also those who opposed the 1942 quit India movements had reason to do so. But none of them has ever got any representation in our textbooks. No secular cried over this and many legends have been omitted from the textbooks and many have been denigrated but nothing was ever heard. I cite examples from certain texts from Uttar-Pradesh.

I studied at the Government Schools of Uttar-Pradesh and always felt proud of reciting the couplets of Kabir, who I considered one of the very few genuine seculars that our society has ever produced. Hindi literature minus Kabir and a contemporary Rahim is absolutely naught. In other words it would have remained a complete brahmanic literature had there been no Kabir, Rahim, Premchand, Nagarjun and Rahul Sankrityayan. All of them were great votaries of secularism and social justice even in their personal lives, though most of them had been Brahmin by birth. After years, one day the BJP government and its advisors decided that Kabir and Rahim=EDs should be done away with from the high school textbooks. One is surprised to note that nothing was heard from our secular class against this. Nobody protested as why a legend like Kabir has been removed from our textbooks when there are Sur, Tulasi, Meerabai, Bihari Lal and others.

'Hamare Poorvaj' (our ancestors) informs the students of 6th, 7th and 8th about our great ancestors, which does not have a single Dalit or aadivasi but which include Dadhichi, Sri-Krishna, Rama, Bharat, Dronacharya,Yudhistar, Bhishmpa, Mahavira, Chandra Gupta and Samudra Gupta. The problem with our educators is that they have made a mockery of rationality and have used the mythology as much as possible to confuse the minds of the new young. When Dadhichi, Bhisma, Rama or Krishna who are mythological figures have become the part of our curriculum than why cannot characters from other faiths like Christianity and Islam as both have been as old as they were in Europe and other parts of the world. Then we have Veer Savarkar being projected as a great hero who opposed the caste system,untouchability and partition of India. Then there is Bhagat Singh, who is informed as a hotheaded person who wanted to free India with guns. Nothing is ever mentioned about what Bhagat Singh stood for. He wrote so many things about India and its caste system but that is untouchable for our teachers and educationists.

For the class 8th students in Hamare-Poorvaj, the first character is of Savitri. And how she is portrayed: If there were great, visionary, courageous men our society who were famous all over the world, then the women of India are known for their 'character' and ' Sateetva', which is unparalleled in the world. Even today people bless their daughters to be like Sita or Savitri.' Then there is quotation attributed to Savitri , when her father reject her wish to marry Satyawan, who he knew did not have enough life left. Savitri is adamant and says: " Father, I feel hesitant to speak to you on this issue, but I want to request this in all my humility that I am a Hindu girl. Whatever education I have got on Dharma from you, it is my duty to follow that. You gave me freedom to select a person of my choice and I did that...."

Now where was the need for Savitri to assert that she was a Hindu girl? In the mythological character never uttered the word like ' I am a Hindu'. It is always as I am an Aryan woman or Sanatani woman but the authors with clear communal mind twisted that and made her a Hindu woman. Further the story says that Savitri used to do the household work as Indian women do and in the free time used to pray for her husband=EDs long life. Finally one day when Satyawan died she did not leave his body and went following Yamraj who asked her to ask anything. Savitri requested that her father be blessed with a Son.. Secondly she ask that she be blessed with a son. The rhetoric continue till Satyavan come back to life.

What is this story going to inform the students? That an ideal woman is the one who always work at home, pray for husband=EDs life and pray for a son. In the already narrow and anti women society how can such idiocy=EDs going to benefit the students.

In the same book, Harshvardhan is first described as Buddhist king and later that he was the last Hindu King to have dominated all over India. In the lesson on Shankaracharya, it is informed: Some people say that Shankaracharya opposed Buddhism but it is absolutely wrong. He was a very patient and understanding person. Nowhere it is found in his writings that he opposed Buddhism. The fact was that Buddhism was declining during his days. It was distorted and hence Shankaracharya had to intervene. He was critical of the principle of Buddhism.

The chapter on Meerabai concludes: As long as her husband was alive she used to serve him as an ideal Indian wife. She was an ornament, which every woman should aspire for?

For the 7th standard history book : 'Hamara Itihas aur Nagrik Jeevan' says : In the vaidik days Arya had social unity and there was no caste-based discrimination. There is no talk of Dravidas and Aadivasis the original inhabitants of India.

In the chapter 'Saltnatkaleen Bhartiya Samaj' Sati pratha has been described as following:" to save their honour from the invaders the Rajput women often used to burn themselves live on the pyre of their husbands. Some time women used to jump to the pyre of their husbands which was called Sati." Is this Sati. It is shame that it is being glorified this way in the textbooks. Another important fact is that Mughal attack has always in termed as attack on India. There were so many states, sultanates and India was not a one entity. Certainly, Laxmibai was defending Jhansi as Ranapratap was defending Mewar and not India. But they have become our heroes.

For the 8th class history book: Hamara Itihas aur Nagrik Jeevan has some fantastic stories about rainassain and social reform. We are told that Brahmo Samaj, Prarthana Samaj, Arya Samaj, Rama Krishna Mission,Theosophical society of India were the social reform movements in India. I would like to ask this question: whose social reform did these movements meant for? Again what is the value of these movements for the Dalits and Aadivasis for their uplift. Has any of these people or movement made any efforts for the liberation of oppressed people of India? Why have we left the movements of Ambedkar, Periyar, Jyotiba Phule, Shahuji Maharaj, Sri Narayan Guru. In the same book we are informed by the wise authors (Ofcourse, all wise authors are the Hindu upper caste only), that "a number of attempts were made to abolish the untouchability but their condition remain unchanged. A number of reformers tried to help the untouchables but the biggest was 'Yug Purush' Gandhi. He started calling them Harijans and not as lower castes or Dalits. He opened ashrams for Harijans and work for their uplift. The British tried to separate the Harijans from Hindus but Gandhi from his epic fast on to death foiled that hence in 1932 Poona Pact was signed."

There is a limit to lies. If you cry hundred times that does not become truth. Whether, Gandhi was the biggest social reformer or biggest fundamentalist, this question should be left to judge the effected groups. Hindu upper castes and their educators, dalals have no business to impose Gandhi on Dalits and other oppressed sections of society. Terming separate electorate as a British ploy is to negate the great work done by Dr Ambedkar for the emancipation of Dalits. The books mention Poona Pact but what it was and why was it necessary and why it is the greatest victory of Gandhi as well as who was the person who we should say lost in the entire gamut remains untouched and unexplained. What prevents the educationists to explain what the pact was all about who signed it and on whose behalf? But the fact is Hindu upper caste intellectuals (secular and Hindutva both variety) abhor the very name of Ambedkar and other social reformers who threatened the very basis of Hindu social system. Had the Poona Pact been informed the students in a proper way, the hatred towards Dalits due to reservation would not have been there? The historicity of reservation for Dalits emanates from Poona Pact and unless there is a fair analysis of Poona Pact and its impact, the upper caste hatred and lies will remain unabated on this issue. The students must know why reservation is granted in the constitution. They must be informed about Ambedkar and Periyar's argument on reservation and representations.

The brahmanical lies and insult on dalits continues unabated. The Hindu Upper caste feel great about Mr Gandhi giving Harijan name to Dalits which they hate. Why Harijan name is not given to the Brahmin because they have been liked by the God more than anyone else. It shocks us that the text book explains as why Gandhi called the lower caste as Harijan and not as Dalits and untouchables as the latter are derogatory. What is derogatory and what is honourable should be judged with the understanding of Dalit groups only. Let the Dalits decide.. The government of India itself has issued notification deleting the word Harijan from the official notes as it denigrate the Dalits and hurt them but it is purposely used to convey the feelings that it is after all Gandhi who was the biggest emancipator of Dalit and no body else. In other way, the textbooks also convey the message that it is only the upper castes who can help Dalit come up and not the Dalits and their leaders.

In the next chapter in UP text books under caption ' Second Round Table Conference 1931', the names of Gandhi, Malviya and Sarojini Naidu have mentioned as participants in the conference but Ambedkar's name is missing who was an important and got the Dalits the famous communal award. It is mentioned that Gandhji and Harijan leader signed the Poona Pact and which has been termed as one of the greatest victory of Gandhiji. Was it a greatest victory or greatest fraud committed on Dalits? The educationists do not have shame left in them terming Ambedkar as Harijan Neta, a word which is not only offensive but derogatory also. Moreover, reference to any other upper caste leader would not be as a great Bania leader or a great brahmin leader..

Similarly, another name whose very mention creates hatred for our secular-Hindutvadi educationists is M.A.Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. Let us see how his party is projected in the text books: 'National Movement and Independence': "In the 1937 Assembly elections Congress got majority in 7 states out of 11 and in two states it formed coalition ministry. The result was encouraging for the Congress. The Muslim League wanted to form government with Congress Party which the latter declined hence Jinnah started a vilification campaign saying that the future of Muslims was not safe under Congress..."

Again, this is a clear distortion of history. And remember it is the recent history and not of mythological age. Why can=EDt we put the fact that Muslim League and Congress fought the election jointly on a promise that they would work together but when the congress got the majority at its own they failed to honour the earlier commitment. For Nehru, Muslim League became a communal party who had lost faith of Muslims of India. Is not it a fact that this failure of Congress party to honour its promise later made Jinnah a national figure and Pakistan a reality. Better late than never, and thankfully, we have started looking textbooks after BJP came to power which we should have done much before. As distortion is not a new game. Whether Pandit Nehru or Pandit Vajpayee it is the same savarna Raj. It does not make any distinction. Time has come, when we need to look our text books in a rational way, otherwise how will we create a scientific society, democratic one if we continue to teach the old mythologies in our text books which glorify caste and gender base discrimination. Is not it our duty to inform our students that our past was just not based on these mythologies and illogical things but there were great men and women who fought against such injustice and gave us new rational and radical philosophies? Can't we tell our students that there were people who dare to challenge the status quo and made critical remark about our so-called religious texts? Is not it our national duty to inform our new young that before the casteist brahmin dharma came into being, there was a Lokayat Darshan which did not believe in mysticism and mythologies. Which was rationalist in nature. Why are we afraid of telling our students that Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism were born as revolt against the hierarchical nature of our society. Was not it a fact that had there been no hierarchy in our social system, Islam and Christianity would not have made a remarkable impact on Indian masses despite the Mughal and British rule. Shockingly, our religion become better than other and we try to preach 'every religion is good', while in the heart of our heart right from priest to pastors to Maulvis, all have an agenda to increase their number. Clearly, religious education will create more problems for India in the coming days as Rahul Sankrityayan said : Mazhab hi Sikhata apas main bair rakhna, bhai ko hai sikhata bhai ka khoon karana. ( it is the religion only which teach the people to develop animosity towards each other and kill each other)

If we pretend that we are the only patriots and others are just fundamentalists than how can we develop a healthy respect for each other irrespective our caste and religion. If we cannot have heroes from other communities in our text books as 'Hamare Poorvaj' then the message is clear that only a certain castes and their ' castiest poorvaj' are 'hamre poorvaj' and the reformers and leaders of other communities are villains. It is time for all of us to think over such distortions and protest against it. A country like India cannot afford to ignore the great soul simply because they do not belong to a certain ideology or caste or religion.

Referred by:Ram Kumar
Published on: February 22, 2001
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