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Saturday, July 20th, 2024

‘What is the need to teach about riots?’ NCERT director on rewriting Ayodhya dispute in textbooks

New Delhi: The NCERT director has rejected the allegations of saffronisation of school curriculum. he/she said that references to Gujarat riots and demolition of Babri Masjid in school textbooks were revised because teaching about riots can create ‘violent and depressed citizens’. NCERT director Dinesh Prasad Saklani said on Saturday that changes in textbooks are part of annual revision and should not be made a matter of hue and cry. When asked about changes in NCERT textbooks regarding Gujarat riots or demolition of Babri Masjid, Saklani said, ‘Why should we teach about riots in school textbooks? We want to create positive citizens, not violent and depressed people.’
he/she said, ‘Should we teach our students in such a way that they become aggressive, create hatred in society or become victims of hatred? Is this the aim of education? Should we teach such young children about riots… When they grow up, they can learn about it, but why in school textbooks. Let them understand when they grow up what happened and why. The uproar about changes is irrelevant.’

Why is there a commotion?

Saklani’s comments come at a time when new textbooks have hit the market with several deletions and changes. The revised Class 12 political science textbook does not mention the Babri Masjid but refers to it as a ‘three-domed structure’.
It has reduced the Ayodhya section from four to two pages and removed details from the previous version. It instead seems to focus on the Supreme Court verdict, which paved the way for the construction of a Ram temple at the site where the disputed structure stood before it was demolished by kar sevaks in December 1992. The apex court’s verdict was widely accepted in the country. The consecration of the Ram idol at the temple was done by the Prime Minister on January 22 this year.

‘The aim of our education is not to create violent citizens’

Saklani said, “We want to create positive citizens and that is the aim of our textbooks. We cannot put everything in them. The aim of our education is not to create violent and depressed citizens. Hate and violence are not subjects of teaching. These should not be the focus of our textbooks.” he/she said that such a ruckus should not be created over the 1984 riots not being mentioned in the textbooks. The references removed from the textbooks also include the BJP’s ‘rath yatra’ from Somnath in Gujarat to Ayodhya; the role of kar sevaks; communal violence after the demolition of the Babri Masjid; President’s rule in BJP-ruled states; and the BJP’s expression of ‘regret over the events in Ayodhya’. he/she said, “If the Supreme Court has given a verdict in favour of Ram Mandir, Babri Masjid or Ram Janmabhoomi, should it not be included in our textbooks, what is the problem in that? We have included updated things. If we have built a new Parliament, shouldn’t our students know about it. It is our duty to include ancient events and recent events.”

‘I don’t see any saffronisation here’

When asked about the allegations of saffronisation of the syllabus and eventually textbooks, Saklani said, “If something has become irrelevant… it has to be changed. Why should it not be changed. I don’t see any saffronisation here. We teach history to students so that they learn about the facts, not make it a battlefield.” Saklani said, “If we are talking about the Indian knowledge system, how can it be saffronisation? If we are talking about the iron pillar of Mehrauli and saying that Indians were far ahead of any metallurgist, are we wrong? How can it be saffronisation?”

Who is Saklani?

Saklani (61) was the head of the ancient history department at HNB Garhwal University before taking over as NCERT director in 2022. he/she has faced criticism over changes in textbooks, especially those related to historical facts. he/she said, “What is wrong in changing textbooks? Updating textbooks is a global exercise, it is in the interest of education. Reviewing textbooks is an annual exercise. Whatever changes are made are decided by subject and pedagogy experts. I do not interfere in this process… nothing has been imposed from above.” he/she said, “There has been no attempt to saffronise the curriculum, everything is based on facts and evidence.” NCERT is revising the syllabus of school textbooks in line with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.

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