The case of the new Rajasthan textbooks is yet another chapter in the attempted politicisation of education in India. this is not the first time that changing content in textbooks has created news. The text books in question claim that the lotus is a symbol of Indian culture, even going so far as to say, “Symbolically, the victory of the lotus is the victory of Indian culture over the western world, since the lily and the rose are the western flowers.” The textbooks even take it upon themselves to proselytise about the ill effects of the consumption of meat. Under the subhead of ‘meat consumption and health’, a chapter on the effects of modern lifestyle on health reads, “Due to lack of social values and virtues in modern life, the dietary habits of people are changing and meat consumption causes a lot of harm to the body.” Other than attempting to indoctrinate students with the values of certain hardline Hindutva groups, the textbooks also take liberties with the history of the country. Veer Savarkar has been given pride of place, while relegating Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru to the sidelines of the freedom movement.
While it is understandable that each political party has its own ideology that it would like to propagate, there must be checks and balances in the system to ensure that the facts of history are not changed in school text books with every change of government. To suggest that all historians have thus far conspired to make one party look good or to claim that Gandhi and Nehru had nothing but a negligible role to play in shaping the history of India is to totally distort the facts. To encourage students to believe that consuming meat causes harm to the body is to make several thousand students who come from meat-eating families to feel inferior and under pressure to conform to beliefs that are not even scientifically corroborated.
The solution to this problem of politicising textbooks is to remove government interference in institutions such as education boards, especially in school education. While the arguments of the merits of one political or religious ideology over another are all very well for political parties, our students deserve better than indoctrination that claims that the political symbol of the ruling party is a symbol of “victory” of our culture over others. If at all, our students could do with learning more about other cultures so that they may widen their knowledge base.
This story was first appeared on hindustantimes.com