Guest post by SAROJINI N.B. and DEEPA V
[A story appeared on 11 July 2015 in some newspapers about the Indian Medial Association demanding deletions from a class VII NCERT textbook. An immediate response appeared in Kafila to some of the issues raised by IMA.
This post, whose authors Sarojini and Deepa were centrally involved in the writing of the textbook in question, here put certain things in perspective. They present this as an initial clarificatory response to the news report. ]
We are writing regarding an article “Docs oppose ‘negative’ portrayal by NCERT” that appeared in the front page of The Hindu on 11 JUly 2015, Delhi edition by Bindu Shajan Perappadan. The article refers to the chapter “Role of the Government in Health” in the NCERT’s social science textbook on Social and Political Life-II for Class VII students. The article reports that the IMA has written to President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Ministries of Health and Education, pointing to the “objectionable description” of private healthcare services. The IMA has also demanded “immediate remedial action” stating in their letter that the “matter should be taken seriously and the NCERT should be directed to delete or re-write this chapter”.
In 2007, several NCERT text books were developed, including the textbook in question Social and Political Life-II for Class VII, through a consultative and contributory process in which many of us were involved. The process led by NCERT was a progressive attempt at reviewing and developing content on a range of subject areas and issues in the country, in order to generate knowledge that is as contemporary and comprehensive as possible, and encourages critical and analytical thinking on the part of students. While the issues were complex, authors / contributors as a group attempted to develop chapters that would reflect an understanding that is rooted in social, economic and political realities, while making them interesting and comprehensible for class VII students. The chapters foreground existing inequalities and discuss the issues around availability and accessibility of health care – including some key characteristics of the private and public health sector. Continue reading IMA, NCERT and Existing Inequalities – Issues Around Availability and Accessibility of Health Care: Sarojini N. B. and Deepa V.
दीनानाथ बत्रा की आलोचना में एक और टिप्पणी पहुँचने से किसी भी सम्पादक को कोफ़्त होगी:आखिर एक ही बात कितनी बार की जाए!लेकिन खुद दीनानाथ बत्रा और उनके ‘शिक्षा बचाओ आंदोलन’ को कभी भी वही एक काम बार-बार करते हुए दुहराव की ऊब और थकान नहीं होती. इसीलिए कुछ वक्त पहले वेंडी डोनिगर की किताब ‘एन अल्टरनेटिव हिस्ट्री ऑफ़ हिंदुइज्म’ के खिलाफ मुकदमा दायर करके और प्रकाशक पर लगातार उसे वापस लेने का दबाव डाल कर ‘आंदोलन’ ने जब पेंगुइन जैसे बड़े प्रकाशक को मजबूर कर दिया कि वह उस किताब की बची प्रतियों की लुगदी कर डाले और भारत में उसे फिर न छापे, तो आपत्ति की आवाजें उठीं लेकिन उसके कुछ वक्त बाद ही जब उन्होंने ‘ओरिएंट ब्लैकस्वान’ को 2004 में छापी गई शेखर बन्द्योपाध्याय की किताब From Plassey to Partition: A History of Modern India पर कानूनी नोटिस भेज दी और उस दबाव में मेघा कुमार की किताब(Communalism and Sexual Violence: Ahmedabad Since 1969) ,कई और किताबों के साथ,रोक ली गई तो कोई प्रतिवाद नहीं सुनाई पड़ा. यानी आखिरकार अभिव्यक्ति की आज़ादी के पैरोकार थक गए लगते हैं. Continue reading दीनानाथ बत्रा और उदार बुद्धिजीवी
These are lonely times for scholarship in India.Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti( SBAS) has claimed yet another scalp in the form of the withdrawal of Wendy Doniger’s book ‘The Hindus:An alternative history’ by its publishers Penguin,India. The author, while ‘angry and disappointed’ by this decision has said that she can understand the plight of her publishers who were fighting a criminal case and not a civil suit. It had serious implications for their physical safety. Fellow scholars and academics are upset and angry that the publishers have caved in.
The question we need to ask ourselves, however is about our own role in this whole affair. There were not too many voices of protest when the same SBAS forced the Calicut University to remove a poem by an unknown poet from an English language textbook alleging that the poet was a ‘terrorist’. Its editors felt compelled to apologize as they were threatened with a probe into their possible involvement in a conspiracy network to jeopardize national security. Continue reading An Ice Age for Indian scholarship
Following the submission of the report by the Committee to Review NCERT Textbooks, we had posted the full text of the Report in Kafila, along with Prof MSS Pandian’s Note of Dissent. The controversy has since continued over the report as well as Pandian’s Note of Dissent, many questioning the very term ‘note of dissent’ on the ground that he had not participated in the proceedings of the Committee. Recently Prof Sukhdeo Thorat, head of the Committee has further put this point of view in print in The Hindu which has been followed by a response by MSS Pandian.
Since we have had a long and lively debate on the matter of the ‘Ambedkar cartoon’ in Kafila and the controversy seems to be continuing now in a different form, we reproduce here the links to the articles by Sukhdeo Thorat and MSS Pandian. In his piece, Sukhdeo Thorat defends the Committee’s work and presents his opinion on Pandian’s non-participation. Pandian responds in his piece raising serious questions about the way the work of the Committee proceeded from its early stages by excluding members. We present the links to these two pieces here so that readers can form their own judgement on the Committee’s work.
With the recent article by Prabhat Patnaik, the controversy over the ‘Ambedkar cartoon’ issue has now moved into a different terrain. In this important statement, Prabhat undertakes the task of pointing out the numerous red herrings that have entered into the debate. These include ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘sense of humour’ and the question of whether Ambedkar had actually seen and let pass this cartoon. Prabhat’s point about the changed sensitivities and increased audibility of the dalit movement today is also well taken.
We must also be thankful to Prabhat for stating his views so candidly over the past few years, on a number of critical issues ranging from Nandigram and the electoral defeat of the Left to the ongoing cartoon controversy. We must thank him because because in my opinion, all his positions on these disparate sets of issues are of a piece and take us to the very heart of the impasse, not merely in the Left but in our politics itself. But before I respond to some of the issues raised by Prabhat, let me restate my positions on some aspects of the ongoing controversy. This is also necessary in order to identify what exactly it is in Prabhat’s piece that is so disturbing.
Dalit Response and Hurt Sentiments
In its initial phases, the cartoon issue was certainly a ‘dalit issue’ – even if it was raised only by a section of the dalit political leadership and intelligentsia. Very soon, however, it became clear that there was a more cynical game being played where the most corrupt and compromised sections of our politicians – especially those in parliament – were using Ambedkar as a shield, in order to deflect the blows that were actually aimed at them. The amazing unity of purpose and determination displayed by the parliament has rarely been seen in recent times; nor has the love for Ambedkar ever been expressed with such vigour.
These circumstances give enough reasons to suspect that the game had already changed by the time it reached the parliament. Not many people may have noticed but it was a Congress MP (an official spokesperson in Madhya Pradesh) who raked up a long dead issue of the book by Arun Shourie (Worshipping False Gods), demanding that it be banned. Continue reading Red Herrings, Red Rags and Red Flags – Once More on the Cartoon Controversy
The current agitation in Kerala demanding withdrawal of the class vii social science textbook has turned murderous. James Augustine, 45, a headmaster of a primary school was killed in an attack by the Indian Union Muslim League youth activists on a training program. And this was done even after the announcement by the Kerala government that it had decided to remove the controversial portion of the textbook. Will this utterly meaningless death of the teacher at their hands stop the agitators in their track? Will we allow warriors of different shades of identity politics a free run? Or, will the sacrifice of a life turn into an occasion for all of us to once again ponder over issues related not only to the politics of textbooks but also the principles on which textbooks in a diverse country like India should be prepared?
It is very easy to see that the allegation on this particular book that it promotes atheism cannot be substantiated as the text in question closes with the response of the parents of Jeevan, who belong to different religious identities that he would be free to choose his religion when he grows up. It only shows that they are very relaxed about his identity and are ready to give him freedom to decide on his identity. Surely the agitating groups are neither sure nor relaxed about their relationship with the members of their denominations. Do they fear that texts like the one dealing with the religious identity of Jeevan can give ideas to children about their right to take decisions in the matters of marriage and identity? Even if we leave this aside, the charge leveled by the opposition that the book is substandard deserves a reasoned discussion. It needs to take into account the role textbooks are expected to play in a country like India, the process of textbook writing, the implication of the federal character of India for school education in general and textbook writing in particular.
Continue reading Textbooks Yet Again
Textbooks are back in news. This time it is the turn of the Social Sciences book for Class x students prepared by the Rajasthan Madhyamik Shiksha Board, Ajmer. One needs to remember that this book results from the decision of the Rajasthan government to reject the new National Curriculum Framework for School Education 2005 evolved by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). All BJP-ruled states had declared that they would prepare their own textbooks as the books prepared by the NCERT were biased according to them. It would be interesting to see, therefore as to how they fight out the bias of the NCERT books in the books prepared by their own objective teams.
This is how the Rajasthan social sciences experts do it. The first chapter of the book seeks to introduce the students to the basics of the Indian Culture: Our culture is known as Arya sanskriti, Bharatiya sanskriti and Hindu sanskriti. Lest there be any confusion in the minds of the readers, the book explains it further: in fact these three nomenclatures are synonyms.
Continue reading Textbook Fascism of the Hindu Kind?