New Delhi: “Possible oversight, no ill intention” — National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) director Dinesh Saklani Wednesday denied allegations that certain portions about Mahatma Gandhi were surreptitiously deleted from Class 12 textbooks.
The controversy centres on revised textbooks released for the 2023-24 academic year, which began Monday. The books were released after a syllabus pruning exercise meant to ease the pressure on students in light of the academic upheavals caused by Covid-19, as well as in line with the National Education Policy 2020.
As part of the rationalisation, some parts of the syllabus were removed from NCERT textbooks for Classes 6-12, based on an expert committee’s report that came out in June last year. The changes were subsequently detailed in a class-wise list released by the council online.
However, The Indian Express reported Wednesday that certain changes effected in the textbooks were not mentioned in these lists.
These included portions on Mahatma Gandhi in Class 12 political science and history books — such as the ban on the RSS in the aftermath of his assassination, Gandhi’s pursuit of communal harmony, and a reference to his assassin Nathuram Godse as a “Brahmin from Pune”.
Certain text on the 2002 Gujarat riots has been removed the same way from the Class 11 sociology book.
Speaking to ThePrint, Saklani said the deletions were left out of the list on account of a possible “oversight”, and there was no intention to hide it from the public. He, however, said there is no chance that the council will restore the deletions because they were made on an expert committee’s opinion.
“It is possible that some of the deleted portions in the new books were not mentioned in the rationalisation list, because they were either very minor to mention or there was some oversight while preparing the document,” he added. “We have followed the committee’s recommendations and prepared books accordingly, there was no intention of hiding anything from people.”
Saklani said that “it’s not that we are not teaching students about Gandhi, some portion has been removed, that’s it”.
“What if Nathuram Godse is not being referred to as a Brahmin in the new textbooks? I do not see it important to mention everyone’s caste. We are teaching children about Gandhi, his assassination and about Godse as well.”
He added that the changes made right now are “temporary” because students will be taught from new books from 2024 onwards. “The changes in the books are temporary, there will be new books in 2024 once the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) is released,” he added.
Key deletions from books
A comparison between the new and old versions of the Class 12 political science textbook ‘Politics in India Since Independence’ shows changes in a portion titled ‘Mahatma Gandhi’s sacrifice’, from the chapter “Challenges of nation building”.
A paragraph that reads — “He was particularly disliked by those who wanted Hindus to take revenge… Gandhi’s steadfast pursuit of Hindu-Muslim unity provoked Hindu extremists so much that they made several attempts to assassinate Gandhiji…” – is missing.
So is a portion that reads: “Gandhi’s death had an almost magical effect on the communal situation in India…Organisations like the RSS were banned for sometime and communal politics began to lose its appeal.”
As part of the rationalisation exercise, the NCERT had announced last year the deletion of references to the 2002 Gujarat riots from Class 12 textbooks. However, now the Class 11 sociology textbook is missing their mention too.
In the book ‘Understanding Society’, there is a portion in Chapter 2 — ‘Social change and social order in rural and urban society’ — that mentions “ghettoization” of Hindus and Muslims living in separate spaces. In last year’s book, the portion gives Gujarat riots as an example, saying that during the 2002 Gujarat riots, Hindus and Muslims had started living in ghettos. That portion has been removed from the latest books.
Other key deletions that were also mentioned by NCERT last year include chapters on Mughals, Faiz’s couplets, and portions on gender and caste from textbooks across Class 6 to 12.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)