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Textbook changes overdue in India-Pak
Teaching mutual Hate

As Pak purges history textbooks of anti-India bias, Murli Manohar Joshi's ministry saffronises textbooks to produce bigots, writes Danish A Khan

Burning each other’s flags is a regular 
past-time in the Subcontinent: 
wages of teaching mutual hate

In a major reversal of its policy regarding India, Pakistan government has ordered the revision of its school textbooks on history. The Pakistani government’s stance on the issue would enable it to bring out the “truth” behind events like 1965 and 1971 wars with India.

A prominent Pakistani newspaper The News daily quoted the Federal Education Minister Zubaida Jalal as saying that the time had come when school children in the country should know the truth, whether pleasant or unpleasant.

Ms Jalal said, “Now many things have changed. We are revising the books of history from class sixth onwards. We should not hide the truth from our children, whether it is good or bad. If we don’t tell them the truth about the 1965 war or the 1971 tragedy, and if they find it out themselves, they would feel betrayed. They will accuse us, and even their parents, of telling them a lie.”

Ms Jalal, however, refused to go into details when it was pointed out that school textbooks preached hatred against India and Hindus. She said, “I would not go to the extent of saying that. Yes, there are lots of such things. The whole curriculum had not been revised since 1984.”

In Pakistan, school textbooks are full of “hatred and bias” towards India and Hindus. On the other hand, school textbooks on history in India do not whip up anti-Pakistan sentiments. However, there are evidences of history textbooks to abjectly negating the contributions of Muslims to building modern India or even their participation in the country’s freedom struggle.

Dr Tariq Rahman, noted Pakistani educationist and newspaper columnist, admitted that the textbooks in the country had been written in violation of the principle propounded by founder of the nation, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, when he announced on August 14, 1947, that the state would not distinguish between citizens on the basis of their religion or sect. “It is a fact that the textbooks cannot mention Hindus without calling them ‘cunning’, ‘scheming’, ‘deceptive’ or something equally insulting,” he said. Pakistan has a sizeable minority population including Hindus, Christians and Parsis.

Pointing out the animosity which Pakistani historians have shown towards India, Dr. Rahman said that all wars which his country fought with India had been projected in a one-sided manner. Facts have either been twisted or not at all revealed. Citing an example, he said that the fact that armed fighters were sent across the Line of Control in 1965 and in Kargil in 1999 are glossed over. Unfortunately, the students are not allowed to learn or understand that the previous policies of the rulers were wrong and had so far done the nation no good. On the contrary, the students are taught and made-to-believe that the country needs strong and aggressive policies against India or else Pakistan would be annihilated by it without any reason whatsoever.

History, in Pakistan, is taught through “Pakistan Studies.” Studying the course is compulsory both in school and college. The facts have been projected in a manner that it would puzzle anyone. As such, history begins from Harappa and Mohenjodaro and then moves on straight to the “Islamic conquest” of Sindh. The intervening “Buddhist” and “Hindu” periods are treated as pitiable voids or unpleasant aberrations. In any case, this is not doing justice either to the country or its citizens.

“To distort history giving the impression that we have no connection with the Gandhara civilisation and that our history began with Mohammad bin Qasim is doing a disservice to our future generations. Our students would be shocked if they find a genuine scholar telling them that most of what they have read is not just biased but entirely untrue. The contempt we have for all state institutions--TV, radio, courts etc-- extends to the educational system. This surely is not the way to build pride in our identity which all governments aspire for. If the old lessons glorifying war and giving it a religious colour continue to be taught, it would only prove to be detrimental,” said Dr Rahman.

On this side of Wagah
In India, however, teachings and preaching are taking a somewhat different route. It is true that the school textbooks do not teach anything against neighbouring countries, be it Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or Nepal. But, Muslims, being the largest ethnic community, are the favourites for constant lashing by Hindutva votaries. The contributions of Muslims have sought to be negated on all counts, and their history distorted.

The recent riots in Gujarat exposed the deep abhorrence of the majority Hindus against Muslims. The statement of Saurabh Patwa, a daily wage worker in a factory in Gujarat, is enough to indicate the goings-on among Hindus. Patwa said, “The Muslims disturb the equilibrium of society. The loser is the Hindu community after every riot. Muslims have all sorts of weapons AK-47 rifles, rocket launchers... . Some people say Pakistan has given them 400 crore rupees to fight and resist.”

Not only this, to add more insult to the injury, history is being distorted and young, impressionable minds are being fed on preposterous “facts,” which have found their way into school textbooks. Attempts have been made to rewrite history along communal lines. Today, the revised textbooks form an integral part of the curriculum in more than 20,000 Vidya Bharati schools and Shishu Mandirs run by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The textbooks have also been included into the government school curricula in the states being governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

According to this school of historiography, the famed Taj Mahal is described as a Hindu temple, Qutub Minar having been constructed by Hindu king Samundragupta and its original name being Vushnu Sthambha (p. 73, Gaurav Gatha). Child marriage, jauhar, sati, purdah, jadu-tona and superstition were all due to the fear of the Muslims (p. 284 High School Itihaas Bhaag 1). The absurd notion of the present RSS chief KS Sudarshan expressed during one of his annual Vijayadashami address that one Talpade test-flew an airplane in India even before the Wright Brothers did is an example of how this group sees facts of history.

Much to the chagrin of academics, Muslims and Islam have been presented in school textbooks in the most atrocious and humiliating manner.

Let us take some of the glaring distortions into account like Islam spread in India solely by way of the sword. The Muslims came to India “with the sword in one hand and the Qoran in the other”..“Numberless Hindus were forcibly converted to Islam on the point of the sword. This struggle for freedom became a religious war. Numerous sacrifices were made in the name of religion. We went on winning one battle after another. We did not let the foreign rulers settle down to rule, but we were not able to reconvert the separated brothers to Hinduism (Itihaas Gaa Raha Hai).” 

Arabs (barbarians) came to convert people to their religion. Wherever they went, they had a sword in their hand. Their army went like a storm in all the four directions. Any country that came in their way was destroyed. Houses of prayers and universities were destroyed. Mothers and sisters were humiliated. Mercy and justice were unknown to them (p. 52-53 Gaurav Gatha).” 

Muhammad Ghori killed lakhs of people, Visvanath Temple and Bhagwan Krishna’s birth place were converted into mosques. In turn he was killed by Prithviraj Chauhan (p. 67-68, Gaurav Gatha). Due to the circumstances, it (Islam) gradually assumed the form of a military religion (sainik dharma) and with the force of arms, with a lightening speed it advanced and became an international religion (p. 184, High School Itihaas Bhaag 1). The followers of Islam in this country whether they came as traders or as invaders could never establish full cultural harmony. 

One basic reason for this was the basic principle of their religion which is monotheism...there was continous mutual struggle between the two cultures (p. 280, High School Itihaas Bhaag 1). Lakhs of foreigners came during these thousands of years...but they all suffered humiliating defeat.... There were some whom we digested...when we were disunited, we failed to recognise who were our own and who were foreigners, then we were not able to digest them. We were not able to reconvert even those who for some compulsion had separated from us. Mughals, Pathans and Christians are today some of these people (Itihaas Ga Raha Hai for Class 5 in Shishu Mandir schools).” 

May be for the first time, Pakistan government has taken a bold step. If this ever happens, admittedly, the thaw in Indo-Pak relations would become even more discernible. And, this would be no mean an achievement given the present state of relations between the two countries. But, will the Hindutva soldiers take lessons from Pakistan, make amends, and stop distorting the history at least for the sake of the ‘matribhumi (motherland), that is India.’ Or, for the sake of coming generations.

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