NEW DELHI — Academics are outraged by the recent removal of passages alluding to the Mughal Empire from Indian schoolbooks, fearing that the action attempts to erase from memory the vital role Muslims have played in India’s history.
The new history and politics textbooks were released in early April, following the National Council of Educational Research and Training’s decision last year to reduce the workload for students in the over 20,000 public and private schools it oversees across the country.
The revisions include the removal of text about the Mughal dynasty, which controlled the subcontinent from the 16th to the 19th centuries, heralding the global renaissance of Islamic civilization.
They also ignore the 2002 Gujarat riots, which killed hundreds of Muslims during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure, and disassociate Hindu fanaticism from the killing of India’s most famous independence leader, Mahatma Gandhi.
The Indian History Congress, South Asia’s largest historians’ organization with over 35,000 members, condemned the amendments earlier this week, claiming they brought a “plainly prejudiced and irrational perception” of India’s past.
“It is an attempt to tailor history to the wishes of the Hindu majoritarian agenda,” the congress’ secretary, Prof. Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi, told Arab News.
Farhat Hasan, a professor of medieval and early modern South Asian history at the University of Delhi, described the textbook modification as an attempt “to obliterate the cultural memory of the Mughals.”
Since Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party took office in 2014, a drive to change the names of streets and cities of Mughal origin has been underway.
“The effort is to rewrite the history of India,” Hasan said, adding that it would weaken the country’s syncretic character, in which Hindus, Muslims, and people of other religions have all played important roles.
“The Mughal heritage is vast and has shaped our culture in ways we do not recognize today.” The Mughals had a significant impact on our music, dancing, architecture, culinary tastes, and literature. “They shaped South Asia’s political culture for more than four centuries,” Hasan remarked.
Aditya Mukherjee, a professor of contemporary Indian history at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, called the textbook alteration a “dangerous trend” and a “attempt to erase the names of Muslims, erase their achievements, demonize and ghettoize them.”
Hindu-majority India boasts the world’s largest Muslim-minority population, with approximately 200 million Muslims. As Muslim successes are questioned, tragic chapters of Indian history involving the Hindu majority are being sanitized.
“They are attempting to conceal the role of Hindu fanatics and communalists.” “They are concealing the links between the RSS (right-wing paramilitary group) and other Hindu fanatical organizations and Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin,” Mukherjee stated.
“This is very dangerous for a multi-religious country like ours.”
Dr. Archana Ojha, associate professor of history at Jawaharlal Nehru University, warned that the method used to abridge textbooks is unscientific, and the harm done in the process will influence the younger generation.
“History is the narration and critical analysis of past events based on scientific evidence.” “History is revised when new sources are analyzed, evaluated, and corroborated by scholars,” she explained.
“History’s deletions will only leave glaring gaps that students will struggle to understand.” We must speak out, reason with those in power, make rational voices known in public, and educate the masses before more damage is done.”