ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Whose History Is It Anyway?

This article examines a report currently being considered by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education pertaining to school history books. It unpacks the misplaced bases of comparison used in the report. It also highlights the implications of the recommendations to erase or simplify histories of caste and gender, reducing the discipline to an account of “great men” and a few “great women,” as well as to “cleanse” sections of history to create a polarised notion of the past, locating these within the large-scale changes imminent in education at all levels.

The authors are grateful to Krishn Kumar Upadhyay for several insights and inputs.

History textbooks have been the subject of controversies that are whipped up every now and then. A report, titled “Distortion and Misrepresentation of India’s Past: History Textbooks and Why They Need to Change,” prepared by the Public Policy Research Centre (PPRC) in June 2021 is yet another attempt to do so. Before we consider the “findings” of this report, it might be useful to know some things about the institution—PPRC—that carried out this study.

The most prominent member in the PPRC’s board of directors is Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, a Rajya Sabha member and a national vice president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from 2014–20. President of the premier cultural body, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, he is also the chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children and Youth and Sports. The committee has recently called for suggestions on the subject “Reforms in the Content and Design of School Text Books.” Another member of the board is Nalin Kohli, currently the national spokesperson of the BJP, and formerly convenor of the party’s National Media Cell. While claiming to produce “dispassionate and objectively conducted research” to “reduce the ability of those with vested interests to influence public policy debate,” the organisation mentions that another board member, Sumeet Bhasin has had a “3 decades old” association with the party.

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Updated On : 12th Jul, 2021
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