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India: Is the BJP changing the school curriculum to promote Hindu nationalism? | Asia | An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW

A controversy has erupted in recent days in the southern state of Karnataka, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), over the revision of school books, with critics blaming the government for trying to promote its Hindu nationalist program through the changes.

The extent of the changes is not yet known, as the books have not been made public.

But the media reports that chapters on social reformers such as Periyar and Narayana Guru; Bhagat Singh, an Indian freedom fighter executed by British authorities in 1931; and other figures have been removed from the program.

It has also been reported that the program will include a speech by KH Hegdewar, the founder of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, a sprawling Hindu nationalist organization with some 5-6 million members.

The RSS, where Modi began his political career, has close ideological and organizational ties to the BJP.

“A matter of great concern”

BJP-ruled states such as Gujarat, Uttarakhand and Haryana have also announced the introduction of the Hindu holy book, Bhagavad Gita, into the school curriculum from the next school year.

“The national education policy will be implemented in the next session. We will include Vedas, Gita, Ramayana and Uttarakhand history in the curriculum after taking suggestions from the public and consulting with academicians,” he said. announced the Minister of Education of Uttarakhand, Dhan Singh Rawat. May.

Education experts, government critics and opposition political parties have sharply criticized the BJP for the proposed changes, arguing that it is an effort to rewrite Indian history in a way that s aligns with the party’s worldview.

“The proposed changes in the textbooks at the state level of Gujarat and Karnataka are of great concern, as it is clearly not academic considerations but the politics of our time that is the deciding factor,” R Mahalakshmi, Professor at Center for Historical Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, DW said.

Since Modi came to power in 2014, right-wing Hindu groups such as the RSS have extended their influence over much of India’s government, particularly over new education policies, BJP opponents say.

Telling the right story?

Last year, a parliamentary education panel chaired by BJP MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe called for changes to school textbooks.

The committee noted that many historical figures and freedom fighters have been portrayed “incorrectly as delinquents” and that this “misrepresentation should be corrected” in history textbooks.

He also suggested that ancient wisdom, knowledge and teachings from ancient Hindu scriptures such as the Vedas should be included in the school curriculum.

“It is not true that we change the program according to our ideological position,” Sahasrabuddhe told DW.

“Did Congress have no policy agenda when it rewrote the agenda to keep tabs on ballot bank politics?” he said, referring to the Indian National Congress, the country’s main opposition party.

“We represent the right story to people and it’s a long overdue project,” he said. “Textbooks play a key role in shaping the mindset of children,” he added, “so it is important to update them from time to time.”

Critics plan protest

Mahalakshmi said it was a “blatant attempt to present an obscurantist and bigoted view” of history.

“The scarecrow of neglected and marginalized stories, events and characters is just one way to insert communal and politically motivated elements into the school curriculum,” she said.

In the state of Karnataka, critics of textbook revisions plan to take to the streets next week in protest.

In an open letter, figures from across the state, including academics and writers, questioned the proposed changes, arguing that such decisions should not be made by political actors but by experts in the field. .

Historian Narayani Gupta said that any revision of textbooks should only be done after thorough research and with the aim of improving the quality of education.

“Changes to curricula or textbooks should be made after notice. Any innovation should be used for at least five years. There should be online forms where individuals can give feedback,” she told DW .

“There is not enough consultation with teachers, no checking of textbooks, too long chapters and no room for imagination. Hurtful feelings are not a valid reason for modifying textbooks”, a- she declared.

Edited by: Srinivas Mazumdaru

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