Akbar the Great who? – Did BJP just eliminate the Mughals from their textbooks to promote its Hindutva ideology?

Published: August 11, 2017
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A concerted attempt was made to exclude freedom fighters and other historical figures belonging to religious minorities in history textbooks. PHOTO: THEWIRE

The Express Tribune and Indian media reported earlier this week on the extensive changes made to history textbooks for grade seven and 11 by the state government in Maharashtra.

As has been the case since it first came to power in 1998, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) remains committed to a saffron revisioning of history. One of the first things the BJP did on assuming power 19 years ago was to form a National Curriculum Framework which started to revise school syllabi in 2000.

The primary changes made in school curricula were those emphasising the Hindutva ideology. A concerted attempt was made to exclude freedom fighters and other historical figures belonging to religious minorities in history textbooks. Even scientific advancements were linked to ancient Hindu teachings to the extent that many scientists and scholars raised an outcry at the horrendously false claims being made.

The motivation for this is not hard to understand considering the unabashedly communal politics of the BJP and its allies. To cultivate a zealous religiously-themed nationalism among the populace, one must create an appropriate historic context.

One cannot be taught too much about elements of one’s heritage that diverge from the nationalist ethos. This is similar of course to how many in Pakistan would have us believe that our history in the subcontinent began with the arrival of Muhammad Bin Qasim. We must not be allowed to take too much pride in our rich heritage extending from the Indus Valley civilisation through the Maurya and Gupta Empires to the Mughals and the British. Whither will the state brand of Muslim nationalism be if we were to imagine ourselves the inheritors of all that diversity?

But back to the BJP and its latest attempt at rewriting history.

Come to think of it, in this case, the BJP-Shiv Sena government of Maharashtra is literally doing just that – rewriting history. The state educational board has released the new revised history textbooks for grade seven and 11. Take a minute to examine the cover of the brand new grade seven textbook and make sure you don’t miss those saffron banners all over the Indian map, including a certain region in the Northwest.

Cover of the Class VII history textbook. Photo: The Wire

According to Indian media reports (and there has been plenty of indignation in India over these revisions), sweeping changes have been made to the history curriculum of all three grades in question.

The Mughal Empire has been condensed to a small portion of one chapter where previously they had been the main content of three chapters. The Emperor Akbar, to whom almost an entire chapter was dedicated till last year, finds himself relegated to three lines.

The Taj Mahal, the Red Fort and the Qutub Minar are all excluded from the historical architecture mentioned in the textbooks. The entire Delhi Sultanate, including the Tughlaqs and Razia Sultana, have been dismissed from Maharashtran history.  Sher Shah Suri and the Sur Empire he founded have also vanished without a trace.

Unsurprisingly, Shivaji Bhonsle and the Maratha Empire have become the centrepiece of Maharashtra’s history and heritage in these textbooks. According to a note for teachers prefacing the textbooks,

“The special feature of this presentation is that it focuses on Maharashtra. Even though our state is part of the Republic of India, if we study history from the perspective of Maharashtra, we will understand the position, role and contribution of Maharashtra in the history of India, and the students will develop a more mature national feeling.”

One would hope Indian intellectuals are not convinced by this pathetic rationalisation of what is essentially a perverse attempt to push Hindu nationalism using the educational system.

It is now obvious what the intentions of the BJP-RSS-Shiv Sena vanguard are. I assume the people of India have learnt many a lessons from the disasters that Pakistan has endured due to its leadership’s embrace of religiously themed ultra­-­nationalism. I am confident our brethren across the border know what price its neighbour has paid for replacing heterogeneity with an artifice of moral and cultural consonance.

The people of India would do well to push back against this growing tide of Hindutva ideologies before it does irreparable damage to the magnificent and one of a kind kaleidoscope that is India.

Khusro Tariq

Khusro Tariq

The author is a Pakistani-American Psychiatrist currently pursuing training in Jungian psychoanalysis. He blogs on Huffington Post on matters of psychology, faith, politics and poetry. He tweets as @KhusroKhwaja (twitter.com/khusrokhwaja)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Yogi Berra

    Modi’s India has become mirror image of today’s Pakistan.
    The formula Modi is using to win votes is to stoke anti Pakistani and anti Muslim feelings that are growing in India since Mumbai attack in 2007. The reality is as long as Kashmir sees violence Modi’s star will ascend. There is no stopping him now.Recommend

  • addo

    BJP is learning from Pakistan how to revise history. Pakistan should be proud.Recommend

  • Kulbhushan Yadav

    Those history books are about Maharashtra History which has nothing much to do with Delhi Sultanate. Why Akbar should be part of it??Recommend

  • gudgavarn

    Hindu identity is created locally today whereas muslim identity comes from arab tribalism of the 7th century.
    Hence don’t compare India of Modi with the Pakistan of the bootlickers of arabs.
    Pakistan is a quisling state of arab imperialism. Modi’s India is self-respecting-rising.
    This article is just a pakistani mental problem.Recommend

  • Parvez

    I wonder if you’ve read KK Aziz’s The Murder of History ( in Pakistan ) ……. ?Recommend

  • Ahmar

    Shouldn’t we look at our own history books before we talk about what one state within India is doing? The history of Pakistan starts with Muhammad Bin Qasim’s invasion of Sind. Did nothing exist here before MBQ came along?

    Maurya, Kushan and Gupta. Three of the biggest ancient empires in terms of population. Not even a line about them in our textbooks?Recommend

  • Sudhanshu Swami

    Indian History is huge. It may not be practical to teach each and everything to young kids. We should set priority as per Indian-ness of rulers, like Great Ashok, Maurya, Gupt, Maratha, Rajput, Sikh, Jat, Chalukya, Chola,Pallava,Vijayanagara etc As well as Mughal (basically Uzbek earlier from Mongolia), then some can find some place like Ghauri, Abdali, Ghaznavi etc who invaded and briefly ruled parts of North west India (present day Pakistan), these can be be included as reference purposes. We shouldnt compare with Pakistan because Pakistan is a new country, basically dont have any cultural history. No one from their own ruled them. As Pakistan is Islamic county they ought to include and glorify anyone who was Muslim (whether invader or looter or good king) . Instead it should be suggested that Pakistan should more focus on post 1947 history, which will be real and their own history.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    Nothing wrong in teaching children about Indian HeroesRecommend

  • wb

    Think about it. What are we to teach our young children about Mughals and Turks? 1) They were invaders who waged wars on Indian kings? 2) Murdered Hindus and raped Hindu women by taking them as sex slaves? 3) Destroyed Hindu temples and built mosques? 4) Lived in luxury while their people suffered, Hindu were given a second class status? 5) Forcefully converted Million and killed an estimated 100 million Hindus? 6) All Mughal and Turk rulers were barbarians with the exception of Akbar. But Akbar was not a Muslim since he started his own religion called Deen-i-Lahi. 7) Only contribution of Mughals were death destruction and misery to the Hindus?

    So, better not teach about the Mughals. Children can learn about these villains in higher education.Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    History books were previously written by scholars aligned to the left and congress party. They white washed to atrocities of such rulers like Mughals, Khiljis, Temur, etc. They were humanized from the monsters they were. Modi is changing the narrative and shoeing them in their proper light.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Natives all over the world need to promote history of their own real ancestors. If marauding individuals are given space in their history books at the expense of their own real ancestors, then you will get utterly confused.

    While teaching about Shivaji the great, following need to be emphasized:
    1. From his father side, two generation back they were land less farm hand. His mother was princess of YadavGiri.
    2. He was visionary. He knew how alien invaders and enslavers conquer and mis-rule over India. So he tried to end giving Watan or land titles. Alien invaders created native proxies who will work for their interests.
    3. His policy of not hurting the farmers and non-combatant during his campaigns helped in creating good will even in enemy territory. His own people were so loyal that even when Aurangzeb came with army more than the western Maharashtra’s male population of age group 16 to 40, and when Shivaji was no more, Aurangzeb lost the war of 27 years and with it his empire was reduced to Dilli city.
    4. If Shivaji the great had not happened then you would not see India as it is. Even in 1857, it was Marathas mainly fought British. India’s fate would not be different from Iraq and Afghanistan. Even Guru Govind Singh Ji took refuge in Maratha land. He found Banda Bahadur, a Yogi near Paithan.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Akbar was alien marauder. I respect his progeny Sultana who is making an honest living and would like to forget Mughals as bad nightmare http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2424410/The-Mughal-emperor-ancestor-Sultana-Begum-forced-live-slum-washes-street-struggles-feed-children.htmlRecommend

  • Salim Alvi

    In Modi Indians see a hard working, almost Dalit whose father toiled on small train station selling tea and mother as maid in others home. Hats off to RSS for nurturing such a honest and self sacrificing leader. Indian students need to get education of character building which RSS imparted on Shriyut Narendra Modi. Hope he serves Mother India as PM for next 25 years at least.Recommend

  • Sudhanshu Swami

    I wonders me that why Abdali etc are heroes of Pakistan. Just because they were Muslims ? I think that Pakistan should glorify their post 1947 history, instead of glorifying Invaders and looters.Recommend

  • Sudhanshu Swami

    Maharashtra should have bigger chapter on Maratha, Rajasthan on Rajputs, Punjab on Sikhs, Gujrat on Gurjars etc, What is wrong with that ! Other than that its fact that Marathas were ruling most of India when Britishers came. Mughals were Mangolians came from Uzbekistan and had special attachment to Afghanistan. There was no Indian ism in them. Neither culture, nor dress, nor language, nor script, nor religion. They ruled India thats ok, Like Britishers too ruled, Britishers were having much bigger empire than Mughals, but they are not Indian heros, why there is so much expectations from Indians that we should have long chapters about invaders, in kids books. They are part of history, and should have mention in history books of specialization level courses.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Dara Shikhoh was good, Akbar was illiterate. Culture of bribes/Nazarana is Akbar’s gift. Sonia also keeps in her durbar few erudite natives who are ready to cut their roots and become Arabized/Turkified/Persianized/Anglicized like Money Shikhar AiyYar and chikna Tharoor who indulge in meaningless Shero Shayari in alien tongue. Stop the jizia on natives and corruption then whole edifice crumbles. Root cause of corruption is this non-belongingness of people with power. Present democracy in the subcontinent is soft-Mughlai. In Mughlai, natives could not protect their property, women. Even Shivaji, the great’s close relative married woman was kidnapped by Muslims and then no one heard of her. Shivaji, the great heard this in whispers from his mother. Most natives hide such atrocities. They need to be part of history so Mother India produces men of character and self sacrifice like Shivaji the great, Guru Govind Singh Ji, Santaji & Dhanaji, Banda Bahaddurs… 99% of the subcontinental Muslims have ancestors who converted under duress. These folks dont want to cut their roots. There need to be social movement to make them own native roots. We have been bad in keeping records, mainly because we want to forget the atrocities committed on us because we fear that will lead to deppression and sorrow, but the alternative is worst … you are seeing it in AfPak… Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Indeed who is Akbar, heard of MJ Akbar in akhbar, originally a Kayasth whose ancestor converted to get land title in East Bangal and whose father went back to East Pakistan to get more land from fleeing Hindus in 1947, sold all property in 54 and came back to Kolkata. When asked on NPR in the daily program Fresh Air few days after 9/11, Akbar told that his father felt claustrophobic with so many Muslims in East Pakistan. He hid his father’s chicanery. Such stories need to be part of history so that we can get to how human consciousness gets corrupted at a great loss to humanity. Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    ET while editing the comments take care of English grammar. I know English is really bad language, esp its grammar, but make sure that meaning is not lost. Please do not filter out Muslim word .. when u do that sentences dont make sense.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Akbar was Muslim in culture. his progeny practiced this tradition http://www.thefridaytimes.com/tft/a-mughal-tragedy/ Recommend

  • Gratgy

    Muslims never ruled my state, why should I read about them. By historical standards (i.e. time taken to reach by horseback) Delhi was a distant place, as far as I am concerned. I would rather read about the history of my ancestors not the history of a distant empireRecommend

  • ab

    Muslims were the masters over hindus for 1000 years that’s the truth they don’t want to hear.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    If India had not woken up in 2014, then VII standard history books would have had chapter on Sonia the great and kids would be writing essays on Sonia, the great’s Nauratan – 1 MacMoun Surrender Singh, 2 Tharoor Chikna, 3 2G Raja, 4 Diggi Raja Asheek, 5 Shahzada Raul Vinci, 6 Radia Londonabadi, 7 Mallya Daroowala….Recommend

  • Parvez

    Just a thought …have you read The Murder of History ( in Pakistan ) by K K Aziz ?Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Modi’s India is full of hope where the lowest of low by birth becomes the President of the country, a son of mere maid servant & tea seller on dissolute train station becomes the Prime Minister and a self sacrificing village boy monk with MSc Maths education becomes Chief Minister of the largest state. India is finally in good hands and is free confident nation who stands up for even tiny neighbor’s well being and not just her own citizens.Recommend

  • LS

    Why should India promote occupier’s history and forget about their own history? Yes the barbarians and marauders came and a reference is there that they came, looted, raped, converted but what is the need to glorify it? We are NOT changing history but reducing the importance of Marauders.

    Maybe in pakistan people prefer/identify more with marauder’s history and their islamic history more than the history of their own land and people. We simply prefer our own roots rather than clinging to marauders and barbarians.

    Good that it is being corrected.Recommend

  • Yogi Berra

    I am not denying that Modi is very good for Indian economy. This guy has waged war against corruption and he is going after corrupt politicians one after other. GST and digital India push should leave digital trail and help in curbing corruption. Other policy reforms also augur well for the Indian economy.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Muslim rule ended in 1707 when Marathaa buried Aurangzeb. Even prior to that Muslim rule was sporadic and in pockets. Pockets where it was continuous like AfPak & Bangladesh, the results are visible today. Muslims are burden on Mother India. They bring down India’s growth rate atleast by 4% and if you consider Pakistani thousand cuts terrorism and 3crore Bangladeshi Muslims illegally coming then it is almost 7%.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Demonetization brought $64 Billion into taxable economy so far.Recommend

  • Milind A

    A sensible comment. Not that we don’t appreciate pointing out our shortcomings, but it becomes hypocritic when one has the same or bigger flaws, but points out those of others.Recommend