NEW DELHI: Indian opposition parties on Wednesday (Apr 5) condemned the removal from some schoolbooks of references to how independence hero Mahatma Gandhi’s pursuit of Hindu-Muslim unity angered some Hindu extremists and led to his assassination.
The new edition of a political science book for 17-18 year olds, published by the autonomous National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), also removed a reference to a year-long ban on the Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) after Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 by a Hindu hardliner, Nathuram Godse.
The RSS is the ideological parent of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
NCERT’s director told Reuters the changes had been recommended by an expert committee.
“The committee noted that when schools reopened after COVID-19, there was an increased burden on students and to reduce that, these changes were recommended on the basis that even if this content was dropped, there would be no learning loss to students”, Dinesh Prasad Saklani said.
The Congress party, which ruled the country for decades before being trounced in the last two general elections by Modi’s party, called the changes an attempt to rewrite history.
“You can change the truth in books but you cannot change the history of the country,” Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge said in a video statement on Twitter.
Lawmaker Asaduddin Owaisi, chief of the opposition All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, said he also objected to NCERT trying to “whitewash” the past.
The BJP’s national spokesperson, Gopal Krishna Agarwal, said there was no attempt to erase history but to counter biases.
“It is not rewriting history. The Congress and some historians had a biased approach on some issues… academicians felt there was a need to upgrade (the text)”.
An RSS spokesperson declined to comment, while the Ministry of Education did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
One of the sentences in a 2020/21 edition of the book, removed in the new edition, was that Gandhi “was convinced that any attempt to make India into a country only for Hindus would destroy India”.
Another removed sentence was that “his steadfast pursuit of Hindu-Muslim unity provoked Hindu extremists so much that they made several attempts to assassinate Gandhiji,” the text read, using an honorific for Gandhi.
The Indian Express daily first reported the changes on Wednesday.