His Story or History?
Our history is saturated with innumerable wars; some famous some forgotten and lost and known to us only through the trusty history textbooks back in school. Some of us who were genuinely curious would go beyond the textbooks to more textbooks and eventually the internet (before you fire away at me, the Internet was still new to many of us and honestly who would spend their privileged dial-up connection time on looking up history is beyond me!)
But from Babur to Aurangzeb the last powerful Mughal ruler (included that because that’s the only tidbit I remember from my history textbook) to Chhatrapati Shivaji or to the Rani of Jhansi no one could’ve predicted what is happening today. The same history textbooks that were the keepers of our red and golden pasts have now themselves become a battleground for representation.
Recently the attempts to glorify “Indian” heroes in history textbooks have increased exponentially with various state governments instructing their state boards to rewrite certain parts of the textbooks that have been “glorifying the Mughal leaders and downplaying Hindu rulers”. These moves to rewrite history from a state point of view have resulted in some drastic changes in the school textbooks like, in the class 7 and 9 history textbooks of the Maharashtra state board at least five chapters on the rise and fall of major dynasties in India have been condensed into one chapter — India before the times of Shivaji Maharaj. In Rajasthan last year, Jawaharlal Nehru had been removed from the state board’s history textbook of class 8 because he has been given ample space in the class 9 textbook (government’s words not mine). If I keep listing all these changes we might need to sit down for whole new history lectures and you know that’s one part of growing up no 90’s or 00’s kid wants to revisit.
What I am although worried about is the fate of the students who have to study these histories (what else do I call them, timelines?). The students, who till last year were told that Akbar was a “liberal and tolerant administrator,” will now be taught that he “tried to bring India under a central authority” and faced opposition from the likes of Maharana Pratap.
School students in Rajasthan are also being taught that Rajput warrior Maharana Pratap defeated the army of Mughal emperor Akbar in the Battle of Haldighati in 1576. Until last year, students of class 10 and 12 were taught that the same Maharana Pratap had lost the battle.
If this continues how do we expect the last minute readers to pass because let’s be honest, we all passed the social studies paper because of that little booklet titled ‘Last 10 years examination papers with solutions’ but for these students that will sound like a harsh joke. These students will be the ones who’ll get a reality check from tour guides when out for vacation at historical places.
These students will be the ones who’ll hear the name Razia and think of the song not the Mughal empress. These however are the students who are also growing up in the Information Age which leaves me with hope that, unlike us, they won’t settle with what’s being spoon fed to them and who’ll know how to read between the lines rather than toeing the line.
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