04/14/2023, 13.00
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BJP rewrites India's history, erases Mughal empire

The chapter on the Muslim dynasty that ruled over a large part of South Asia between the 16th and 19th centuries was removed after some episodes surrounding the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi were also changed. The 2002 Gujarat riots also disappeared. According to experts, the changes for the year 2023-24 are the most radical so far.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - Once again the Indian government has been accused of rewriting school textbooks to make history adhere to the ideological vision of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu nationalist party from which Prime Minister Narendra Modi comes.

In recent days, references to the Mughal empire, the most important Muslim dynasty that ruled over much of South Asia between the 16th and 19th centuries, have been removed, with the justification of wanting to streamline the curriculum and 'rationalise the curriculum' after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Praising the removal of an entire chapter of history, BJP leader Kapil Mishra said: 'Thieves, pickpockets and two-bit marauders were called Mughal sultan and emperor of India. Akbar, Babar, Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb are not in the history books, they are in the dustbin."

Part of the events surrounding the assassination of Gandhi, the leader who led the country to independence through the politics of non-violence by preaching Hindu-Muslim unity, also ended up in the dustbin.

In the political science and history textbooks of class 12 (attended by 17-18 year old students), the sentences referring to the multiple assassination attempts by Hindu extremists and those stating that the paramilitary organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (Rss), ideologically aligned with the BJP, had been banned for a while following the Mahatma's assassination, disappeared. Gandhi was murdered in 1948 by the Hindu nationalist Nathuram Godse, who had been part of the Rss, but - according to the organisation itself - had then left it to act alone. PM Modi himself was a member of the RSS in his youth.

The changes to the textbooks were made by the National Council of Educational Research and Training, an autonomous government body, which was criticised for not issuing the usual public notifications about the revisions.

It was the Indian Express newspaper, checking students' textbooks, that discovered that even the account of the riots in Gujarat in 2002 - when Modi was prime minister of the western Indian state - had been deleted in all textbooks for 11-18 year olds. This is a thorny subject for the current prime minister, who has been repeatedly criticised and held responsible for the outbreak of violence, during which more than 1,000 mostly Muslims died.

In this regard, the Indian financial watchdog opened an investigation against the BBC after publishing a two-part documentary on the 2002 riots in January in which Modi's role is also investigated. In recent months, the broadcasting of the documentary was banned and the offices of the British broadcaster in Mumbai and Delhi were searched.

This is the third time since the BJP came to power in 2014 that school textbooks are being revised. Professors and experts have emphasised that these are selective changes aimed at erasing inconvenient episodes for India's extreme right from public memory, but they have also added that those for the year 2023-24 are the most radical implemented so far.

At the same time, references to and praise for Hindu nationalist figures such as Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, called 'the most celebrated freedom fighter' and a 'great patriot', have increased. Savarkar is the one who in 1923 gave birth to the ideology of Hindutva, which preaches the hegemony of Hinduism (especially over Islam) and was adopted first by the RSS and then by the BJP.

"You can change the truth in the books but you cannot change the history of the country," commented Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of the main opposition party, the Congress. According to Aditya Mukherjee, professor of contemporary Indian history at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, the textbook changes are not only an attempt to 'erase' history but also to 'use it as a weapon': 'Whenever we have witnessed the erasure of a particular community from our history, it is usually followed by a genocide of the community,' Mukherjee commented.


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