Leading historians criticised a BA History syllabus proposed by the University Grants Commission (UGC) for promoting "unverified claims" and advancing a "racial theory" of history "similar to what was prevalent in Adolf Hitler's Germany." These comments were made by historians including Pankaj Jha, Aditya Mukherjee and Irfan Habib at a webinar on “Defending the historian’s craft” on Friday, The Telegraph reported.
The webinar was organised by the Democratic Teachers’ Front, a Left-backed association of Delhi University teachers.
The draft history syllabus for undergraduates was proposed by the UGC in February this year with an increased focus on Hindu mythology and religious texts. As per reports, it diminishes the role of Muslim rule in Indian history.
It was a continuation of the current Bharatiya Janata Party government's efforts to change history textbooks to reflect the views propagated by Sangh parivar and other Hindu outfits.
The new syllabus, if given a go-ahead, would see writings of prominent historians such as R.S. Sharma and Irfan Habib dropped from ancient India and medieval India papers. The UGC document says that the syllabus has been formulated only as a "guiding principle", highlighting that “justice to the glorious past and vast canvas of Indian History can only be done by providing the much-needed space at micro and macro levels”.
Habib noted that the new UGC syllabus devoted a major share to the Aryans and claims about India as a homeland for Aryans are similar to the racial theory that was advanced in Germany. “Hitler had this theory that the Germans are a pure race. What happened in Germany should be a lesson for us. A kind of false history is being put forth by the RSS and the BJP,” Habib said.
Habib added: “There is no reference to the caste system as if it did not exist. It runs down the composite culture. Even the social reform movement of Raja Rammohan Ray finds no mention.”
Jha, a history professor at Lady Shri Ram College, said that the proposed syllabus challenged history as a discipline.
“The idea of history as a discipline allows a multiplicity of views, based on verifiable information. All that is entirely ruled out in this syllabus,” Jha said.
“This document starts with a theme, ‘the idea of Bharat’. The details under this theme show things that have no evidence. The biggest problem is that you do not know who made this syllabus. The names of the syllabus makers are confidential,” he added.
The draft includes sections that promote topics such as “Eternity of Synonyms Bharat” and the greatness of the Vedas, Vedangas, Upanishads, Smritis and Puranas. The diminishing of Muslim rule could be seen in how the syllabus covers the period from the 13th century to the 18th in one paper. The existing Delhi University syllabus covers the period in three papers.
Mukherjee highlighted how state power was being used in facilitating an "imagined history". He said this current usage of history to promote a sectarian ideology is similar to what the British did to secure their rule in India.
“The notion of permanent British rule was brought in. They (the British) tried to project themselves as if they were here to protect one community from the other. Their effort was to create divisions. The communalist parties helped the British,” Mukherjee said, as per The Telegraph report.
Jha countered remarks made by A.K. Mohapatra, dean of the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, who had accused Left historians of hiding the truth so that they could advance their line on India's syncretic culture. Mohapatra had said that Leftist historians covered up Aurangzeb's demolition of Hindu temples and ignored the construction of the Babri Masjid over a demolished temple.
“It’s true that Left historians did not talk about Aurangzeb demolishing temples, but they did not refer to the Chalukyas and Cholas demolishing temples, either,” Jha said.
Left historians believe that the material aspects of life are more important to understanding history and therefore focused on economic history and the State as an instrument of exploitation, Jha said.