Thursday, May 22, 2008


For several years now, the Gujarat State Board of School Textbooks have churned out textbooks which are totally substandard.  They are full of errors: grammatical and typographical, there are several factual inaccuracies and half truths, and also very strong biases and prejudices.  There are several statements within these textbooks which are apparently designed to promote communal and casteist feelings.
The Std. X textbook in Social Sciences which had a first edition in 2006 (and was "reprinted" in 2007), has a whole chapter XXI (pages 212 onwards) entitled 'Social Problems and Challenges'.   Most of this chapter is devoted to communalism, casteism and terrorism.  Several statements in this chapter and elsewhere in the textbook cast very serious aspersions on the minority community.  "In India, the Hindus are in majority and other religious communities are in minority.  The Muslims form the largest among the minority communities.  When a community works intentionally to safeguard its narrow interests, it creates social tension". 
In the section on terrorism, the textbook categorically states "In Std VIII, you have already studied that terrorism is a global problem".  A quick cross reference to the Std. VIII textbook has this blatant statement "Making full use of Muslim fanaticism, Osama Bin Laden organized die-hard Muslims and founded the International Jehad organization in the name of the Jehadi movement".  Both the textbooks very strongly insinuate that terrorism in the world  is the doing only of groups belonging to the  minority religions or of tribal groups. 
The Std. VIII textbook (page 194) states "Destruction of the World Trade Centre in the US, the exchange of bullets outside the Indian Parliament House, the attack on the legislative Assembly of Jammu Kashmir, attacks on the Akshardham and the Raghunath temple, the massacre at Gulmarg, terrorist attack in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia,  suicide attack in Chechenya, terrorist attacks in Morocco -  these are some of the examples of terrorist activities worldwide.".  There are several references to the tribal groups in the North-east of India, who indulge in insurgency.  There are clear references of terrorism in Punjab (read "Sikh"), terrorism in Kashmir (read "Muslims"), but there is no mention at all of the Gujarat Carnage of 2002,  of the way Muslims have been ghettoized in Gujarat or the role of the RSS, VHP and other right-wing organizations which subscribe to the Hindutva ideology and who are responsible for fomenting  communalism, hate and violence in Gujarat and in other parts of the country. 
In Std. IX, the Social Science textbook (reprint 2006) (page 3), very proudly proclaims "The Governor Albuquerque allowed the Portuguese to plunder the natives; to convert and to enslave people.".  This and other veiled references literally puts a strong bias against the Christians.
The textbooks apparently uphold the caste system in India.  The section on casteism in Std. X (page 213) asserts "Social structure in India is based on casteism. The concept of casteism was different earlier than what it is today.  According to the early concept, the social structure was based on four classes – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras.  Every class could practice the profession allotted to it.  The professions practices by the lower class people were considered to be inferior.".

The very introduction of the textbook, (page 2) whilst speaking about culture, associates Indian culture with the upper castes.  "Indian culture aims at achieving the goal of 'Dharma' (righteousness) 'Artha' (material possession), 'Kama' (physical pleasure) and 'Moksha' (Salvation). 
India is a country of peace and tolerance.  There is no place for war, battle or strife in Indian culture.  The emphasis has been laid on achieving peace all around.  The words 'Om Shanti ... Shanti' uttered at the end of any prayer, support it.".
In several places of the textbooks, over-emphasis is given to concepts, festivals, rituals and even language, which belong only to a certain section of Hindu society.  There is hardly any reference (occasionally there is a passing comment) of the very positive contribution made to India's culture and heritage by the lower castes and by other religious minorities like the Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, etc.  What perhaps takes the cake is this "The great Sanskrit grammarian Panini has given it scientific shape.  Today it is recognized as a suitable language for the computer.".  And in the chapter on "India's Heritage of Science and Technology",  the books extols the role of "Vastu Shashtra" !
It is a known fact that over the years, Governments and ideologies have very cleverly manipulated the minds of students by forcing them to study  half truths and untruths and a perverted history which obviously lacks objectivity.  The Social Science textbooks of the Gujarat State Board are classic examples of how communal and casteist feelings are promoted at a very early age. 
The above examples are just a tip of the iceberg.  The least that can be done is that these textbooks are withdrawn and that the rights of the children of Gujarat are respected atleast in providing them with an education which is qualitatively good and objective.

(* Fr. Cedric Prakash sj is the Director of "Prashant", the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
(A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
Near Kamdhenu Hall
Drive-in Road,   Ahmedabad   380 052
Gujarat, India
Tel:   91  79 66522333 /27455913 
Fax:  91 79 27489018
17th May  2008



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Anonymous said...

Seriously, the condition of Gujarat textbooks is very grim.
Unfortunately, the website of GSSTB has not uploaded the social science textbooks of std 9 and 10.