POLITICAL SCENE HAS been heated to such an extent that Punjab politics has turned into a boiling cauldron during the natural heat of May, though some relief had been provided by nature but the temperature in the political arena that had refused to cool down earlier has also come a few degrees low.
The Government earlier had set a 6 member oversight Committee of experts headed by Prof. Kirpal Singh an Eminent Historian. The other members include Prof. J.S. Grewal, former Vice Chancellor Guru Nanak Dev University Prof. Prithipal Singh Kapur, former Pro-Vice Chancellor GNDU, Prof. Indu Banga, Emeritus Prof. of History Panjab University and two more eminent historians to be nominated by the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC).
However another conciliatory step has been taken by the Government on May 8, 2018 when it decided not to release the further copies of the book in question, till the Expert Committee submits its report. The Committee has been asked to review the History text books of Class 11 and 12 and submit its report at an early date after taking into consideration the views of earlier expert Committee set up by the Punjab School Education Board in 2014, and suggest the corrections required to be done on factual mistakes too. Good sense has prevailed that now the Government has entrusted the task of review of History books of all other classes too, to the newly constituted Committee. SGPC President has welcomed the move. The real issues involved in the controversy are still alive and this write up is a small attempt to make the picture clear.
Factual position regarding History Text Books is that Punjab School Education Board ( PSEB ) has taken up the task of the preparation of History book for class 12 by for the first time in its own history which otherwise had been left to the whims and interests of private publishers who were infact free to fleece the poor students. The decision of the Board to prepare its own books shall result in the curbing of the exorbitant profits of the private publishers. Even the present decision to withhold the book for the time being may not satisfy them.
As for as the Shiromani Akali Dal is concerned it claims that the Title of the book, ‘The History of the Punjab’ has been replaced by the title, ‘History’ only. Further that 550 pages book has been reduced to around 180 pages. 12 chapters of Sikh history related to Guru Sahiban have been removed out of a total of 23 chapters. The SAD termed it nothing but treachery with Punjab by Congress government which instead, has introduced a chapter on the birth of Congress Party. That there are many mistakes in it.
Government on the other hand argues that the board never published any book of History in the past and students had been left upon the mercy of the private publishers to purchase costly books/help books and read the content decided by the private publishers. The more number of pages in the book by private publishers are due to question answers otherwise the text in that private book is in small number of pages. The History of Guru Sahiban cannot be removed and the same has been shifted to class 11 which is yet to be published. The name of the Book has been printed as ‘The History of The Punjab” by the publishers at their own in violation of the name of the subject given in the syllabus by the Board.
As per Punjab government, committees of experts had been constituted for revision of History Books and make them in accordance with the NCERT (National Council of Education Research and Training) syllabus by the SAD–BJP Government in 2014. One of the members on the Committee was proposed by SGPC. The whole hue and cry by SAD is to favour the private publishers as they have huge stock of books priced each at around Rs. 400/- as compared to the cost of around Rs. 100/- by the Board. As such it is alleged that it is a business of crores.
When one examines the above contentions in detail in face of facts of the process of publication of the books for the students in PSEB Affiliated school, the NCERT Books for CBSE Schools in Punjab, the Syllabus issued by Punjab School Education Board from time to time, the scheme of subjects and groups in the said syllabus and the presently uploaded book of History for class 12 by the Board, one is compelled to say that there is some concealment more or less by both the opposition and the party in power. The interest of the students, the cost of books, the way the History is to be taught, the purpose of History teaching, is missing. The student who infact should be the center of all actions is nowhere to be spotted.
Missing is the issue that History is admittedly a Social Science and there is no place for communalism in it. The History of Great personalities belonging to any religion, region or caste, is taught accrding to the contribution made in shaping the political, social , cultural and the economic history of the region, country and the world. The whole discussion has been hijacked and is being held out by the political class and the media, but the Academia is mum. They are mum on the damage to history, they are mum on the communal tingue visible in it and they are mum on the role of History in shaping the society towards an equitable society. Guru Nanak Dev ji has said about history, "the stories of the past generations shape the present generation into good personalities”.
Before venturing into the analysis of the claims and counter claims let us have a look at the syllabi by the Punjab School Education Board, the CBSE and the NCERT published books of History for class 12. The 190 page Syllabi for class 12 by Punjab Board depict that there are five different streams including Science, Commerce, Humanities, Agriculture and Technical. Irrespective of the stream, four compulsory subjects have to be studied by all about 3.25 lakh odd students. These include English, Punjabi Or Punjab History And Culture, Environment Education and Computer Science. No political party especially those holding the flag of Punjab History are not bothered about the syllabi of this compulsory subject which is for all the students of class 12 irrespective of the stream.
The elective subject of HISTORY appears at page 2, 5 and 63 in the syllabus and the students who opt for Humanities as the option to select three subjects out of a list of 33 subjects including 16 languages, and History, Economics, Mathematics, Business Management, Accountancy, Political Science, Sociology, Public Administration, Religion, Music, Dance, Philosophy, Education, Geography, Home Science, Psychology, Defence studies, Commercial art, Physical Education, Drawing and painting, Media studies etc. The question as to why this elective subject of History is being projected erroneously as THE HISTORY OF THE PUNJAB, which may be opted by a few students as they have a choice of 33 subjects. Why has it become such a hot issue for the book which was being published by the private publishers.
The syllabus needs to be changed may be by introducing and altering the syllabi so that the conflict of interest is wiped out and the students are not compelled to purchase the already published guides by the private parties at exorbitant cost of around Rs. 400/-.
When we look at the NCERT Books of History for class 12 which is in three volumes running into 432 (1-114) + (115-256) + (257-432) pages divided in 15 chapters, we find that in the medieval and modern India the History of Punjab is covered only in 51 half lines with 2 lines at page 39 in Part 1 chapter 2, refering to arid land of Punjab and Rajasthan, 6 lines part 2 chapter 1 page 17, and 4 lines on page 147, 35 lines under Baba Guru Nanak, page 162-63 and in 4 lines about Jalian Wala Bag in part 3 page 350. It is strange that the students of CBSE affiliated Schools numbering around 1100 and ICSE around 100 are not studying the History of Punjab at all. Those all students however are the wards of those who are raising the heat on the present book.
Let us now examine the new book uploaded by the Punjab School Board, In this 7+ 182 page book we do read some facts but the reader is to be enthusiased by the glorious History of Bhagat Singh, Kartar Singh Sarabha, Udham Singh Sunam, Gadar Movement, Kooka movement, Saint Kabir, Saint Ravidas , Guru Nanak Dev ji and the rest of the Sikh movement upto Baba Banda Singh Bahadur. Two parts of the book contain 11 chapters, 17 pages for "Cities , Commerce and Art for Harappan Civilisation, 19 pages for "Sardar, Smraat and Trader” for Mauriya, Kushan and Gupta period, 18 pages "Priest, Bhikshu and Donor” for Vedic , Jainism and Budhism. Next 11 pages are on Medeival India also contains story of three great personalities from Fire, followed by 16 pages of Mughal period, "Sultan And Padshah”. This chapter somehow seems to create an idea against decentralisation.
Thereafter Bgagati Movement has been incorporated as "Ram Bhagti” Saint Kabir ji and Ravidas ji have been depicted as greatest Ram Bhagats. In the chapters related to Sikh History and Freedom Movement, the role of Dalits is missing. The few words on Bhagat Singh, Kartar Singh Sarabha and Udham Singh do not enthusiase the reader to struggle against injustice, discrimination and inequality. Hindustan Republican Association has been depicted as a group of four persons. There is no mention of Hindustan Republican Army. Agenda of Gadar Party is incorporated in very derogatory words "Main agenda of Gadar Party was to kill the informers of the English state, to loot the Government treasury and police stations for collecting weapons and to damage the Post and Telegraph and Railways”.
About Shaheed Udham Singh the book records, "Michael O'Dwyer was participating in a gathering in Caxton hall, London, Udham Singh Shot him. In July 1940, Udham Singh was hanged”, similarly the Morchas of Gangsar Jaito, Guru Ka Bagh, Panja Sahib Saka, Kama Gata Maroo and Massacre of Kookas at Malerkotla have been depicted as lawlessness. These serious flaws are not the concern of any of those who are setting Punjab on boil.
It is not being discussed that before publishing the book in question the previous Government had formally constituted four expert Committees, that included the 4 member advisory Board under Dr. M. Rajiv Lochan, Prof. and Head History, Panjab University, Chandigarh, and another member Dr. Paramveer Singh had been included at the recommendation of SGPC, the 2nd Committee was the 5 member subject matter committee, this Committee that prepared the subject matter, included Dr. Jasbir Singh, Dr. Priatosh Sharma, Dr. Ashish Kumar all faculty of History Panjab University Chandigarh, Sh. Ram Murti Assistant Professor, Education, Delhi University and Sh. Sandeepan Verma, Faculty Mahatama Gandhi State Institute of Public Administration, Chandigarh.
A third Committee of experts was the review Committee that included Smt Navjot Kaur, Assistant Professor History, Sri Guru Gobind Singh College, Sector 26, Chandigarh. The fourth expert committee was for language and translation and it included Smt. Jasvir Kaur, Deputy Director ( Retd) Punjab School Education Board. In addition there was a 12 member group of experts from Schools, Colleges and Universities. No one except Dr. M. Rajiv Lochan has opened their mouth. No academician has come for defence of innocent Punjabis and the poor children studying in schools affiliated to the poor cousin PSEB, for snatching the ball from the politicians and to put it in the court of academicians once again.
It is also a fact that in the previous decades the Board had left the task of deciding the content and the publication of the books involving hundreds of crores of rupees at the whims and mercy of Private Publishers. The issue of 8th chapter having been introduced by the private publisher in the help book MBD, at his own needs to be investigated as the same is not the part of the syllabus. The private publisher has made a wrong claim. The previous Government did not make arrangement to make the books available by February 2017, and the present Government also did not do much and the students were left at the mercy of the private publishers and got fleeced, which in itself is a subject of enquiry. It is pertinent to mention that on the non availability of books through out, such a hue and cry was not made by any stake holder, probably it suited all of them at the cost of poor children.
Let us have look at the facts. True that the syllabus of History by Punjab School Education Board had 22 chapters out of which 6 chapters , 4 to 9 pertain to Guru Sahiban. However it is also true that no book had ever been published by the Government of the Board. No content had ever been decided by them. Both the importanant issues were left to the whims of Private Publishers. This also true that the book shown by SAD President is the copy of MBD Help book, costing around Rs. 400/- containing 552 pages that included 41 pages of text, 207 pages of Essay type Question Answers, and rest of the 304 pages have been occupied by short question answers, very short question answers, Objective type question answers and multiple choice type question answers.
The title of the Guide has been published by the publisher as " The History of The Punjab” where as in the syllabus of the board there is no such elective subject in Humanities Group as "The History of The Punjab”. The name appears at Page 2 Serial No. 17 of the syllabus, where the word "HISTORY” is written. Then at page 5 marks of each subject are given again at S. No. 3 word "HISTORY” is written. Further at 63-64, detailed syllabus is given again the heading of the subject is "HISTORY”. It is obvious that the name has been changed by the private publisher at his own and the Board failed to take any action for such gross violation. Further the syllabus has been divided into 22 chapters by the Board but the publisher has made 23 chapters by adding chapter No. 8 at its own. This is another violation of tempering with the syllabus by the private publisher but the Board remained MUM.
NCERT has permitted that the state Boards can tailor made books as per their local needs , but no body is bothered that a student who studies History of Punjab only and that to for 400 years only, how shall he /she compete in Pan Indian competitions, is it not an indirect way to keep these poor kids out of the field. It is well known that by way of medium of instructions, unequal syllabi and poor infrastructure and poor discipline on teaching faculty and uneven deployment serve as the tools of discrimination in the hands of the powers and vested interests that be. Hon’ble High Court at Allahabad had observed the Government schools are used for vote bank politics and the present controversy is the concrete example in Punjab.
The state Board has to tailor made the syllabi keeping in mind the diversity of the state and the uniformity at the National level. For the same they must synchronise their syllabi with that of the NCERT so that no child in any state may suffer discrimination in National Competitions.
There is no denying the fact that the syllabi of History as a social science needs to be made encouraging, which can transform the life style and way of thinking, creating a spirit of combat with those forces that are inmical to the building of an equitable, just social order and the same is also needed to be kept free from communalism. In the present book even if all chapters as per political demand are added still it shall not be free from communalism and discrimination. It shall not be able to imbibe the spirit of unity in diversity as was seen during freedom movement.
The need of the hour is to protect the poor children from fleecing by private publishers and also to improve the book presently uploaded. For the same all the said chapters of Sikh history that have been removed from the book for 12 class need to be incorporated in the history book of eleventh class. Since present committee is to review the History books for all the 12 classes so there is evry likelyhood that the students shall get History books free from communalism, books that imbibe in them the spirit of enquiry, creative thinking, equality and justice, the books that shall enthusiase them for making sacrifices in face of terror by the powers that be, books that enable them to compete both at state as well as at National level, last but not the least the books that reduce their burden. The Committee should invite open suggestions too.