Textbooks bid adieu to the Mughals!


(Disclaimer: These views are personal and are not meant to offend anyone. The author respects the views points of her readers.)

The Indian education system shepherds us towards the future by carefully teaching us the events of the past. By the time we reach sixth grade, we start reading textbooks like ‘The History of India’ and are declared to be a ‘bright’ or a ‘dull’ student on the basis of how we understand and learn it. Humorously, I don’t remember everything I learned in the History lessons, 5 or 6 years back, but I remember those “glorified images” of Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and so on, the images in which they were shown wearing grand jewelry and silk robes. Another faint idea of Akbar that lies in my mind is about his generous behavior ‘as portrayed’ in those textbooks. A generous behavior towards all his subjects from ‘all religions’ was what most of us read about during our school. There were so many lengthy chapters in our history textbooks that talked about the reign of Mughals in India and the architectural grandeur they built in India.

History is, of course, not a subject of interest to everybody but as an important component of our education; it is a matter of concern for the Government of India. It is the duty of the Government to regulate what is being taught in the schools and provide the best content which gives both pieces of knowledge and use of the ones who read it. A concern-induced change in education has taken the form of a boiling topic called #RemoveMughalsFromHistory. 

The Maharashtra Department of Education has taken the move to revise the textbooks of classes 7 and 9, removing almost all the traces of the Mughals and the monuments that they built, instead shifting focus on the Maratha Empire founded by Shivaji. The students, who until last year were taught about the Mughal Dynasty and its faces in India, will now solely study the history of the state that they live in. The textbooks earlier talked of Shivaji in some parts as ‘people’s king’ but now the books will talk about him in details. Also, the role of his family and generals will be expanded in the new editions of the revised textbooks. Not only Akbar, but other prominent Mughal rulers like Razia Sultana (the first woman to rule Delhi) and Sher Shah Suri (who forced Humayun to flee from India and is famously known as the Grand Trunk Road) have also been omitted from the textbooks.

History is a discipline that is full of controversies and this move of the Education Department of Maharashtra is a controversial issue. Some look at it as an important step as it will help the students become more aware of how their state has evolved from what it was in the past. Others (anti-BJP) perhaps will look at it as a sensitive issue which might provoke heated comments and debated against the move. Social media handles like twitter are already brimming with such debates!

Introducing regional history to the students is important as it teaches them the actuality of the State in which they live. Before knowing about the so-called “liberal and tolerant” rulers who came from outside India, it is essential for them to know about the personalities that developed in India to protect it from losing its very identity. In the light of the content revision that has been introduced in Maharashtra, other states should also give importance to regional history in their curriculum, up to some extent, if not completely. As in Punjab, people rarely know about the history of the evolution of Sikhs, except those who follow the religion or those who pursue higher studies and research in this matter. History should not be taught with a base of religion. Removal of Mughal history should not be considered as an attack against Islam, rather it should be analyzed as a step to make the syllabus inclusive of the important History that we have failed to include in our curriculum for all these years.

This issue will offend those, of course, who look at it with “religion” in eyes and perspective.

About the Author:

Sehaj Sodhi (ISSER, PU Campus)

Sehaj Sodhi (ISSER, PU Campus)

Bio: The City Beautiful enchanted me from the tranquil hills. Any current in society enlightens my ink on paper. I learn Social Sciences at Panjab University with a hope that I’ll be a prodigy of a kind. Writing to me is a blessing in disguise and if you like it, you can visit https://fathomdeeps.wordpress.com

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