(This is the final part of the 3 part article series on the blatant untruths and distortions in ICSE board history textbooks of 6th, 7th and 8th standards. Other parts can be read here: Part 1 & Part 2 )
The list grows endlessly, and another series of similar distortions are noted in the tenth standard ICSE history textbooks as well – since this is relatively recent history, there seems to be a definite political agenda with highlighting certain leaders of the freedom movement and merely mentioning others who did not conform with the same ideology as the authors or their patrons in the government at the time.
The textbooks list banning Sati and infanticide as one of the causes of 1857 War of Independence (what the British colonials called the 1857 ‘Revolt’). This has been a long-running charade cleverly sold by the British, as this paper convincingly shows. It is unsupported by historical records or documents. Moreover, many researchers have debunked this claim, showing that infanticide was no more common in Bharat than it was in Britain and that this strategy was deliberately used as a justification of colonial rule and evangelization. It was also found that Muslims and Sikhs actually had the worst sex ratio with highest number of males when compared to Hindus.
The introduction of Railways has been also listed as a cause of the 1857 ‘Revolt’, with a claim that “the Brahmin priests and maulvis cried with concern,“our religion and customs are in danger!””. This is completely demolished by the records of the East India Company itself, which noted, “the traffic has far exceeded the most sanguine expectations ; and perhaps the most gratifying feature of all is in the fact that, contrary to a general belief in the indisposition and inability of the natives to avail themselves of railway communication, by far the largest number of passengers carried has been of the third class… It was considered a most extraordinary act that the very poorest of the inhabitants had availed themselves of the Railway directly it was opened… the fact was proved that neither caste prejudices nor other considerations would prevent the native from making use of the new means of transport, though previous to this many, who should perhaps have been better informed, held a contrary opinion…Mr. Crawford added that he had been himself in India and knew that the natives were fully alive to everything that could improve their position.”
On the contrary, this was a position held by the Christian preachers in UK – in the Christian Beacon, March 1839, the British railway companies back home were severely criticized as “the greatest Sabbath desecration… the sight and sound of your Sabbath trains inviting simple villagers, as well as more sophisticated townsmen, to rebel against their God… no truly Christian person ought to, therefore, remain connected with these Railways, except for the purpose more effectually to remonstrate against their Sabbath profanation” because they chose to run the trains on Sundays! Meanwhile, other enterprising missionaries in Britain viewed the railways as a “cheap and expeditious” way to reach “heathens” and promote Christianity and Christian values.
What I would like to demonstrate by these examples is that Brahmins and Maulvis have been blamed for supposedly opposing railways on grounds of religious customs without mentioning that Christian clergy definitely opposed it for the same reason. One wonders whether this is because ICSE is an Anglo-Indian Christian Board.
Among the causes of 1857 ‘Revolt’ we find the text “Some missionaries too, were not prudent. They are said to have condemned Hindu and Muslim customs inadvertently”. This is nothing but a whitewash. The attitude of missionaries towards native cultures can be best summed up in the words of Charles Spurgeon, a Baptist minister who in the aftermath of the Kanpur massacre during the ‘Revolt’ of 1857 addressed a gathering of 25000 people in the Crystal Palace with the words “The (British) Indian government ought not to have tolerated the religion of the Hindus at all. If my religion consisted of bestiality, infanticide and murder, I should have no right to it unless I was prepared to be hanged. The religion of the Hindoos is no more than a mass of the rankest filth that imagination ever conceived. The Gods they worship are not entitled to the least atom of respect. Their worship necessitates everything that is evil and morality must put it down. The sword must be taken out of its sheath, to cut off our fellow subjects by the thousands”.
In fact, as this thread shows, missionaries conducted a systematic campaign with generation of massive amounts of atrocity literature to move public opinion in Britain from the late 1700s to 1813 to gain free entry into Bharat for evangelization that had been blocked by the East India Company – precisely because they openly condemned native customs in the streets to the extent that it had become a major law and order issue – and eventually succeeded with the Charter of 1813. And we are expected to believe that the condemnation of native customs was “inadvertent” and the laws passed by Dalhousie taxing temple and mosque properties and giving inheritance rights to Christian converts were reforms that made the “orthodox” Bharatiya “feel” that the British were favoring conversion to Christianity!
The Sannyasi rebellion of Ananda Math is mentioned as “regarded as the Bible of modern patriotism”. Nowhere in any reference literature have I found this, other than the textbook itself. Ananda Math is introduced only as a poem and nowhere has it been pointed out that the rebellion was led by sannyasis and fakirs. Introducing a Biblical element while removing that of other religions, by authors who are admittedly from a missionary school background, is extremely suspicious.
It is also found that in these textbooks, the Revolutionaries are barely mentioned in passing, in just a paragraph or two – while each Congress President has at least a full page description and Gandhi has a chapter running into several pages. Many key freedom fighters are either not mentioned at all or have just received a bare mention of their name.
The tenth grade textbook that deals with post-medieval British Bharat, has no place for Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar who is mentioned in passing as “leader of the Depressed Classes” in the full chapter on Gandhi, with no description, not even an independent paragraph! Subhas Chandra Bose and the Indian National Army get just a small paragraph in the eighth standard textbook and a brief and heavily sanitized chapter in the tenth standard textbook.
The disastrous Khilafat Movement, which culminated in the infamous Moplah massacre of Hindus, is being taught as a great success that unified the Hindus and Muslims, flying in the face of facts that showed a violent genocide unleashed on Hindus in its aftermath. A statement signed by then Secretary and Treasurer of the Kerala Provincial Congress Committee and Secretary Ernad Khilafat Committee K.V.Gopala Menon notes “Their wanton and unprovoked attack on the Hindus, the all but wholesale looting of their houses in Ernad etc, the forcible conversion of Hindus in the beginning of the rebellion and the wholesale conversion of those who stuck to their homes in later stages, the brutal murder of inoffensive Hindus without the slightest reason except that they are Kafirs or belonged to the same religion as the policemen, who entered their Tangals or entered their mosques, burning of Hindu temples, the outrage on Hindu women and their forcible conversion and marriage by the Moplahs”. The petition of the Hindu ladies of Malabar to Lady Reading brings the extent of these atrocities to light. One can understand the textbook writers not wanting to load such gruesome facts on young children. But does that mean twisting history itself to show murderous events as acts of bonhomie?
The hanging of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev was a direct consequence of Gandhi’s failure to negotiate their release during the Gandhi-Irwin Pact of 1931 and the provision of the pact that permitted capital punishment for violent crimes sealed their fate, resulting in severe outrage against Gandhi. However, this has been heavily sanitized and no trace of it remains in our history textbooks. It is also mentioned that Gandhiji suspended the Civil Disobedience Movement due to “atrocities committed by the high caste Hindus on Harijans”. The writings and speeches of Gandhi during that period suggest nothing of the kind (reference to pages no.349 to 351). The Civil Disobedience Movement eventually petered out after dragging along for four years with no outcome, forcing Gandhi to admit that the movement “had not touched the hearts of the rulers”. In order to cover up for its utter failure in achieving anything of note, the convenient tool of blaming caste seems to yet again have been applied.
The textbook also states that the freedom movement before Gandhi entered the scene was confined to cities, towns and intellectuals and that Gandhi gave it a mass base. This is again a lie repeated so many times that it starts sounding as the truth. It is exposed in other chapters of the same textbook which admit that the famed trio of Lal-Bal-Pal had mobilized the masses with thousands of people actively participating across the country in the freedom movement at many places, several years before Gandhi entered the scene.
The failure of the Second Round Table Conference 1931 is attributed to everyone else at the Conference, other than Gandhi, representing their own narrow interests. However, a plain reading of the proceedings makes it clear that Gandhi who was representing Congress, in the presence of several other stalwarts at the conference, claimed that Congress alone represented political Bharat. With such an attitude it is no wonder that no consensus was reached and the Conference was a failure. Instead of initiating a nuanced discussion, children are loaded with a one-sided historical view – one that Gandhi was right in everything and everyone who opposed him was wrong and fighting for their own selfish interest.
Prominent leaders of the national freedom movement who worked from outside Bharat have only been mentioned in passing. However, one name inserted into this list is striking: V D Savarkar. Earlier in the same section, one notices that it starts with the words “two of the most active revolutionary societies were the Abhinava Bharat Society in Maharashtra” – which was established by Vinayak D Savarkar, who of course was not an offshore leader as is alleged in the textbook. It seems that is not enough to put Savarkar offshore – it is necessary to wipe out any trace of his activities in Bharat for which he received a double life sentence in Andamans.
The Direct Action Day has been described as having “peaceful demonstrations of Muslim solidarity” with the exception of Kolkata where “a section of people… went on rampage, arson, looting and murder.” It does seem that while the peaceful acts of solidarity have a religion, the violent ones do not have any religion.
THE COMMUNAL TINGE IN HISTORY-WRITING – A REVERSE-COMMUNAL STRATEGY
This is not a comprehensive list by any means, but only a representative one, and that too, only of one curriculum. Several more slants, factual inaccuracies and oft repeated myths find place in these textbooks, which need a very comprehensive evaluation and review. The motives of re-writing history appear briefly in a few paragraphs: “The way history of India was written in the colonial period by the British administrative historians and even some of the other historians created a wedge as they used classificatory categories like Hindu period, Muslim period etc. in Hindu period, they referred to the Muslims as foreign invaders. In Muslim period, the Muslims were designated the rulers while the Hindus, their subjects.”
The Islamic invasion of Bharat is a historical fact. From the eight century onwards, successive Muslim invaders tried to conquer Bharat for the spread of Islam, leading to millions of deaths. One should not harbour any doubts about this, as the biographies of all of these rulers are entirely clear about their motives for the invasion. There were a few Muslim traders and Sufi saints who had settled at a few places in Bharat around the same time as invasions started. However, the spread of Islam across Bharat was primarily on the strength of the sword and by inducements to convert. Even the Sufis were mostly hand in glove with the tyrannical invaders/rulers whose sole aim was to wage jihad in order to spread Islam. The rulers very clearly identified themselves with the rule of Islam. To quote Jahangir, considered a tolerant ruler, from his Tuzuk I Jahangiri, “From the time when the sound of Islam reached the country of Hindustan up to this auspicious time when the throne of rule has been adorned by this suppliant at the throne of Allah, none of the rulers or kings has obtained possession of it”.
While the Muslim rulers proudly called their invasions of Bharat “the sound of Islam”, our current lot of historians and textbook writers condemn this as “Communal tinge in history writing”! However, the numerous courtesies extended to Muslim rulers by way of whitewash seem conspicuously missing when it comes to the evils in Hindu society, which are repeatedly referred to in detail. If the object really was, as is proclaimed, to reduce suspicion between communities, why do the books continue to inculcate these suspicions when it comes to various sections of the Hindu society itself? The question must also be asked as to why Brahmins have been systematically demonized in the texts, and why the caste system is repeatedly blamed for events that have nothing to do with caste, ranging from Islamic invasion of Bharat to failure of Civil Disobedience Movement.
An important question that emerges is whether autonomy given to Boards gives them a free hand to indoctrinate innocent minds with distorted and downright falsified history? Why has the slaughter of millions of Hindus by successive generations of invaders been wiped out of Bharat’s history, and murderers glorified as saints and generous, kind hearted men? Would a similar tale singing the glories of Hitler without a single mention of the Genocide be permitted in Israeli textbooks? I agree that one need not share the gory details, but what makes the textbook writers portray them as the opposite of what they were?
The purpose of education is to impart knowledge and inculcate the ability of the child to become a free thinker, but instead of this, this education strategy is making students ashamed of their identity, their ancestors, their faith and its various aspects. One cannot hope to develop a truth-seeking attitude in students based on a foundation of a bunch of lies. There is an immediate need for course correction, to prevent further poisoning of young impressionable minds – and make them learn to accept history – to present various views and let the child decide for themselves what they would like to believe, instead of what the writer would like the child to believe.