There is no need to teach about riots in schools, it can create violent citizens: Saklani

The Uncut

New Delhi. Rejecting allegations of saffronisation of school curriculum, NCERT director has said that references to Gujarat riots and demolition of Babri Masjid in school textbooks were revised because teaching about the riots “can create violent and depressed citizens.” Talking to the agency’s editors at PTI headquarters here, National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) director Dinesh Prasad Saklani on Saturday said that changes in textbooks are part of annual revision and should not be made a subject of hue and cry.

When asked about the changes in NCERT textbooks regarding the Gujarat riots or the demolition of the Babri Masjid, Saklani said, “Why should we teach about riots in school textbooks? We want to create positive citizens, not violent and depressed individuals.” He said, “Should we teach our students in such a way that they become aggressive, create hatred in society or become victims of hatred? Is this the aim of education? Should we teach such young children about riots… when they grow up, they can learn about it, but why in school textbooks. Let them understand what happened and why when they grow up. The uproar about changes is irrelevant.” Saklani’s comments come at a time when new textbooks have come into the market with several references removed and changes. The revised textbook of political science for class 12 does not mention the Babri Masjid but refers to it as a “three-domed structure”.

It has reduced the Ayodhya section from four to two pages and removed details from the previous version. It instead seems to focus on the Supreme Court verdict, which paved the way for the construction of a Ram temple at the site where the disputed structure stood before it was demolished by kar sevaks in December 1992. The apex court’s verdict was widely accepted in the country. The consecration of the Ram idol in the temple was done by the Prime Minister on January 22 this year.

Saklani said, “We want to create positive citizens and that is the aim of our textbooks. We cannot put everything in them. The aim of our education is not to create violent and depressed citizens. Hate and violence are not subjects of teaching. These should not be the focus of our textbooks.” He said that such a ruckus should not be created over the 1984 riots not being mentioned in the textbooks.

References removed from textbooks include the BJP’s ‘rath yatra’ from Somnath in Gujarat to Ayodhya; the role of kar sevaks; communal violence following the demolition of the Babri Masjid; President’s rule in BJP-ruled states; and the BJP’s expression of “regret over the events in Ayodhya”.

He said, “If the Supreme Court has given a verdict in favour of Ram Mandir, Babri Masjid or Ram Janmabhoomi, should it not be included in our textbooks, what is the problem in that? We have included updated things. If we have built a new Parliament, shouldn’t our students know about it. It is our duty to include ancient events and recent events.” The syllabus and finally? When asked about the allegations of saffronisation of textbooks, Saklani said, “If something has become irrelevant… it has to be changed. Why should it not be changed? I don’t see any saffronisation here. We teach history to students so that they learn about the facts and not make it a battlefield.”

Saklani said, “If we are talking about the Indian knowledge system, how can it be saffronisation? If we are talking about the iron pillar of Mehrauli and saying that Indians were far ahead of any metallurgist, are we wrong? How can it be saffronisation?” Saklani (61) was the head of the ancient history department at HNB Garhwal University before taking over as NCERT director in 2022. He has faced criticism over changes in textbooks, especially those related to historical facts.

He said, “What is wrong in changing textbooks? Updating textbooks is a global exercise, it is in the interest of education. Reviewing textbooks is an annual exercise. Whatever changes are made are decided by subject and pedagogy experts. I do not interfere in this process … nothing has been imposed from above.” He said, “There has been no attempt to saffronise the curriculum, everything is based on facts and evidence.” NCERT is revising the syllabus of school textbooks in line with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.

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