The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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History harangue in enemy camp

Mumbai, Jan. 6: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee kept up his defence of the rewriting of history textbooks, a project dear to the heart of human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi, by taking the fight into the opponent camp.

“They (the Left) have consistently misinterpreted our history. It is time to correct it and give history the right perspective. Our students deserve that much.”

The Prime Minister, who was here to lay the foundation stone of the Hashu Advani Memorial Complex at the Vivekananda Education Society, dismissed protests against the “new and biased” history books brought out by the NCERT by certain sections of the academia.

“It is they who have been misinterpreting history for years and it is they who accuse us of distorting it when we attempt to place history in the right perspective,” Vajpayee fumed.

His no-holds-barred rejoinder to allegations of history being saffronised took many in the audience by surprise. But the Prime Minister was relentless. “Hum to kab se sudharne ki koshish me lage hain, aur woh sirf itihas ko bigadne ka kaam kar rahe hain (We have been trying for years to correct history even as they have been working on distorting it),” he said.

Vajpayee swept aside with disdain claims that the Sangh parivar was working overtime to give Indian history a saffron slant.

“What is this'” he asked of the protests. “It is very important for the government to usher in reforms in education and it is a fact that the government is making an all-out effort to do so. Students have to know correctly how things actually were and get the right perspective (of history). The whole idea of rewriting history textbooks has no vested interest, neither does it have any malicious objectives.”

At Joshi’s birthday yesterday, Vajpayee had backed the HRD minister’s exercise. Continuing in that vein, he cited examples of how certain facts had been glossed over by “them”.

He said in the projection of the Indian freedom struggle, for instance, unpleasant truths like the movement being compromised because of internal differences had been avoided.

“Of course you need to know the good, but objectivity demands you also need to know what has not been so good,” he said.

Vajpayee took the opportunity to invite more private participation in education and said though the government was trying its best, it was not enough. “The government needs the support of the private sector in the field of education, to make the philosophy of ‘each one, teach one’ a reality,” he said.

“Patriotic educators now have to come forward so that education is given its due place in India.”

Carrying his “come back home, NRI scientists” theme forward, which he took up at the Science Congress in Bangalore, Vajpayee, alluding to a popular Hindi poem, said: “Chanda mama ayega, lekin vigyan se (The moon will come to us, but science will have to bring it).”

“We must see to it that our resources remain in India and this could happen only if our talented countrymen choose to remain here instead of investing their intellect and energy in foreign lands.”

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