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Council eye on textbooks

New Delhi, Oct. 19: The Centre will introduce legislation to set up a Textbook Council that will vet controversial textbooks published by organisations propagating religious fundamentalism.

The human resource development ministry is drawing up the framework for the legislation, which will follow recommendations made by a sub-committee of the Central Advisory Board of Education.

Textbooks published by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) will, however, not come under the legislation.

The board sub-committee, headed by political scientist Zoya Hasan, went through several textbooks published by private organisations. It found a string of glaring distortions.

“A national textbook council should be set up to monitor textbooks (before they reach classrooms). The council should be fully autonomous and should represent genuine civil society and academia,” the sub-committee said.

The textbook controversy has been raging for more than a decade. In 1993, the human resource development ministry set up a committee, which included historians Romila Thapar and Bipan Chandra, to scan books being taught in the classrooms of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. All three states were then ruled by the BJP.

The Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan ' close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ' runs as many as 14,000 schools in the country. These schools have prescribed a textbook with a set of questions and answers on the Ram Janmabhoomi controversy for Class VII students. (See chart)

Civil rights bodies have argued that several textbooks studied in Gujarat schools contain inflammatory and distorted lessons.

The board sub-committee came across history textbooks glorifying Hitler without mentioning a word about the genocide of Jews. Hitler is portrayed as a nationalist who wanted the Germans to have a “place in the sun”.

According to the sub-committee, madarsas in Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have “found a new focus of hostility since 9/11. Their teachings are obscurantist”.

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