The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Premchand axed for BJP leader in text

New Delhi, May 2: The Central Board of Secondary Education has come under a cloud over the new Hindi textbook prescribed for Class XII students.

In the syllabus, which came into effect this year, the CBSE replaced a novel by Munshi Premchand with one by Mridula Sinha, president of the Central Social Welfare Board and a BJP leader.

“This has got nothing to do with us. The CBSE is authorised to prescribe its own textbooks after the 10th standard,” says an official of the National Council of Educational Research and Training.

The board can give an option. However, in the case of this Class XII course, it has prescribed only one novel — Sinha’s Jo Mehandi Ka Rang (The colour of mehandi).

Premchand’s book Nirmala, earlier prescribed for Class XII, revolves around the status of women. Sinha’s novel is about the physically-challenged. “It is essentially about Jaipur foot,” says an NCERT official.

The CBSE decision has caused a storm in Hindi literary circles, with a section believing Sinha’s talent is no match for Premchand’s.

“I can understand replacing one eminent personality with another,” says Ashok Vajpayee, a Hindi literary personality. “But the CBSE is replacing Premchand” with an author of lesser calibre.

“This is an insult to Hindi, to the intelligence of students,” asserts Vajpayee.

While Sinha’s critics recognise that an evolving pedagogy of textbooks requires changes and perhaps replacing classics like Nirmala, they do not accept Sinha’s worth.

“The BJP is targeting soft areas like culture and literature because they know they can have a more sustained influence here,” says Om Thanvi, the editor of Hindi daily Jansatta.

“You can disagree ideologically but you must be competent in your field. Sinha is a bad example for propagating the BJP ideology,” says Vajpayee.

Sinha’s associates claim she is an author in her own right. Mehandi Ka Rang is her debut novel in a series of seven. They say it is good to have a change and the theme is substantive enough.

However, there are few takers for this reasoning.

“She is not known at all as a Hindi author,” says Chanchal Chauhan, additional general secretary of the All-India Democratic Writers’ Association. “Premchand is an author of world repute. He is not just any other author,” he adds.

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