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Experts decry bid to promote 'racial theory'

Adolf Hitler cloud on BA history syllabus proposed by UGC

Leading historians including Irfan Habib, Aditya Mukherjee and Pankaj Jha lambasted the draft syllabus at a webinar on “Defending the historian’s craft” on Friday
In the UGC syllabus, a major share is devoted to the Aryans: Historian.
In the UGC syllabus, a major share is devoted to the Aryans: Historian.
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Basant Kumar Mohanty   |   New Delhi   |   Published 19.09.21, 01:07 AM

A BA history syllabus proposed by the University Grants Commission has attracted charges of promoting unverified claims and a “racial theory” of history reminiscent of Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

Leading historians including Irfan Habib, Aditya Mukherjee and Pankaj Jha lambasted the draft syllabus at a webinar on “Defending the historian’s craft” on Friday.

“In the UGC syllabus, a major share is devoted to the Aryans. By claiming India was a homeland for Aryans, we are doing what the Germans did. Purely a racial theory is being imposed,” Habib said.

“Hitler had this theory that the Germans are a pure race. What happened in Germany should be a lesson for us. A kind of false history is being put forth by the RSS and the BJP.”

Habib added: “There is no reference to the caste system as if it did not exist. It runs down the composite culture. Even the social reform movement of Raja Rammohan Ray finds no mention.”

The UGC had unveiled the draft “Learning Outcome-based Curriculum Framework” for BA history in February and sought feedback from stakeholders.

It is yet to finalise the syllabus, which glorifies the Vedic period and Hindu religious texts and diminishes the importance of Muslim rule. It plays up the “Indus-Saraswati Civilisation”, whose provenance is disputed.

This is the first full-fledged history syllabus prepared by the higher education regulator, which had in the past suggested that individual universities would be allowed only “20 to 30 per cent deviation” from any syllabus it framed.

Jha, a history professor at Lady Shri Ram College, said the proposed syllabus challenged history as a discipline.

“This document starts with a theme, ‘the idea of Bharat’. The details under this theme show things that have no evidence,” he said.

“The biggest problem is that you do not know who made this syllabus. The names of the syllabus makers are confidential.”

Instead of focusing on factual history in the first paper, the draft promotes topics like “Eternity of Synonyms Bharat” and the greatness of the Vedas, Vedangas, Upanishads, Smritis and Puranas.

While the existing Delhi University syllabus devotes three papers to the period from the 13th century to the 18th, the draft syllabus covers the period in one paper.

“The idea of history as a discipline allows a multiplicity of views, based on verifiable information. All that is entirely ruled out in this syllabus,” Jha said.

Mukherjee said State power was being used to construct an “imagined history”. He said the current trend of promoting a sectarian ideology in the garb of history resembled what the British did to stay in power.

“The notion of permanent British rule was brought in. They (the British) tried to project themselves as if they were here to protect one community from the other. Their effort was to create divisions. The communalist parties helped the British,” Mukherjee said.

He said the idea of religion being the bearer of nationhood was again being pushed.

A.K. Mohapatra, dean of the School of International Studies at JNU, who describes himself as a “subscriber to the cultural nationalist ideology”, told The Telegraph that Leftist historians had hidden the truth to spread their line on India’s syncretic culture.

“Professional historians are required to tell all that had happened, based on evidence,” he said.

Mohapatra accused Leftist historians of covering up Aurangzeb’s demolition of Hindu temples and ignoring what he said was the fact of the Babri Masjid being built over a demolished temple.

He said the Hindus were inherently secular and that “multi-culturalism is inherent to Hinduism”.

Jha countered Mohapatra, saying a person’s religion is rarely if ever the sole determinant of whether they would subscribe to secularism and multiculturalism or become a fanatic or communalist.

“It’s true that Left historians did not talk about Aurangzeb demolishing temples, but they did not refer to the Chalukyas and Cholas demolishing temples, either,” he said.

“Nor did they mention that the only king (Harsha of Kashmir) to actually appoint an official to destroy the enemy territory’s temples was not a Muslim.”

Left historians believe that the material aspects of life are more important to understanding history and therefore focused on economic history and the State as an instrument of exploitation, Jha said.

The webinar was organised by the Democratic Teachers’ Front, a Left-backed association of Delhi University teachers.



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