'What is the need to teach about riots?' NCERT director said on rewriting Ayodhya dispute in textbooks

Ananya Shroff
6 Min Read

New Delhi: The NCERT director has rejected allegations of saffronisation of school curriculum. He said references to the Gujarat riots and the demolition of the Babri Masjid in school textbooks have been revised as teaching about the riots could create “violent and depressed citizens”. NCERT director Dinesh Prasad Saklani on Saturday said changes in textbooks are part of annual revisions and should not be made a subject of hue and cry. “Why should we teach about riots in school textbooks? We want to create positive citizens, not violent and depressed people,” Saklani said when asked about changes in NCERT textbooks about the Gujarat riots or the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
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 purpose of education? Should we teach such young children about riots… When they grow up, they can learn about it, but why in school books? They should understand what happened and why when they grow up. The hue and cry about changes is irrelevant.'

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Why is there a commotion?

Saklani's comments come at a time when new textbooks with several deletions and changes have been released. The revised political science textbook for Class 12 does not mention the Babri Masjid but describes 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 focuses 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 Supreme Court verdict was widely accepted in the country. The consecration of the idol of Ram at the temple was done by the Prime Minister on January 22 this year.

'The aim of our education is not to create violent citizens'

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 so much of a fuss should not be created over the absence of a mention of the 1984 riots in textbooks. The references removed from the textbooks also include the BJP's 'rath yatra' from Gujarat's Somnath to Ayodhya, the role of kar sevaks, communal violence after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, President's rule in BJP-ruled states and the BJP's expression of 'regret' over the Ayodhya events. 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 created a new Parliament, shouldn't our students know about it. It is our duty to include ancient events and recent events.”

'I don't see any saffronisation here'

When asked about the allegations of saffronisation of the syllabus and eventually 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, not make it a battleground.” 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 way ahead of any metallurgists, are we wrong? How can it be saffronisation?”

Who is Saklani?

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

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