People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Vol. XXX

No. 35

August 27, 2006

A Convoluted Discussion On NCERT Books


IN a highly convoluted debate held in Rajya Sabha on August 18, 2006, a number of BJP members raised objections to the new NCERT textbooks. As is their wont, the BJP members distorted the content of the books and by quoting several passages out of context tried to create an impression that the books were using castiest language. Intervening during the course of the discussion, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury asked for an examination of the truth or otherwise of the issues raised by the BJP members and seek a response from the government.


A number of eminent litterateurs including Ashok Vajpayee, Rajinder Yadav, Namvar Singh, Kamleshwar, Krishna Sobti, Kunwar Narain, Nandkishore Acharaya and Kamla Prasad, nailed down the distortions by the BJP MPs in the Rajya Sabha debate. In a statement issued on August 20, they have said the objections raised by BJP members are meaningless. They have pointed out that while objecting to the inclusion of the popular poet Avatar Singh Pash’s poem they seem to have forgotten that Pash was killed by religious extremists in Punjab for his views. According to them to demand the exclusion of poet Dhumil’s poem Mochi Ram is to forget that Dhumil is one of the foremost poets of the modern Hindi literature. Similarly to demand for the exclusion of Dalit writer Om Prakash Valmiki’s writing from the textbooks is akin to keeping the Dalit voice out from literature. Valmiki’s writing is a reflection of Dalit self-expression which has found a place in literature after a bitter struggle.


The opponents of the inclusion of portions of M F Husain’s auto-biographical writing are unaware that this book was released with high praise by none other than Nirmal Verma, the statement said. Nirmal Verma, it may be noted, was the literary icon of the Sangh Parivar during the later part of his life.


The BJP members of the Rajya Sabha who are raising objections to Pandey Bechan Sharma Ugra’s auto-biographical writings seem to be totally oblivious of the fact that Ugra is one of the first to introduce this genre in Hindi literature and the high place he occupies in that. When this writing was being discussed during the freedom struggle, even Mahatma Gandhi had found it imperative to read it.


The attempt by the BJP members to raise the current controversy about the NCERT books seems to be an attempt to cover up not only their earlier effort to communalise textbooks during the NDA regime but also to divert attention from the highly objectionable material that is being taught in schools in BJP ruled states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.