Recently there has been a flurry of news about erasing Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru’s name in schoolbooks in Rajasthan. The book in question has been uploaded (it is not yet in print) by the publisher Rajasthan Rajya Pathyapustak Mandal, and immediately a voice of complaint has arisen from Congress supporters over the fact that the country’s first Prime Minister, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru’s name does not appear in the Class VIII textbook. This admittedly looks as if it were somewhat planned, as Mahatma Gandhi, Bhaghat Singh, Subhash Chandra Bose, Veer Savarkar and other freedom fighters were all featured. He is not mentioned even once, although he had been one of the most prominent members of the freedom fight.
Additionally, the assassination of the Mahatma by Nathuram Godse was also not featured whilst Akbar’s suffix ‘the Great’ has been handed to Maharana Pratap (in the Class VII textbook for medieval history). This is in addition to the photograph of a CBSE Yearly Calendar posted on Twitter today, in which November 14th, Bal Diwas and Pt. Nehru’s birthday has also been erased, whilst other famous figures did have their birth dates in print.
I am certain I do not have to prate about the achievements Pt.Nehru had brought to the country as they are clearly visible in every step we as a country take today. I am certain all of you are aware of his indispensable role in the freedom struggle, from his beginnings with the Congress alongside Motilal to his famed ‘Tryst with Destiny” speech on Independence. No, what I do write of is the impact of his erasure. I am positive that some parties may consider Pt. Nehru’s policies as rubbing against the grains of their belief, or that they disapprove of him as a person. However – this remains true, he is a fundamental part of the freedom struggle, and as such, India’s recent history which every child should be aware of.
I do not think that Congress should be the only party raising their voice about this matter. Pt. Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, and all the other freedom fighters did not merely achieve independence for the Congress Party but rather for the entirety of India. To erase even a part of this history, be it a freedom fighter or the assassination of Gandhiji, is an affront to our nation itself. Who are we to say what is right and what is wrong? Is it not our job to learn the history, and then form opinions of it? Are not our schoolchildren destined to question and decipher the policies and decisions made by Pt. Nehru, the atrocities suffered by our country by the hands of the British, the shooting of Gandhiji – are they to be blind to it all? We must learn the rules before we break the rules; before an aspiring young politician wants to emerge into the scene, he must first learn about those who preceded him; hence, Pt. Nehru and history cannot be erased.
I am sorry to make this comparison, but this is a move similar to the British Raj – a Macaulay-esque move. As he rubbished Indian Literature and promoted the British, aren’t we doing the same by essentially rubbishing those we do not agree with and promoting who we personally care for? Saying Jawaharlal Nehru did not exist will not erase the fact that he stood with the other fighters. Saying Akbar was not great and Maharana Pratap was, will not remove the title from his records. But it will remove them from the minds of our future students, those who will not know a word of ‘Tryst with Destiny.’ Even if ‘the light has gone out of our life’ is omitted, it will not have erased the fact that the light indeed went out of our lives, that it was shot out by Godse. We, as a country, have had enough of our history and literature being trivialized by the British. Please do not do the same. And to erase Children’s Day? Is there even the most cynical eye that could spot anything ‘depraved’ or anti-nationalistic about having Children’s Day on the birthday of a PM who had loved kids?
I have been faced with the opinion that ‘it does not matter.’ Perhaps not now, but eventually it will matter, will it not? It is cardinal that every citizen knows the good and the bad of years past. Didn’t the members of the Education board who erased Pt. Nehru form their negative opinions of him after they read about him? How will we form an opinion of someone if we do not know of them? In comparison with Germany, where schoolchildren are forced to learn every atrocity committed by Hitler, with Britain where they are to learn about how their empire exploited others, with the US where children learn of slavery, would it not be backward and hypocritical of our Indian children to not know who shot Gandhi? Who our first Prime Minister was, what historic words he had said on the 15th of August, 1947?
I wish I could say confidently that the board’s erasure of Nehru won’t stop us, that we will still continue to carry his legacy but that would be wrong, wouldn’t it? For every child who’s parents tell them what the history books had missed there would be five others that will not know about Pt. Nehru because they were not taught. And the fact that Godse is not mentioned? Could you imagine in ten years, whilst Americans still remember the name of every terrorist involved in 9/11, our children begin to think that Gandhiji died of his own accord?
I’m not requesting you to enforce The Discovery of India as classroom reading. I am not requesting that we even display him as good, nor am I asking that we sing his praises in every lesson. Talk of ill effects, if the Board wishes, talk of his affinity for socialism if you have to – even prattle on about the rumors on his personal life if you wish! But to not mention him at all is heartbreaking. To somebody who reads and enjoys every aspect of history, it is lamentable that future children may not know at all of him.
And I am urging everyone to not let this happen, to not let such history be erased, regardless of your political views or opinions. For it only starts with Pt. Nehru – imagine how much worse it could get, imagine who else could be erased. Imagine other freedom fighters being erased. Colonialism erased, Mughals erased. They are all part of India, they are all part of Indian history, and as such should be compulsory learning, not removed at will. With such historical erasure, I am sorry to say – India will not be India.
Thank you for your time.
By Neha S