Sudhanva Shetty Shetty
Writer, coffee-addict, likes folk music & long walks in the rain. Firmly believes that there's nothing more important in a democracy than a well-informed electorate.
Certain educational videos recommended by the Maharashtra government for Class IX students have stirred controversy. Among other false claims, the videos depict Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin as disputed territories, contradicting the Indian government’s official stance on the subject.
The book in question is a Class IX textbook History and Political Science by the Maharashtra State Bureau of Textbook Production & Curriculum Research. The Board provides an opportunity for students to use digital platforms to study related issues by providing a QR code in textbooks.
One of the videos accessed by the QR codes is a a video from a non-governmental YouTube channel called “Top Historical Events”. This channel’s video on the McMahon Line, which separates India and China, highlights Aksai Chin in Jammu and Kashmir and the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh with red lines, as disputed territories. (The video itself is merely a bot reading of the Wikipedia article on the McMahon Line.)
India’s official stance is the opposite. India governs Arunachal Pradesh though China claims large parts of it while Aksai Chin is claimed by India as a part of Jammu and Kashmir and thereby as a part of India; however, the region is administered by China.
The official India map shows Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh as a part of India. The official map, however, has not been shown anywhere in the video.
Kishor Darak, an independent education researcher, told The Hindu, “This is completely contradictory to the official Indian version. What exactly is the government is trying to achieve by showing these regions as different from the rest of the map of India? Secondly, it also raises questions on whether the government should promote private YouTube videos as study material for our students?”
Besides the Arunachal/Aksai Chin error, the videos recommended by the Maharashtra Board have other irregularities as well.
The QR codes provide access to two videos on Naxalism, both from private channels. One is a news report on Naxal activities by foreign media, and the other a trailer of a documentary on this issue. “One of the videos speak about the State’s assault on tribals. What are we saying here exactly? Very little research seem to have been done while choosing videos for students,” Mr Darak said.
The textbook in itself has refrained from mentioning that the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was demolished. The book also described the Kashmir conflict in a limited fashion, mentioning only the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley.
The Congress Party has branded the book as politically biased. While mentioning that late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was “criticised” for corruption in the Bofors case, it also says political corruption became the main issue in the 2014 general elections, leading to the Congress’s defeat. The book, however, does not mention that Gandhi was posthumously acquitted of the corruption charges in 2004.
The Congress Party’s Pune unit has registered its opposition to the manner in which historical facts have been misrepresented. In a letter submitted to the bureau, the party has asked the government to present history in its complete form without modifications.
Sadanand More, who is the president of the History Subject Committee (the Committee that drafted the textbook) said that he was not aware about the video and would look into it.
More also said that the Bofors allegations are a part of history and the reason why Rajiv Gandhi’s vindication was not mentioned because the textbook covers events till 2000 and the court verdict came later, in 2004.
Furthermore, More reportedly said that while the problems of Kashmir are well-known, the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits has been neglected.
“We were absolutely unbiased in writing textbook. We have given due credit to all Congress PMs where it was necessary … We as a bureau follow a policy of not going into details on communal and casteist matters. As we would not write about the Babri Masjid demolition, we have not written about the Sikh riots as well,” he said.
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