Hyderabad: The University Grants Commission’s new curriculum framework for History in undergraduate programs has already received flack from historians and the student community across various universities for the way the subject has been structured.
The preamble of the curriculum framework states that the new framework intends to do justice to the glorious past and vast canvas of Indian history. However, the framework is leaning towards omitting certain aspects of history whilst focusing keenly on some others.
In one paper titled “History of India (1206-1707)”, there is no mention of Akbar and the Mughal Empire seems to exist only to prove the might of other Hindu rulers like Rana Pratap and Hemu Vikramaditya.
The repeated focus on mythology in another paper titled “Idea of Bharat” is being scrutinized for focusing more on the religious than on the political aspects of the society. The stranger aspects of the proposed syllabus framework of the UGC also aim to promote the concept of “Vasudaiva Kutumbakam” and educate undergraduate students on the “Indian perception of Dharma and Darshan.” Another, perhaps amusing topic in the framework, is the focus on “Science and Technology in Ancient India.”
As one research scholar from the University of Hyderabad remarked, “It is one thing to teach Rig Veda and Upanishads but it is a whole another thing to present it at center focus as at the chief idea way of viewing the country. Studying the mythologies also comes with the responsibility of recognizing how the later Vedic period was deeply patriarchal.” However, the suggested reading list for the ‘Idea of Bharat’ is a clear indicator that there is barely any focus on criticizing the mythology and its subsequent impact on history.
“It is clear that the UGC’s framework is hell-bent upon on manipulating history” the scholar added. “What other need is there for the Delhi Sultanate to be disregarded to such a large extent?”
The UGC has come under criticism in the past too for saffronizing Indian history to paint a picture of Hindu supremacy and dominance. Historians like Romila Thapar have time and again noted how history is being doctored to suit the current regime’s narrative.
“This is not the first time history has been tampered with,” remarks Irfan Habeeb, a Ph.D. scholar at the University of Hyderabad. Habeeb is working on modern Indian history with specific reference to the Malabar region. “What mainly concerns me is the bare mention of Irfan Habib and R.S.Sharma, two historians who worked to undo the communalized narratives written by colonial historians.”
When asked about the question of caste, Habeeb added that “To specifically understand caste, it would help to look at the Kerala social reform movement.”
What adds weight to Habeeb’s arguments is the fact that the framework mentions B.R. Ambedkar’s role in history as someone who helped draft the Indian constitution and nothing more. All of Dr. Ambedkar’s efforts to criticize and eradicate the caste system have found no mention.
At this point, it becomes important to question what history is being painted and for whose benefit. The continuation of colonial historical narratives favor only the right-wing brigade in the current times and do little to promote scientific temper and a more nuanced understanding of history.