Deleting portions from textbooks a matter of great concern

Statement by concerned historians on the recent changes made by the NCERT in school textbooks

NCERT School

The recent decision of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) to drop entire chapters from the history textbooks for class 12, as well as from other classes and to delete statements from other textbooks is a matter of deep concern. Using the period of the pandemic-cum-lockdowns to argue that there was a need to lighten the load of the curriculum, the NCERT initiated a contentious process of dropping topics like the history of the Mughal courts, the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, the Emergency, mention of Dalit writers, the Naxalite movement, and the fight for equality from social science, history, and political science textbooks of classes 6 to 12. The new editions of these NCERT books have simply made the deletions the norm even when we are in a post-pandemic context in which school education has limped back to normalcy and is no longer in the online mode.

In this light, it is deeply troubling that a chapter on the Mughals has been deleted from part-II of the history textbook for class 12, while two chapters on modern Indian history have been removed from part-III of the history textbook. There has been no attempt to consult members of the teams that had prepared the textbooks, which included historians and school teachers, apart from members of the NCERT. The books were developed through a process of consultation and wide-ranging discussions. This was valuable not only in terms of content, but also in terms of pedagogy, which ensured an organic unity and a graded development in understanding from the middle to the senior school. The attempt was also to make the textbooks as inclusive as possible, and to provide a sense of the rich diversity of the human past both within the subcontinent and the wider world. As such, removing chapters / sections of chapters is highly problematic not only in terms of depriving learners of valuable content, but also in terms of the pedagogical values required to equip them to meet present and future challenges. While we understand the need for periodic revisions of school textbooks, this can only be done in sync with the consensus of existing historical scholarship. However, the selective deletion in this round of textbook revision reflects the sway of divisive politics over pedagogic concerns.

According to the Director, NCERT, the deletions are part of the rationalisation of the school textbooks, and have been done in order to reduce the burden on students. As per the NCERT, during the pandemic the students faced loss in learning, and in the post-pandemic period the students have been feeling overburdened with the syllabus. According to the NCERT, since some of the chapters were overlapping across subjects and classes, it was rational to reduce the content for the overburdened students. The NCERT authorities have denied any ulterior political motive behind this move of rationalisation.

However, notwithstanding the NCERT Director’s denial, the selective dropping of NCERT book chapters which do not fit into the larger ideological orientation of the present ruling dispensation exposes the non-academic, partisan agenda of the regime in pushing through amendments to school textbooks. This becomes abundantly clear when one critically analyses the removal of selective themes in the textbooks in the backdrop of the present central government’s larger ideological agenda of misconstruing the history of the people of the Indian subcontinent as a product of a hegemonic singular (Hindu) tradition.

Driven by such an agenda, the chapter titled ‘Kings and Chronicles: The Mughal Courts (c. sixteenth-seventeenth centuries) has been deleted from part-II of the history textbook. This is despite the fact that the Mughals ruled several parts of the subcontinent for a substantial period; making the history of these times an inseparable part of the subcontinent’s history. In medieval times, the Mughal empire and the Vijayanagara empire were two of the most important empires in the Indian subcontinent, both of which were discussed in the previous textbooks. In the revised version, while the chapter on the Mughals has been deleted, the chapter on the Vijayanagara Empire has been retained. The exclusion exposes the wider communal undertones, based on an inaccurate assumption about India’s past — that the religion of the rulers was the dominant religion of the times. This leads to the deeply problematic idea of a ‘Hindu’ era, ‘Muslim’ era, etc. These categories are uncritically imposed on what has historically been a very diverse social fabric.

Moreover, two very important chapters have been deleted from part-III on Modern India, namely, ‘Colonial Cities: Urbanisation, Planning and Architecture’ and ‘Understanding Partition: Politics, Memories, Experiences’. Also significant is the deletion of any mention of the role of Hindu extremists in the killing of Gandhi. For example, in the chapter titled ‘Mahatma Gandhi and the Nationalist Movement’ in part-III of the history textbook the reference to Nathuram Godse being “the editor of an extremist Hindu newspaper” has been expunged.

It is important to stress that the present retrograde step by the NCERT to delete entire chapters and portions of texts from the history textbooks is not based on any academic or pedagogic consideration. Rather, the chapters deleted from the history textbook are precisely those which do not fit into the pseudo-historical schema of the ruling dispensation. Excising any period from the study of the past would make students unable to comprehend the connecting thread of the past with the present times, and would deprive students of an opportunity to connect, compare and contrast the past and the present, and would disrupt the organic inter-connectedness of the subject-matter of the discipline. Furthermore, removing entire periods of history from history textbooks would not only perpetuate misconceptions and misunderstandings, but would serve to further the divisive communal and casteist agenda of the ruling elites. The books and history syllabi designed earlier by the NCERT were meant to provide an understanding of the Indian subcontinent as a great melting pot of different cultures consisting of various groups, ethnicities, etc. The sequence of the chapters was designed to teach students about the craft of history, and to develop critical thinking about the past. The composite heritage of the Indian subcontinent and historical genealogies of the present times were the main focus of the old NCERT syllabus from which chapters have now been strategically excised.

Apart from deletions in the history textbook of class 12, there are several deletions from the history textbook of class 11, which includes very essential themes like the industrial revolution, inter alia. There are also deletions from the textbook for political science, which includes sections on the rise of popular movements, the 2002 Gujarat Riots, and the mention of the report of the National Human Rights Commission. Similarly, the reference to the 2002 Gujarat Riots has been dropped from the Class 11 sociology textbook ‘Understanding Society’.

Guided by a divisive and partisan agenda, the NCERT by selectively deleting several important themes from school textbooks is not only doing great disservice to the composite heritage of the Indian subcontinent, but betraying the aspirations of the Indian masses. The colonial constructions and their contemporaneous reproduction manifest the misconstruing of Indian civilization as a product of a hegemonic singular tradition, such that categories like ‘Hindu society’ are uncritically imposed on what has historically been a very diverse social fabric. Ultimately, all these deletions present the students with a sanitized history of a homogenous ‘Hindu’ society in the Indian subcontinent. History of this variety has a disturbing preoccupation with the narrative surrounding kings and the wars they waged. It reduces state formations, empire-building, and transformations of the medieval period to an unsubstantiated, perennial contest between an allegedly homogenous ‘Hindu’ society and ‘Islamic’ invaders and rulers. It also projects the idea of presumably widespread social harmony in India’s past which conceals the exploitation and oppression of populations under different state formations along the axes of gender, caste, and class etc. It also overlooks regional diversity. By reducing the study of history to such monolithic accounts, the ground is being prepared for pseudo-histories, especially of a communal and casteist variety, to hold sway.  In any case, such ‘histories’ are widely circulated today through WhatsApp and other social media applications.

We are appalled by the decision of the NCERT to remove chapters and statements from the history textbooks, and demand that the deletions from the textbooks should be immediately withdrawn. The decision of the NCERT is guided by divisive motives. It is a decision which goes against the constitutional ethos and composite culture of the Indian subcontinent. As such, it must be rescinded at the earliest.


A R Khan Retired Professor, IGNOU
Abhijit Guha Retired Professor
Abhijit Roy Jadavpur University
Abigail Mcgowan Professor of History, University of Vermont
Adil Jussanwalla
Aditi Chandra University of California
Aditi Kanchanbaras University of Hyderabad
Aditya Mukherjee Retd. Professor, Centre for Historical Studies, JNU
Aisarya Dutt Roy University of Hyderabad
Ajeet Kumar Atma Ram Sanatan Dharma College, DU
Ajitha Kakumanu Atma Ram Sanatan Dharma College
Akanksha Singh Lady Sriram College, DU
Akhila Mathew Azim Premji University
Alka Saikia Gargi College, DU
Amita Paliwal Jesus & Mary College, DU
Anamitra Sarkar St. Paul’s Cathedral Mission College, Kolkata
Anand Chakrabarti Former Professor, DU
Anand K. Sahay
Anand Patwardhan Researcher and documentary filmmaker
Anil Kumar Motilal Nehru College, University of Delhi
Anindita Ghoshal Diamond Harbour Women’s University, Kolkata
Anisha Srivastava Sri Aurobindo College (Eve), University of Delhi
Anita Rampal Retd. Professor, Central Institute of Education, DU
Anjan Roy  
Anuradha Roy Retd. Professor, Jadavpur University
Anustup Basu University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign
Anwesha Sengupta Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata
Aparna Balachandran Dept of History, DU
Apoorvanand Dept. of Hindi, DU
Apurba Kumar Baruah Guwahati
Archana Ojha Kamala Nehru College
Archisman Chaudhuri Rutgers University
Arnav Gogoi University of Delhi
Arunangsha Maity Taki Government College, West Bengal
Asha Hans Sansristi
Ashesh Kumar Dhar University of Hyderabad
Ashish Ghosh Retd. Associate Professor, Dyal Singh College (Evening), University of Delhi
Ashoke Chatterjee
Ashwin Padi Zakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi
Aashique Ahmad Iqbal KREA University
Ataullah Zakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi
Avijit Singh Research Scholar, DU
Avinash Kumar Centre for Equity Studies
Badri Raina Author/Columnist
Barbara D. Metcalf University of California Davis
Bharati Jagannathan Miranda House College
Bhim Tiwari Research Scholar, DU
Bhupinder K Chaudhry Maharaja Agrasen College, DU
Biswajit Mohanty Delhi University
Biswaroop Chatterjee Durgapur, West Bengal
Bob van der Linden University of Amsterdam
Brij Tankha Retd. Professor, Department of East Asian Studies, University of Delhi
Buddhadeb Bagchi Retd. Professor, Calcutta University
C. Saratchand University of Delhi
Chairashree Das Gupta Centre for Law and Governance, JNU
Chayanika Uniyal Shyama Prasad Mukherji College for Women, DU
Chitran D University of Hyderabad
Christiane Brosius Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies
Christine Marrewa-Karwosi Columbia University
D. Manjit Delhi University
Dane Kennedy Professor Emeritus, George Washington University
David Blamey London
David Ludden Professor of History, New York University
Debashree Mukherjee MESAAS, Columbia University
Debjani Sengupta IP College, Delhi University
Denys Leighton OP Jindal University
Devaki Khanna
Devarpita Manjit Delhi University
Dilip Menon University of Witwatersrand
Dilip Simeon Writer and former Professor, Ramjas College, DU
Dilshad Ahmad Composite school SARVAT
Dinesh Kumar Singh Bharati College, Delhi University
Dinesh Varshney Motilal Nehru College (Evening
Dipta Bhog
Dolan Samanta Research Scholar, JNU
Farhat Hasan Dept. of History, DU
Feroze Chandra Retired
G. Arunima Professor, JNU
Geeta Arya Lakshmibai College, University of Delhi
Gyan Prakash Professor, Princeton University
Harbans Mukhia Retd. Professor, Centre for Historical Studies, JNU
Haokholal Kipgen University of Hyderabad
Inder Salim
Indu Agnihotri Historian and writer
Indranee Dutta OKDISCD, Guwahati
Irfan Habib Historian and Professor Emeritus, AMU
Ismail Vengasseri Lady Sriram College, DU
Jabir P. Dept. of History, University of Hyderabad
Jashobanta Pan Berhampur University
Jaya S. Tyagi Dept. of History, DU
Jayanti Gupta Kamala Nehru College
Jayati Ghosh University of Massachusetts Amherst
Justin Mathew Hansraj College, DU
Karen Gabriel Delhi University
Kausik Bandyopadhyay  
K N Sunandan Ajim Premji University
K. Satchidanandan Professor
K.I. Tuteja
Kali Chittibabu JNU
K.M.SHRIMALI Retd. Professor, Dept. of History, DU
Kanhad Sinha The Sanskrit College and University, Kolkata
Karuna Dietrich Wielenga Azim Premji University
Kavita Singh Retd. Professor, School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU
Kavita Srivastava PUCL
Keya Dasgupta Retired faculty, CSSSC, Kolkata
Krishnakumar M.V. Newman College, Thodupuzha, Kerala
Kumkum Roy Centre for Historical Studies, JNU
Lakshmi Subramaniam Visiting Professor of History, BITS Pilani, Goa
Latika Gupta University of Delhi
Levin N R Bharati College, Delhi University
Lianboi Vaiphei Indraprastha College for Women, University if Delhi
M H Ilias Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam
M V Shobhana Warrier Kamala Nehru College, DU
Madhuri Chatterjee
Madhuri Sharma Bharati College,  Delhi University
Malavika Kasturi Dept. of History, University of Toronto
Manorama Sharma Retired professor, Dept. of History, NEHU, Shillong
Manu V. Devadevan IIT-Mandi
Maroona Murmu Dept. of History, Jadavpur University
Martin Sökefeld Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Germany
Maya John Jesus and Mary College, DU
Maya Krishna Rao Theatre artist
Md. Hamid Husain Zakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi
Meena Bhargava Retd. Associate Professor, Indraprastha College for Women, DU
Meena Megha Malhotra History for Peace – The Seagull Foundations for the Arts
Mekhola Gomes Amherst College
Mercy Dutta JNU
Mita Hussain Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, DU
Mohd. Bilal Research Scholar, DU
Monika Saxena Ramjas College, DU
Monmayee Basu Hansraj College, DU
Moushami Bhowmik
Mridula Mukherjee Retd. Professor, Centre for Historical Studies, JNU
Mukul Kesavan Retd. Professor, Jamia Millia Islamia
Mukul Mangalik Retd. Professor, Ramjas College, DU
Naina Dayal St. Stephen’s College, DU
Najibuddin Ahmed Assam
Nandita Narain Delhi University
Nasir Tyabji Jamia Millia Islamia
Navoneel Ray Research Scholar, JNU
Nayana Dasgupta Lady Sriram College, DU
Neerja Singh Satyawati College (Evening), DU
Neeru Ailwadi Delhi College for Arts and Commerce, DU
Nilambri Ghai  
Nishtha Srivastava Shivaji College, University of Delhi
Nitoo Das IPCW, DU
P.K. Basant Jamia Millia Islamia
Pankaj Jha Lady Sriram College, DU
Partho Datta School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU
Parvin Sinclair Retd. Professor, IGNOU
Pia Malik Research Scholar, Delhi University
Ponniah Rajamanickam People Science Movement
Poonam Kanwal Janaki Devi Memorial College, DU
Prabhu Prasad Mohapatra Department of History, University of Delhi
Pradip Datta Retd. Professor, JNU
Pragati University of Hyderabad
Pragati Mohapatra Indraprastha College for Women, University if Delhi
Pranab Kanti Basu Retired Professor, Visva-Bharati
Pratyay Nath Ashoka University
Preeti Chauhan Lakshmibai College, University of Delhi
Preeti Chauhan Lakshmibai College, DU
Prem Kumar Delhi University
Promukh Bhattacharya Durgapur, West Bengal
Puneet Yadav Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi
Purwa Bharadwaj Delhi
R. Lakshmi JNU
R. Mahalakshmi Centre for Historical Studies, JNU
R. S. Meena Banaras Hindu University
Rachna Singh Hindu College, DU
Radhika Chadha Miranda House, DU
Radhika Singha Retd. Professor, Centre for Historical Studies, JNU
Rajesh Kumar Motilal Nehru Evening College, DU
Rajinder Arora
Rajni Arora
Rajshree Chandra DU
Rajshree Dhali Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College, DU
Rakesh Kumar Ram Lal Anand College, Du
Ram Murti Sharma Central Institute for Education, DU
Ramesh Dixit
Rana P. Behal Retd. Associate Professor, Deshbandhu College, DU
Ranbir Chakravarti Retd. Professor, Centre of Historical Studies, JNU
Ranjan Anand Zakir Husain College (Evening), University of Delhi
Ranjan Ghosh
Rashmi Pant Delhi University (retired)
Ratan Lal Hindu College, DU
Ravi Ahuja Centre for Modern Indian Studies of Georg-August-University Göttingen
Renu Bala DU
Renuka Devsare Goethe Institit, Delhi
Reyaz Ahmad
Rhea David St. Stephen’s College, DU
Ritu Menon Delhi
Romila Thapar Historian and Professor Emerita, JNU
Rudrashish Chakraborty Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi
Ruplekha Khullar
S CHINMUANTHANG University of Hyderabad
S.K. Ehteshan Uddin Ahmad Dept. of Law, AMU
S.Krishnaswamy Retired Senior Professor Ex Madurai Kamaraj University
Sabina Kazmi Delhi University
Sachin N Delhi University
Sagnik Saha Doctoral Scholar, University of Hyderabad
Samreen Hussain Lucknow
Sandhya Sharma Vivekanand College, Du
Sangeeta Luthra Sharma St. Stephen’s College, DU
Sanghamitra Rai Verman Jesus & Mary College, DU
Sanjay Verma Kirori Mal College, DU
Sanjeeb Mukherjee formerly with University of Calcutta
Sanjukta Naskar
Sanoj Kumar Shyam Lal College, DU
Santanu Sengupta Polba Mahavidyalaya, University of Burdwan
Santosh George
Santoshi Kumari Delhi University
Sarah Chauhan Jamia Millia Islamia
Sarika Sunder Dept. of History, University of Vermont
Saumya Gupta Janaki Devi Memorial College, DU
Sayandeb Chowdhury School of Letters, Ambedkar University Delhi
Shabnam Hashmi Anhad
Shadab Banu Women’s College, AMU
Shahana Bhattacharya Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi
Shailja Menon Ambedkar University, Delhi
Shantha Sinha
Shatarupa Bhattacharya Lady Sriram College, DU
Sheodutt University of Delhi
Shikha Jhingan Associate Professor, JNU
Shilpi Rajpal University of Copenhagen
Shivaji K. Panikkar Delhi/Vadodara
Shobhana M V Warrier Kamala Nehru College, DU
Shobna Nijhawan York University, Toronto
Shreekala MV JNU
Shubhra Sinha Kamala Nehru college
Shubhra Sinha Kamala Nehru College, DU
Simmi Mehta Mata Sundri College for Women, DU
Smita Sahgal Lady Sriram College, DU
Sneha Ganguly Jesus and Mary College
Snigdha Singh Miranda House, DU
Sonu Vincent Jesus and Mary college
Souraj Bhan Bhardwaj
Srabani Chakraborty Centre for Historical Studies, JNU
Sreekala M V Jawaharlal Nehru University
Srila Roy Wits university, South Africa
Srimanjiri Miranda House, DU
Subhendu Dasgupta Retired faculty, Calcutta University
Subir Rana Research Scholar, JNU
Suchandra Ghosh School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad
Sucheta Mahajan Professor, Centre for Historical Studies, JNU
Suchetna Chattopadhyay Dept of History, Jadavpur University
Sufiyan Abdul Sathar Calicut
Sujata Patel Retd. Professor, University of Hyderabad
Sujato Bhadra
Sujeet Kumar Delhi College for Arts and Commerce, DU
Suparna Puri  
Surajit Sarkar Delhi
Surbhi Vatsa Miranda House College, DU
Suvritta Khatri Deshbandhu College, DU
Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi Professor, Dept. of History, AMU & Secretary, Indian History Congress
Tanu Parashar Jesus and Mary College, DU
Tasneem Suhrawardy St. Stephen’s College, DU
Tilak Hazarika Cotton University, Guwahati
Tilottama Mukharjee Jadavpur University
Uma Chakrabarti Historian, DU
Upinder Singh Ashoka University
Urmimala Sarkar Munsi JNU
Urvi Mukhopadhyay  
Vaibhav Ramani Ashoka University
Vandana Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi
Vandna Mathur University of Delhi
Vani Subramanian Delhi
Vibhas Chandra Verma Delhi University
Victoria Potshangbam Kamala Nehru College, DU
Vijaya Venkataraman University of Delhi
Vijjika Pandey Singh ARSD college
Vinita Malik Kamala Nehru College, DU
Virender Singh Research Scholar, Panjab University
Vishwa Mohan Jha Atma Ram Sanatan Dharma College, DU
Yael Rice Amherst College
Yasser Arafat Dept of History, DU
Yousuf Saeed Jamia Millia Islamia





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