Wednesday, Jun 23, 2004
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By Our Special Correspondent
NEW DELHI, JUNE 22. Eager to avoid "further politicisation of history,'' the three-member committee of eminent historians entrusted with the task of undertaking a "quick review'' of the history books prepared by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) began their work here today with an "open mind,'' and maintained that neither the charges nor the counter-charges made in this prolonged debate could be brushed aside easily.
The three members the former Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research, S. Settar, the former Director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies at Shimla, J. S. Grewal, and the founder director of the Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad Institute for Asian Studies, Kolkata, Barun De, met for the first time today since the committee was constituted on June 12, and began their work in right earnest with a meeting with the Additional Secretary in the Human Resource Development Ministry, Sudeep Banerjee.
To begin with, the three historians have to decide on how to undertake the task of removing distortions and communally biased portions mid-session without causing too much confusion for the students. "By the time we finish with this round of meetings likely to last for another two days we hope to be able to tell the Government how we propose to carry out the brief given to us,'' Prof. Settar told mediapersons this evening in between discussions.
For the ongoing year, their focus will be on removing the "obvious objectionable portions'' and identifying material to replace the deleted portions. Since it is not possible to write the texts afresh at short notice, they will have to scout through available texts to suggest the alternatives.
While removing the distortions is their brief, the three historians also appear keen to go about their job without causing too much of a controversy to avoid a situation that will lead to textbooks being rewritten every time there is a change of government.
Besides putting the textbooks under the scanner, the three historians will also go through the `Index of Errors' prepared by the Indian History Congress, the NCERT's defence of its textbooks, and the various representations that have come in from various quarters. Today itself, the committee received four representations one each from the Indian History Congress, the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust, the eminent historian, Irfan Habib, and the noted lawyer, Rajeev Dhavan seeking withdrawal of the existing textbooks.
Ruling out withdrawal of the textbooks at this juncture on the premise that it would be impractical to do so mid-session, the Ministry asked the panel to do a "quick review'' and suggest what needs to be done in the short term.
As per the order, "If they so recommend, the Government will direct the NCERT and the Central Board of Secondary Education to issue appropriate directions to the teachers to transact the curriculum as per those recommendations.''
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