Maharashtra textbook distorts ‘84 history, Singh Sabha Mumbai seeks ban

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Singh Sabha Mumbai general secretary Manmohan Singh writes a detailed missive to Education Minister of Indian state of Maharashtra protesting the distortion of historical facts of June 1984 culminating in the attack on Darbar Sahib, popularly known as Operation Bluestar in the Standard IX History textbook. Giving detailed reasons -social, historical and psychological, Singh Sabha seeks withdrawal of the textbooks already in circulation and replacement with new ones.

Shri Vinod Tawde Ji,
Hon’ble Minister of School Education & Sports (Cabinet),
Govt. of Maharashtra Mantralaya,
Maharashtra, Mumbai-400 03

Dear Sir

We write to you to bring to your attention misrepresentation of facts and events of contemporary history in the IX standard textbook published by the Maharashtra State Bureau of Textbook Production and Curriculum Research, Pune.

Clearly, the various committees set up by the Maharashtra State Bureau of Textbook Production and Curriculum Research have obviously not done their homework and research well.  The whole approach is in substantial and ill-conceived.

The standard IX textbook for History and Political Science is full of inanities and rushed conclusions without due consideration of facts and the circumstances of contemporary history.

The various committees set up by the Maharashtra State Bureau of Textbook Production and Curriculum Research have obviously not done their homework and research well.  The whole approach is in substantial and ill-conceived. The standard IX textbook for History and Political Science is full of inanities and rushed conclusions without due consideration of facts and the circumstances of contemporary history.

Sri Guru Singh Sabha( Regd.)  Mumbai, the apex body of the Sikhs is deeply concerned about the contents relating to Punjab in Chapter no. 3 titled “India’s Internal Challenges”. In this chapter, the contents of the sub-chapter “The Unrest in Punjab” straightaway jumps to the Anandpur Sahib Resolution of 1973 and lists the various genuine demands which the party made at that point of time. There is nothing legally wrong with the demands and neither does the text say that. However, it suddenly jumps to 1980 and talks about Sant Harchand Singh Longowal (misspelt as Sant Harcharan Singh Longowal), Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and others  then leading  to a two-line justification of the storming of Darbar Sahib, aka The Golden Temple and the killing of insurgents and innocent  devotees therein. It gives them a blanket label of “terrorists”. Then it calls the Operation Bluestar a “military expedition”. Then another leap to 1986 to another military assault called the Operation Black Thunder. And then the conclusion that all this led to peace in Punjab and the chapter on Punjab concludes followed by the sub-chapter on the North-East.

Singh Sabha Mumbai seeks withdrawal

Punjab suffered for two decades deaths and destruction -hundreds upon thousands of tortures, involuntary disappearances, documented killing of “unknown people” by the police, para-military and military forces, ordinary pilgrims killed by the Indian army in the precincts of the Golden Temple, the arts and artefacts of the Sikh Reference Library looted by the army after killing the insurgents and innocent  devotees in Darbar Sahib, commission after commission blaming the government for their political and military role, the genocidal attacks on Sikhs during 1-4 November 1984 all across 250 towns of India. There is no mention of any of this. There is no mention that the very demands mentioned in the first paragraph relating to the contents of the Anandpur Sahib resolution have not yet been met. The authors have chosen to ignore that various other states have sought similar demands since the Anandpur Sahib resolution.

 

 Distortion is one crime but to obfuscate facts, to write only one side and to compress a decade-long struggle by the people of Punjab into half a page is a horrendous attempt to teach students a convoluted version of contemporary history.

They have failed to even say that while the whole country had accepted the emergency of the then Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi – it was the thousands of volunteers of the Shiromani Akali Dal who offered peaceful resistance and voluntary arrest as a mark of protest.The learned authors do not ask the question, “Why is Chandigarh still the only city in the country which is the capital of two states?

The role of Punjab as the grain basket of the country, the pioneer in Green revolution and its role in the national game of hockey should have found mention in the history book. The authors should have written how despite groundwater depletion, shortage of water, Power headworks in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab still continues to share water with Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi.

Writing contemporary history is always fraught with problems as the characters of history are still fresh in the minds of the people and each one has a different perception of them. Critical analysis of any character is bound to create divisions in society -not only amongst the intellectuals and the historians but also amongst the common man.

 The role of Punjab as the grain basket of the country, the pioneer in Green revolution and its role in the national game of hockey should have found mention in the history book. The authors should have written how despite groundwater depletion, shortage of water, Power headworks in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab still continues to share water with Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi.

Since the last four decades, the state of Punjab and the majority population of that state -Sikhs have been pursuing many religious, social and political demands. One such demand which was the forerunner of many states seeking a true federal working of the country was the Anandpur Resolution of 1973 which sought a total revamping of the Centre-State relations with comprehensive powers to the States. Though this resolution was later adopted by various states in one form or the other, there was a massive electoral outcry against this historic document which actually culminated into an anti-Sikh campaign across the country.

Distortion is one crime but to obfuscate facts, to write only one side and to compress a decade-long struggle by the people of Punjab into half a page is a horrendous attempt to teach students a convoluted version of contemporary history.

We realise that to encapsulate a 40-year period into a text book and that too the contemporary period of 1961 to 2000 is not easy. In fact, we believe that this is a dangerous venture of the Maharashtra Textbook board. Why do it? We are pretty certain that just as in the chapter on Punjab, there are gross errors, mistakes, lapses and sweeping conclusions regarding other areas and aspects too.

The Preface by the Director of the Maharashtra State Textbook Board -Dr. Sunil Magor spells out the rather casual approach taken to write a history book for young impressionable students of Class IX. The first para of the preface says that “This book is a part of the efforts being made to modernise the history curriculum.” The second para says that “In fact, compelled by the limit of the number of pages in this textbook, it is a rather cursory overview of approximately forty years.”

The director admits that it is “a rather cursory overview”. Are we to teach matter collected and written in a cursory manner or in a considered manner? Teachers of the book have been told in the note to teachers that “you will relive those times” as these events happened in their lifetime, which means that they would further add their own viewpoints to the already sullied material provided in the text book. Why should we teach the whole period of 40 years if we cannot put together a considered well-thought of version?

Did anyone evaluate from the child psychology point of view the impact on children when members of a community are labelled terrorists? Did the writers think about the impact of the article on a Sikh child in a class full of a majority of others? How many journalists, intellectuals, writers and historians understand the true course of events of 1984? How will a student studying in IX standard understand?

The impugned paras of this text book have the potential of creating animosity and hatred against the Sikhs who are peacefully settled in Maharashtra for long and are contributing to the State in all walks of life.

Singh Sabha seeks the rewriting of the chapter on Punjab, in particular including all the defaming references in the paras on Operation Bluestar. The Sikhs of Mumbai and various parts of Maharashtra are upset over the contents of the book and we request you to immediately withdraw the already circulated textbooks and replace them with new ones.

Yours sincerely,

For Sri Guru Singh Sabha (Regd.), Mumbai
Sd. Manmohan Singh
General Secretary,
Sri Guru Singh Sabha (Regd.), Mumbai

CC to:

  1. Maharashtra State Minority Commission
  2. National Commission for Minorities
  3. S. G. P. C., Amritsar
  4. D. S. G. M. C., New Delhi
  5. Chairman, Board, Takhat Sachkhand, Sri Hazoor Sahib-Nanded, Maharashtra.
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