Don’t let yourselves be cheated of grief & anger once again.

“A composition made of carefully omitted inconvenient truths &

Cleverly interpreted selective material is what often passes as history.

Abridged history textbooks are often just that; abridged & abused truths, half truths & untruths.

Once in a while comes a book that sets the record straight. Like this one.”

I was presenting to someone on 25th November a book, People’s history of the United States, when I wrote the above lines. Little did I realize then that I would be called upon to write about it so soon. Country is reeling from the deadly carnage unleashed in Mumbai only last week. There is shock & disbelief. Anger is seething. Justified pride has risen about those who laid their lives in the line of duty. These outpourings take place after every manmade disaster. However, Commentators assure us that this time it is different. Resolves have been voiced that enough is enough & people can’t & wouldn’t take it any more. They want action from their elected representatives – punitive as well as deterrent. Media Channels have called for citizenry’s responses on what they think should be done. Some want us to adopt Israel style ‘hot pursuit’ & ‘pre-emptive’ strikes doctrine against the enemy. Others recommend that India too should act unilaterally like USA whenever she determines her interests are under attack. Current tragedy, like others before, was even milked for gains in the ongoing elections. Political establishment from left to right after making callous & tasteless remarks that betray their absence of esteem for the people seem now to wake up to the strength of the feelings of our urban electorate. Bellicose & strident posturing has been adopted both by the ruling & opposition parties since it seems to match the flavor of public mood. Leader of the student-wing of Shivsena made rounds of TV channels ‘politely’ telling them that Pakistani artists are not welcome. However, Pakistani scholars seem ‘welcome’ to a Rajyasabha MP belonging to an ideological ally BJP.

I have always admired Arun Shourie for his painstaking research & his skills in ferreting out material he deems relevant. In his Op Ed article, Surprised?, published in Indian Express of 1st December he advocates a unyielding aggressive line.

But for any of this to happen, the society has to be clear in its mind. This is, it has for 20 years been, war. It can be won only by overwhelming the adversary — not by running after the terrorist, as K.P.S. Gill says, but by out-running him, indeed by over-running him. Not an eye for an eye. For an eye, both eyes. Not a tooth for a tooth. For a tooth, the whole jaw. Human rights? Yes, we will respect the human rights of the terrorists and their sponsors and their local supporters to the extent that they respect the human rights of our people.

Many would agree with his approach. But who are the terrorists? The actual perpetrators or foot soldiers?, and their handlers, financiers, ideologues & organizations?, or also the region or community or country they belong to? A clear & objective distinction needs to be made here. This is where public rage needs to be moderated & lead carefully (see Managing the rage by Pratap Mehta). Not venally exploited as politicians are wont to do. Civil society recognizes this danger & also the role ideology plays in preparing a fertile soil receptive to seeding a desired world view. Shourie cites a source to demonstrate the doctoring of school textbooks to suit requirements of a state – a Pakistani state in this instant.

Finally, have a clear realisation of the condition of the society and state of Pakistan. Unless you come across evidence that the nature of the state and society of Pakistan has changed, it is idiotic to put faith in the profession of this ruler or that. Remember Musharraf’s “Main naya dil leyke aayaa hun”? Taliban and Al Qaeda are not the cause of the state of Pakistan. They are the result of the Talibanisation of Pakistani society and state.

Where do you think, and by whom do you think are the teachers instructed to ensure that students from class 1 onwards “recognise the importance of jihad”; to ensure that they “must be aware of the blessings of jihad”; to ensure that they “create yearning for jihad in his heart”; to ensure that they develop “love and aspiration for jihad, tabligh, shahadat, sacrifice, ghazi, shaheed”? Where do you think, and by whom are teachers instructed to ensure that students from kindergarten onwards learn to “make speeches on jihad and shahadat”, and are “judged on their spirit while making speeches on jihad”? Do you think these are instructions issued by the Islamic fundamentalists to maulvis in madrasas? They are instructions given by the government of Pakistan through official circulars to principals and teachers in government schools of Pakistan.

You didn’t know that? Exactly. That is a large part of the problem. You will find reams of these and other facts in the 2002 report edited by Pakistani academics, A.H. Nayyar and Ahmed Salim, and published by the Sustainable Development Institute, Islamabad, ‘The Subtle Subversion: The state of curricula and textbooks in Pakistan, Urdu, English, Social Studies and Civics’. Get on to the Internet, download and read the report from http://sdpi.org/. Here is a part of the problem that you can solve by yourself.

I obeyed his exhortation to get on the internet & to read the report. What do I find there?

What was happening to Pakistani school curriculum and textbooks was also happening to the learning material in India. While it was Islamization in Pakistan, it was communalization of education in India, which in effect was an effort at Hinduization of education. The Indian civil society and academia was as much, if not more, alive to the disturbing trend as its counterpart in Pakistan. The earliest work criticising distortion of History in Indian textbooks to provoke communal hatred was Tareekh ke saath Khalwar, published in 1988. This book included studies and papers read in a seminar held in Patna. Two civil society organisations stand out as the torch bearers against communalization of education; Communalism Combat, a periodical edited by the award winning activist Teesta Setalvad, and Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT). Among the more well-known works is the recently published Prejudice and Pride by Krishna Kumar, which discusses in detail the distortion of facts and communal elements in Indian and Pakistani textbooks. The Delhi Historian Group published an analysis of history textbooks in India. Political parties have also written on the ideological onslaught of the extremists.

Teesta Setalvad, SAHMAT, Krishna Kumar, etc. are exactly the kind of people with whom Shourie wouldn’t care to break bread, may be even calling them pseudo-secularists or worse. Shourie to his credit has not suppressed his source of information on Pakistani curricula, but neither has he acknowledged the charge of communalization of Indian curricula. It would not fit with the tenor of his article. He essentially ridicules Congress for being soft on terror and advocates strong arm policy whatever that means. One component of that policy appears to be tough terror laws. BJP & Shivsena are extremely fond of tough anti-terror laws. They lament repeal of POTA. None of those who advocate tough laws ever enunciate what they mean by it. If it is about increasing punishments, even providing severe deterrent punishments, I am all for it. But if it means diluting the standards of proof of guilt, reducing transparency, and empowering state to hold accused indefinitely without recourse to remedial action, I am totally against it. State is already unduly empowered. Empowering it further implies substituting accountability & responsibility, which all of us want, by unfettered freedom to do very much what it pleases. Guantanamo Bay prison is a sterling example of unrestrained illegitimate power in lawless land that has produced zilch. It has apparently become a liability for the incoming 44th president of USA, who I believe has made a campaign promise to close it. If tough terror laws imply ability of the state to conduct itself lawlessly, then it would be better to change rulers, i.e. to get people’s representatives who know better, than to change laws.

Would we accept if someone classifies India a communalized society? I won’t despite scores of major carnages against one community or the other that shake our confidence in our own humanity. Because invariably these were viciously orchestrated by some political party or other for its own narrow gains; often with vigorous connivance or studious inaction by state. Because I know there is still a silent majority which would not Suo Moto participate in such activities, though it may be held guilty of keeping silent & allowing itself to be counted among tacit supporters of such pogroms. Undoubtedly it would seem that during the last two decades there has been growing intolerance, mistrust & antipathy among communities. Much of it shaped by doctoring reality, distorting facts, hyping convenient partial truths & drumming up untruths, which through endless repetition become self evident truths. We should not this time & ever again allow our sorrow & anger be turned into electoral capital by any political grouping.

We must surely isolate & destroy terror networks. But those who tell me that entire Pakistan or most of it or significant part of it, is guilty of plotting or abetting terrorism, I would find it difficult to swallow. But while we may take two eyes of a terrorist, we shouldn’t take lives of two innocents. Not merely on moral or ethical grounds, but even as a pragmatic policy in self interest. Israel’s strong arm tactics have not helped to solve or reduce the terrorist attacks. USA’s unjustified & unprovoked war against Iraq hasn’t made the world a safer place. It has instead caused untold misery to innocent people there as it had done once in Vietnam & Cambodia. One should be wary of war mongers. State terror is no substitute for terror. It won’t cure it. We should study unadulterated facts for that. We should find alternate sources of information in the civil society instead of relying on main stream media exclusively, or substantially.

Three decades ago in an MBA class I was told of an inscription on a building in Genève, Switzerland – International Labour Organization’s head quarters :

Poverty anywhere is threat to prosperity everywhere.

Today I would like to remind that :

Injustice & oppression anywhere is threat to tranquility everywhere.

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One Response to “Don’t let yourselves be cheated of grief & anger once again.”

  1. mogadishu line Says:

    what you don’t acknowledge is the pressure the pakistani educationists like nayyar worked with.
    do you think without an equivalent maligning of India their report would have been allowed ? hardly. it’s a price, say a balancing act they have to do
    in order to get their work published.

    secondly, do read the reports. the pakistani case studies deal with actual text books citing the references.
    if you find a similar one on Indian books, say from NCERT or any other state boards do let me know. an email would be nice. once minus the empty rhetoric of RSS/VHP destroying India that is.

    If you had known about NCERT you would also have known that their books, far from being communal(sic) portray an extreme version of communism. any other thought is ruthlessly suppressed with a body of deceit and lies.
    regards.

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