The Hindutva view of history: rewriting textbooks in India and the United States

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Authors: Kamala Visweswaran, Michael Witzel, Nandini Manjrekar, Dipta Bhog and Uma Chakravarti
Date: Winter-Spring 2009
From: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs(Vol. 10, Issue 1)
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Document Type: Article
Length: 5,470 words

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When Hindu nationalist (or Sangh Parivar) organizations in India came to power at the national level in 1998, one of the first things they did was to establish a National Curriculum Framework (NCF) to change textbook content. The 2000 NCF curriculum debate reflected the intense conflict between competing visions of national identity that had dominated India's public and political discourse over the previous two decades. In a significant departure from earlier curriculum frameworks of 1972 and 1986, which stressed democratic values, social justice, and national integration through appreciation of the commonalities of different subcultures, the principal focus of the NCF was "value education." (1) The chief end of history, as of education as a whole, was presented as the development of a "national spirit" and "national consciousness" through generating pride in the younger generation regarding India's past and its unique "religio-philosophical ethos, which was presented as primarily Hindu." (2) These actions were vociferously challenged by academics and progressive, secular, liberal, or left groups who decried the Sangh Parivar's ideological efforts to recast history.

In the summer and fall months of 2005, U.S. "Hindu" organizations with Sangh ties appeared at California Board of Education hearings, claiming that California textbooks discriminated against Hindus and presented a demeaning image of Hinduism. While there were indeed problems with the representation of Hinduism in the textbooks, the overall aim of the changes proposed by the Hindu Education Foundation and the Vedic Foundation was to propagate false notions of Indian history, including the idea that "Aryans" were the original or indigenous inhabitants of India, and that the core essence of Hinduism could be found in the Vedic religion of the Aryans.

We will argue that these textbook edits attempt to manufacture a majoritarian view of society in which the cultural and political space for minorities will progressively shrink. The ongoing violence against Muslims in Gujarat, where the Sangh Parivar's political arm, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) first came into office in the mid-1990s, and elsewhere in India, suggests that such a curriculum creates a setting in which social intolerance and injustices against minorities can be justified. U.S. legislators, policy-makers, and educators must therefore be particularly vigilant about the transplantation of this ideology to the United States in a post-9/11 climate. (3)

Sangh Parivar in India and the United States. The Sangh Parivar refers to the family of Hindu nationalist organizations created beginning in 1926 with the founding of the National Volunteers Organization or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The cultural and religious branch of the movement, the World Hindu Council, or Vishwa Hindu Parishad, was founded in 1964. The political arm of the movement was founded as the Jana Sangh in 1956, but reorganized as the Indian People's Party or Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1980. Members of Sangh Parivarrelated organizations have been indicted in numerous incidents of mass violence against Christian and Muslim minorities in India and a former RSS member assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. (4) The Sangh Parivar increasingly attempts to present a more...

Source Citation

Source Citation
Visweswaran, Kamala, et al. "The Hindutva view of history: rewriting textbooks in India and the United States." Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, vol. 10, no. 1, winter-spring 2009, pp. 101+. Accessed 23 Sept. 2021.

Gale Document Number: GALE|A265573689