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Prejudice and Pride

Prejudice and Pride

Author: M.V. Kamath
Publication: Organiser
Date: March 10, 2002
How knowledgeable are most Indians about Pakistan? Conversely how knowledgeable are most Pakistanis about India? According to Krishna Kumar, Professor of Education, Delhi University, knowledge about Pakistan has little worth in India and the case of knowledge about India in Pakistan is not very different. He attributes the latter to the stigmatization of India as a Hindu country and a shrinking of academic curiosity about India in Pakistani academic circles as a whole. One suspects that interest in what is now Pakistan almost ceased in India following Partition. Prof Krishna Kumar says that there are hardly any scholars in Pakistan who can read Hindi or any other Indian language. It is a remarkable statement to make. And what little children are taught in Pakistan about their' eastern neighbour is apparently not very flattering. To come to his conclusions Prof Krishna Kumar took upon himself the task of studying children's history text books both in Pakistan and India for classes VI to XII. In the course of his studies he noted that in Pakistan, history text books were used for the "ideological consolidation" of the country. Text book writers in both countries assigned different levels of significance o a common set of personalities. In certain cases different segments of an individual's biography were highlighted. In the Pakistani representation of Gandhi and the, Indian representation of M.A. Jinnah, there were serious distortions. In Pakistani textbooks there is no mention of Gandhi's personality, the values he upheld and promoted and the inventive character of his politics. In most textbooks he is presented as just another Hindu politician! According to Prof Kumar in Pakistani texbooks the early 1930s "acquire a landscape strikingly different from the one we see-in Indian texts". The era is seeds highly personalised terms as a struggle between Gandhi and Jinnah! The Civil Disobedience Movement is largely ignored. So is Gandhi's Dandi March and the repression that followed. Gandhi's attitude at the Second Round Table Conference is described as "resolute and stubborn". According to one popular Pakistani text, book "Gandhi insisted that there was only one nation in India which were Hindus, but the Quaid-e-Azam replied that Indian Muslims where also a separate nation of India which had its interests". One does not know of any record where Gandhi has described India as a Hindu nation. Nehru does not get any better treatment either. Another text book suggests that Nehru's demand for a joint electorate for building a strong, secular state was deceivingly supported by Hindu extremists who believed that "they could establish a Hindu state because the Hindus were in a majority". The obsession with Hindus and Hinduism in Pakistani texbooks for school children has to be seen to be believed! Not even Gandhi's great Wardha Scheme of education which the Mahatma conceived as an alternative to the bookish, examination oriented system of colonial education, is spared. Notes one Pakistani text book: "(The Wardha Scheme) was an essentially communal scheme shot through and through with Hindu ideals. The teaching of religion was completely ignored, and this amounted to an attempt to disengage the Muslim child from his faith, Muslim children were obliged to honour the Congress flag, to sing Vande Mataram, to wear home-spun cloth (khadi) and to worship Gandhi's portrait'.'

All this may sound ridiculous to Indians, but there is more on these lines. According to the Pakistani text book writer, the Wardha Scheme inculcated "Hindu nationalism and principles of non-violence", "aimed at creating a high respect among the young minds for the Hindu heroes and religious leaders", "sought schemes to isolate the younger generation of Muslims from their religion, culture and civilization" and Hindus were charged with introducing Vande Mataram as an anthem "which contained feelings of hatred for the Muslims". Gandhi, apparently, is the Pakistani textbook writer's particular bugbear. According to Prof Kumar, "Gandhi is denied all honour and stature in the portrayal of Khilafat and noncooperation in all Pakistani textbooks." Then there is the matter of the rebellion of 1857. According to Prof Kumar, Mangal Pandey and the Rani of Jhansi are mentioned in some of the junior level textbooks but are absent from texts for senior students. The popular intermediate-level text book by Rabbani and Sayyad mentions "Hindus and other nations" participating in the rebellion but has no room for the names of the 1857 heroes. Says Prof Kumar: "The (Pakistan) state's perspective on Pakistan's history forbids the authors of school text books from attaching any significance to examples of Hindu-Muslim unity."

The Punjab Textbook Board's social studies text for Class VIII is revelatory. Of the implications of 1857 it says: "The British had not forgotten the War of Independence waged by the Muslims against them. The Hindus had never forgiven the Muslims for having ruled India for centuries. Therefore, both the communities conspired against the Muslims to rum them into a poor, helpless and ineffective minority." Incidentally, according to Prof Kumar, barring S.F. Mahmud "no school historian in Pakistan or India so much as mention Ghalib. As a critic of the rebellion, and as someone who tried hard to retain British patronage, Ghalib has no place in the story of 1857 as an episode of the freedom struggle, though he was a great personality of his times and is regarded as a poet of universal repute."

Then there is the matter of the Quit India resolution passed by the Congress in Mumbai on August 9, 1947. Prof Kumar writes that while Indian textbooks describe Quit India "in a purely celebratory manner, allowing no questions on issues like Gandhi's willingness to risk violence", for Pakistani textbooks the important day is March 23, 1940 when the Muslim League meeting in Lahore called for the creation of Pakistan. As the author puts it: "The Lahore Resolution stands like a commanding peak in the landscape of the early 1940s in Pakistani textbooks, just as the Quit India movement does in the Indian texbooks." The Lahore Resolution, of course, hardly matters to textbook writers in India.

Is there any way in which a "balanced" textbook can be written that is acceptable to both India and Pakistan? To what extent are school textbooks responsible both in India and Pakistan to perpetuate animosities between the two countries? Can the mariner in which facts are presented ever be changed so that contrary views can still be expressed so that children can make up their own minds? Prof Kumar's book raises many fascinating issues for our educationists and those who see improved relations between the two countries, brought about. They are worth examining.

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