'Drop our names' from political science textbooks, 33 well-known academicians to NCERT

The letter said that the NCERT is now making changes to the textbooks. These involve "deletions of sentences and removal of some sections (even chapters) considered unacceptable...
Image used for representational purpose only. (Express Illustrations)
Image used for representational purpose only. (Express Illustrations)

NEW DELHI: Thirty-three well-known academicians, including those from Kerala, Hyderabad, JNU and Delhi University, have written to NCERT seeking that their names be dropped from textbooks as their "collective creative effort is in jeopardy".

The move came a week after political scientists Yogendra Yadav and Suhas Palshikar wrote to the NCERT asking for their names to be dropped from textbooks.

The 33 academicians included Kanti Prasad Bajpai, a former JNU professor who currently serves as the vice dean at the National University, Singapore; Pratap Bhanu Mehta, former vice-chancellor of the Ashoka University; Rajeev Bhargava, a former director of CSDS; Niraja Gopal Jayal, a former JNU professor; Nivedita Menon, a JNU professor; Vipul Mudgal, the head of civil society watchdog Common Cause; KC Suri, a former professor at the University of Hyderabad who is now associated with the Gitam University; Sandeep Shastri, Academic Director, NITTE, Bengaluru; and Peter Ronald deSouza, a former director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, signed the letter.

All these academicians, who also included Kailash KK, University of Hyderabad; Manjari Katju, University of Hyderabad;  Alex M George, Independent researcher, Kerala; Muzaffar Assadi, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Professor, University of Mysore and Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, were members of the textbook development committee in 2006-07 when the political science textbooks were drafted.

In their letter to the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT), Director Dinesh Prasad Saklani, they said, "We have been following with growing concern, and increasing alarm, the public discussion on NCERT's unilateral attempts to modify and revise textbooks produced collaboratively by scholars from across the country."

"The political scientists who contributed to this effort came from multiple perspectives and had varied ideological positions. Yet we were able to work together to produce what is, by any measure, a truly remarkable set of school textbooks in political science. The pedagogic strategy that was adopted was, over several months, collectively deliberated upon and agreed to. We are now given to believe that this creative collective effort is in jeopardy," the letter said.

The letter said that the NCERT is now making changes to the textbooks. These involve "deletions of sentences and removal of some sections (even chapters) considered unacceptable with emphasis given to others considered desirable. The decision of who decides what is unacceptable and what is desirable has been kept rather opaque, violating the core principles of transparency and contestation that, we believe, underlies academic knowledge production."

"But it is not at liberty to make substantive changes, minor or significant, and then claim that the same contributors and Chief Advisors remain responsible for the revised text as it now stands," it said.

"In addition to the risk of the revisions changing the meaning and saying the opposite of what was intended by the contributors, is the principle of consulting them on changes to be made, or at least consulting the Chief Advisors who piloted this collective effort, and getting their approval," it said.

"Since there are several substantive revisions of the original texts, making them thereby different books, we find it difficult to claim that these are the books we produced and to associate our names with them," it said, adding that "With great regret at this turn of events we, therefore, request you to delete our names, as members of the Textbook Development Committee, from the NCERT political science textbooks."

In their letter to the NCERT chief on June 8, Yadav and Phalsikar had said a rationalisation exercise has "mutilated" the books beyond recognition and rendered those "academically dysfunctional", and the textbooks that were a source of pride for them earlier have now become a "source of embarrassment."

The NCERT, however, said that the textbook development committees, of which the two were members, ceased to exist once the books were published. It also noted that the copyright of the educational materials has since remained with NCERT.

The dropping of several topics and portions from NCERT textbooks last month triggered a controversy. While the changes made during the rationalisation exercise - undertaken last year due to Covid-19 - were notified, some controversial deletions like portions on Mahatma Gandhi, RSS and Nathuram Godse were not mentioned.

The NCERT had described the omissions as a possible oversight but refused to undo the deletions, saying they were based on expert recommendations.

It also said the textbooks were headed for revision in 2024, when the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) kicks in. However, it subsequently changed its stand and said, "minor changes need not be notified."

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