Often, history in school books is all about beating around the bush with negligible focus on learning. Unfortunately, the debate around certain chapters on the Mughals in NCERT books is going the same way.

By Tushar Gupta

Social media remains divided over NCERT’s revision of History textbooks in class XII. At the extremes, one side hails the exclusion of the chapter on Mughals, while the other, inclined towards the Left, alleges ‘communal rewriting of history’.

However, both the extremes are alienated from reality.

Firstly, excluding Mughal history from books, or diluting the chapters, does not help anyone, not the students, especially. If anything, it is hasty and lazy policymaking.

While compressing three hundred years’ worth of Mughal history, for school students, is an arduous task, it is no reason to keep the students oblivious to the crimes and atrocities committed by the Mughals.

Starting from 1526 to 1857, every phase of Mughal history is plagued with stories that must be told. There’s no running away from it.

Two, the people in academia with a soft spot for the Left must realise that everything about the Mughals cannot always be sugar-coated.

While a few aspects, like the scale of architecture or foreign trade, for instance, can be taught, to expect a whitewashing of all their crimes or attribution of every innovation to those three hundred years is foolishness.

As objective and unbiased spectators of history, the academic fraternity should have worked on curating better books and resources.

However, no one is talking about the most important stakeholders in this debate: the students, and what they may wish to or not wish to learn. For starters, in the age of the internet, there is no limit to the sources that students can access online.

Perhaps, it is time that the NCERT curriculum, especially for the students of Class 10 and Class 12, integrates the option to choose between studying ancient, medieval, modern, and world history. Ideally, allow students to pursue one aspect of history properly.

The resistance to this idea usually comes from teachers, or the lack of them, given the time and resources available are finite. That is where the NCERT should go for multilingual digital lectures.

History, as a subject, can be the proverbial guinea pig, and if successful, the digital model can be replicated for all other subjects.

In board exams, students can always be given a choice between questions, as is the norm, thus solving the problem of evaluation and marking. Starting with Class-9, this model can be implemented across all schools.

Students cannot be completely left out of the process to choose what they wish to learn or learn about. NCERT’s job should be to offer an unbiased assessment of the history that defines our civilisation.

To politicise the school curriculum of students is not a healthy move.

Instead, ensure access to all the resources, digitally. From there, let the inquisitiveness of the individual take over.

The larger problem is not that the Mughals find a mention in the history books, but that other important personalities and empires do not, or their place in the textbook is nowhere close to their importance in history.

Set a level playing field for learning, one that is founded on truth and objectivity.

This article first appeared in www.swarajyamag.com and it belongs to them.