Education

This is what Modi government does not want you to learn in school...

The present government’s obsession with whitewashing caste is obvious considering they want to expound the notion that there is equality and no caste issues within Hinduism

NH Web Desk

The present government’s obsession with whitewashing caste is obvious considering they want to expound the notion that there is equality and no caste issues within Hinduism. How else can they bring Hindus under brand Hindutva?

The HRD ministry has decided to remove three chapters from the NCERT History text books. The chapters to be deleted include one on clothing and how social movements influenced how we dressed (Clothing – A history). The second chapter (History and Sport: The Story of Cricket) is on the history of cricket in India and its connection to the politics of caste, region and community. The third chapter (Peasants and Farmers) focuses on the growth of capitalism and how colonialism altered the lives of peasants and farmers. This is being done under the garb of ‘reducing burden on students’.

Here are the key points in each of the three chapters:

Peasants and Farmers

It talks about the about how forests and pastures was regulated by modern governments, and how these restrictions and controls affected the lives of those who used these resources. It highlights the small cottagers in England, the wheat farmers of the USA, and the opium producers of Bengal

  1. The history of opium production in India was linked up with the story of British trade with China. In the late 18th century, the English East India Company was buying tea and silk from China for sale in England. But, England at this time produced nothing that could be easily sold in China.
  2. Opium was such a commodity. The Portuguese had introduced opium into China in the early sixteenth century. The Chinese Emperor allowed it in miniscule proportions for medicines. Western merchants in the mid-eighteenth century began an illegal trade in opium. It was unloaded in a number of sea ports of south-eastern China and carried by local agents to the interiors.
  3. When the British conquered Bengal, they made a determined effort to produce opium in the lands under their control. As the market for opium expanded in China, larger volumes of opium flowed out of Bengal ports.
  4. Unwilling cultivators were made to produce opium through a system of advances. In the rural areas of Bengal and Bihar, there were large numbers of poor peasants. And these peasants found their village headmen (mahato) giving them money advances to produce opium. When offered a loan, the cultivators were tempted to accept.
  5. But the loan tied the peasant to the headman and through him to the government.
  6. The farmer had to accept the low price offered for the produce. The problem could have been partly solved by increasing the price of opium. But the government was reluctant to do so.
  7. By 1773, the British government in Bengal had established a monopoly to trade in opium. But, by 1820s, the British found to their horror that opium production in their territories was rapidly declining, but its production outside the British territories was increasing.
  8. It was being produced in Central India and Rajasthan, within princely states that were not under British control. In these regions, local traders were offering much higher prices to peasants and exporting opium to China.
  9. To the British this trade was illegal: it was smuggling and it had to be stopped. This conflict between the British government, peasants and local traders continued as long as opium production lasted.

Clothing: A Social History

The chapter begins with the history of clothing and how the French Revolution transformed many aspects of social and political life. Then it moves towards the restrictive English dressing and how it changed with the World War. Then it moves towards the transformation in dressing in India.

  1. In May 1822, women of the Shanar (Nadar) caste were attacked by Nairs in public places in the southern state of Travancore, for wearing a cloth across their upper bodies. Over subsequent decades, a violent conflict over dress codes ensued.
  2. Under the influence of Christian missionaries, Shanar women converts began in the 1820s to wear tailored blouses and cloths to cover themselves like the dominant castes. Hindu reformers such as Ayya Vaikunder also participated in dress reform. Soon Nairs, one of the dominant castes of the region, attacked these women in public places and tore off their upper cloths.
  3. At first, the Government of Travancore issued a proclamation in 1829 ordering Shanar women ‘to abstain in future from covering the upper parts of the body.’ But, with the abolition of slavery in 1855, there was even more unrest amongst the dominant castes.
  4. Finally, after protests the government issued another proclamation permitting Shanar women, whether Christian or Hindu, to wear a jacket, or cover their upper bodies ‘in any manner whatever, but not like the women of high caste’.
  5. In the section on British Rule and Dress Codes, it is said that in 1830, Europeans were forbidden from wearing Indian clothes at official functions, so that the cultural identity of the white masters was not undermined. But, At the same time, Indians were expected to wear Indian clothes to office and follow Indian dress codes.
  6. In 1824 - 1828, Governor-General Amherst insisted that Indians take their shoes off as a sign of respect when they appeared before him, but this was not strictly followed. But, it took many years before it was removed.
  7. Political control of India helped the British in two ways: Indian peasants could be forced to grow crops such as indigo, and cheap British manufacture easily replaced coarser Indian one. Large numbers of Indian weavers and spinners were left without work, and important textile weaving centres such as Murshidabad, Machilipatnam and Surat declined as demand fell.
  8. Swadeshi movement was centrally linked to the politics of clothing. In 1905, Lord Curzon decided to partition Bengal to control the growing opposition to British rule. The Swadeshi movement developed in reaction to this measure. People were urged to boycott British goods of all kinds and start their own industries. Many upper castes began to use khadi.
  9. This chapter also speaks about Mahatma Gandhi’s experiments with clothing. He made spinning on the charakha and daily use of khadi very powerful symbols

History and Sports

This chapter talks about the long and chequered history of cricket.

  1. Having been invented in England, the game was supposed to represent all that the English valued – fair play, discipline, gentlemanliness. It was introduced in schools and it spread to the British colonies too. Here again it was supposed to uphold the values of Englishness.
  2. Sports for women was not designed as vigorous, competitive exercise. Croquet was a slow-paced, elegant game considered suitable for women, especially of the upper class.
  3. Cricket in colonial India was organised on the principle of race and religion. The first record we have of cricket being played in India is from 1721, an account of recreational cricket played by English sailors in Cambay.
  4. The origins of Indian cricket, that is, cricket played by Indians are to be found in Bombay and the first Indian community to start playing the game was the small community of Zoroastrians, the Parsis.
  5. The white cricket elite in India offered no help to the enthusiastic Parsis. In fact, there was a quarrel between the Bombay Gymkhana, a whites-only club, and Parsi cricketers over the use of a public park. The Parsis then built their own gymkhana to play cricket.
  6. The establishment of the Parsi Gymkhana became a precedent for other Indians who in turn established clubs based on the idea of religious community. This history of gymkhana cricket led to first-class cricket being organised on communal and racial lines.
  7. The tournament was initially called the Quadrangular, because it was played by four teams: the Europeans, the Parsis, the Hindus and the Muslims. It later became the Pentangular when a fifth team was added, namely, the Rest, which comprised all the communities left over, such as the Indian Christians.
  8. By the late 1930s and early 1940s, the civil society had begun to criticise the racial and communal foundations of the Pentangular tournament. A rival tournament called National Cricket Championship (later named the Ranji Trophy), was established but not until Independence did it properly replace the Pentangular.

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