UGC’s draft History syllabus for undergraduates drops Arthashashtra, Kalidasa and Charak Samhita

The draft syllabus for undergraduates gives prominence to religious literature like the Vedas, Vedangas, Upanishads, Smritis and Puranas while dropping topics considered inclusive and secular

UGC’s draft History syllabus for undergraduates drops Arthashashtra, Kalidasa and Charak Samhita
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NH Political Bureau

The University Grants Commission (UGC) – a statutory body responsible for the “maintenance of standards of higher education” – has come up with a draft History syllabus for undergraduates which seems to be aligned with the RSS’ world view. According to a post-doctoral JNU candidate, it ‘aims to alter the history of secular India and communalize the minds of generations to come’.

A close scrutiny of the draft syllabus suggests that the UGC, which has courted controversy in recent years for various issues including students’ fee hikes, has given prominence to mythology, Ved Puran, Upanishads in the chapters under ‘Ancient India’.

UGC’s draft History syllabus for undergraduates drops Arthashashtra, Kalidasa and Charak Samhita
UGC’s draft History syllabus for undergraduates drops Arthashashtra, Kalidasa and Charak Samhita
UGC’s draft History syllabus for undergraduates drops Arthashashtra, Kalidasa and Charak Samhita

While the importance of the Mughal period has been diminished, rulers like Babur have been depicted as ‘invaders’ in the chapter under ‘Medieval History’.

In the syllabus comprising ‘Modern India’, the importance of the role played by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru has been underplayed. The 1857 rebellion has been termed as “the first war for India’s independence”, a terminology coined by Hindu Mahasabha leader and Right wing ideologue VD Savarkar.

This is a brief list of some of the major changes in the draft History syllabus prepared by the UGC:

  • Topics such as “Eternity of Synonyms Bharat” and religious literature like the Vedas, Vedangas, Upanishads, Smritis and Puranas have been included in the first paper of History (Honours) in Delhi University (DU).
  • Kautilya’s Arthashastra, the poems of Kalidas, Ayurvedic text Charak Samhita etc which are considered inclusive and secular have been dropped.
  • The third paper in the draft syllabus includes features of the “Indus-Saraswati Civilisation” and its continuity, fall and survival. The Saraswati – a mythological river – is mentioned in the Vedas but its provenance is disputed. The Sangh Parivar insists that the Saraswati existed and symbolised continuity from the Harappan era to later Hindu periods, in contradistinction to the theory of the Aryan invasion.
  • The new syllabus uses the word “invasion” in connection with several Muslim rulers such as Babar – a term that the existing History syllabus shuns.
  • The references to Dalit politics in the chapters under ‘Modern India’ are absent from the new syllabus.
  • An analysis of the content suggests that leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel and Bhim Rao Ambedkar receive less attention compared with the existing syllabus.
  • Most importantly, works by prominent historians such as R.S. Sharma’s book on ancient India and Irfan Habib’s book on medieval India have been dropped.

The Objective section of the draft syllabus reads: “We have also tried to develop terminology befitting our National context and our exploratory nature. This will help the students to articulate their own complex ideas regarding various themes in History.”

National Herald tried to contact noted historian Irfan Habib for his comments on the issue but he was not available. The story will be updated as and when he replies.

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Published: 23 Mar 2021, 3:17 PM