Day: July 19, 2013

The India Pakistan Partition in Indian Textbooks

Partition_of_Punjab,_India_1947Via Kafila, Shivam Vij on how India’s National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT)’s history curriculum for 12th graders (They publish the entire curriculum on the web for free, read/download) addresses the violence that accompanied India and Pakistan’s independence from British rule (the partition), and its aftermath.

I’m startled to see that a government textbook has progressed so much that it begins talking about Partition with oral narratives, that too from 1992 and not 1947. In one go, it has told 17-year-olds the importance of oral history, introduced them to the idea of Partition as a continuing event and showed them how their own family narratives about Partition have a mirror image across the border. The chapter’s last four pages discuss oral history and its limitations in understanding the past.

What I learned about Partition – The Express Tribune.

Class12 IndianHistory3 Unit14 NCERT TextBook EnglishEditionIndiaPakistanPartition

Read embed here.

Wow, oral histories, neutral points of view, narrative and people-based history, this is definitely not my history textbook. The history I learned in school (10th grade and below) was simplistic, date and event based, and painted Jinnah and the British as caricature villains dividing South Asia on religious lines during the partition. I remember the year the Brits massacred thousands of unarmed meeting attendees in Jallianwala Bagh (1919), not what it led to, and why it happened. Divide and Rule was all you needed to know about the partition.

I really enjoyed reading this more nuanced and sophisticated treatment and look forward to reading more of the curriculum on Indian history, all the textbooks are online for free. Well done, Indian government!

Only Indians choosing the “arts” stream would be exposed to this curriculum. The overwhelming majority of those who take science or economics streams would not see this at all. I wonder what kind of history is being taught to 13-14 year old kids taking required social science courses, hopefully, better that what I was exposed to.