The Taj Mahal is one of the most famous landmarks in the world. It is in fact designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a ‘Jewel of Muslim Art in India’ and one of the most highly regarded pieces of Mughal architecture and ‘symbols of India’s rich history’. Few will therefore understand the decision of the government of India to remove all references of the Mughal empire, which was responsible for its construction, from the history books. The attempt to erase Muslim history from the Educational Curriculum in India has been described as the latest attempt by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, to pursue a Hindu Nationalist agenda, report Time Magazine, the Washington Post and the Indian Express newspapers this weekend.
Details of the cuts made to text books for year 12 students were first exposed in June last year by the India Express, but the issue has hit the headlines again this week as new school terms begin. The omissions in the newly structured NCERT textbooks, include whole sections of study relating to the Mughal empire, which ruled much of India between the 16th and 19th centuries. The empire, historians have explained, stretched from the Indus river basin in the West, through northern Afghanistan in the Northwest, Kashmir in the North to Assam and Bangladesh in the east. It effectively included all of the areas now known as India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The omissions have been justified by the government as an attempt to simplify/rationalise the curriculum in order to deal with the fallout from two years of Covid 19 and the need to lighten the workload of students. NCERT Director, Dinesh Prasad Saklani said: ‘They recommended that if this chapter is dropped, it won’t affect the knowledge of the children and an unnecessary burden can be removed’.
According to a harshly worded editorial this week in the Indian Express, the changes are nothing more than a widespread strategy to assist Prime Minister Modi to win the next general election in 2024 by furthering the narrative that Hindus (who make up 80% of the population) are under threat from Muslims (whose population accounts for a mere 14%). The editorial denounced the government, suggesting that it is trying to ‘escape unpalatable facts’.
Historians such as medieval India history specialist, Harbans Mukhia and many of her academic colleagues argue that the latest changes are an attempt to discredit and belittle Muslim contributions to Indian history while glorifying Hindus. Comments attributed to Prime Minister Modi such as the comment that India was full of ‘concocted narratives’ that needed to be corrected, have given fuel to the idea that there is an intention to erase Muslims from India’s history. The latest omissions have been added to earlier cuts made as far back as the early 2000s, including the history of oppression to lower caste Indians or the details of the assassination of Mahatma Ghandi’s by Hindu nationalist, Nathuram Godse.
To many international commentators, human rights groups and international lawmakers, the omissions forms part of a more sinister plan of genocide by the prevailing government against Muslims in India.
In January 2022, International human rights organisations – Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Genocide Watch all publicly warned that there is a real danger that a genocide of Muslims in India is likely to take place unless the Indian government takes action to avert it. These respected human rights bodies are unanimous in their belief that the failure by the Indian government to take steps to avert a continued upsurge in civic violence against minorities – in particular Muslims will eventually lead to a preventable blood bath in the country.
A letter signed by over 50 UK parliamentarians a month later in February 2022, urged the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take action in respect of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s failure to challenge and to take steps against the proclamations of right -wing Hindu groups whose calls for genocide against Muslims have gone viral on social media and have taken root across the Indian continent. These calls the letter said ‘have created a genuine fear among minority communities as they experience a dramatic rise in unprovoked attacks on Muslim vendors and Muslim business by Hindu supremacist groups’.
In December 2021 a letter was signed by more two hundred former Indian service chiefs, veterans and respected public figures calling on the Indian government to condemn calls made during a 3 day religious conclave – Dharma Sansad by Hindu leaders and an oath taken to establish a Hindu Rashtra and to commit genocide against Muslims if necessary. The letter said ‘We cannot allow such incitement to violence together with public expressions of hate – which not only constitute serious breaches of internal security, but which could also tear apart the social fabric of our nation.’