Marxists want discomforting textbook portions deleted

via VR Jayaraj | Thiruvananthapuram - Daily Pioneer published on July 27, 2011

The 2006-11 rule of the former CPI(M)-led LDF government in Kerala had seen numerous agitations by religious organizations and the Congress-led UDF demanding withdrawal of chapters in school textbooks that hurt religious sentiments and distorted history, but it is now the turn of the Marxists to demand deletion of portions that cause discomfort to them.

The Kerala Marxists are demanding the deletion of a chapter in the ICSE stream Malayalam language textbook for Class 7 saying that this particular portion is a distortion of history and ridiculing the revolutionary land reforms movement initiated by the first communist government headed by late EMS Namboothiripad.

The lesson in dispute is a chapter titled Murickan with excerpts from the autobiography of veteran journalist TJS George in which he says the credit for introducing backwater paddy cultivation in Kuttanad, known as Kerala’s Rice Bowl, should go to Joseph Murickan, who had created three vast farmlands out of the below-sea level backwaters.

In a statement, Opposition leader and octogenarian Marxist VS Achuthanandan asked the Union Human Resource Development Ministry to delete the particular portion from the textbook. George’s claim about Murickan’s role in the reclamation of the Kuttanad farmlands was not based on historical facts, he said.

The three backwater farmlands – Rani, Chithira and Marthandam – were the result of the sweat and blood of thousands of farm workers, Achuthanandan, a frontline leader of the 1946 Punnapra-Vayalar peasant uprising in Alappuzha district, said. The particular portion included in the textbook also glorified feudalism, he alleged.

According to Achuthanandan, the author had mounted a strong but unfounded criticism of the land reform legislations and communist leader EMS Namboothiripad, who pioneered them as then chief minister. “As a writer and journalist, George has every right to express his views. But the contents in any textbook should be historically correct and undisputable,” he said.

However, Achuthanandan did not hesitate to add that George’s book titled Ghoshayathra, from which the portion on Murickan was taken, was a widely read and appreciated book. Some parts in it deserved to be included in textbooks for school children to study, he said. George has said he had not asked anyone to include the excerpts from his work in the textbook.

The CPI(M) had intensified the demand for deletion of the portion after its teachers’ outfit Kerala School Teachers’ Association last week raked up the issue. State CPI(M) secretary Pinarayi Vijayan had demanded deletion of the portion the other day.

Critics of the land reforms movement are of the opinion that Murickan was the pioneer in Kerala in farming paddy below sea level. It is said that Murickan had saved the people of Kuttanad region from perpetual starvation by making paddy cultivation possible in the shallow backwaters by employing around 3,000 people back in the 1930s.

Those who value Murickan’s contributions say that the land reform legislations by which 1,600 acres of his backwater paddy fields was distributed among 1,580 tillers had brought destruction to the cultivation system. They also say that Murickan was a man of such personal integrity that he did not bother to divide his lands into benami ownerships to escape the reforms.

Contents of school textbooks have always been grounds for protests in Kerala. The tenure of the former LDF government had seen intense agitations by the Catholic Church, Congress party and its UDF coalition partners and their student outfits over several portions in the textbooks for school children.

At the start of the present academic year, the Catholic Church had demanded the removal of certain portions in the Class 10 Social Science textbook that pertained to the medieval history of Europe. The Church had demanded deletion of references to the Inquisition and certain discomforting observations on Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper.

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