Remove defamatory references on National Heroes – Court Directs ICSE

published on March 26, 2011

Another victory for Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti
Court directs ICSE to remove from textbooks all defamatory references on national heroes

By Pramod Kumar Organiser

Additional District Session Judge of Delhi, Shri Inder Jeet Singh, directed the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education Board (ICSE Board) to remove all defamatory references regarding freedom fighters in its history and civic books from the next academic session. The order came on March 3 following a suit filed by Advocate Monika Arora on behalf of Shri Dina Nath Batra of the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, Shri Ved Prakash Kumar, Dr KV Paliwal, Shri Ramgopal Aggarwal and Shri Gauri Shankar Bhardwaj seeking deletion of defamatory passages in the Std-X History and Civics, Part-II book. The ICSE Board has 118 schools in Maharashtra alone. While Mumbai and Delhi have 60 and the National Capital Region has 30 schools. Over one lakh students from Maharashtra alone opt for ICSE Board examination every year.

This directive of the court is a major victory for Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti which has been fighting at all fronts for the removal of the defamatory references from the textbooks prepared by the government-controlled educational boards and institutions like NCERT, ICSE Board, etc.

Talking to Organiser in New Delhi one of the petitioners Shri Dina Nath Batra expressed satisfaction over the court’s directive. He said the Delhi High Court had clearly directed the NCERT and the Union HRD Ministry some time back to ensure deletion of all defamatory passages from the textbooks being taught to students in schools. In spite of that the teaching of objectionable passages continued in the ICSE schools. “The hon’ble judge Shri Inder Jeet Singh has rightly commented that if Bhagat Singh was alive he definitely would not have liked the remarks being taught about him in the textbooks today. During the course of proceedings he directed the ICSE Board to send circular to all its schools through registered post and present the evidence of dispatching the circular in the court,” Shri Batra said. He pointed out that the Union HRD Ministry also, on June 9, 2008, had written to the NCERT to replace all the books containing objectionable passages with the new books which contain no objectionable passages. But even after that instruction the teaching of the defamatory passages continued in the ICSE textbooks. “It appears there is a well-planned conspiracy to defame the freedom fighters. But the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti will not tolerate it in any form,” he added.

The book in question was published by Goyal Brothers Prakashan and was written by DN Kundra. It had a chapter, “Radical Nationalism and Rise of Extremism”, in which Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal had been referred to as “militants and extremists”, while Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were described as “terrorists”. Now under its direction the Court directed the ICSE Board to call these leaders as ‘nationalists’ and ‘revolutionaries’. The Court also restrained the ICSE Board from publishing the book with the wrong information.

This case was filed in October 2010 seeking directions to the Union of India, ICSE Board and Council for Indian School Certificate Examination to develop a mechanism at both Central and State levels so that the textbooks are scrutinised by a special committee of experts comprising of all the stakeholders in education before publication. “We are deeply aggrieved by the defamatory, derogatory, insulting and objectionable language used to refer to the freedom fighters who laid down their lives for getting freedom for our country and the people. It is very unfortunate that despite getting freedom in 1947, such objectionable and insulting portions regarding our historical past have not been removed from the course material and the young minds are continuously being taught that the people who fought for the freedom of the country were terrorists, extremists, militants who led to Indian unrest,” the petition said.

“It is highly shameful that even after more than 64 years of Independence we continue to teach our children defamatory words about our freedom fighters and great personalities. It appears a well-planned campaign on the part of the left historians to insult and degrade the great personalities of this country. It is time we should stand up against all this nonsense and oppose them wherever we find it,” said Smt Monika Arora, the counsel for the petitioners, while talking to Organiser.

During the course of judicial proceedings itself, the writer (DN Kundra) and publisher (Goyal Publisher) deleted relevant passage/words/phrases/titles, etc. (i.e. “Militant, Radical, Rationalism or Extremism, Extremist, Militant Nationalism, out of desperation, they took to terrorism, terrorists remained more active, extremist party, impact of revolutionary terrorism on national movement, or the like expressions”), by introducing words like “Revolutionary or Nationalist or Revolutionary Nationalism”, in consonance to remove allegations of the plaint. The Council for Indian School Certificate Examination also issued circular to its affiliated schools, so that the concerned schools and teachers teach the students the revised syllabus material.

The Council for Indian School Certificate Examination also issued a circular followed by corrigendum that in the syllabus to be taught in the affiliated schools, will not contain words Extremist, Militants, Radicals, etc and action will also be taken for future curriculum to be issued from time to time. The court expressed satisfaction over the revision of the textbook. However, it further restrained the writer and the publisher from publishing and printing any text, under the title History & Civics Part II, by using the objectionable expressions.

At the same time the court also directed the Union of India and the Council for Indian School Certificate Examination to issue appropriate instructions/guidelines, either in their regular standing instructions/curriculum/syllabus, that such objectionable passage are not to be taught or published in any form by the concerned or affiliated schools.

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