On 7th April, Indian Express via this article announced dramatically that “Akbar, Newton may make way for ‘local heroes’ in Rajasthan textbooks”. The article made claims that Saffronization of School Textbooks would take place at the behest of RSS. The article commented that “Akbar the Great, Pythagoras and Issac Newton would be nudged out”. The most interesting part was this story was run ONLY by Indian Express. Firstpost later curated this same report, but there were no other independent reports on this story.
The problem with the Indian Express story is, in its headline it says “Akbar & Newton may make way” and they reiterate this claim in the body. BUT, if we see the quotes of the Minister in the same piece, there is not a single quote mentioning “nudging” Akbar or Newton or any other “foreign leaders”.
From a plain reading, it seems that the Primary Education Minister Vasudev Devnani only wanted to include Indian personalities like “Veer Savarkar, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh, Maharaja Suraj Mal and Mahatma Gandhi” in History books, who he feels haven’t been given their due in Indian Textbooks. He also says he would like to add “Aryabhatta, Bhaskaracharya” in science books.
Following are the exact words of the Minister, as per the report of Indian Express itself:
“Why should our children only learn about Akbar, the Great? Why not Maharana Pratap, the Great?, Our children are constantly learning about foreign rulers, mathematicians, scientists et al. Soon after I took charge, I wanted to rework the textbooks but I was told printing had started and making changes would cause a huge financial loss. This year, we will bring significant changes. In science books, we will include Aryabhatta, Bhaskaracharya. We have to build a feeling of of nationalism in our children.”
As you can see there is not a single quote where the Minister says he will remove Akbar or Newton. This is further established by reading this report in Patrika on the same matter. This report says 5 new chapters will be “added” on the famous characters earlier mentioned by us. There is no mention of any deletion of Newton etc.
All the facts of this case can be summarized as below:
1. Indian Express report is the only report on this issue
2. It claims Newton, Akbar & Pythagoras will be nudged out of text books
3. This claim is not backed by any quotes of the Minister, in Indian Express’s own article
4. This claim is not backed by any other media report
Based on the above, there is serious concern whether the Indian Express report is accurate, or whether they have added their own narrative to sensationalise the issue. It is more dangerous since, just last month Indian Express was caught with their pants down when they tried to communalise Kolkata’s Archbishop’s statement.
There is no doubt that Indian history books should definitely have chapters on great Indian leaders such as Veer Savarkar, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh, Maharaja Suraj Mal and Mahatma Gandhi. There is also no doubt that Indian education system in most places is in desperate need of revamp. There might be some who may express concern over inclusion of Aryabhatta, Bhaskaracharya in Science textbooks, but the fact is, the entire world has acknowledged many contributions of these stalwarts in the field of science. There are those who claim everything worthwhile was invented in Ancient India, while there are those who claim nothing ever came from there. Sadly, the truth lies in between the two, and there is no harm in propagating this truth.
We had asked an opportunity to enquire with the author of the Indian Express report, but we are still awaiting a reply.
UPDATE (10 April, 2015): 3 days after publishing the misleading article, Indian Express has now published excerpts from an interview of the concerned minister Vasudev Devnani, which confirms what we had pointed out. In the interview, the minister says: “I am not saying stop teaching Newton altogether but let us give due credit to everyone.”
This is exactly what we pointed out, that there was no proof that Newton will be nudged out or dropped, as the earlier report by Indian Express claimed. Strangely, despite this explanation by the minister to Indian Express itself, the earlier article has not been corrected by the publication.