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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 August 2006, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK
Schoolbooks take on tricky issues
By Geeta Pandey
BBC News, Delhi

Godhra train
Violence engulfed Gujarat for weeks
Pupils in India will soon be taught controversial topics like the 2002 Gujarat riots and those which followed the destruction of the Babri mosque.

The new syllabus, meant for final-year political science students, is due out in April 2007.

Indian textbooks are largely silent on sensitive issues after 1947 - the year of India's independence from British rule and the creation of Pakistan.

The new syllabus hopes to bridge that gap of 60 years.

Academics say the chapters for the new textbooks have been discussed and approved and they are in the process of being written.

'Not easy to write'

But some of these issues are political hot potatoes in India and many academics are wondering whether the new syllabus will be able to deal with them in an objective manner.

I think the language will be guarded - it will hide more than it will reveal
Arup Banerji, historian

"These are events that are not easy to write about," says Professor Yogendra Yadav, who is on the panel for preparation of textbooks.

"But that doesn't mean they shouldn't be written about," he says.

Prof Yadav says the idea is to familiarise students with some of the key political events of the post-Independence period.

The committee which discussed and approved the syllabus has laid down certain guidelines for the authors.

They have been told not to discuss politicians, to base their writing on official documents and to avoid controversy at all cost.

Politically sensitive

Most academics agree that religious riots in Gujarat, the destruction of the Babri mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya in 1992 and the emergency rule imposed by former prime minister Indira Gandhi are part of the recent history of India and should be included in the syllabus.

Hindus at Babri Mosque in 1992
The Babri mosque demolition sparked riots nationwide

But these issues are politically sensitive and many academics feel it will be impossible to do justice to them in a textbook.

Historian Arup Banerji says he is doubtful that these topics will be written about "clearly and objectively".

"The main question is - how is it going to be written?" he asks.

"I think the language will be guarded - it will hide more than it will reveal."

According to reports, the discussions on the syllabus were fraught with disagreements and it is expected that the final product may also be subjected to political pressure.

But Prof Yadav denies reports of any political interference.

"The syllabi should not be written to please political parties", he says, "they should be written to be meaningful to students."

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