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Political storm after chapter on Jat heroes removed from Haryana textbook

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:50 IST

The trend

  • BJP-led state governments have been attracting controversy recently because of changes to textbooks
  • There are allegations that they\'re trying to underplay the contributions of Mahatma Gandhi and the Nehru-Gandhi family

The difference

  • Now, Haryana\'s ML Khattar govt has also altered a textbook, raising a political storm
  • The difference is that it has removed a chapter on Jat political heroes like Sir Chhotu Ram, Ranbir Singh Hooda, Bansi Lal and Devi Lal

More in the story

  • Why is the Khattar govt trying to undermine Jat leaders?
  • The govt\'s damage-limitation ploy - print an addendum

Various BJP ruled states have been witnessing storms over changes made to textbooks. Opposition parties, particularly the Congress, have strongly objected to the attempts to underplay the contributions of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

Read: Dalit history stays, so does 'India'. California school book debate ends

But the Manohar Lal Khattar government in Haryana has now raised a furore for making changes of a different kind in the textbook for Class V.

It has done away with a chapter on contemporary heroes of the state, which has drawn criticism from various quarters. With the pressure mounting, the government has now agreed to prepare an addendum booklet on these contemporary heroes.

The chapter highlighted leaders like Sir Chhotu Ram, Ranbir Singh Hooda, Devi Lal and Bansi Lal

The chapter that has been done away with was named 'Haryana ke Gaurav' (Pride of Haryana). This chapter highlighted the contributions of leaders like Sir Chhotu Ram, Ranbir Singh Hooda, Devi Lal and Bansi Lal.

Instead, the government has added an additional chapter in the Class IV curriculum, titled 'Gaurav Gatha' (tales of pride), which contains the achievements of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Bhagat Singh, Lala Lajpat Rai and Lokmanya Tilak, besides others.

Who were these leaders?

The leaders whose names have been removed were stalwarts of the state's politics.

Those opposing the government move are particularly surprised over the deletion of Sir Chhotu Ram's contribution. He was one of the most prominent pre-partition politicians in Punjab, and an ideologue of the Jat peasantry, who was influenced by the poet Dr Muhammad Iqbal.

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He is remembered for two major agrarian laws - the Punjab Relief Indebtedness Act of 1934, and The Punjab Debtors Protection Act of 1936 - which provided peasants protection from moneylenders and restored the right of land to the tiller.

Ranbir Singh Hooda is well known in Haryana's Jat heartland for his role in India's freedom struggle as a leading member of the Indian National Congress. He is known for his contribution in developing the Bhakhra Nangal power project, as the then-irrigation minister of the united Punjab.

His son, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, is a former Haryana Chief Minister, while his grandson Deepender Singh Hooda is the Congress MP from Rohtak.

Sir Chhotu Ram was one of the most prominent pre-partition politicians in Punjab and a Jat ideologue

Bansi Lal and Devi Lal were two of Haryana's prominent 'Lals', the third being Bhajan Lal. The three dominated the state's political matrix for decades.

Bansi Lal was a Jat independence leader who is considered to be one of the architects of modern Haryana. He was a senior Congress leader, both at the Centre and the state. He was a three-time Chief Minister, twice with the Congress and once with his own Haryana Vikas Party. He had held portfolios like Defence and Railways at the Centre.

Devi Lal was also a popular Jat farmers' leader. He was also a Chief Minister, as well as the Deputy Prime Minister of India under VP Singh's premiership. He was given the title of Sher-e-Haryana (Lion of Haryana) by his supporters for opposing the Emergency.

The chapter on their contributions had been added to the school curriculum during the tenure of Bhupinder Singh Hooda in 2011.

Undermining Jats?

State Congress president Ashok Tanwar has attacked the Khattar government for this move.

"It is deplorable. The children must be taught about the people who made sacrifices for independence, and later, for the creation of Haryana. These were people who strengthened the roots of democracy in the state and also worked for the betterment of the farmers. What is the point of deleting their contributions from the school books?" he asked.

Also read- New textbooks meant to evoke nationalism: Rajasthan education minister

He said that the Congress will raise this issue in the public domain, whenever they have public programmes and campaigns.

The Congress leadership has accused Khattar of trying to undermine the contribution of these leaders, who were Jats.

The Congress has accused Khattar of trying to undermine the contribution of these Jat leaders

The state government is already facing criticism for its mishandling of the recent Jat agitation for reservations in educational institutions and government jobs. The state stands divided on caste lines, with Jats being pitted against the other 35 communities.

Opposition parties have accused the state government of ensuring this divide for its political benefits, an allegation that has been repeatedly refuted by the BJP leadership.

The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leadership has also attacked the government on the issue. Party leader Abhay Chautala, grandson of Devi Lal, said: "The government has removed the names of leaders who have contributed to the development of Haryana. They are deliberately tampering with the syllabus so that people turn to the path of agitation. The children who go to school in Haryana should know the contribution of its leaders and their struggle. We are not opposed to highlighting the contributions of other leaders but the removal of these names is politically motivated."

Damage limitation

Education department officials claim that the books have been re-written according to National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) recommendations.

"However, it has been decided that an addendum booklet be prepared on the contributions of contemporary leaders of Haryana, both in the independence movement, the formation of Haryana and its developmental journey. A draft is being prepared. It will be approved soon and the booklets will be printed and distributed subsequently," said an official.

"We know that tampering with the school book contents is a very sensitive issue these days. In this case it all the more sensitive because the persons whose names have been deleted are family members of present-day political leaders. While Ranbir Singh Hooda was the father of former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Devi Lal was the father of another former CM Om Prakash Chautala. Bansi Lal was the father-in-law of present Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Kiran Chaudhary. The best way is to make amends by bringing out an addendum," the official said.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 22 May 2016, 11:21 IST