The Shiromini Akali Dal led by Sukhbir Singh Badal and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have put the Congress led government in Punjab in a dock over the publication of the controversial books of Punjab history for the Classes 11 and 12. Both the parties have pointed glaring mistakes in the book sofar as the Sikh history is concerned and particularly the chapters pertaining to the Sikh gurus and their teachings. They have described the book published by the Punjab School Education Board for the first time with distorting facts.
Three ministers of Amarinder Singh Government admitted mistakes in the books and have promised to rectify the same. They have also apologised for the same.
KS Chawla However, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has maintained that not a single piece of information on the Sikh history has been dropped in the process of realignment of the syllabus. The decision to realign the courses with the NCERT syllabus was taken during the SAD-BJP regime in 2014. The SGPC is party to all discussions on the issue since the Congress Government took over in march last year, says Amarinder Singh. He has alleged that Sukhbir Singh Badal has made baseless statements on the issue which have the potential to disturb the peace and harmony of the state.
The Shiromini Akali dal led by Sukhbir has been looking for some Sikh issues which could revive the panthic agenda of the Akali Dal. He took no time in grabbing this important issue of the Sikhs and has succeeded in making it a big issue of the state. The SGPC which represents the religious sentiments of the Sikhs also setup a committee which has rejected the new book and sought ban on the same. The SGPC had setup a six member committee after the controversy over the new book arose.
The Akali Dal is not leaving any stone unturned to make capital out of this controversy and has taken up the issue with the Punjab Governor VP Singh Badnore and further plans to convene a meeting of the Sikhs in Amritsar to chalk out the next programme on May 11.
Mean while the three senior Cabinet Ministers of Punjab namely Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Manpreet Singh Badal and OP Soni who is education minister have clarified, any mistakes that may have crept in the new class 12 history text book of the Punjab School Education Board will be rectified immediately. They have rejected the allegations of the SAD and AAP that chapters pertaining to the Sikh gurus and their teachings were dropped from history text books.
Manpreet Badal has alleged that private publishers of guides are behind the controversy and their business has been affected. The private publishers have been publishing guides sofar and have been earning huge amount by selling the guides at quite exorbitant prices. The three ministers said that the Akali Dal and AAP were trying to politicize the issue.
Some Sikh scholars have also criticized the Punjab government for the publication of the text history books with glaring mistakes… and distorted facts.
Sikh historian Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon, Kendriya Guru Singh Sabha President Gurpreet Singh and former IAS officer Gurtej Singh and advocate Amar Singh Chahal have stated that important chapters on Sikh history and gurus have been deleted from the book. They have alleged that their seems a mischievous attempt to undermine the revolutionary ethos of the Sikh gurus and their rich legacy. It seems to be an anti Sikh agenda to negate the gurus ideological perspective aimed at uplifting of the masses. The role of the Singh Sabha movement, the Gadarites, Babbar Akalis and the Akalis has been ignored in the book, they alleged.
Professor Gurmeet Singh Sidhu of the Religious Studies Department of Punjabi University has also criticized the new history text book and maintains it is full of glaring mistakes.
Prof. Prithpal Singh Kapoor former pro-vice chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University and a renowned Sikh historian told this writer that in 1952, the Punjab University introduced the history of Punjab in the colleges for the undergraduate programmes. Later on it was introduced in postgraduate programme also.
Prof. Kapoor says that the identity of Punjab region and the Sikh identity is predetermined and the issue of introduction of episodes of Sikh history in the schools curriculum has remained in focus for the past fifty years. Punjab history in schools was introduced after prolonged exercise and the matter was resolved. Dr. J S Grewal a well known Sikh historian was associated with the panel of history writers. In the process of vetting, revision and pruning Prof. Kapoor was also included. He mentions that unfortunately when question of lessening of work load viza viz the revision of syllabus engaged the attention of the government the government did not care for appointing competent people.
Prof. Kapoor reveals that the Punjabi University has well organized department of Historical Studies which was founded by Dr. Ganda Singh, the great Sikh historian. This department was never consulted while formulating the syllabus. ‘No Body can think of history of Punjab without the mention of the rise of Sikhism in this land (Punjab). Basically Sikhs have wrested this territory from the Afghans and integrated it in independent India. The territory of Ladakh and Sind was welded into independent sovereign when borders were upto Kabul… and India faced invasions. How is it possible to erase the mention of such events and such people whose contribution to the modern Indian history which is no less than any other part of the country.’
According to Prof. Kapoor NDA is keen on asserting Hindutava vizaviz the minorities in this country. The NCERT started according to this mandate in 2015 and heat of this has been felt in Punjab only recently.
While defending Amarinder Singh Chief Minister, Prof. Kapoor said that Amarinder has himself written books on Sikh history and is an ardent admirer of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He cannot ignore any part of the Sikh History.
KS Chawla is a senior journalist based at Ludhiana.
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