Indian government criticised as references to Muslim rulers are removed from school history books

Educational body removes reference to more than 200 years of Mughal rule

The body which regulates India’s national school curriculums has dropped reference to Muslim Mughal rule in the 16th and 17th centuries in its new medieval history textbook – an era prime minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has denounced.

The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) said its decision to ignore the Mughals in its “revised” history text was an attempt at “syllabus rationalisation”. The Mughals built the Taj Mahal, numerous cities, forts, and exotic gardens and significantly influenced India’s art, culture and cuisine.

The reworked history books will be issued to millions of high school students across India in the current academic year, staring later this month, officials said.

The omission of Mughals from official textbooks has the BJP’s endorsement, with party leader Kapil Misra tweeting earlier this week that “thieves, pickpockets and loafers like the Mughal kings had no place in history books and needed to be consigned to the dustbin”.


NCERT director Dinesh Saklani also justified the exclusions, saying they were aimed at “lessening the content load” for students stressed by two years of the Covid pandemic. He denied that the changes had been undertaken to suit a particular (Hindu) ideology.

The BJP has a dislike of Muslims, numbering about 200 million in India.

Such anti-Muslim feelings stem from the secretive Hindu revivalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or National Volunteer Corps which gave rise to the BJP in 1980 as its political arm. The RSS’s founding aim -and now the BJP’s – is to safeguard Hinduism’s “purity” by insulating it from “damaging influences” like Islam and Christianity.

Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, subscribed to similar beliefs. He murdered Gandhi for his secular and non-denominational approach to Indian Muslims. For some BJP leaders Godse is a nationalist hero

Gandhi’s inclusive approach to Hindu-Muslim unity is not mentioned in NCERT’s recent political science course books. Also missing is the fact that the RSS has been proscribed three times since India’s independence in 1947, and the 2002 sectarian rioting in western Gujarat state that roiled India for several months.

The Gujarat riots, in which more than 1,200 people died, the majority of them Muslims, occurred when Mr Modi was state chief minister and his failure to control Hindu mobs who killed Muslims was publicly questioned at the time.

The airing of a recent BBC documentary, investigating Modi’s role in this turmoil was blocked by the BJP administration which also conducted tax raids on the UK broadcasters offices in New Delhi and Mumbai for nebulous reasons.

Opposition parties, led by the Congress Party have accused the NCERT, under BJP’s influence, of “whitewashing” Indian history.

Several Mughal scholars have criticised the NCERT move. Audrey Truscke of Rutgers University in the US United States tweeted that it marked the “embrace of ignorance over knowledge that is increasingly common in Indian society under Hindu nationalist rule”.

Katherine Schofield from King’s College, London said excising the Mughals’ enduring legacy out of school history would not “magic them away”.

Social media was also awash with sarcastic messaging on the NCERT dumping the Mughals.

Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi is a contributor to The Irish Times based in New Delhi