New Delhi: The National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) in the revised textbook of Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) for Class 12 students has removed the words “Anti-Muslim” earlier used with 2002 Gujarat riots. It however described the 1984 riots as “Anti Sikh”.
As reported by The Indian Express, changes have been made in the last chapter of the textbook titled ‘Recent Developments in Indian Politics’ to tweak the nomenclature of the riots. So, the heading of the passage on the riots (on page 187) has been changed from ‘Anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat’ to just ‘Gujarat riots’. However, in the same paragraph, the 1984 riots are described as anti-Sikh.
In the previous version of the textbook, the first sentence of the above passage had read, “In February-March 2002, large-scale violence against Muslims took place in Gujarat”. The reprinted book no longer carries the words “against Muslims” in that sentence (see box). The rest of the passage is the same as in the old version of the textbook. It lays out the chronology of events — the attack on the train full of karsevaks set on fire that was followed by violence against Muslims — and refers to the National Human Rights Commission’s criticism of the Gujarat government for failing to control the violence.
The paragraph also mentions, “A bogey of a train that was returning from Ayodhya and was full of Karsevaks was set on fire. Fifty-seven people died in that fire. Suspecting the hand of the Muslims in setting fire to the bogey, large-scale violence against Muslims began in many parts of Gujarat from the next day. This violence continued for almost a whole month. Nearly 1,100 persons, mostly Muslims, were killed in this violence.”
According to the government’s reply tabled in the Parliament, 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed, 223 were reported missing and 2,500 injured in the Gujarat riots in 2002. Unofficial reports however claimed that more than 2000 Muslims were killed in the deadly riots termed by many as ‘Genocide’.
NCERT officials maintained that it is a minor change. “This review is an ongoing process and before every reprint we do incorporate new acceptable feedback and also update the information with the latest developments. We have made other changes too such as including information on demonetization, digital literacy, GST (goods and services tax) and updated the figures too,” a senior NCERT official has been quoted by Hindustan Times.
Interestingly, the claim that Muslims were involved in setting the train full of karsevaks on fire was never established. In fact, a probe by Justice Umesh Chandra Banerjee who was appinted by the government had claimed that the fire in the train was accidental and broke out from inside. He cited a forensic report stating that the injuries on the victims were only compatible with an "internal fire.
The contents of the four-page report by the Forensic Science Laboratory, Gujarat that was read out by the Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad, said that "by taking into consideration the fact that no effect of the fire was found on the bottom side of the coach and also the burning pattern, a conclusion can be drawn that no inflammable fluid had been thrown inside from outside the coach."
On the other hand, there were allegations that the Godhra train burning incident was used to instigate communal riots by the right wing parties to win the Gujarat elections. Prime Minister Modi was the chief minister in Gujarat and he led the BJP to victory in the state elections held few months after the anti-Muslim Gujarat riots.
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