A textbook example of how we treat history

This year marks the sesquicentenary of the first war of Indian independence. And already the signs of an overkill are obvious. Ministers are dancing around for the benefit of the cameras. The TV channels have lined up special programmes. And the newspapers and magazines will doubtless follow.

Peter Foster of The Daily Telegraph, London, attended a rally in Meerut to mark the event yesterday, and in preparation for the assignment, he picked up a copy of the NCERT history textbook for the 12th standard. He writes:

“The saddest thing about this text book, Modern India, A Textbook for Class XII by Satish Chandra Mittal, 2003 edition, is the absolutely abysmal standard of the written English. It’s absolutely littered with typos and almost impenetrable sentence constructions. There are too many to list in full, but here are a few.

# The policy of economic exploitation persuaded [sic] relentlessly by the British…”—presumably “pursued”.

# The export of finished goods [from India] declined sharply. In 1800, 600 bails of cotton and 2,638 bales of cotton cloth…”—even in a cricket-loving country two different spellings in the space of five words is crass.

# Fortunately, the global conditions also turned in favour of the British. Russia had been defeated in the Crimenn [sic] War…”

“And then there are whole, close-to-impenetrable paragraphs like this one, which I quote as one example among many:

# The great revolt of 1857, thus, did not take place all of a sudden. The ground for it was in the making due to increasing discontent among the peasants, the landlords and not insignificantly among the tribals.

“As I read this book, I got more and more angry. Surely Indian school-kids in government schools deserve better than this? This is not about an Englishman’s snobbery. The point is that there are zillions of people in this country who could do a trillion times better. I bet private schools don’t use these books. At the very least the book could be proof-read before it was printed.

“And yet this slap-dash rubbish still gets put out. Sadly, that tells you almost as much about modern, Government-run India as the preceding content does about attitudes to Colonial rule. Indian children do deserve better, but somehow, as so often here, no-one can quite be bothered to get their act together.”

Read the full article here: Textbook nationalism