NCERT leaves Babri Masjid out of textbook, replaces it with ‘three-dome structure’

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Months after including the Supreme Court's order on Ramjanmabhoomi movement, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has once again revised its history textbook. This time, it has left Babri Masjid out, referring to it only as a "three-dome structure", in its revised Plus Two Political Science textbook. The revision pertains to Chapter 8, ‘Recent Developments in Indian Politics’.

The chapter lists the Ayodhya movement among five key developments (others being the defeat of the Congress party in the 1989; the rise of Mandal issuel; new economic reforms and the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi) that had a “long-lasting impact” on Indian politics in the late eighties.

As per the Indian Express report, the revised textbook deleted topics such as the BJP rath yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya, the role of kar sevaks, the communal violence following the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, President’s rule in BJP-ruled states and the BJP’s expression of “regret over the happenings at Ayodhya”.

The introduction (page 139) of the revised chapter - where the Ayodhya conflict is described as the ‘Ram Janmabhoomi Temple Movement’ - states “the centuries-old legal and political dispute over the Ram Janmabhoomi Temple in Ayodhya started influencing Indian politics, leading to various political changes.”

Under the headline ‘Ayodhya Issue’ (pages 148 and 149), in detail, the event is described as deeply rooted in the socio-cultural and political history of the country. Ayodhya is referred to as “one of the most holy religious sites,” and the text states that a “three-dome structure was built at the site of Shri Ram’s birthplace in 1528.” It attributes the Ram Janmbhoomi site to national pride and mentions the “structure” (Babri Masjid) had “visible displays of Hindu symbols and relics in its interior as well as exterior portions.” Previously, the textbook introduced Babri Masjid as a 16th-century mosque built by Mughal emperor Babur’s General Mir Baqi. The textbook now uses the phrase ‘three-dome structure’ three times in Chapter 8.

Photo: Screengrab of Plus Two textbook: NCERT.

According to the Indian Express, the old textbook described the mobilisation “on both sides” after the locks of the masjid were opened in February 1986 on the orders of the Faizabad (now Ayodhya) district court. It also mentioned the BJP’s “regret over the happenings at Ayodhya” and the “serious debate over secularism.”

This is now replaced with a paragraph: “In 1986, the situation regarding the three-dome structure took a significant turn when the Faizabad (now Ayodhya) district court ruled to unlock the structure, allowing worship there. The dispute had been ongoing for decades as it was believed the three-dome structure was built at Shri Ram’s birthplace after demolishing a temple. However, although Shilaanyas for the temple was done, further construction remained prohibited. The Hindu community felt their concerns about Shri Ram’s birthplace were overlooked, while the Muslim community sought assurance of their possession over the structure. Subsequently, tensions heightened between both communities over ownership rights, resulting in numerous disputes and legal conflicts. Both communities desired a fair resolution to the longstanding issue. In 1992, following the demolition of the structure, some critics contended that it presented a substantial challenge to the principles of Indian democracy.”

Photo: Screengrab of Plus Two textbook: NCERT.

A subsection, now titled ‘From Legal Proceedings to Amicable Acceptance’, says the Ayodhya issue “was resolved” with a “5-0 verdict” by a Supreme Court constitutional bench on November 9, 2019. The chapter adds that “the verdict allotted the disputed site to the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust for constructing the Ram temple and directed the government to allot an appropriate site for constructing a Mosque for the Sunni Central Waqf Board. In this way, democracy allows for conflict resolution in a plural society like ours, upholding the inclusive spirit of the Constitution.”

Disregarding the wide disagreement over the court ruling, the textbook states that “the Supreme Court’s decision was celebrated by society at large.” It calls the verdict “a classic example of consensus-building on a sensitive issue that shows the maturity of democratic ethos which are civilizationally ingrained in India.”

Photos: Screengrab of Plus Two textbook: NCERT.

The old textbook also reportedly included newspaper cuttings, such as one with the headline, ‘Babri Masjid demolished, Centre sacks Kalyan Govt’. These have been deleted. An excerpt from a judgement by Chief Justice Venkatachaliah and Justice G N Ray of the Supreme Court in the case Mohd. Aslam v. Union of India, October 24, 1994, convicting Kalyan Singh (UP Chief Minister on the day of the demolition) of contempt of court for failing to “uphold the majesty of law” has been replaced with excerpts referring to the 2019 judgement of the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court.

It was in April the NCERT earlier revised the Class 12 Political Science textbooks and said the changes were made to incorporate the developments arising from the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Ram Janmabhoomi movement.

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