'Caste Conflict and Dress Change' section of the chapter came under controversy in 2016 when several political leaders objected to references to the 'Upper Cloth Revolt' in southern India.
As part of the curriculum rationalisation exercise initiated at the behest of Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Prakash Javadekar to reduce the burden on students, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has dropped three chapters from its Class 9 history textbook.
According to a report by The Indian Express, the deleted chapters, almost 70 pages, includes a chapter that illustrates caste conflict through the struggles of the so-called ‘lower caste’ Nadar women of Travancore, who were forced to keep their upper bodies uncovered.
Of the three chapters deleted, one (Clothing: A Social History) is on clothing and how social movements influenced how we dressed. The second chapter (History and Sport: The Story of Cricket) is on the history of cricket in India and its connection to the politics of caste, region and community. The third chapter (Peasants and Farmers) focuses on the growth of capitalism and how colonialism altered the lives of peasants and farmers, The Indian Express reported.
The chapter, ‘Clothing: A Social History’ talks about how changes in clothing in England and India were shaped by their social movements.
‘Caste Conflict and Dress Change’ section of the chapter came under controversy in 2016 when several political leaders objected to references to the ‘Upper Cloth Revolt’ in southern India. The section is based on the strict social codes regarding food and dress in India in the past.
The men and women of Shanars or Nadars caste were expected to follow the local custom of not using umbrellas, not wearing shoes and gold ornaments and not covering their upper bodies before the dominant castes. They were considered a subordinate caste.
However, under the influence of Christian missionaries, Shanar women converts started wearing tailored blouses.
The chapter illustrates an incident of 1882 when women of the Shanar caste were attacked by Nairs in public places in the state of Travancore, for wearing a cloth across the upper bodies. It also says about the violent conflict over dress codes.
The chapter ‘Peasants and Farmers’ focused on three countries – small cottagers in England, wheat farmers of USA and opium producers of Bengal.
In 2016, the CBSE issued a circular to all its affiliated schools informing them that the section ‘Caste Conflict and Dress Change’ “stands omitted from the curriculum and no questions from this section should be asked in 2017”. However, this section remained part of the textbook – until NCERT’s curriculum rationalisation exercise in which the complete chapter was dropped.
Moreover, the revised textbooks will be available before the new academic session begins.
Reportedly, it is the second textbook review undertaken under the Modi government. In 2017, NCERT made 1,334 changes, which included additions, correction and data update in 182 textbooks.
Meanwhile, as part of the exercise, NCERT introduced a poem by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in its Class 8 Hindi textbook after it was advised by the government to explore ways of ‘immortalising his contributions and achievements’.
NCERT is an autonomous organisation set up by the government in 1961 in order to assist and advise on policies and programmes, research for improvement in school education.