In a move certain to raise the hackles of academicians as well as the Left, the Mamata Banerjee government has decided to restructure the history curriculum in the state's schools by removing all reference to Marx and Engels, the founders of Communism, as well as Russia's 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, from the textbooks.
Instead, the focus will be on non-political history, like women's history and the history of sports. This has been suggested by the Trinamool Congress government's school education syllabus committee, which had been asked to suggest ways to modernise the syllabus and lessen the burden of unnecessary topics.
The committee has also recommended that instead of Karl Marx and the truly epochal Russian revolution, higher secondary students in government schools should read about the historical background of Latin America, anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela and the Chinese revolution.
The state government claims that it is only attempting to "correct the imbalance" in history textbooks in the state schools. Syllabus committee head Avik Majumdar said, "We have tried to give our history syllabus a balanced approach. If there was any excess of anything, including Marx, it has to be done away with."
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) expressed shock at Banerjee's decision. Veteran leader Somnath Chatterjee slammed the West Bengal government, saying that "Mamata's move will keep students aloof from one of the finest ideologies."
Defending the state government, Trinamool MP Dereck O'Brien also made it clear that the government was not trying to doctor history, "Marx, I believe, should be studied as a historical phenomenon, but not at the expense of the Mahatma, and not at the expense of Mandela ... Bengal is redressing balance, not doctoring history. History doesn't begin with the Bolsheviks and end with the Basus and Bhattacharyas. History preceded them and will survive them," O'Brien said.
This is the second controversial move by Banerjee regarding dissemination of information. Recently, it had banned certain English newspapers from state libraries.