The Hindu Notes – 24th August 2018

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The Hindu Notes for 24th August 2018

Why history matters so much

Its importance in shaping our political ethos is undiminished, but the subject has no place in the competitive education culture

Why is history such an important school subject? And why does it not receive the importance it deserves? These two were among the major questions debated at a conference recently held in Kolkata. A brief answer to the second question is that history cannot compete with science subjects in the market that shapes and controls education today. Yet, history is an important subject because it moulds the outlook of the younger generation. By turning the past into a narrative, history creates a public ethos and influences culture. From architecture to film, and from ancient India to Partition, the Kolkata conference, organised by the History for Peace initiative of the Seagull Foundation for the Arts, covered a broad canvas to trace the complex relationship between history and culture.
I can think of few other gatherings where school teachers got a chance to discuss their classroom experience with scholars of history and culture. The outcome was a richer understanding of the constraints that a poorly functioning system of education places on a society’s capacity to cope with its present difficulties and imagine sustainable solutions.

Debates over texts
The history syllabus and textbooks have been at the heart of a deep political controversy in India. India is not alone in this respect. No country in the world is immune to debates about the past and how it should be presented to school children. To take just two instances, America’s discomfort with Hiroshima and Britain’s discomfort with Gandhi continue to be reflected in their school syllabi.
The main reason why portrayal of the past in school textbooks arouses controversy is that a publicly shared past imparts a collective memory and identity. Textbooks are viewed as officially approved documents — even if they are privately produced and have no official sanction — and are therefore believed to be associated with state power. Significantly, they do shape the perceptions of the young because children are impressionable. Children introduced to a certain version of the past at school acquire a disposition which can be politically mobilised in the future.
Debates over school textbooks seldom take into account the significance of curricular design and the preparation of a syllabus. When criticising poor quality textbooks, people do not recognise that the problem may be at the level of syllabus and curriculum. Similarly, when good textbooks are appreciated, people seldom realise the effort required in redesigning the curriculum and syllabus.
The new history textbooks brought out by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) from 2006 onwards are a case in point. They have survived the change of government. One reason for their longevity is their professional quality. They have no single authors. Teams of eminent historians worked through deliberation and dialogue, first drafting a new syllabus and then the text itself. They represent the spirit of the National Curriculum Framework, 2005, which is still in place, which gives precedence to inquiry through direct exposure to evidence. The textbooks based on it do not narrate a long story. Instead, they enable children to explore different, often divergent, themes, such as lives of peasants and women, architectural styles, etc. Archival material is cited as evidence, and debates among historians are highlighted to demonstrate the difficulties of interpreting evidence.
Problem of perception
These books mark a major step forward in the teaching of history, but older ways of teaching and conventional textbooks have persisted. As a presentation at the Kolkata conference pointed out, the history teacher at school is often someone who has not studied history or enjoyed it. So, despite a shift in historiography, old problems continue to affect the system. One of these is the perception that history is all about wars, kings and dates. Another is the tenacity of dividing India’s past into three long chunks: ancient, medieval and modern. These categories flatten out the complexity and richness of India’s history, wasting the opportunity of studying it with the aim of arousing curiosity and imparting tools of inquiry. The examination system also reinforces flat perceptions by asking questions that are best answered with the help of guidebooks. The 2005 curricular revolution has made little impact on this wider scene.
In most States, the use of history to build collective memory and identity continues. Assam-like situations suggest that education is not perceived as a means of resolving a problem. The fear that incoming migrants would push the regional language into minority status or hurt the State’s cultural identity shows how poor the State’s trust in education is.
On the contrary, schools are actively engaged in creating a delusion of an ongoing collective ‘self’ which thrives on a monolithic ‘other’. Teachers of social sciences work in an atmosphere of relentless regimentation of children’s bodies, thoughts and emotions. Fear pervades life at school, taking many forms. It forms the core of the intensely competitive environment that our schools, including the most reputed ones, love to sustain. In that environment, the teacher’s attempt to make children reflective and sensitive to details gets drowned in the din of everyday life.
The importance of history
Schooling adds a dimension to culture that we do not quite understand. As public institutions, schools carry many burdens the society is not always aware of. Government schools cope with bureaucratic norms and private schools cope with parental pressure to maintain heightened competition. The natural sciences bear the brunt of this pressure. For the growing middle class, including the vast multitude of first-generation educated, science and mathematics represent the golden route to high income jobs in medicine and engineering, including information technology. The social sciences and humanities do not figure in this landscape, yet they also suffer the consequences of the command that the entrance test culture wields over schools.
Although history has no place in the competitive culture of education, its importance in shaping the larger political ethos of the country remains undiminished. Children depend on adults to learn about the past, and that is what makes history the most challenging school subject. Ironically, poorly taught history matters even more than well-taught history, simply because when history does not arouse curiosity or impart the tools of analysis, it creates an emotional barrier for further inquiry.
Krishna Kumar is a former director of the NCERT

Get over the superpower syndrome

No one will think India is any more powerful if it turns away foreign assistance for flood-hit Kerala

The current debate on whether foreign assistance should be accepted for relief and reconstruction work following the devastating floods in Kerala is an unnecessary distraction for the Central and State governments at a time of a grave crisis. The need now is to use all assistance, Indian and foreign, to rebuild Kerala. The figures being bandied about will not meet even a fraction of the cost of rebuilding the infrastructure and bringing the State to normalcy. Bilateral and multilateral assistance will take a long time in coming, and the sooner we make up our mind the better. Seeing ghosts of spies, interventionists and terrorists will not help us recover and be productive once again.
Dreams of the high table
It was the United Progressive Alliance government that decided not to seek external assistance for disaster relief — from foreign countries or even the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The context of that decision was India’s superpower dream. It was felt that India should demonstrate that it had the strength to withstand and counter calamities and also help its neighbours, as it did in the case of the December 2004 tsunami and piracy attacks in the Indian Ocean. India had felt that this would strengthen its case for seeking to be a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and also hasten the prospect of superpower status by 2020. Since permanent membership of the Security Council entails additional financial commitment on its part, India’s low level of mandatory contribution to the UN, calculated based on its capacity to pay, was also a matter of concern at that time. India thought it would be beneficial for it if it were to show that it was spending money abroad over and above the mandatory contribution.
But the policy of not accepting foreign assistance has not taken India even one step towards fulfilling its ambitions. It has been given admission into the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement it did not want, and the Missile Technology Control Regime because its system of missile control was unmatchable, but not membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group or even the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
Fearing the foreign hand
The other concern was the old fear of the foreign hand, the spies who would come with the package, interfere in the country’s internal affairs, and also take away valuable information. The development of technology is such that foreigners do not need to come in hordes to India to know what is happening or to influence decision-making here. Google and Facebook know more about us than we do, and are capable of manipulating our national priorities and plans. India should not be mixing up its 20th century fears with the realities of the 21st century.
The assistance from the UN and Red Cross are of less concern. India has been the biggest contributor to the UN Development Programme and the biggest recipient of assistance. It is a party to the regulations of the UN and its conditionalities for assistance. It is true that India does not want foreigners with huge UN salaries to come and destroy the morale of its relief workers. But its needs for technology and best practices can be obtained from the UN by careful planning and consultations. India will also be able to choose the nationalities of the people it deploys. Nothing should stop it from getting what it needs from the UN, as they can raise the funds and source them from anywhere.
In the case of bilateral assistance, India needs to examine offers case by case. The reported offer from the United Arab Emirates of ₹700 crore makes Abu Dhabi a bigger donor than New Delhi. This is not a casual offer routinely made. First of all, the UAE authorities genuinely felt grieved over the calamity that hit Keralites, who have served their country well over the years. They felt obliged to help Kerala at a time of distress in accordance with the Islamic faith. Similar is the case of Qatar, which has offered ₹35 crore.
The news that the Government of India would decline the offer came like a tornado after the flood. Such a decision will be very unpopular in Kerala and it will affect the electoral fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Such an inflexible attitude on the basis of an earlier decision will not be appreciated. This may also have a negative impact on India’s relations with the UAE, whose authorities were directly involved in raising the funds and in conveying the offer to the Prime Minister.
Look for best practices
Now there are reports that the gift from the UAE has not been rejected out of hand. This would be wise. India should also hold discussions with the UN and the Red Cross with a view to formulating plans for reconstruction using the latest technology and international best practices. It should set aside its superpower syndrome at a time of national emergency.
T.P. Sreenivasan, a former Indian diplomat, is Director General of the Kerala International Centre, Thiruvananthapuram

Should Article 35A be scrapped?

It treats non-permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir as second-class citizens

Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) was an integral part of the Dominion of India, according to the Instrument of Accession which was signed by Maharaja Hari Singh on October 26, 1947 and subsequently ratified by the Constituent Assembly of J&K.
Article 35A of the Constitution is now being vigorously contested with its constitutional validity being challenged before the Supreme Court. It has managed to create widespread legal and political controversy, despite it not even finding a mention in the regular sequential text of the Constitution. As Article 35A is reflected only in an Appendix of the Constitution, it is often missed by many legal experts.
Explaining Article 35A
Article 35A was born through a Presidential Order, the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order of 1954. Therefore, it was added to the Constitution without undergoing the procedure for constitutional amendments as laid down in Article 368. The Presidential Order was issued in exercise of the power conferred under Article 370 (1) (d) of the Constitution. Whether such power also extends to inserting a new Article in the Constitution is contentious.
The heading of Article 35A reads: “saving of laws with respect to permanent residents and their rights”. Article 35A declares that any law enacted by the J&K State Legislature on the issues of permanent residence, or special privileges and rights, or imposition of restrictions, or employment, acquisition of immovable property and settlement in the State, or aid from the State government shall not be void on the ground that it is inconsistent with any rights conferred on other citizens of India. In short, such laws granting special rights to permanent residents would not be deemed a violation of the fundamental rights of other citizens.
Classification of citizens
The ‘classification’ created by Article 35A has to be tested on the principle of equality as it treats non-permanent residents of J&K as ‘second-class’ citizens. Such persons are not eligible for employment under the State government and are also debarred from contesting elections.
Meritorious students are denied scholarships and they cannot even seek redress in any court of law. The major sufferers are women who marry outside J&K. Though they retain their Permanent Resident Certificate, their children cannot be permanent residents. This restricts their basic right of inheritance. Further, the issues of refugees who migrated to J&K during Partition are still not treated as ‘State subjects’ under the J&K Constitution.
This matter requires the active participation of all stakeholders. It is necessary to give confidence to the residents of J&K that any alteration in status quo will not take away their rights but will boost J&K’s prosperity as it will open doors for more investment, resulting in new opportunities. Article 35A, which was incorporated about six decades ago, now requires a relook, especially given that J&K is now a well-established democratic State.
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee firmly believed that the issues relating to J&K could be resolved following the principles of insaniyat (humanity), jamhooriyat (democracy) and Kashmiriyat (Kashmiri values). Hopefully, this issue will be resolved using the same principles.

There is a reason why Article 35A is not found in the main body of the Constitution

The challenge to Article 35A rests on two constructs. The first is that it was inserted unconstitutionally, bypassing Article 368 which empowers only Parliament to amend the Constitution. The second is that the laws enacted in pursuance of Article 35A are ultra vires of the fundamental rights conferred by Part III of the Constitution, especially, and not limited to, Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (protection of life).
The Instrument of Accession
Unlike other princely States that started making choices after the Partition Plan was announced on June 3, 1947, J&K dithered. On August 12, 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh signed a Standstill Agreement with both India and Pakistan. Pakistan did not honour it. It invaded J&K in the third week of October. Confronted with the absorption of his State into Pakistan, the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession on October 26, 1947. The schedule attached to the Instrument of Accession specified that the Dominion of India could only make laws relating to Defence, External Affairs, Communications, and ancillary matters.
With the issue of plebiscite under UN auspices still hanging, India moved to consolidate its relationship with the State by enacting Article 370 on October 17, 1949. Article 370 (1) (d) reads as follows: “Such of the other provisions of this Constitution shall apply in relation to that State subject to such exceptions and modifications as the President may by order specify: Provided that no such order which relates to the matters specified in the Instrument of Accession of the State referred to in paragraph (i) of sub clause (b) shall be issued except in consultation with the Government of the State: Provided further that no such order which relates to matters other than those referred to in the last preceding proviso shall be issued except with the concurrence of that Government.” This Article empowers the President of India to extend with requisite exceptions and modifications the other provisions of the Indian Constitution to J&K as may be necessary.
The Delhi Agreement of 1952 followed Article 370. Clause 2 of the agreement stated, “It was agreed between the two Governments that in accordance with Article 5 of the Indian Constitution, persons who have their domicile in Jammu and Kashmir shall be regarded as citizens of India, but the State Legislature was given power to make laws for conferring special rights and privileges on the ‘state subjects’ in view of the ‘State Subject Notifications of 1927 and 1932: the State Legislature was also empowered to make laws for the ‘State Subjects’ who had gone to Pakistan on account of the communal disturbances of 1947, in the event of their return to Kashmir.”
Clause 6 stated: “With regard to the fundamental rights, some basic principles agreed between the parties were enunciated; it was accepted that the people of the State were to have fundamental rights. But in the view of the peculiar position in which the State was placed, the whole chapter relating to ‘Fundamental Rights’ of the Indian Constitution could not be made applicable to the State.” Please note that it said special rights for State subjects and not fundamental rights.
Implications
It was pursuant to this agreement that the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order of 1954 was promulgated by the President of India. It contains Article 35A, which empowers the State Legislature to define permanent residents. That is why Article 35A is not found in the main body of the Constitution; it is in the Presidential Order having exclusive application to J&K. Therefore, striking it down will have implications for other constitutional amendments contained in the 1954 Presidential Order.

Article 35A is a recognition of the conditional accession of J&K into India

Article 35A says that no law in J&K regarding restrictions imposed on employment under the State government, or acquisition of immoveable property, or settlement in the State, or scholarships and aid given by the State government shall be void on the ground that it is inconsistent with any fundamental rights in the Constitution.
Introducing Article 370
Though this Article came in through a 1954 Presidential Order, it was in furtherance of the Instrument of Accession which the J&K government had signed with the Indian government. The Instrument of Accession gave only limited rights to the Centre to interfere with the autonomy of J&K. That is why Article 370 was introduced, to recognise the special status of J&K. It said that the power of Parliament to make laws in J&K shall be limited to those matters in the Union List and the Concurrent List which, in consultation with the State government, are declared by the President to correspond to matters specified in the Instrument of Accession.
Land, rights over land, and settlement in the State are the main issues. Land is a State subject. Because of the limited accession of the State of J&K and the relatively greater autonomy given to the State, Article 35A is only a recognition of the conditional accession of J&K into India and the restrictions placed on both Parliament and the Constitution that the normal powers of Parliament to make laws will not apply to J&K. It is Article 370 that restricted the application of certain provisions of the Constitution to J&K. It is pursuant to Article 370 that Article 35A was inserted by way of the 1954 Presidential Order. All that it says is that the laws made by the state regarding settlement and acquisition of property will prevail and not be struck down on the ground that they violate fundamental rights.
Incidentally, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have laws which say that no outsider can buy land. Strictly speaking, these laws are unconstitutional and violate two fundamental rights — the freedom to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India and the freedom to practise any profession, trade and business. Those laws are void. But because the accession of J&K was conditional to their being given their rights, their sovereignty with regard to matters concerning land and settlement are preserved. Therefore, it cannot be challenged on the ground that it violates fundamental rights or the basic structure of the Constitution because it is pursuant to an original part of the Constitution and pursuant to the limited accession signed with J&K.
Kashmir never acceded fully to India. Therefore, it is a quasi-sovereign State. It is not like any other State. Article 35A follows the Instrument of Accession and the guarantee given to the State of J&K that the State’s autonomy will not be disturbed even by the Constitution.
Discrimination against women
It is for the J&K to decide, according to its laws, on the issue of discrimination against women with regard to property rights. Such a law is discriminatory according to the Indian Constitution, and is repugnant to the issue of gender equality. But under the Instrument of Accession and the autonomy given to the State of J&K, this will also have to be decided according to laws and the Constitution of the State.
As told to Anuradha Raman

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