by Jaimine Anita Vaishnav
Unlike natural science, the ‘best part’ of social science is that it is not obligated by the principles of static laws. Yes, like natural science, it is vulnerable to dogmatism but it is also prone to discourses of refutation unlike the politics of “experts” played ritually by natural scientists.
Another merit, as experienced in the domain of social science, is that it considers and also endorses the scope of standpoint theories (lived experiences) of the subjects and does not intend to culminate it objectively, which enhances the hope of intersectional approaches and various methodologies.
What’s happening to social science
The social reality of the world, as seen, is a ‘myriad’ of various forms of relationships, interactions, values, culture, knowledge, histories, and many components, and thus it’s the ‘attitude’ of social science that brings about constructive contributions in the ‘aptitude’ and ‘altitude’ of the society.
Therefore, by default, on its own merit, social science emerges to ‘smash’ the consciousness of apathy, laboratorian mindset, and minuscule views.
The social science subjects like psychology, politics, anthropology, media, sociology, history, law, environment, gender, etc make a grand deal in challenging the conventions of society and also debasing the ‘ontological’ fundamentals. And since ‘epistemological’ realities of the society are here to stay, so is the eminence of social science.
In this neo-capitalist reality, the domain of social science is often accused of inutility. Such assumptions stem from the chauvinist elites’ fantasies and thus the ‘scientific analyses’ of society do not meet the anticipated criteria of smashing the structures of society. Subjectively, there is no dearth of social consciousness but unless social science does not ratiocinate into mainstream occupation, the dystopian world sustains!
Also known as liberal arts, or humanities, social science has produced many forerunners (called social scientists) who understand, analyze, decode and proliferate various knowledge systems and essential tools to deconstruct social realities. The subjects’ lenses in the social science domain are designed to ‘produce and prosume’ critical thinking, rationality, and emotions. And without social science and the equipment furnished by its aesthetics, not only the individual would be in chaos but the world would verily disintegrate.
What should not be happening to social science
Social science has also been a subject of controversies, obviously triggered by the conventional minds governing the statist society. Culturally, in a span of 8 years, the Indian government is harshly invisiblizing vital chapters from history and political science textbooks. For example: in history (grade 6 to 12, of CBSE board), the content pertaining to the history of Mughal courts, the communal riots in Gujarat (2002), the works of Dalit writers, the fight for equality, the Naxalite movement, etc have been disbanded. The board justified this step as “syllabus rationalization” and deemed it “irrelevant”. This act of rewriting simply indicates the art of saffronizing social science education.
In 2017, KN Dikshit headed a committee to saffronize the history of India and stated, “I have been asked to present a report that will help the government rewrite certain aspects of ancient history.” One of the members Mahesh Sharma (formerly, culture minister) reckoned the same.
A very renowned and eminent historian Irfan Habib draws attention to this operation, “..the deletion and downscaling of the Muslim/Mughal history from most of the textbooks is based on what pays maximum electoral dividends. Those who revised the textbooks seem to have only a single-minded agenda of implementing the regressive and sectarian vision.”
The quantum of bias in moderating the textbooks of social science stems from political agenda and it has nothing to do with the enhancement and emancipation of education. Today’s epoch direly needs critical consciousness and social scientific awareness, and the way the social science podium is being attacked is likely to see an unsound precedent in the future.
The NCERT textbooks also witnessed the deletion of topics like diversity, equality, and democracy, and it also ebbed on the contributions of India’s first PM Jawaharlal Nehru. After seeing the content on casteism in these textbooks deleted, Ashok Bharti, chairperson of the National Confederation of Dalit and Adivasi Organisations, said that people who were part of the NCERT review committee appeared to harbor feelings of guilt about historical facts. Instead of addressing their guilt, they are removing the instances of casteism, thereby trying to hide their sins.
In Karnataka, a few weeks ago, a committee was constituted to delete the works of social reformers like Narayana Guru, Kayyar Kihnanna Rai, etc. This was headed by Rohith Chakratirtha. Following protests on social media, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai dissolved the committee.
Writing for The Indian Express, columnist Suhas Palshikar opines: “The idea seems to be that by not mentioning inconvenient facts, the regime can not only run away from reality but more importantly, ensure that students do not develop the critical faculty to look at society.”
About the Author:
The article is authored by Dr. Jaimine Anita, a professor based in Mumbai, with inputs and support shared by Ms. Anika Mitra, a student of mass media.