Kolkata, April 8 (IANS) Statues of Karl Marx and his lifelong friend Friedrich Engels still stand proudly in a main park of the 300-year-old capital city of Bengal. No 'poribartan' there till now. But a 'poribartan' (change) is in the offing in the state's history text books in the Mamata Banerjee regime, a stern opponent of Marxists.
The students now will not have to read heady doses of Marxism, founded by the two stalwarts of the 19th century, to get marks in the examinations. They will instead be reading issues related to globalisation, history of Latin America and former South African president Nelson Mandela.
They will also get to read about contemporary women's movements.
But the attempt of a syllabus review committee to trim the 'over presence' of Marxism in history text books for the Higher Secondary students to give space to the new topics has sparked a major controversy.
After Banerjee's Trinamool Congress ended the 34-year rule of the Marxists in last year's assembly polls, the school education syllabus committee appointed by her government has decided to cut to size the over dose of Marxism in the new history syllabi for Classes 11 and 12.
The 19-member committee will submit its recommendations to the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education next week.
During the erstwhile Left Front rule, some political observers and educationists had protested that the history syllabus was "overloaded" with Marx, Engels and the Bolshevik revolution to brainwash students with Marxist ideologies.
While the committee says it has tried to draft a new "balanced, unbiased and pluralistic" history syllabus by cutting out "excesses" on Marxism, the move has upset the Left.
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leaders, who had been engaged in brain storming sessions over Marxist ideology at the party's 20th Congress in Kozhikode, took a dig at the government over the matter.
CPI-M politburo member Brinda Karat warned that students and parents would "give a befitting reply" to the state government's move.
Veteran Marxist and former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee also slammed the move, dubbing it "wrong and a controversial decision".
Even the Congress, a constituent of the 10-month-old state government but currently having estranged relations with the Trinamool, did not let go the chance to lash out at the syllabus review committee.
"The decision of the committee to trim Marxism in the syllabus reveals their (committee members') ignorance. Either they should get rid of the whole topic, or they should let it remain as it was originally," state Congress chief Pradip Bhattacharya observed.
Avik Majumdar, head of the syllabus review committee, strongly defended the move.
"If one goes through the present history text books, she or he will feel there are only three countries in the world - India, China and Soviet Union (which no more exists). But we have decided to present an unbiased and pluralistic history to the students," Majumdar told IANS.
"Thus, we have suggested that movements of Latin America, history of Africa, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, be read," he informed.
He clarified that Marxism would be there, but where it had relevance.
"We are not at all allergic to Marxist theories. But it will be there where it has relevance," Majumdar said.
"Text books are not a tool to brainwash students with a particular political ideology," he averred.
The Trinamool Congress has backed the committee's recommendations.
Party leader and Rajya Sabha member Derek O'Brien said Marx should be studied as a historical phenomenon but not at the expense of Mahatma Gandhi and Mandela.
"Bengal is redressing balance, not doctoring history," he added.
But one thing is certain. The government will have to face flak and strong resistance from the mighty Marxists as they undertake the syllabus exercise.
(Mithun Dasgupta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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