“That since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed…”
Incidentally, this is what is written in the Preamble of the Constitution of UNESCO that was signed on November 16, 1945, coming in force on November 4, 1946 after ratification by 20 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Lebanon, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK and the US. Now, the question arises as to whether the two neighbouring belligerent countries can really construct the defences of peace…
Japan had made an attempt at this issue… The Japanese people had a feeling of repentance after the Second World War. They mentioned in their Constitution that Japan would try its best to maintain peace. The Asia-Pacific nation not only reduced the strength of its Armed Forces, but also curtailed the defence budget! Even the Japanese government had changed the syllabus of history at school level in order to inform students about the Japanese aggression against many countries. The concerned authorities in Tokyo thought that the young generation should not make the same mistakes, as committed by their ancestors.
However, Japan once again changed their syllabus in 1982. According to sources close to the government, the Chinese defence policy prompted Tokyo to make those changes. Previously, students were taught that Japan had forcefully conquered Korea in 1910. However, the newly-published books mentioned that the Japanese forces had arrived in Korea in 1910… But, it was not mentioned why the government sent forces to Korea. It was also mentioned in new books that Japan had always tried to maintain peace in the region! The government further censored war crimes committed by the Japanese soldiers against China in the new syllabus!
Immediately after Tokyo introduced the new syllabus in 1982, China, South Korea and Hong Kong asked Japan to re-introduce the previous one, making it clear that they would snap trade ties with Japan, if the Japanese government rejected the request. Although Japan accepted the proposal under pressure, the Education Ministry tried to find out how to inform students about Japan’s relations with the three countries.
Forty-six historians from Japan, China and South Korea made an attempt to resolve the problem with an innovative idea! They took almost two decades to publish a new history book in 2005. They wrote the modern history of the Asia-Pacific region in a different way and all the countries agreed to introduce the book, at school level, in their own languages! Indeed, it was a wonderful move!
Unfortunately, South Asia is yet to make such a move. Educationist Krishna Kumar made an attempt 18 years ago, but failed. In his publication – ‘Prejudice and Pride: School Histories of the Freedom Struggle in India and Pakistan’ (Penguin, 2001), Kumar discussed about some history textbooks used at schools in India and Pakistan. Kumar was of the opinion that authors had studied various events of the last 200 years before writing those books. Surprisingly, the Indian and the Pakistani authors had narrated the history of the Indian Sub-continent in two different ways, without uttering a lie!
The Pakistani students are taught that British rulers dethroned the Muslim monarch of India in 1857 and started ruling the country with the help of upper caste Hindus. Both the Britons and Hindus sidelined the Muslims. As a result, it was not possible for undivided India to win Freedom. It was Muhammad Ali Jinnah who helped the Muslims secure their rights in Free Pakistan. On the other hand, the Indian students learn that India won the Freedom because of the sacrifice made by the freedom fighters. However, some Muslim leaders, with vested interests, influenced a section of Muslim population to demand a separate state. That is why the British rulers divided the country before leaving the Sub-continent.
Kumar prescribed a new syllabus for the Indian and Pakistani students so that they could learn the actual and unbiased history of the Sub-continent. However, some Indian and Pakistani political leaders opposed his initiative. The top political leaderships in New Delhi and Islamabad were not interested in following the path taken by Japan, South Korea and China. It is difficult to predict when the Indians and the Pakistanis shall learn how to co-exist peacefully… For that, it is important to know how to re-write HISTORY!
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