New Delhi: The National Commission for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (NCPCR) has requested an explanation from the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) regarding the inclusion of a story by social activist Harsh Mander in a school textbook. Mander, a vocal critic of the rise of Hindutva forces and Narendra Modi’s regime, is under investigation by the Law Enforcement Directorate.
The investigation against him has been criticized by rights activists, academics and others as an attempt to harass and intimidate those who question the ruling government.
In a letter to NCERT, NCPCR Chief Priyank Kanoongo said the content of the story titled “Weathering the Storm in Ersama” included in the English book “Moments” for Class IX had been reviewed following a complaint, and it was found to overrule various provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act 2015.
“Furthermore, the narrative of the story is constructed in such a way as to suggest that rescue and welfare work is only carried out by non-governmental organizations and undermines the machinery of the country, including disaster management agencies. disasters and other authorities,” the letter reads.
“The said chapter (story) included in the supplementary reading book is authored by Shri Harsh Mandar among other stories by renowned literary personalities. The complaint raises questions about the inclusion of the story by a person accused of money laundering while running children’s homes in the country,” Kanoongo said.
The head of the NCPCR said it appeared that the other two stories titled “A House in the Street” and “Paying for His Tea”, given as suggested readings at the end of the chapter, also presented a similar image and were included without cross-check the current child care and protection scenario in the country.
“It is important to note that the JJ Law was enacted in 2015 and the JJ Model Rules were also constituted in 2016. The said book was reprinted five times between 2016 and 2021, and according to reports, revisions of the books/ programs have also been carried out routinely without referring to relevant laws and without being sensitive to the issue of care and protection of children,” the NCPCR said.
“Therefore, the matter is forwarded to you for your comments and to take appropriate action in this regard. It is also requested that the NCERT can also ensure that no such erroneous narrative is reflected in other stories/chapters in the books. You can inform the Commission of the measures taken within seven (07) days of the issuance of this letter,” Kanoongo said in a letter.
No NCERT official was immediately available for comment, according to PTI.
Mander’s story is about a teenager from Odisha whose village is devastated by a cyclone. Instead of being overcome by grief, the 19-year-old becomes a community organizer, bringing people together to create opportunities for rehabilitation and negotiating with traders and the government to find the best way forward.
At the end of the story, the community decides that for children orphaned by the cyclone, local resettlement with foster families would be a better option than government-run institutions.
This isn’t the first time the NCPCR has had a problem with Mander. In October 2020, the child protection body had raided Ummeed Aman Ghar and Khushi Rainbow Home – which the former IAS officer is associated with – in what it described as ” witch hunt” against those who participated in anti-citizenship. (Amendment) Act. In July 2021, the Delhi Commission for the Protection of Child Rights criticized the NCPCR’s actions in the case, telling the Delhi High Court that it was an “attack on democracy” rather only on the basis of genuine concerns about the children in both homes.
(With PTI inputs)