Heroes. Villains. Categories that have existed for centuries in human thought, in stories across lands. What is it about this seeming binary that we are drawn to so easily? Why does a narrative become simpler to absorb after identifying these categories in it?
Representations of India’s struggle(s) towards nationhood and independence from British colonial rule continue to be strongly present in our everyday popular culture—be it in the latest Bollywood blockbusters, bus station hoardings, street names, memorialization through government holidays, educational charts—so much so that it’s easy to consume these presences as only stories, to forget they have links, however sketchy, to actual pasts.
History syllabi across boards in India dwell heavily on this period of history, starting as early as the beginning of middle school. What is it that our students take away from these chapters on India’s national struggle(s)? Do they process these narratives as stories? Is there a problem if they do? A teacher at a social science teaching workshop we conducted recently, shared that some of her students are very opinionated and assert that Gandhi was ‘fickle, weak, disloyal’ and Subhash Chandra Bose conversely, was ‘strong, determined and capable’. If history is as unpopular among school students as it seems, what in this process of education enables the formation of strong opinions about personalities who are long dead and for many of our students simply figures in text books?
We developed a module, born out of a need to find answers to some of the questions we asked above. Whose Valour, Whose Terrorism looks at the categories of valour and terror and complicates our understanding of them through a close study of household names from the freedom movement. The module includes primary and secondary material representing multiple perspectives to engage students in critical thinking about these boxes, about the factors that shape our understanding of what makes valour, and what terror.
The module is the result of thorough research by those trained in the discipline and comes with a clear list of sources should you want to verify any information. It includes multimedia resources, bringing together multiple perspectives, ready to implement assignments that will push your students to think while still being within the ambit of looming syllabi.