Yvette Rosser

American activist

Dr. Yvette Rosser (31 January 1952 - 20 November 2021[1]), also known as RamRani, was an American writer and scholar. Her books have been cited as a notable contribution to the literature about education in South Asia by Yoginder Sikand [1] and others[2]. Among her positions was Vice President of the G. M. Syed Memorial Committee [2]. Her writings were also published in Invading the Sacred, Religious Fundamentalism in the Contemporary World: Critical Social and Political Issues, The Hindu[3] and other publications. Novelist Raja Rao wrote: Of all the students I have taught at The University of Texas at Austin, which were thousands, Yvette Rosser understood India the best.[4]

Yvette Rosser in 2016

Quotes edit

  • Several years ago, I was told by a leading professor of "South Asian Studies" at a major University that I "should never report anything positive about the BJP" (Sangh Parivar combine) or I "would never find a job in American academia". A colleague of mine submitted a manuscript for publication to Oxford University Press, Delhi and the then editor of OUP informed her that it was a good manuscript but since it had passages that reflected positively on the Sangh Parivar they could not publish it. He said if she would remove the passages that were not critical of the Hindu Mahasabha and the BJP then OUP would consider publishing her book – otherwise it was against their policy. Amazing isn't it? [3]
  • During the summer of 2000, a very public controversy arose surrounding the excavation of a 10th century Jain Temple in Fatehpur Sikri where the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had unearthed a pit filled with numerous damaged, broken statues. The debate about this archeological find offers an example of not only the ideological gulf dividing social scientists in India, but is indicative of the manner in which opposing camps of scholars have been using the popular media to sensationalize their perspectives. After the newspapers reported about this particular excavation site, Prof. K.N. Panikkar, Prof. Romila Thapar, Prof. K.M. Shirmali, Prof. Harbans Mukhia from JNU and Prof. Ifran Habib from Alighar Muslim University and several Indian academics who never miss a chance to oppose, condemn, and ridicule the "Sangh Parivar" accused the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) of acting irresponsibly by excavating this destroyed Jain temple saying it was an example of "saffron archeology". [4]
  • When I make presentations about India at teachers' conferences or in classrooms, the two most often asked questions are: "Why do women wear a 'dot' on their foreheads?" and "Why, when there is so much poverty in India, don't they eat all those cows?" These questions broach issues of relevance and correlating non-Western practices to similar experiences in the students' lives, within a context they can comprehend.
    • Rosser, Yvette C. (Winter 2001). "The Clandestine Curriculum: The Temple of Doom in the Classroom". Education About Asia (Association of Asian Studies) 6 (3).
  • Proposals to include Sanskrit in the course offerings were rejected numerous times by scholars who wanted to protect JNU from what they considered to be a majoritarian or Hindu Nationalist agenda. When I questioned Romila Thapar, a well known historian from JNU, about this issue in July 2000, she explained that if students want to learn Sanskrit, “there are so many Maths and Piths around where they can go”. She added that “most of the regional colleges have some kind of Sanskrit program”.
    • Rosser, Yvette Claire (2003). Curriculum as Destiny: Forging National Identity in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. University of Texas at Austin.
  • For me, as a researcher, the level of condemnation and the condescension among historians in India was impressive and easy to document. Uncomfortably, even engaging the Indo-centric perspective as something worth discussing caused a few historians at JNU and NCERT to ask me if I was a fascist sympathizer. Numerous times, I was told that in their estimation the blossoming Indic orientation in the interpretation of history was invalid, dangerous. I was warned that anyone who considered issues broached by the BJP, such as the unequal implementation of secularism in the Indian context or possible changes in the narration of history, was obviously politically tainted, ideologically contaminated, or just plain misguided.
    • Rosser, Yvette Claire (2003). Curriculum as Destiny: Forging National Identity in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. University of Texas at Austin.
  • One informant told me that, “Indian Marxist historiography was not a reaction to an overbearing nationalistic historiography. It simply took up the thread of colonial historiography, thus enjoying a position of dominance from the beginning. The thrust of their endeavour has been hostile to Indian nationhood from the beginning and without limitation.”
    • Rosser, Yvette Claire (2003). Curriculum as Destiny: Forging National Identity in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. University of Texas at Austin.
  • Dr. Arjun Dev had explained to me a few weeks earlier that it is forbidden to write negativly about Islam in NCERT textbooks because it can foment communalism. He went so far as to say that “anyone who writes bad things about Islam could be arrested”... "We are very careful not to write anything that could be construed as defamatory against Islam or any religion."
    • Rosser, Yvette Claire (2003). Curriculum as Destiny: Forging National Identity in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. University of Texas at Austin.
  • This comment is added as a caveat for scholars seeking to learn more about the Sangh Parivar. Don’t rely on secondary and tertiary sources, but have the document in your hand, rather than reading “critical analyses” about such politicized and sensitive issues.
    • Rosser, Yvette Claire (2003). Curriculum as Destiny: Forging National Identity in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. University of Texas at Austin.

Islamization of Pakistani Social Studies Textbooks, 2003 edit

  • The story of Pakistan’s past is intentionally written to be distinct from and often in direct contrast with interpretations of history found in India.
  • Professor Mubarak Ali, a repected historian living in Lahore, asserts that Akbar has been systematically eliminated from most textbooks in Pakistan in order to "divert attention away from his 'misplaced' policies". Where they exist, discussions of Akbar are short and superficial...
  • For the past few decades in Pakistan, most educational reforms and curriculum policies have been politically and religiously driven, pedagogy being secondary. Denial and erasure are the primary tools of historiography as it is officially practiced in Pakistan. There is little room in the official historical narrative for questions or alternative points of view.
  • Because they were not fully informed about the adventurism of their military leaders, they can only feel betrayed that somehow Pakistani politicians once again "grabbed diplomatic defeat from the jaws of military victory”.
  • Pakistani textbooks have a particular problem when defining geographical space. The terms "South Asia" and "Subcontinent" have partially helped to solve this problem of the geo-historical identity of the area formally known as British India. However, it is quite difficult for Pakistani textbook writers to ignore the land now known as India when they discuss Islamic heroes and Muslim monuments in the Subcontinent. This reticence to recognize anything of importance in India, which is almost always referred to as "Bharat" in both English and Urdu versions of the textbooks, creates a difficult dilemma for historians writing about the Mughal Dynasties. It is interesting to note that M.A. Jinnah strongly protested the Congress’ appropriation of the appellation “India”, but Mountbattan dismissed his arguments.
  • One of the more remarkable aspects of textbooks in Pakistan is their ability to completely eliminate cause and effect regarding the creation of Bangladesh. There is usually only a passing mention of the general elections called by Yahya Khan who is uniformly seen as a bad leader, a heavy drinking womanizer. There is nothing about the cancellation of the National Assembly, little about the military crackdown in Dhaka, less about the misfortunes of the Pakistani Army. The traumatic birth of Bangladesh is blamed on Indian cunning and incipient Bengali irridentalism.... “Eras and events deemed either irrelevant, hostile or inconvenient to the fulfillment of the Pakistan Movement are omitted”.

Indoctrinating Minds: Politics of Education in Bangladesh. 2004 edit

  • Bangladesh is a majority Muslim country, with a significant, if shrinking Hindu minority—about twenty-five to thirty per cent at the time of Partition in 1947, but less than nine per cent remaining in 2003. The textbooks in Bangladesh are not predicated on an anti-Indian bias as are state sponsored textbooks in Pakistan. The social studies curriculum in Pakistan is premised on creating a national identity that is distinct from India, whereas Bangladeshi textbooks reflect a more pan-South Asian perspective, though completely Bengal-centric.
    • page 30
  • Though there are some striking similarities, the situation regarding the politics of the historiography in Bangladesh is quite different than in Pakistan. In Bangladesh the textbooks were subjected to similar pressures as in Pakistan, with two military dictators during twenty-one years, both attempting to guide the historical narrative and hence, they believed, the political and psychological direction of the people. (4)
  • The system in Bangladesh is even more centralized than in Pakistan since all the textbooks and curriculum directives not only originate in Dhaka, but are also published by the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB). Perhaps because of this, in Bangladesh there was a greater sense of us against them—as the years of military rule dragged on, 1975-1990. Textbooks in Bangladesh were altered by decree during that decade and a half, but selectively, not drastically. In contrast, in Pakistan, during the years of General Zia-ul Haq's dictatorship, 1977-1988, textbooks were completely altered to promote fundamentalist Islamic perspectives glorifying worldwide jihad. There was no scope for the textbook boards in the provinces of (West) Pakistan to impact the narrative as it emanated exclusively from Islamabad. (5)
  • More ominously, for Bangladeshis whose relatives were murdered, is the exclusion in the new BNP sponsored textbooks of the role played by the Jamaat-i-Islami and other fundamentalist organizations that supported razakars, Islamic terrorist squads implicated in the murders of intellectuals in Dhaka on December 14, 1971. The controversial sentences that blamed the Jamaat-i-Islami in the Awami League era text books were immediately expunged when the Jamaat-i-Islami came to power in a coalition government with the BNP. (20)
  • The new editions have re-embraced the view of Bangladeshi nationalism that was promoted by the military regimes. However, the BNP's efforts to vindicate the perpetrators of genocide have gone considerably further than even the former textbooks of Zia and Ershad's periods where the word "razakar" still appeared in reference to the murderers of the intellectuals on December 14, 1970. In 1996 era textbooks, the Awami League added "al-badars" and "al-shams" to the list of collaborators, specifically naming the "Jamaat-i-Islami" as culpable in the murder of the intellectuals. The new 2001 genre textbook leaves all of these names out of the narrative and simply blames the deaths of the intellectuals on themselves and on the Pakistani Army. After October 2001, eliminating references to razakars and certainly the Jamaat-i-Islami was an imperative since former razakars and members of the Jamaat are now part of the ruling coalition. ... An important impact of the omissions and extractions is that the genocidal excesses of the infamous collaborators, the razakars are ignored and thereby excused. This deflection of guilt by the Jamaat-i-Islami was one of the first orders of business for the BNP/Islamists political dispensation that came to power in October 2001.
    • page 23
  • Among textbooks writers in Dhaka, Gandhi is sometimes given more respect than Jinnah, who is criticized because of his anti-Bengali stance.
    • page 31
  • The manner in which the textbooks were gradually rewritten in Bangladesh is very different than the method of the BJP in India, where changes in the orientation of historiography have been implemented with media fanfare an broad consultation—a very public debate. In the very different political atmosphere of BNP/Islamist government controlled Bangladesh, changes were clandestinely implemented, with little public review.
    • page 58
  • The most dramatic changes made by the two military rulers were the changes in the Constitution of Bangladesh. These religiously oriented alterations in the Constitution are there to stay. Once Islam has been declared the law of the land, even undemocratically, by military fiat, it can never be repealed, on threat of apostasy.
    • Y Rosser, Indoctrinating Minds: Politics of Education in Bangladesh. 2004 page 68
  • A professor in the History Department at Dhaka University told me about his experiences during the months after the Pakistani Army took control of the country. When the bloodbath began in March, he and his family, along with many other Dhaka professionals fled to their ancestral villages hoping to escape the violence. For a few months, during the monsoon, the Pakistani junta declared an amnesty of sorts and made announcements asking scholars and professionals to return to Dhaka—to their posts in classrooms and hospitals. Promises were made that they would not be arrested. There had been a definite lull in the violence during the summer and many people decided to return to their jobs.
    This professor, with whom I spoke with a length, told rae that in April he and his family had gone to the home of his wife's relatives in a village in the northern part of the country. Since many professors had been targeted during the early weeks of the crackdown, there had been a mass exodus from the university campuses, which were seen as hot beds of secessionists. In July of 1971, with promises of security, many returned to their homes on the campus of Dhaka University.
    While on a barge, crossing a river on their way back to Dhaka my friend and his family encountered several Pakistani soldiers. Since the professor spoke Urdu they struck up a conversation. The professor was initially worried that he might be arrested or killed, but soon the soldiers waylaid their fears because, as they explained to the professor and his family, they had been "sent to kill Hindus". The professor and his family were Muslim.
    The soldiers complained that "for the past few months they had not been able to find many Hindus". He confided to the professor that he felt frustrated that "the Pakistani government had sent them to East Pakistan to kill Hindus" but he found mostly Muslims. He added that he "didn't mind killing Hindus but killin g Muslims was against [his] religious beliefs". Needless to say, the professor was relieved, if horrified by the implications.
    • Y Rosser, Indoctrinating Minds: Politics of Education in Bangladesh. 2004 page**133
  • I interviewed numerous Hindus in Dhaka and Mymensingh who told me stories of how their lives were continually in danger. Controversial as it may be, they also told me that their daughters are often kidnapped, "forcibly converted and married to Muslim boys". They explained that, once converted, even by force", there is nothing they can do, because if the girls want to come home" and return to their ancestral religion they are then "accused of apostasy and run the risk of being murdered by the decree of a fatwa. Because of these pressures, the Hindu population of Bangladesh continues to shrink annually.
    • Y Rosser, Indoctrinating Minds: Politics of Education in Bangladesh. 2004 page **134

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