Saffronisation or saffronization is the right-wing policy approach in India that seeks to implement a Hindu nationalist agenda, for example onto school textbooks.[1] Critics have used this political neologism[2] to refer to the policies of Hindu nationalist governments in India that attempted to glorify Hindu contributions to Indian history while undermining other contributions.


The word comes from the association of saffron colour with Hindutva.

Textbook saffronisation in early 21st century

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has said that several Indian history textbooks had overt Marxist or Eurocentric political overtones.[3] The BJP has had trouble changing the textbooks, because many states in which the BJP is not in power have blocked saffronisation efforts. The BJP, citing a rigid anti-Hindu agenda, restructured NCERT and the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) to make textbooks conform to the BJP's Hindu nationalist platform.[4] In states where the BJP had control of local government, textbooks were changed extensively to favor a Hindu nationalist narrative.[5] These changes included the omission of caste-based exclusion and violence throughout Indian history, and the exclusion or minimization of contributions to Indian society made by Muslims.[2]

Efforts were undertaken in 2004 to reverse the saffronisation of textbooks previously made by BJP, spearheaded by the Indian National Congress,[6] India's second biggest political party and the BJP's main rival.

When the Hindustan Times reviewed the issue of saffronisation of Indian textbooks in late 2014, it noted that right-wing efforts to change how textbooks recount history faced "some difficulty as it lacks credible historians to back its claims."[7] The medieval period in India is one such hotly-contested epoch among historians. Since there can be no true consensus about that era due to divided and deeply entrenched political motivations, history for that period is highly subjective and particularly vulnerable to the influence of the textbook writer's sympathies and outlook. "The choice of the textbook writer is more decisive than anything else," it was noted in a report in The Hindu.[8] Critics have said that the changes to the textbooks have portrayed the medieval period as "a dark age of Islamic colonial rule which snuffed out the glories of the Hindu and Buddhist empires that preceded it".[6] Another trap in the politicisation of history relates to contention over the state of Jammu and Kashmir.[8]

By mid-2015, The Times of India reported that the National Council of Educational Research and Training, which is in charge of publishing textbooks, had participated in a meeting convened by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, and during that meeting, the issue of changing textbooks was discussed. An official from the ICHR complained that the theme of nationalism did not receive proper treatment in textbooks, setting the stage for possible textbook revisions.[5]

The state government of Rajasthan reportedly spent Rs 37 crore to reprint 36 textbooks used for classes 1 to 8 for the 2016–2017 academic session that will be based on an agenda that would promote Indian culture by including historical figures, such as Maharaja Surajmal, Hem Chandra, and Guru Gobind Singh. The textbooks that had been approved up to the 2012–13 academic session were rendered obsolete under the rewriting of history, and those books were auctioned off. In total, 5,66 crore new textbooks were ordered printed for an agenda that critics described was intent on supporting the saffronisation of textbooks. Rajasthan (primary and secondary) education minister Vasudev Devnani denied the charge of saffronisation, but educationists described his decision as the "Hinduisation of education" that occurs when right-wing forces come to power.[9]

The state government of Karnataka has reportedly ordered new textbooks for the 2017–18 academic session in an effort that academicians and critics have described as a "blatant attempt to saffronise textbooks".[10]

Saffronisation has also been attempted to portray Mahatma Gandhi's Hindu-nationalist assassin Nathuram Godse in a heroic manner,[11][12] as well as other Hindutva leaders like Vinayak Damodar Savarkar,[13][14] and M. S. Golwalkar.

See also


  1. ^ "Editorial: Unfit to rule". Frontline. Vol. 15, no. 25. 5 December 1998. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  2. ^ a b Raghavan, B. S. (12 September 2001). "Saffronisation". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 14 May 2007.
  3. ^ Bhattacharya, Neeladri (2009). "Teaching History in Schools: The Politics of Textbooks in India". History Workshop Journal. 67 (67): 99–110. doi:10.1093/hwj/dbn050. JSTOR 40646212. S2CID 154421051.
  4. ^ Bénéï, Veronique (2005). Manufacturing Citizenship: education and nationalism in Europe, South Asia, and China. New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 156–159. ISBN 0-415-36488-4.
  5. ^ a b Akshaya, Mukul (24 June 2015). "Saffronization fears over history textbooks rewrite plans". The Times of India. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  6. ^ a b Ramesh, Randeep (25 June 2004). "Another rewrite for India's history books". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  7. ^ Raza, Danish (8 December 2014). "Saffronising textbooks : Where myth and dogma replace history". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  8. ^ a b Singh, Amrik (25 August 2001). "Saffronisation and textbooks". The Hindu. Retrieved 10 March 2016.[dead link]
  9. ^ Goswami, Rakesh (20 January 2016). "Saffronisation ? Raje scraps Cong textbooks, spends Rs 37 cr on new ones". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  10. ^ "Revised textbooks from 2017–18 academic year". The Hindu. 10 June 2015. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  11. ^ "'Nathuram Godse was a patriot,' says BJP's Pragya Thakur; sparks outrage". 16 May 2019. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  12. ^ Yasir, Sameer (4 February 2020). "Gandhi's Killer Evokes Admiration as Never Before". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  13. ^ "Port Blair airport gets Rs 450 cr quake-proof makeover". Business Standard India. Press Trust of India. 9 June 2009. Archived from the original on 14 October 2021. Retrieved 20 February 2010.
  14. ^ "President unveils Savarkar portrait in Central Hall of Parliament". Zee News. 26 February 2003. Archived from the original on 24 October 2020. Retrieved 21 August 2020.