August 03, 2014

Catch them Young It is the Textbooks Once Again

R Arun Kumar

AS the first full session of the newly elected parliament comes to a close, it has been clearly established that the economic path of the BJP government will not be any different from that of the Congress. On the contrary, the policy pronouncements of the BJP government betray its aggressive intent in furthering the neo-liberal policy trajectory. So, the natural question, wherein lies the difference between the two governments is now slowly being answered – it will be in injecting communal venom into the society using its reins on State power.


Dinanath Batra, national president of the RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN) was unambiguous when he stated: “Political change has taken place, now there should be total revamp of education”. Former BJP president and present union minister M Venkaiah Naidu explicitly stated as early as last year (June 23, 2013) that “it (the BJP) will change textbook syllabi, if it returns to power”. He was unapologetic for their efforts to affect the same during their first stint in power: “We tried to do this earlier too and will try it again”. Now that they are back in power, with a majority of their own in the Lok Sabha and unhindered by the 'push and pulls' of coalition politics, they want to go full hog on this pet theme of theirs. Rajnath Singh, the union home minister and who was the president of the Party till recently, indicated so much in Rajya Sabha on July 23. Speaking in Rajya Sabha on rising crime in the country, he stated: “it had been proposed that school textbooks be changed in order to ensure that children were made aware of human values and life values”.

About the direction of the change, Batra is very clear: “Education in India is neither Indian nor a real education. Education has nothing to do with this country's land. It is result of mischiefs with words by Marx and Macaulay that today's young generation has become aimless, arrogant and stubborn and is in the race of being unemployed. A nationalistic education system has to be developed to address the requirements and through this we have to develop a young generation that is committed to Hindutva and nationalist”. Batra confidently states: “The reforms that I have been suggesting are already being incorporated by the new government”.

And what are the changes suggested by Batra? To understand them, a cursory glance at the nine textbooks – eight of which are authored by Batra himself – that were distributed to the 42,000 primary and secondary schools in Gujarat is necessary. Excerpts from one of these nine books, Tejomay Bharat, is enough to enlighten us:

·         America wants to take the credit for invention of stem cell research, but the truth is that India’s Dr Balkrishna Ganpat Matapurkar has already got a patent for regenerating body parts….You would be surprised to know that this research is not new and that Dr Matapurkar was inspired by the Mahabharata. Kunti had a bright son like the sun itself. When Gandhari, who had not been able to conceive for two years, learnt of this, she underwent an abortion. From her womb a huge mass of flesh came out. (Rishi) Dwaipayan Vyas was called. He observed this hard mass of flesh and then he preserved it in a cold tank with specific medicines. He then divided the mass of flesh into 100 parts and kept them separately in 100 tanks full of ghee for two years. After two years, 100 Kauravas were born of it. On reading this, he (Matapurkar) realised that stem cell was not his invention. This was found in India thousands of years ago. (Page 92-93)

·         Indian rishis using their yog vidya would attain divya drishti. There is no doubt that the invention of television goes back to this… In Mahabharata, Sanjaya sitting inside a palace in Hastinapur and using his divya shakti would give a live telecast of the battle of Mahabharata… to the blind Dhritarashtra. (Page 64)

·         What we know today as the motorcar existed during the Vedic period. It was called anashva rath. Usually a rath (chariot) is pulled by horses but an anashva rath means the one that runs without horses or yantra-rath, what is today a motorcar. The Rig Veda refers to this. (Page 60)

Batra suggests the first chapter in all subjects to highlight India's contribution to world civilization. And what these are we have already seen. No wonder that eminent historians rubbish the entire project. Professor Romila Thapar called it “not history, but fantasy”, while Professor Irfan Habib reacted by saying “The contents are so absurd that any reaction would seem superfluous…I don't know what they will teach students when they have turned geography into fantasy”.

Remember Tejomay Bharat, published by the Gujarat State School Textbook Board (GSSTB) “seeks to teach children facts about history, science, geography, religion and other basics”. This is the direction that Batra wants Indian education to take. While these are the dos he prescribes for the government, he also has a list of don'ts.

Batra wants the references to MF Hussein deleted from the NCERT textbooks and also of poet Avtar Singh Pash. Reasons? Hussein “had depicted Bharat Mata in the nude” and Pash “talks of class struggle, untouchability and social inequality”. For him, the usage of words: “mushkil' (difficult), dost (friend), gussa (anger), shararat (naughtiness), khabardar (to warn), gayab (vanish), saal (year), mohalla (colony), mauka (occasion), aksar (often), are a strict no-no, as they are not Hindi words but Urdu words polluting the vocabulary. And the list runs deep.

Let us pause for a minute to express our concerns for the children of Gujarat, their future and of course, the future of our country.

Batra of course is unruffled by all the criticisms and remains unconcerned about the future. Moreover, the effects of the changes that he and his ilk want to usher suits their ideological purpose and the RSS has endorsed him. Ram Madhav, who was the spokesperson for the RSS until recently and is now deputed to work in the BJP appreciatively states: “Batra is a committed educationist who is working to ensure that Indian values are taught to our children. What is wrong in that? He is doing a good job”. And why wouldn't he? Batra writes in one of the eight textbooks that were mentioned earlier: “Keeping a good friend circle is not enough. To keep it faultless, a good company is also required. This means a company of saints and learned people. The student that goes to an RSS shakha daily, he finds miraculous change in his life”.

What is the RSS way of life? It talks about Akhand Bharat, which geographically subsumes all our neighbouring countries. It prescribes Adhyatmik Bharat, which identifies only Hinduism as the road to spirituality and considers the practitioners of all other religions as second grade citizens, not on par with the Hindus. Rabid religious intolerance is preached as the Tejomay Bharat states: “An alien religion is a source of sorrow”. What these alien religions are, is clear – Islam and Christianity. To breed this intolerance and destroy the syncretic culture of our country, they want to distort history and feed it to children right from their primary school.

Though the RSS, BJP and the Sangh Parivar today are advocating a pan-Hindu identity, subsuming the identities of all other castes to serve their ideological dream of establishing a Hindu rashtra, this does not mean that they intend to treat all the castes as equal or that they have given away on the chatur varna system. The books written by Batra clearly give away their nuanced positions through the terms used – India is a 'shudra' name, a lowly term, which should not be used. The intolerance professed by the RSS and its cohorts thus extends towards 'other' races, 'other' gender and everything 'other' than what they are – upper-caste, Hindu supremacist and patriarchal – similar to what the Nazis under Hitler did in Germany.

Education is always viewed by the ruling classes as a means for indoctrination – to ensure that the people (subjects) do not challenge the status quo of the social system. Children are considered as 'little boxes', as Pete Seeger calls them, where after formal schooling, “they all come out the same”, to serve the interests of the ruling classes. BJP and RSS, want to yield power to indoctrinate the young minds so that 'they all come out the same' and serve their objective of converting India into a Hindu rashtra.

For RSS and BJP that have a murky past (with no role in the freedom struggle and at best, compromising with colonialists) it becomes imperative to distort history to make themselves presentable. But for all those who “appreciate the sum of effort and sacrifice which the present has cost the past and which the future is costing the present” this simply cannot be allowed. All those who “conceive the contemporary world as a synthesis of the past, of all past generations, which projects itself into the future”, should join the struggle to resist the attempts to distort history and indoctrinate the present. The struggle is not over textbooks, it is over our present and our future.