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Interview With Shahid Siddiqui

Interview With Shahid Siddiqui

RSS ideologue and Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas head Dinanath Batra's recommendations to the NCERT to wipe off Rabindra Nath Tagore and words of English, Urdu and Arabic words from school text books has stoked yet another controversy. Opposition leaders, academicians, historians and social activists have criticised Batra adding it was an attempt to saffronise the education and distort facts. 

Anju Grover for Indian Currents spoke to Shahid Siddiqui,  (a former member of the  Rajya Sabha , representing the state of  Uttar Pradesh  from 2002 to 2008. He is a journalist and the chief editor of the Nai Duniya, an Urdu weekly published from New Delhi) to know the impact of alleged saffronisation on the education system and youngsters. He said it is a dangerous trend and efforts should be made to defeat such efforts for the unity of the country.

IC: What is your response to RSS ideologue Dinanath Batra's recommendations to review NCERT text books?

Shahid Siddiqui: These recommendations are irrational in nature. Batra doesn't understand this country. This is not new. The BJP and their allied organisations have been talking in these terms for a long time. There were leaders who were trying to prove that Taj Mahal was a temple and not constructed by Shah Jahan. More so it is not restricted to Hindus alone. Muslims too have done similar things. We should not take them seriously. Since they are in power, they are trying to influence educational system. I am not worried about Tagore or Urdu words, those will remain there, but I am worried about the future generation of this country. If our children are taught illogical and irrational things then India will not move forward.

IC: What, according to you, is their real intention behind such move?

They are trying to distort facts as they suffer from inferiority complex. Ignoring the positive and pointing out negative points show inferiority complex.

IC: With the BJP led government at the centre, do you think NCERT would be able to take balanced view on recommendations made by the likes of Batra and others.

I don't know because in Rajasthan they (BJP government) have made changes in history books. They have made changes in books in Haryana and Gujarat etc. I hope they (NCERT) take a balanced view. If they don't, it will harm the nation because we want to develop scientific temper in our students. We want to develop questioning attitude in our people. If our young people do not question and believe whatever we have taught them, then they will not be great people.

IC: In the current circumstances, where is education headed to? Does it worry you?

We are heading towards a dangerous situation. If we are trying to copy Pakistan and Afghanistan and have a role model like Taliban, then it is very unfortunate for a great nation like India. But I am confident that they will fail to do that. Even if they try to make some changes as it won't have much of an impact because India is too big and too diverse to be influenced by such ideas.

IC: How would you counter such views as these can really mislead youngsters? 

During the Congress regime, the Congress tried to distort some facts to suit their interest but what happened. There was a reaction. Young people do not like imposition of ideas on them. If you try to impose any idea, they will reject it. It may take some time and this kind of distortion of reality or culture will not go for long because our culture is too strong. Tagore is too big and Urdu is too strong for them to wipe off. Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru are great leaders to be wiped out by efforts of these people. History cannot be wiped out.

IC: In November 2014, eminent historian Irfan Habib had criticised the NDA government when he said that the present regime’s desire and attempts to rewrite history textbooks is “not saffronisation of history but fictionalisation of history.” He said that fictionalisation is when you build up false history and false claims for the nation…it is not serving the nation, it is ridiculing the nation. Your views.

I agree with him. I have been a teacher of political science of Delhi University and have looked at things critically. I have always taught my students to always ask right questions. After all, fiction is fiction and it cannot go for long. Ultimately truth prevails.

IC: How are you going to check and prevent saffronisation or fictionalisation of history or historical facts?

Those who know the truth will have to speak again and again. It needs to be countered in social media and in universities and all the forums available. I am optimistic that truth will prevail.

(Published on 31st July 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 31)