In its recommendation to NCERT, Shiksha Sanskriti Uthan Nyas, an RSS affiliate has asked for removal of English, Urdu and Arabic words, the thoughts of Rabindranath Tagore; extracts from painter M F Husain’s autobiography; references to the Mughal emperors as benevolent; to the BJP as a “Hindu” party; an apology tendered by former prime minister over the 1984 riots; and a sentence that “nearly 2,000 Muslims were killed in Gujarat in 2002”. As such these recent recommendations to NCERT are continuation of the same agenda which is working for its goal of Hindu Rashtra.
Education has been the major area of work for RSS all through. Since it has a view of Nationalism which is opposed to the concept of Indian Nationalism, it already had made lot of efforts to promote its views through Shakhas, through Saraswati Shishu Mandirs and through Ekal Schools. It has set up organizations to influence the policies in the field of education like Vidya Bharati. It has also started putting its followers in the top positions in Universities and major research institutes of the country. The previous BJP led NDA regime had already started the process of saffronisation by changing the school books and by introducing courses like Paurohitya (priest craft) and Karmakand (rituals).1 The attempt to bring in their view point on ancient, medieval and modern history have been intensified during last few years (from 2014) with BJP being in the seat of power. RSS leaders have been interacting with MHRD ministry to bring overall change in the education system. One can say that the gradual changes in education and forthcoming education policy by BJP is aimed at bringing it in tune with globalisation, privatisation along with Hindutva agenda of manuwad.2
RSS Agenda in Education
The type of
education aimed to be introduced aims to change the thinking pattern of the
coming generations. The goal is to instil a pattern in consonance with the
Brahminical norms, to promote orthodox medieval mindset and to undermine the
scientific temper. In a recent meeting their leaders said that the past
governments have written history and other subjects the way they wanted. It was
their history. Now it's time to teach genuine history and take the
education system in the right direction. Their aim is to introduce “Project
Bhartiyakaran” in education.3
"We have to teach students about our history, our science, our language, our heroes and freedom fighters, but the past governments have portrayed people such as Aurangzeb as great icons. Then again, what else could you have expected from them," says a Sangh leader. "Anyway, it's time to correct the things."4
The RSS volunteers are out to change the total education system and the content of history, social science and other books. Even before this Government came to power, with the rise of Modi on political firmament, with the perception that he is likely to come to power, the right wing organizations had intensified their offensive against genuine scholarship.
Dinanath Batra, by now is a well-known name; he has been heading the RSS outfits, Shiksha Bachao Abhiyan Samiti and RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN) for many decades.
In 2014, Batra succeeded in pressuring Penguin, the World’s largest publisher, to pulp Wendy Doniger's scholarly book ‘The Hindus: An Alternate History’. This book brings out through the interpretation of mythology the need to understand the caste and gender aspects in a sensitive manner. The history she has focussed on goes against the hierarchical mindset of RSS combine and so pressure was put to pulp it. Later nine books by him have been translated in to Gujarati and introduced in 42000 schools in Gujarat. Batra’s move was interpreted by many as a trial run before doing similar things at larger scale. Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu had explicitly stated in June 2013 that “it (the BJP) will change textbook syllabi, if it returns to power”. Batra was also quoted as saying that a nationalistic education system had to be developed to address the requirements and “through this we have to develop a young generation that is committed to Hindutva and nationalism”.
The sampling of Batra’s books gives a good idea of what is in store for us. A quote from one of the set of books, ‘Tejonmaya Bharat’, (Radiant Bharat) tells 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) realized 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 (divine vision). 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)
RSS: Planned Interventions
RSS set up a consultative body called Bharatiya Shiksha Niti Ayog (BSNA) to put pressure on Modi’s government to “correct or Indianize” the national education system. In the new syllabus, the passages in the textbooks which pointed out to any unsavoury aspect of the Hindu faith like the oppressive caste system in ancient Hindu society, untouchability of the low-caste people and consumption of beef during Vedic ages were scrapped, and anyone who resisted or opposed the changes was dubbed as 'anti-national'.
With the change of government in Delhi, the leading institutions are having a major policy shift; organisations like the Indian Council of Historical Research, National Council for Education, Research and Training amongst others, as they have got heads whose qualification is not excellence in their disciplines but their proximity to ideology of the ruling dispensation.5
These are the institutions which deal with history, education and most of the disciplines related to social sciences. The change of policy seems to be guided by the BJP’s parent organisation, RSS, whose political ideology is Hindu nationalism, in contrast to the values of the Indian Constitution, namely, Indian Nationalism.
The broad contours of the new policy are to do what they call 'Bharatiyakaran' of education, promote Hindu icons, appropriate the likes of Ambedkar, promote non-Christian heritage of North East. In one of the major initiative in this direction Gujarat has introduced the books by Dinanath Batra.
Network for Education
One of the largest chain of private schools in India, catering mainly to lower middle class, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA) specializes in hostels for adivasi children along with other activities and Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, which runs single pre-school teacher centers, where students are taught basic reading and writing of Sanskrit and Sanskrit behaviours, is a clear indicator of RSS’s slow but deliberate attempt of “saffronising”.
The Vidya Bharati educational mission is founded on the objective of training children to see themselves as protectors of a Hindu nation. The Vidya Bharati system supervises over 18,000 schools across India, with 1.8 million students and 80,000 teachers. A shared curriculum is used across the country. The Vidya Bharati operates 60 graduate institutions. About 5,000 Vidya Bharatis are endorsed by education boards primarily in states where the Bharatiya Janata Party is in power. Another organization called Akhil Bhartiya Adhyapak Parishad, an offshoot of Vidya Bharti, has trained teachers on the ideology of Hindutva. Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana was set up in 1973 to re-write Indian History of the past 5000 years to prove that the ‘Aryans’ are indigenous people, not the invaders. Sanskar Bharti established in 1982 with the aim of preventing western influence on Indian culture has 900 branches. Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, founded in 1948, was registered in 1949. Its sole objective is to channelize the energy of the students in the task of National reconstruction. Out of 30 Central Universities, it captured 15. Its activists played a major role in the 1992 demolition of Babri Masjid.6
Forays into Ancient History
The Hindu mythology is looked up as a part of history. All the RSS pronouncements like Aryans were the original natives of this land are being given a higher projection. The distorted interpretation of Mohanjo Daro/Harappa being the Aryan civilization are being presented forcefully and lot of money is being spent in the research of the river Saraswati and to prove the historicity of Ramayana and Mahabharata. These two epics Ramayana and Mahabharata are being given the status of History and attempts are being made to introduce these in the schools as part of the History curriculum.7 The assertions that this civilization had achieved all the peaks of development in stem cell research, aviation (Pushpak Vimana), Plastic surgery are being brought in as the part of 'our' achievements.
The assertions of RSS workers are totally irrational, but being presented strongly by many of them. Mr. Modi said, “We can feel proud of what our country achieved in medical science at one point of time. We all read about Karna in Mahabharata. If we think a little more, we realize that Mahabharata says Karna was not born from his mother’s womb. This means that genetic science was present at that time. That is why Karna could be born outside his mother’s womb… We worship Lord Ganesha. There must have been some plastic surgeon at that time, who got an elephant’s head grafted on the body of a human being and began the practice of plastic surgery”.8 It is unrealistic to believe that a mass delivered from uterus can be divided into a 100 pieces. No type of micro-surgery is possible which can lead to splitting of the fertilized ovum? Can a uterus be located near the ear?9 On similar lines the claims are multiplying about cars, aeroplanes being part of this culture. Tejonmaya Bharat by Dinanath Batra best exemplifies as to what is in store for the content of future education in the country.10
Medieval History and Distortions
Similar distortions in medieval period have been made part of the curriculum. Now it is being said that the Qutub Minar was built by emperor Samudragupta and its real name was Vishnu Stambha. At another level, the battles for power between Shivaji and Afzal Khan, the battle between Akbar and Maharana Pratap, Guru Govind Singh and Aurangzeb, were given religious colour.
These changes have come under scholarly criticism from the professional, progressive, secular historians. Even earlier when previous NDA regime made similar changes in books, the term ‘ Saffronisation of education’ for this presentation of history was used. Now this process is being done very blatantly. While earlier in the face of the criticism, the Murali Manohar Joshi, the then MHRD mininster, the architect of this overt saffronisation, said that the changes in the history books are not saffronization, it is mere correcting the distortions in the history (April 2003). Now, turning around due to newer political equations, he owns up the same term, saffronisation, as a matter of pride.11
It was the British who introduced the communal historiography in India to pursue their politics of 'divide and rule'. This historiography is a way of looking at the historical phenomenon through the lens of religion. The same history, in a modified way, was picked up by the Hindu and Muslim communalists. In sum and substance, Hindu communalists, Hindu Nationalists presented that India was a Hindu nation from times immemorial, and Muslims and Christians are foreigners here. The Muslim communal history began from the invasion of Sindh by Mohammad bin Kasim bin in 8th century, and claimed that Muslims were the rulers of this land, so the British should hand over power to them once they leave. A version of this prevails in Pakistan History books today.
In contrast, those identifying with secular, democratic Indian national movement presented a view of history where the religion of the King was not the main determining factor of his policies. This view was also presented by the leader of freedom movement, Mahatma Gandhi. In his book Hind Swaraj Gandhi writes, “The Hindus flourished under Moslem sovereigns and Moslems under the Hindu. Each party recognized that mutual fighting was suicidal, and that neither party would abandon its religion by force of arms. Both parties, therefore, decided to live in peace. With the English advent quarrels recommenced… Should we not remember that many Hindus and Mohammedans own the same ancestors and the same blood runs through their veins? Do people become enemies because they change their religion? Is the God of the Mohammedan different from the God of the Hindu? Religions are different roads converging to the same point. What does it matter that we take different roads so long as we reach the same goal? Wherein is the cause of quarrelling?”12
After getting Independence, in India, while the British-introduced pattern continued for some time, gradually, serious historical research and rational approach started entering the history books. Along with formation of NCERT, the books with rational viewpoint did replace the ones with communal interpretation, in schools, which were having NCERT curriculum. With the coming to power of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in 1998, Dr. Joshi brought in the communalization of curriculum and saffronisation of education. With NDA’s defeat in 2004, the Congress-led UPA came to power, and it gradually, and to some extent, restored the spirit of scientific temper and rational thought in education, and to some extent, scrapped the communal version of history in books.
The communal version of history, in a way, is a fiction suiting the political agenda of ‘Religious nationalism’, whether in Pakistan or India. So, here in India, a Taj Mahal becomes Tejo Mahalay, a Shiv Temple, and the freedom struggle is presented as a religious war against Muslims, Muslim kings are blamed for destruction of temples and spreading Islam by sword. The divisive mindset is promoted for political goals. In books in Pakistan, Muslim kings are heroes and Hindu kings nobody!
According to this ideological understanding of RSS, all the kings who fought against Muslim rulers are Hindu nationalists! It’s a total distortion of understanding of history as kings did not fight for religion; their fights were for power and wealth. And kings of same religion also had running battles with each other.
Rana Pratap, being projected as the 'First Freedom fighter' by communal forces is against the truth. The kings before the British rule were fighting to expand or protect their empires. The era of Kingdoms is not comparable with freedom movement. Just fighting against Muslim King is not being a freedom fighter. Freedom struggle was against British rule, when India was coming to become ‘a nation in the making’ due to industrial, educational and social changes. The era of Kingdoms and logic of Kings can in no way be compared with the Indians coming together to fight the British Empire. Even these kings be it Shivaji or Rana Pratap were neither ruling for religion not for Hindus. Their administration was having both Hindus and Muslims. Their armies were also mixed ones with Hindu and Muslim Generals both, with Hindu and Muslim soldiers both. Rana Pratap had Hakim Khan Sur on his side and Shivaji was having Siddi Sambal and Rustam-e-Jamal amongst others. Shivaji’s confidential secretary was Maulana Haider Ali. Shivaji had reverence and respect for the holy people like Hazrat Baba and Ambrose Pinto.
Rana Paratp’s battle against Akbar was not for religion. It was on the issue of Mansabdari (status in the administration). Rana Pratap was asking for a Das hazari, (ten Thousand) Mansabdari while Akbar was offering only Panch Hazari (Five thousand). Interestingly Akbar never came to Haldighati where the battle took place. It was Akbar’s commander in Chief Raja Mansingh, assisted by Shahjada Salim, who fought against Rana Pratap. By no stretch of imagination it is anywhere close to a Hindu Muslim battle or a struggle for nationalism. As a matter of fact, Tilak and the later genre of Hindu nationalists associating Shivaji with nationalism are totally off the mark as the term nationalism is a recent one coming up with the rise of nation states. The confusion between Kingdoms and nation states opens the window for communalism to infiltrate in a big way.
This distortion of medieval history is the core around which major part of RSS distortions veer around. The education as being changed by RSS-BJP is changing the total orientation and the presentation of ancient, medieval history and planting fictions as history.
The nationalism taking the garb of religion is a throwback from the modern democratic norms. The RSS-BJP goal of Hindu Nation is trying to bring a whole world view through education, which is neither correct nor does it lead to upholding the values of Indian freedom movement and Indian Constitution. Its approach to matter of science, mythology and history are totally retrograde. They are against the Constitutionally mandated pursuit of scientific temper. The curriculum and fund allocations for research are being guided by irrational approach at looking at past. The mythical past as presented by the RSS-BJP is a total falsehood. Education is the core part of modern society. The approach of RSS-BJP in the field of education needs to be criticized from the angle of reason and Indian nationalism.
(Published on 31st July 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 31)
6. Hiba Din, YKA, Systematic Saffrinisation India- http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2014/08/problems-systemic-saffronisation-education-india/ )