(The author teaches history at the University of Delhi)
On his very first day in office after the new government took over Mr. Murli Manohar Joshi, the Minister MHRD, put his signature to a move that strong protests did not allow him to in his caretaker days. He appointed as Chairman in the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) Mr. BR Grover- a historian of mediocre status and a RSS sympathiser of high standing! Mr. Grover had bent his wits backwards, and even managed ‘evidence’, as the VHP representative on a Govt. panel on the Babri Masjid dispute, to argue that a Ram temple indeed existed on the Babri Masjid site and that it was destroyed during Babar’s regime to build the mosque. Never mind that the weight of historical scholarship and archaeological evidence is to the contrary. A few months back the Council of ICHR was reconstituted to achieve a near monopoly for the RSS in this important institution. The Indian Council of Social Science Research has been given an even more ‘august’ scholar as Director. Mr. ML Sondhi is a person of long standing service to the RSS and has been a Jan Sangh MP in 1967. Earlier, the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (Simla), the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (which comes under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting), and the All India Council for Technical Education had been similarly infiltrated. Vice Chancellors to various Universities have been appointed with the sole criteria of having a sympathiser at the helm of affairs.
The idea clearly is to influence the direction of funding and scholarship towards the Sangh Parivar’s communal agenda, and to ensure appointments for RSS sympathisers in the field of education in a manner that had been done in the media institutions in the post emergency period by Mr. Advani.
The infiltration of the Hindutva ideology into the state funded educational stream is already being implemented through a three pronged strategy: state funding for their denominational schools running under various names all over the country ; through the review and change of school syllabi in all schools, including govt schools; and control over the entire mainstream secular schools system through the ‘proper channel’ by reconstitution of CBSE and NCERT committees, because ultimately school degrees are centrally determined by a common syllabi sanctioned by these bodies. A recognised school degree would thus become contingent on following a doctored syllabus, and the secular school educational edifice could be brought in line with the Vidya Bharti enterprise.
The sixty positions of Professor and Readers in the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT), the body that decides on the contents of the textbooks for school education, may be filled with even more remarkable people as evident from the personages who have been chosen to select them. The most famous among them is a Mr Rastogi who is still proud of having murdered a Muslim woman during the partition riots in 1947, and claims it as a service (‘qualification’?) in his memoirs. Review of the school syllabus is also on cards, and the person heading the Review Committee is none other than the former Chief Justice of India JS Verma, whose call to fame is his landmark judgement that Hinduism is a way of life - so what’s wrong with Hindutva politics and campaigns? Replacements of texts is already on the cards. Mr. Rajput, the BJP appointee to the NCERT says books must reflect the recent changes in culture and politics and one of the significant recent developments, he says, is the resurgence of Hinduism and the rise to power of the BJP. A book in Hindi has already been rejected after being approved by an earlier committee, on the same grounds. A Committee that had already worked on the syllabus for the Open School has been disbanded, and the manuscripts already prepared, finalised and accepted by the school have been shelved on the grounds that ‘leftist’ historians have been associated with their preparation.
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), similarly revamped, sought to derecognise Marxism as a major political theory to be studied by students of Class XII from next year. Such efforts resulted recently in the dropping of the chapter on Marxism in the Class XII syllabus curriculum that covers around 5,300 schools (nearly 80 overseas) affiliated to the CBSE. Though the government unsuccessfully tried to explain away this change as an `inadvertent mistake', it is only after a hue and cry was raised in the Parliament and outside that the Vajpayee government was forced to restore this chapter.
These changes have been supplemented by “reforms” which sound very radical on paper because they propose lowering of the burden of syllabi (school bag) in favour of all round personality development and extra-curricular activities. But the details spelled out turn out to be suspiciously close to the Hindutva agenda of “ Indianise, Spiritualise, Nationalise” , which Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi did not manage to push through formally at the State Education Ministers' Conference held in September 1998, but which the Sangh Parivar has been defiantly implementing nevertheless. School children are to be made conscious of Indian values and heritage. If the Vidya Bharti texts are anything to go by these mean basically the Brahmanical religious tradition, Hindu festivals and rituals, Sarasvati Vandana, and even sati, child marriage, and prejudice against the minorities in the name of defending Indian cultural traditions. Pride in India’s achievements as opposed to the West means teaching vedic mathamatics, believing that whatever the west achieved in its modern period was already there in Ancient India, and so on.
Education for the ‘Janta’ in the name of Moral Science
The Moral Science texts form the central thrust of the Hindutva education programme, and are common to the 20, 000 odd Vidya Bharti schools in the country which cater to approximately 18 to 20 lakh students, employ around 80, 000 teachers, and of which 5000 are affiliated to the CBSE. In terms of influence they penetrate the minds of a larger audience. By virtue of putting them into writing they transform into ‘fact’ and ‘learning’ the entire gamut of RSS folklore patiently and assiduously propagated by the RSS shakhas and imbibed by families across generations all over the country for decades. They inculcate hatred and contempt for the minorities, present Muslims as cruel beyond compare through incredible stories, defend the most retrograde social practices and breed irrationality and superstition. They mean a goodbye to facts of history and science.
An idea of what they represent can be seen from the very few examples given below:
It is because we are the children of Manu that we are known as manushya or manav (human). (Manu Aur Manav, Ch. 3, Sanskar Saurabh, Pt. 4).
Scientists consider plants as inanimate, while the Hindus consider them as animate and to have life (pg. 45, Sanskar Saurabh, pt. 4).
Our original ancestors Manu and Shatrun gave life to this earth. (pg. 1, Akhil Bhartiya Sanskriti-Gyan Pariksha Prashnotri, ed. Vidya Bharti, for Class 8).
On refusing to accept Islam Banda Bairagi had the heart of his son thrust down his throat. (pg. 7, ABSGPP).
Man took birth in Tibet, originally a part of India. All beings were Arya beings. It is from there that they spread out into the fields. It is now 179 million crore (arab crore), 19 lakh, 59 thousand, 84 years since man stepped on this earth. (Pg. 67, Dharma Siksha, for class 6)
Sati is presented as a Rajput tradition that we should be proud of (ch. 28, Sanskar Saurabh, pt. 3, for class 5).
Needless to say examples such as the above are strewn all through the entire series of texts.
The Human Resources Development Ministry has woken early to the idea of ushering in the new millennium in its own way. The coming year is to be celebrated as the year of Sanskrit-the language of learning and origin of all Indian languages, learning which will, according to them, help us to understand Indian culture and tradition in a way that no other language can. Huge funds are earmarked for it. There is a sustained campaign to replace the tiger with the cow as the national animal of India, to popularise Vande Mataram and Sarasvati Vandana through an all India yatra, another shilanyas for a Ram Temple in a Gujarat village to coincide with Christmas, cultural festivals for the expression of the Hindu culture, the inculcation of love for the ‘nation’ through promotion of the shakha culture and so on. All this is apart from the renaming of roads and parks, jagrans, conversion and reconversion sermons, staking claims on composite cultural shrines etc etc which are transformed into grand occasions for minority bashing and propagation for the Hindutva version of ‘popular’ history. Huge funds are earmarked for all of these.
Gender questions in education
The Hindutva and the BJP Government’s views on women were plainly reflected in the Vidya Bharti paper presented at the State Ministers’ Conference on Education held in September 1998, and in the school texts prescribed in the Sishu Mandirs and Vidya Bharti schools all over the country, and now in the texts of the Govt schools as well in the BJP ruled states.
The Vidya Bharti paper at the Conference sought to make home keeping and other ‘subjects’ compulsory for girls after the primary stage. The texts in the schools mentioned reflect the RSS view on women, family and culture. Motherhood is glorified, the woman’s primary responsibility is in the home and ‘turning out good Hindu citizens’. A controlled appeal is made to women, reminiscent of Nazi Germany, when images of Kali and Durga are evoked, to incite women’s anger against minorities in the name of ‘national duty’. For the most part the chapters on women that students should learn from stress the images of Sita and Savitri, selflessness in the context of husband and family, and complete obedience. A story or two in fact depict as ideal wives who are literally neither seen nor heard, but silently serve their husbands in a way that will not disturb their pursuits! Sati, child marriage, caste and notions of caste and purity of blood are justified and shown as part of Indian culture that we must be proud of. Jauhar is considered courageous, and all restrictions on women sanctioned in the guise of defence of Indian tradition against foreign intrusion, particularly Muslim invasions.
Research in Science and Technology
In the areas of science and technology there is a systematic shift in budgetary allocations to favour branches linked with military and nuclear research and development (R&D), and to the detriment of research and studies in the fields of agriculture, health, medicine, and a general science education. These two favoured areas in keeping with the ideological predilections of the Sangh Parivar have been declared as ‘benchmarks’. Scientists working in these areas have been given special incentives in the form of two increments at all levels and a raise of Rs. 2000/ at the higher level, which have the approval of the Prime Minister’s Office.
General science education, which has little place in the RSS scheme of an obscurantist and communal agenda for the people has been relegated to the back stage. Privatisation will hit not merely non military areas of research which will now have to find private funding as govt funds get diverted to military priorities, it will also hit the universities offering B Sc degrees, as less and less grants are given for laboratories and equipment. In fact this is being felt acutely already even in the premier institutions of the country.
Confessions of a Murderer who is BJP's top don in education
From The Asian Age, October 25, 1999
‘I shot woman in ’47 riot to save her’
RSS man who was in Partition mob to choose new NCERT professors
New Delhi: An RSS pracharak who had shot and killed a Muslim woman during the Partition riots of 1947 to save her from rape at the hands of his compatriots has now been appointed the President of India’s nominee on the committee selecting 60 professors and readers in the National Council for Educational Research and Training.
The appointment of Dr K.G. Rastogi, a retired NCERT professor, by the human resources development ministry headed by Dr Murli Manohar Joshi is for the current academic year. Dr Rastogi has already sat as an observer at interviews conducted for the post of professor in the department of groups with special needs.
In his autobiographical Aap Beeti, Krishna Gopal Rastogi, 62, discloses how he took out his gun and shot a woman in a Muslim locality somewhere between Rourkee and Hardwar during the Hindu-Muslim riots which broke out immediately after the Partition of India in 1947. The autobiography has been dedicated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its foreword has been written by the RSS joint general secretary, Mr K.S. Sudarshan.
In a chapter entitled Pracharak ka jeevan, Mr Rastogi provides a detailed account of the background in which the shooting took place: "During those days of struggle both Hindus and Muslims were uniting themselves and attacking each other. The Muslims were more united in comparison to the Hindus. They used to prepare for the attack and used to attack first. As a strategy for our security we decided that from wherever we got information about Muslim attacks we should attack first. One such incident occurred in a locality called Puran Kaliyar, a place in between Hardwar and Rourkee. This was a Muslim locality. They were fully prepared to attack us. They had swords, spears, guns and small cannons. When we came to know of this we took 250 people, which included goons from Rourkee, and attacked the Muslim locality. Both sides fought and people from both sides died..."
And then about the actual incident: "A strange incident happened in the locality as the attackers (read Hindus) started fighting with each other over a beautiful woman found in one house where the killing was going on. The attackers forgot their mission and started claiming the woman. I threatened them, and then a solution came to my mind. I shot her dead." At no point, it appears, the thought of turning his gun on the attackers cross Mr Rastogi’s head.
Elsewhere in the book he mentions how Mahatma Gandhi, while pained by the fallout of Partition, angered some people by his insistence on generosity towards Pakistan. He writes: "1947 passed off successfully. I passed BA and in the 30-odd villages in my area the shakha was started. There were riots in the country and people were moving across the two borders. Mahatma Gandhi was pained at all this... The generosity of the Hindu mind could not tolerate this. The partition of the country was based on the two-nation theory and all sort of inhuman treatment was meted out to the Hindus in Pakistan, but Gandhiji did not consider the ouster of Muslims from India as correct. Jinnah was even offered the prime ministership of undivided India by Gandhiji. Even after Partition, Pakistan was given crores of rupees for the canal, thanks to Gandhiji. Annoyed at all these acts of Gandhiji, Nathuram Godse silenced him for ever on January 30,1948."
In another chapter Mr Rastogi recounts how he lobbied for the post of professor in 1976-77. "Appointment for the post of professor of Hindi in the department of social sciences and humanities is worth remembering," he writes in the chapter Professor ho hi gya. "There were two candidates for the post. The other candidate was behind me in educational qualification but ahead of me in lobbying," he writes. There were two experts — the NCERT’s chief and the representative of the then education minister (equivalent to the post Mr Rastogi occupies today) — in the selection panel. The minister’s nominee was known to him — he had been his teacher at one time.
The minister’s nominee asked for a blank check from me, which he wanted to give to one of the experts, but I could not believe this," he says. "I also tried to contact the expert before the interview, but the entire exercise was of no use as the other candidate had already contacted the expert."
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