The Saffron Agenda in Education
By Nalini Taneja
small effort owes much to friends who have been engaged in trying
to document what has been going on in the field of education and
culture in the years that the BJP-led government has been in power
at the centre. An attempt has been made to give facts and information
that can be shared for campaign purposes. The idea is to call
the spade a spade rather than get into the niceties of academic
discourse.Some of the material on the subject has appeared before
in my booklet entitled ‘Assault on Education and Educational Institutions’
published by the CPI (M) in September 1999. Some of it that is
basic to the subject is incorporated here in some form, but not
entirely, in order to avoid repetition. This essay concentrates
on developments since the last documentation mentioned above.
Quotations from the school texts are also therefore not repeated.
Issues on archaeology and many other specialized themes related
to history are dealt with in detail in the works of secular historians
so detested by the Sangh Parivar. Some work on school texts in
the BJP ruled states has also been done by Janwadi Lekhak Sangh
(Rajasthan) and Shahid Siddiqi of Lucknow, and these are available
as separate booklets in Hindi. Frontline magazine has carried
articles on all these developments and the Democratic Teachers
Front has from time to time brought out pamphlets on these and
related issues. People’s Democracy, CPI (M) weekly, SACW dispatches
and the Akhbar site on Internet have carried extensive discussions
on communalism and education. Vijendra Sharma has written on many
aspects of the BJP’s education policy, not covered in this booklet
as the focus is on saffronisation rather than privatization. But
there is no doubt that the twin prongs of BJP policy on education
are inextricably linked through withdrawal of the state from responsibility
for education while pushing hard in determining its content.
This essay was originally written for a SAHMAT publication.
three years into BJP 'rule' it is now clear that it is the Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that dictates the policies of the BJP-led NDA
government in India. Nowhere is this more transparent than in the field
of education and culture. Ever since the October 1998 Education Ministers'
Conference, called by Mr. Murli Manohar Joshi, the BJP Education Minister,
to publicly announce the agenda of "Indianisation, Nationalisation,
Spiritualisation", the BJP has been relentlessly and continuously
pushing through the RSS agenda. Interestingly, the BJP does not care
to deny this, though its supporters and well-wishers continue to argue
to the contrary.
in RSS documents, the BJP is one of the most important fronts formed
by the RSS; formed, besides, with the very purpose of enabling RSS members
to participate in national politics through the formal electoral channel
and parliamentary system. The senior Ministers of the BJP in the government
are self declared RSS members who owe their first allegiance to the
RSS and its ideology, and it is well known that the Prime Minister himself,
apart from Murli Manohar Joshi, the Education Minister, and the Home
Minister, KL Advani, are the main ideologues of the RSS in the BJP.
Through them issues of education, culture, academic freedom, and minority
rights get transformed into matters of nationalism and national security.
sense it is impossible to conceive of the NDA government policies as
independent of the RSS, particularly in the context of the failure of
the NDA partners to take an effective independent stand on these matters,
even though some of them may not agree with the idea of a Hindu Rashtra.
agenda on education and culture is not new. Communal historiography
is older than the Indian state, and the Vidya Bharti schools have been
around throughout the Nehruvian era of politics, growing even while
the RSS was banned.
is important to see that the BJP government in power has given a big
fillip to the RSS and its affiliated organisations. The RSS control
over the organisational and institutional network of cultural and educational
bodies has increased tremendously in the last two or three years. The
government resources at the command of the RSS are significant injects
into the programme of Hindutva, and the Indian state and capital are
more fiercely and openly in the service of RSS politics than ever before.
of government funding is inextricably linked with changes in the content
of education to prioritise the implementation of the right wing, sectarian
agenda for the country and to achieve the twin goals of communalised
consciousness and demobilisation of people from democratic politics.
of education or culture has remained free from the RSS' s assault on
education and culture, and in effect this is the real meaning of having
a BJP led NDA government at the Centre.
has resulted in a visible erosion of the credibility of many well known
educational and cultural institutions. This government has actively
suppressed the freedom of expression, trampled on the democratic and
fundamental rights of the minorities and secular minded people, and
transformed in a big way the content of school education in the BJP
ruled states. It is doing the same for education outside the government
school system. School textbooks have been rewritten in the states ruled
by the BJP, to suit their long-term design of undermining the secular
state and the pluralistic traditions of our country. These books define
the nation as all right wing political tendencies do, i.e., in exclusivist
National Curriculum framework put out by the government through the
NCERT, is designed to serve the same sectarian ends. It is being implemented
without discussion and without approval of those concerned in the NCERT,
and without the approval of the state governments, a necessary requirement
for any significant changes in the national education policy. The umbilical
links between the RSS and the BJP government's educational policy are
nowhere more clearly brought out than in the pronouncements of the education
secretary, a BJP appointee to the post, who routinely commits himself
in writing to RSS positions on education and culture even in government
brought out journals and documents. Hinduism is superior and all the
problems that India faces today derive from people connected with “religions
of the book”. He writes it in the very first issue of the Journal
of Value Education brought out by the Department of Education to
argue for compulsory value education in schools!
is a government in a hurry, and anxious to prove its credentials to
the RSS. Its primary accountability is to the RSS and not to the Indian
people. It is going full steam ahead in its attempt to Hinduise the
educational system, and to live up to the fascist projection of liberal
and leftist influences as corruptive and anti national, that must be
rooted out of the educational system.
of how this is being achieved is clear from the changed complexion of
academic and cultural institutions and various committees and bodies
since the BJP government took charge, and from the visible shift in
priorities of these institutions with the new people at their helm.
The changes have been carried out predictably in the name of nationalist
goals, weeding out of corruption and restoring 'balance' in bodies presumably
'dominated' by 'leftists' in the past.
BJP took over the government, value education, moral science, patriotism
and nationalism have become synonymous with Hindutva in the government
vocabulary. In cultural festivals funded by the government, the BJP
Ministers are actively and directly associated in promoting the identity
of Indian culture with brahmanical myths. Chauvinism and parochialism
are propagated by the UGC Chairman himself in the name of pride in the
nation's scientific achievements of Ancient Hindu India. RSS linked
archaeologists have become virtual kar sevaks.
000 Vidya Bharti schools and shishu mandirs-- where inculcation
of hatred against the minorities is a matter of declared policy, and
textbooks defiantly poison young minds, daring the state to censor them
if it could-- today receive not merely approval but state patronage,
and their network has significantly expanded in spread since the BJP
formed the government at the Centre.
It s a
matter of real concern that today there are about ten state governments
controlled by the Congress, two by the Left Front, one by the national
Conference, one by the Akali Dal, and one by the TDP--all of which are
firmly opposed to the communalisation of education. Over fifteen to
sixteen state governments are functioning in a system where higher education
is a concurrent subject and school education the responsibility of the
state governments. It is these governments that reflect the nation's
views on education, and the RSS’ s sectarian Hindu rashtra ideology
should find no place in the educational system.
a need to make this assertion strongly today, and to reverse the policies
of the BJP government in education.
Takeover of Institutions
success in the field of education and culture is in no small measure
due to the fact that it has been able to fill all important institutions,
bodies and committees with its own people. In a way this duplicates
what Advani had done with the media during his stint as information
and Broadcasting Minister in the 80s. The supportive role of the media
to the Rath Yatra and the Ramjanambhoomi campaign and in general to
the Hindutva perspectives was to some extent a consequence of that recruitment
drive. The entry into educational institutions has been far more thorough
and open, with academics and officials being required to take obvious
clear positions in keeping with the Hindutva agenda. The pronouncements
of the UGC Chairman and the Education Secretary, and the concoction
of evidence to ‘prove’ the existence of the Ram mandir on the site of
the Babri masjid, are only the most blatant examples. School education
has always had more than an average representation of RSS elements within
of the takeover of institutions are now obvious in the changed priorities
of these institutions, much respected until now. In the Indian Council
of Historical Research (ICHR), its Council now dominated by saffron
sympathizers, the entire project has been shelved following the withdrawal
of the two volumes of the Towards Freedom project edited by KN
Panikkar and Sumit Sarkar. Along with have also gone the projects on
the Inscriptions of India and economic history of India pertaining to
Railway Construction. Funds have been sanctioned and approved for projects
on the Indus Valley Civilisation and Archaeology and Tradition. In addition
there is a project on the mapping of the Saraswati river civilization,
given to RSS linked historians, affiliated for implementation purposes
to a private trust on archaeology run by no other than SP Gupta of the
Ram mandir-under the Babri masjid ruins fame. The direction of research
and the funding pattern are now linked with the Hindutva concerns of
showing the Indus valley civilization as Aryan civilization, and so
Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is similarly preoccupied with
funding excavations and publications to prove that the Aryans were the
original inhabitants of India and that Indian civilization is essentially
Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR) has been in the news
for all the wrong reasons. The internal fight between two factions of
the RSS has resulted in a win for the more rabid elements, determined
to turn the prestigious institution into an arm of the RSS intellectual
armoury. Huge funds have been made available to the Shyama Prasad Mookherjee
documentation Centre and the Deen Dyal Upadhyaya Centre for Social Welfare,
established by the BJP government, which suddenly discovered that there
was no shortage of funds if the mandate was fulfillment of the Hindutva
agenda. The ICSSR, whose mandate is essentially to fund the 27 state
level institutes, has changed course by starving them and directing
funds for international level seminars and projects linked to the Hindutva
been decided to introduce compulsory courses on ‘patriotism’ in the
state universities and science and professional colleges, and funds
are being made available for the same. Laboratories and libraries are
starved for funds, vacant posts are not getting filled, new courses
are otherwise not being introduced on account of the government’s plea
of resource crunch, but the government has pledged some 40 millions
for an Oxford chair on Indian history and Culture.
scientific and agricultural related fields funds are being veered towards
promoting the BJPs nuclear and military agenda, and rural development
that puts money in the hands of RSS linked NGOs. CAPART has been
revamped entirely, even at the regional levels, and has become one of
the prime funders of RSS linked NGOs formed for the express purpose
of diverting funds to Hindutva organizations. Tribal Welfare
schemes have met a similar fate.
Gallery in the National Museum in Delhi has been curated
to showcase Hindutva perspectives on Indian culture. Old and unclear
photographs of hearths or tanks are labeled as “fire alters” to show
fire worship to create an identity with Aryan fire worship, and so on.
Similar methods are resorted to in order to show the prevalence of the
horse, a characteristic of Aryan civilization. All this could not be
done without the takeover of the state linked cultural institutions.
and Brahmaputra Festivals are state sponsored festivals by the Department
of Culture, presided over by Mr. Advani, and organised by bodies
formed expressly for the purpose of advancing the theses on Aryan Hindu
origins of civilisations in these areas.
Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA), set up as a fully autonomous
body by the Government in 1987, with broad guidelines on research and
documentation, has been completely taken over and reduced into a centre
for performing arts, patronage, and a centre for creation of literature
on ‘religious tourism’.
200crores have been earmarked for the propagation of spoken Sanskrit,
which is in addition to the grants already given to Sanskrit departments
in the different universities. During the BJP rule many more departments
of Sanskrit have been opened, apart from plans for four additional Sanskrit
universities. Sanskrit, or Samskrit, as the Department of Education
now prefers to say, has a special place in the RSS’s scheme of education
of the takeover of the NCERT and NIEPA and the various
school boards and boards of technical education in the BJP ruled states
are there for all to see in the form of revised textbooks and the ‘National
Curriculum’. Government funds have been put at the disposal of RSS run
Ekal schools under the non-formal stream, and adult education grants
are being given primarily to RSS linked NGOs, while those of secular
organizations have been stopped or drastically curtailed.
of this enterprise is no doubt due to the RSS zeal and determination
on such matters. Equally, however, these are the wages of default on
the part of secular parties, groups and intellectuals. No measures were
taken by previous governments to prevent the slow and insidious RSS
infiltration into education that continued unabated through the years,
even when the organization itself was banned. The texts taught in the
Vidya Bharti schools were not seriously challenged till the 70s. Even
then new texts, sponsored by the NCERT, were used in few schools. The
state education boards did not challenge the history texts prescribed
in schools falling within their states, and certainly the Vidya Bharti
schools were seen as theirs and allowed their ‘freedom’. What is taught
by them in their schools very much effects us and is of concern to the
whole nation is a sentiment that even today is not fully appreciated
in academic bodies and institutions has been cynically seen as a scramble
for spoils to be avoided by honest academics. More mundanely, most of
the vacancies filled by the BJP government fell vacant prior to the
formation of the BJP government and were simply not filled due to carelessness
and irresponsibility, the posts of the chairman ICHR, twelve vacancies
in the governing body of the ICSSR, and 20 posts in NIEPA and NCERT,
being among these. The Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS),
Simla, was starved of funds. Now the BJP actively uses it to propagate
its agenda, and has found funds for it. One could obviously go on, but
the point becomes clear from these few examples.
be nobody's case that curriculum and syllabi should not be updated or
reformed, but if there is a significant turn in policy it must be debated
and discussed within the Parliament, and other academic fora. The so
called national curriculum devised by the friends of the RSS, who have
found their way into the NCERT and its various review committees, through
the route of being Ministry appointees, was not debated in Parliament
at all. Nor was it placed before the Central Advisory Board of Education.
In fact even the approval of the faculty within the NCERT is more than
doubtful with many on the faculty claiming that other opinions were
brushed aside. This new curriculum has simply been thrust on the nation
despite protests and disapproval within a significant section of the
academic as well as political community across a broad spectrum. The
minimum requirement of a proper procedure for such changes has not been
complied with. We hear from the horse's mouth--none other than the Director
himself-- that textbooks are to be revised in keeping with the new guidelines
and that the new policy document will be operational from this year.
being targeted are predictably history texts by Romila Thapar, RS Sharma,
Bipin Chandra, Satish Chandra and Arjun Dev. Reasons given are equally
predictable--it is necessary, it is said, to remove the leftist bias
in school education. In fact the 'burden' of history on the young child
needs to be lightened. The child is made to dwell too much in the past
it is argued. He/she needs to be more in tune with the contemporary
world. Therefore he/she better know more about the current struggles
for the Ram temple than the insignificant medieval period, and of course
the freedom struggle is important, but should not the Hindutva leaders
like Savarkar be more adequately represented! Such pronouncements, made
publicly and nonchalantly by Mr. Rajput, the Director, sound disturbing
and ominous to say the least.
major concern of the authors of the 'reformed' curriculum is nationalism
and national pride. The RSS agenda is writ large in the document itself.
It says western developments occupy too much space and must be replaced
with emphasis on Indian contributions in science and knowledge, and
Indian culture and tradition. The document has a completely uncritical
view of Indian culture, identifies Indian culture primarily with brahmanical
texts and Hinduism, and reeks of chauvinism in the name of national
pride, the inculcation of which is, according to the tenor and tone
of the document, one of the primary goals of education. It seems India
has nothing to learn from others and never did.
has become a euphemism for religious education, and the document makes
it a point to state this clearly as well, presenting it as the ready
made formula to meet the predicaments created by today's western dominated
world. There is nothing in the document to suggest that education also
implies sensitivity to the rights of others than just one's own. There
is only lip service to plurality, which is set aside almost as soon
as it is mentioned, and it goes on to talk of the importance of Sanskrit
and on the need to teach it in all schools. The reference to it as root,
index and cultural expression of Indian culture is rather pointed and
familiar. Globalisation is lauded uncritically and information technology
as referred to in the document becomes nothing but a tool to train students
for becoming low level service-pawns in the global network of economy
geared to Imperialist interests. Finally, the document is clear on what
is wants for one half of its young population. The best features of
each gender must be preserved and promoted. One does not have to delve
deep into this formulation to derive its implications.
of what this 'reformed curriculum' would entail is already very evident
in the texts taught in the Shishu Mandirs and Vidya Bharti
schools, and in the revised school texts for government schools in the
BJP ruled states. Communal bias combines with concocted 'facts' to create
an explosive mix of prejudice, hatred, violence and ignorance, which
defeats the very purpose of education. Unmindful of sociological and
anthropological studies which show that religion is not the major factor
of identity formation, and that Hindus and Muslims in fact share more
than 95% characteristics of various kinds, these texts continue to present
the RSS view of Hindus and Muslims as two separate civilisational categories,
with only Hindus constituting the Indian nation and in which the Muslims
are the enemies of this nation.
texts are nothing but a bald and unadulterated illustration of the RSS
view of history and use of history for its sectarian agenda. Aryans
are the original inhabitants of India; Indian civilisation is essentially
Aryan civilisation, the ancient period of history when Hindu kings ruled
was 'golden' and India made enormous advances during this period. The
coming of Muslims brought darkness, cruelty, backward social practices,
and the Moghul kings were cruel tyrants who destroyed the already existing
Indian nation. Hedgewar, Golwalkar and Savarkar are among the greatest
freedom fighters, Muslims as a community are the traitors, primarily
responsible for the Partition. Hinduism is synonymous with nationalism.
In addition the national movement is one unending struggle of the Hindus
against Muslim power and then British power in alliance with Muslims,
continuing into the post independence period with the kar sevaks
presented as heroes in an uninterrupted line of freedom fighters. Mulayam
Singh Yadav is a butcher of Hindus. These interpretations have nothing
to do with reality, and routinely lies and concocted stories are used
to bolster these interpretations, which find their way in Hindi, Maths,
Political Science and General knowledge texts and 'question-answer'
series of books.
child marriage, and sati are defended, Muslims, Christians and Parsees
are called foreigners, Urdu is referred to as foreign language, and
it is claimed that the first man on earth was born in India and that
humans are referred to as manushya or manav after Manu.
of backward notions expressed and lies concocted could go on, as they
do relentlessly through the texts in question, poisoning young minds,
celebrating violence and vengeance against the minorities for imagined
of their tone and content can be gauged from the series of booklets
titled Sanskriti Jnan Pareeksha (Cultural Knowledge Examination) and
Sanskriti Jnan pareeksha Prasanottari (Cultural Knowlwdge examination
Questions and Answers), the Sanskar Saurabh series, and Sadachar ki
Batein. In fact it is precisely the moral science books, meant for imparting
'value education' to children in the Vidya Bharti schools, which are
sectarian to the extreme and most inimical to scientific temper. They
breed irrationality and superstition, and evoke the worst forms of parochialism
in the name of Akhand Bharat. They show Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and
Mynmmar as part of India
understand that it is this package that is being smuggled into the private
(public) school system and into the non BJP states through the so called
National Curriculum and CBSE boards, and using the national prestige
of the NCERT, into the State Secondary Boards. The language and the
tone and tenor may be different, and the form not as crude, but the
package being offered in the 'reformed' curriculum is not much different.
to be opposed for its content as much as for the authoritarian manner
it is being thrust on the country. It will take the country's education
system back by decades. Today the RSS runs more than 20, 000 schools
throughout the country, the acceptance of the RSS sponsored 'national
curriculum' will enhance the number of those influenced by RSS ideology
manifold and will cause a shrinkage in the space for secular activities
in the same proportion.
more than 10, 000 of their schools, under different names, have affiliation
to the CBSE or various state education boards. About 18-20 lakh students
and over a lakh teachers are already part of the Vidya Bharti network.
In Goa, the BJP chief Minister has virtually put the entire primary
education system at the disposal of the RSS to do what it likes with
it. The operationalisation of the National Curriculum will put the entire
school education system under their control, and will make it a breeding
ground for fascist, Hindutva ideology.
Nation and Nationalism of the BJP
definition of the nation presented in the National Curriculum and in
the Vidya Bharti texts is essentially one based on Hindu religion and
culture, further elaborated in Brahmanical terms. This definition has
its roots in the writings of RSS stalwarts like Golwalkar and Savarkar,
and is by their own admission inspired by the experience and practice
of Mussolini’s Italy and Nazi Germany.
to Golwalkar, “to keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany
shocked the world by its purging the country of the Semitic races-the
Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has
also shown how well nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having
differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole,
a god lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by”.
“The non-Hindu peoples in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture
and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion,
must entertain no idea but those of glorification of the Hindu race
and culture, i.e., they must not only give up their attitude of intolerance
and ungratefulness towards this land and its age long traditions, but
must also cultivate the positive attitude of love and devotion instead;
in one word, they must cease to be foreigners or may stay in the country
wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation claiming nothing, deserving
no privileges, far less any preferential treatment, not even citizen’s
inform the stories in school texts referred to above, and explain the
content of the projected Hindu Rashtra. Minorities figure primarily
as disturbers of peace and the nation’s unity. The typical anti Muslim
prejudices and campaigns against the minorities are given voice to unabashedly.
Their loyalty is repeatedly questioned. There is an equally vicious
propaganda about the Christians and Christian missionaries. Conversions
form a recurring theme, and reconversion becomes an essential part of
is also defined in military and expansionist terms, and patriotism in
terms of beating the ‘internal enemy’ as much as the external one. It
is at the same time timeless, not shaped by its history, the first human
civilization on earth, infact the grounds cape that gave birth to the
first man on earth in the person of Manu. Chauvinism is the only form
of national pride that comes through in this depiction of the nation.
We had everything in the ancient period that the corrupt west only learnt
of centuries later. Our achievements in science and technology are parallel
in the ancient past, and the world learnt from us and we had little
to learn from it—that seems to be the refrain.
and leftists are western educated rootless people, who have little to
do with the nation because their gaze is turned westward, and they know
little about India and appreciate it even less.
paradigm has little to do with reality and more to do with the RSS vision.
In actual fact the first works pointing out the achievements of Indian
science and thought were by Marxists like DD Kosambi. The book by BD
Chattopadhya on science in ancient India and the story of man in India
published by the Indian National Science Academy seemed to have escaped
the attention of the BJP-RSS leaders who continue to stake their claims
of India’s greatness on concocted facts and myths.
within the educational output created by the RSS cadres the entire nation
is based on myths of a religious nature, bordering on superstition,
notions of purity and impurity of blood, of varnashram as preordained
and of divine creation, of women as goddesses and nurturers of Hindu
civilization, of rivers of milk flowing in India before the invaders
came, the sone ki chirya on every tree, a land whose rishis had super
powers and a land actually peopled by gods and goddesses. The television
versions of the Ramayana and the Mahabharta actually existed prior to
the television telecast of these epics in the RSS folklore and booklets,
and critics and scholars have noted the connection between Hindutva
political mobilizations and the screening of these epics, but not really
the influence of the RSS propaganda on the television versions, which
have destroyed these epics in the bargain.
of the screen Ramayana and Mahabharta, of the screen Chanakya
are battles for the victory of the RSS version of the nation-a version
that the BJP is trying to push through via its educational policy.
Mathematics and Vedic Astrology
and Vedic astrology mark the first glaring entry of the Hindutva forces
through the revamped UGC into the world of science education in universities.
Mr. Hari Gautam, the UGC Chairman, has been competing to outdo the education
secretary, Mr. Kaw, in pleasing the Sangh Parivar. He has declared Vedic
astrology as science i.e. jyotir vigyan, and karmkand (Vedic
rituals) as vocational courses. Vaastushastra, yogic consciousness,
and myths are to form part of science teaching.
have been justified on the grounds that "...Vedic astrology is
not only one of the main subjects of our traditional and classical knowledge,
but this is the discipline which lets us know the events happening in
human life and in the universe on time scale" !! ...It will benefit
"students, teachers, professionals from modern streams like doctors,
architects, marketing, financial, economic and political analysts."
Quotations are from the UGC circular. It is incredible that the highest
body in the country for higher education fails to distinguish between
science and superstition or between science and ritual, and that the
man at its helm casts aspersions on social sciences while institutionalising
the propagation of unreason.
has already made the two courses part of the University education stream
despite opposition from academics and teachers organisations all over
the country and the scientific community all over the world. The degree
courses will have duration of three years, and postgraduate courses
for two years, apart from certificate and diploma courses. According
to Mr. Gautam more than 24 Universities have already accepted the offer,
and grants are being dispersed for them. Introduction of both these
courses were heavily criticised in the Parliamentary Standing Committee
on Higher Education.
of the Ministry have drawn criticism on various grounds, not least among
them being the UGC's characterisation of Vedic astrology as science.
A statement signed by prominent academics pointed out "the basic
principle of a science is that it constitutes a body of knowledge which
is not only testable but also open to interrogation and refutation,
whereas astrology is not...If astrology is accepted as a science, there
would be no scope for left for any other science, for example seismology
or medicine, for astrology claims to predict everything from earthquakes
to physical ailments.
It is one
thing to study the origins of astrology, its role in different societies
in different times, but it is quite another to give it the status of
science which requires a coherent mechanism of interactions that can
be explained and verified. Acts of faith cannot be confused with the
study and practice of science in the public sphere. It is pointed out
that despite a certain faith in it in personal lives and a certain popular
appeal, astrology has no academic standing of any worth anywhere, and
no respectable University with any kind of reputation in the engineering
and natural sciences has any course of study that leads to a degree
organisations have pertinently also raised the question of the step
motherly treatment being meted out by the government and the UGC to
the departments for modern Indian languages and literature and the lack
of concern for developing the natural sciences, in total contrast to
the large hearted support for these Hindutva loaded courses. The UGC
has been pressurizing universities to accept these courses, prepared
by ‘expert’ panels that consist of yogis and tantrics. Not surprisingly
these courses have been designated as sciences, but linked and affiliated
to the Sanskrit departments of various universities.
question also getting asked is that astrology and rituals are not exclusive
to the Vedas. Almost all religions have in their history incorporated
some form of astrology, including the Muslims, and every religious group
has its own set of rituals practiced by its clergy and which form part
of social occasions. Why has just one type of astrology and karmakand
been privileged by being given the status of science by the BJP for
the purpose of university study? Obviously all fundamentalisms and all
superstitions are bad or negative, except one’s own!
taken years of study, questioning, sacrifice and courage by mankind
to liberate science from religion, to counter superstition, to draw
a line between astronomy and astrology. The RSS in one stroke has acted
against mankind’s endeavour to understand the world and ones place in
it, by denying knowledge arrived at after centuries of intellectual
labour. It has acted even against our own Indian minds of the ancient
period, which it tells us to be proud of.
was promoted as a concept after a seminar organised by Rashtriya Veda
Vidya pratishtan , and derives its ‘validity’ as a course by virtue
of a book by late Sri Bharathi Krishna Tirthaji maharaja, Sankaracharya
of Govardhana Matha, Puri, published in 1965. The claim is that all
mathematical knowledge is contained in the Atharvaveda. It is now well
known, and in fact the whole subject was thoroughly exposed as irrational,
unscientific, and without any foundation in an article published in
the Economic and political Weekly by eminent mathematician SG Dani (EPW,
was introduced in 1991 in the UP schools and then later withdrawn after
protests following an NCERT review of school syllabi in 1996. Since
then it has been reintroduced not only in the schools of the BJP ruled
states, but there is also an attempt to introduce a paper on Vedic mathematics
in higher education, including IITs.
systems of medicines have their own validity, there are no grounds for
mixing them in the way that the BJP is trying to through the MBBS courses.
The idea being mooted is that the Indian systems are far superior, so
an MBBS student pursuing his study of allopathic medicine must compulsorily
do a course on Indian systems of medicine.
of genes are being increasingly put to use in justifying racism and
purity, conclusions such as that North Indians are of Aryan origin,
Dravidians have more of Asian genes, women have more of Asian genes
and men European and so forth. It will not be long before the RSS is
able to pitch in to make these part of their shakha campaigns,
to be then introduced into education.
entry into archaeology is not knew in the sense that many of its assumptions
and propaganda found their way into RSS shakhas as well as into the
Vidya Bharti texts years ago . For example many of us would be familiar
with the name of PN Oak, who has been writing books for years claiming
that the Taj Mahal was really Tej Mahale, a Hindu monument before it
was destroyed and built over by Shah Jahan. He stakes such claims on
hundreds of monuments, to which RSS cadres have added thousands of sites
of common worship, notably darghas and mazhars located
all over the country. RSS archaeology has thus had its independent and
parallel existence, pushed through into popular lore through the RSS
it has kept pace with RSS political campaigns, notably the movements
around ‘reclaiming’ for ‘Hindus’ the temple of Somnath, Kasi-Visvanath,
and Ayodhya. The fact that presence of mosques and temples teeth by
jowl is an indication of shared spaces and heritage is deliberately
subverted by them to imply conquest by Muslims and destruction of Hindu
monuments by Muslims.
Thapar, RS Sharma and Richard Eaton, among others, clearly demonstrate
in a number of publications that destruction of places of worship occurred
in almost all civilisations in the pre-modern era, that it was part
and parcel of political hegemony and legitimacy in the medieval period,
and that Hindu kings too destroyed Hindu temples and Buddhist or Jain
temples when asserting political control, and that much of all this
happened due to non-separation of religion and state and because temples
were centres of wealth. Rulers both built and destroyed places of worship
for political reasons, and assertions of their own religion was an assertion
of power and only one of the strands of cultural expression at any given
time and place, and an exception rather than a rule. To emphasise destruction
of Hindu temples to the exclusion of everything, and to attribute the
existence of every church or mosque to a prior destruction of a Hindu
temple is a travesty of Indian history.
however, propagates the idea of the destruction of a temple at every
site of a place of worship belonging to the minority communities, and
archaeology as a subject has raison d’eter in their scheme just for
this purpose. More recently the RSS has been claiming churches in Goa
with the same arguments. Archaeology is clearly being put in the service
of Hindutva, and today the RSS has even managed to mobilize a lot more
people associated with archaeology as professionals and decided to challenge
the very foundations of the subject as well use the professional machinery
of the ASI to its own ends.
the one hand lapses in making public the data and artifacts of the excavations
have allowed the manufacturers of evidence to have a field day, on the
other hand the ASI is now blatantly tailoring its priorities to suit
the political designs of the Sangh Parivar. It is obsessed with trying
to establish that the Indus civilization was based mainly on the Saraswati
and was actually Aryan and not Dravidian. It is a communal and racist
argument not substantiated by any evidence, motivated by the need to
show the first developed civilization in our sub continent as being
in areas which are today in India rather than in Pakistan, and by the
superiority of Aryan over Dravidian culture, with identification of
Indian culture as Aryan. The whole enterprise is sectarian, divisive
and chauvinist, to say the least, and has been very well exposed by
Irfan Habib in his paper on the theme presented to the Indian History
Congress last December in Calcutta.
political inventions of karsevak archaeology include evidence
for a Ram mandir at the site of the Babri masjid, a claim equally exposed
for being nonsense by the historians of Jawaharlal University, published
as a separate pamphlet and reproduced in Ramjanambhoomi-Babri Masjid.
The Anatomy of a Confrontation, ed. S. Gopal.
and concoction of evidence through computer-generated images by Rajaram
of the “Aryan horse fame” has been exposed in an article by two American
scholars in the Frontline. Elst, Shourie and Rajaram are losing
their exclusive presence on the Internet. They have gone too far in
simulating evidence of a horse in the Harappan civilization to confuse
its identity with Aryan civilization—an obsession with the RSS.
linked archaeologists have also used archaeology to ‘prove’ the historicity
of the Mahabharta and Ramayan myths, and the myths simultaneously interpreted
along Brahmanical lines. Fatehpur Sikri was willfully damaged to dig
up Anup Talao, and without any basis the occasion was used to declare
the existence of a Jain temple. Excavations are being ordered by the
ASI at various places, and whenever anything is found, without any verification
a DM or some police official becomes an instant archaeologist to declare
them ancient remains linked to the Harappan-Saraswati civilization.
Prof. Suraj Bhan has written extensively on the political abuses of
archaeology by the RSS. And, as a statement by prominent historians
pointed out, in the work of ASI, historical archaeology particularly
in times covered by the written record has been given short shift, and
even here the emphasis is purely on religious sites and relics, often
with divisive overtones.
has captured the association of archaeologists in India, and has been
using the organization for its sectarian ends. At the World Archaeology
meet in 1994 the Congress was compelled to derecognise its Congress
at Delhi, hosted by the ASI, because of the refusal of the hosts to
consider a resolution condemning the destruction of monuments on religious
to capture the Indian History Congress, the premier body of historians,
that has taken a consistent secular stand on all issues of history writing
and politics, the RSS some years ago created its own Indian History
and Culture Society, with a view to propagating its own brand of
history. The BJP government is extremely partial in its grants of funds
to the two organizations for their annual conferences.
historians have been vilified not merely by the RSS, but also Mr. Murli
Manohar Joshi, who has branded them as politicians rather than intellectuals.
Almost no secular historian remains part of the Council of ICHR. The
RSS mouthpieces Organiser and Paanchjanya regularly carry
pieces with scurrilous campaigns against secular historians. Mr. Shourie
has dedicated a whole book to them, which has become a Bible for the
RSS, and is being used by the BJP government to justify its takeover
of the institutions connected with history. The withdrawal from press
of the two volumes edited by KN Panikkar and Sumit Sarkar forms a case
in point. It was accompanied by a vilification campaign by the RSS and
its stooges in the press.
on history and on secular historians is sharp for the simple reason
that secular historiography directly interferes with the RSS version
of Indian tradition and nationhood, and the right wing has willy nilly
brought history into the ambit of contemporary political discourse.
A study of Indian history through a secular prism gives a lie to many
of the RSS’s claims, not least its claim of the Hindutva leaders as
freedom fighters. History is the crucible for constructing not merely
the nation’s past and the heritage of its people; it is as much the
crucible for building the nation’s future. The ‘Golden Age’ of the ancient
period ruled by Hindu kings is crucial for the future projection of
the Hindu Rashtra. A denial of the composite and pluralistic character
of peoples’ heritage is necessitated by the justifications of second-class
citizenship for the minorities that the Hindu Rashtra stands for. The
picture of cruel Moghul kings and marauding Muslims creates the ‘inspiration’
for anti-minority pogroms, the chauvinist sectarian nationalism is complementary
to the anti-Christian attacks, and swadeshi a cover for the outright
selling out of the country’s assets. More than that, such a sectarian
and violent depiction of history, accompanied with calls for revenge
and ‘justice’ for Hindus is eminently suited for the nurturing of fascist
idealism that could attract the young and the innocent. The victims
of this design would not even be aware of the diabolical scheme of which
they are a part and necessary instrument. History writing and history
teaching is, for the right wing Hindutvavadis, a means for creating
a factory for lies that can be made part of a Goebbelsian propaganda.
not be complacent that universities will remain immune from the right
wing tampering of the history syllabi, and that when we have defeated
the BJP in the next round of elections, which we well might succeed
in, the secular historiography preserved in our University departments
and in the publications of our secular historians will restore the balance
in school teaching.
on Academic Freedom and Secular Cultural Expression
on academic freedom are already there not only in the form of the withdrawal
of the Towards Freedom volumes from the press through an authoritarian
government order, but through numerous obnoxious circulars by the Home
Ministry, curtailing the rights of academics to participate in seminars
abroad and to invite academics of their choice from abroad on issues
that the BJP government defines as pertaining to “national security”.
The circulars in question have had some coverage in the press. They
are nothing but a means of stifling dissent and criticism of the RSS
worldview, and are designed to intimidate the academic world.
fascist style the circulars are marked “most secret” (MHA OM No. 25022/40/97/
F. IV), and state that foreign scholars "should not be generally
considered to attend conferences of a political, semi-political, communal
or religious nature". In addition, universities organising conferences
on subjects "related to human rights or sensitive technical subjects
which can be utilised as a platform for any particular line of propaganda
or where the subject matter... is of a purely national or local character"
should try and avoid inviting foreign academics. Where invitations are
unavoidable, the MHA will vet which scholars may come and which not.
(Times of India, June 15, 2001).
resulted in a revision quite meaningless. The applicability of the guidelines
is now limited to scholars belonging to Sri Lanka, Pakistan, China,
Bangladesh, or Afghanistan--but in their case the prior clearance must
be from both the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of External Affairs,
and regardless of the subject of the Conference. The prior clearance
also applies to any conference proposed in areas covered under protected/restricted/inner
no mistake. The circular leaves all prerogatives with the government,
and it is going to be used selectively and as a form of political control,
to prevent field travel by scholars working on particular subjects,
and certainly it will create deliberate obstacles in the way of intellectual
and cultural interaction between organizations of south Asians in the
West and secular-liberal and leftist intellectuals in India.
Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT), has followed
suit by trying to implement an old circular (rule 8 (2 ) of the CSS
(Conduct) Rules of 1964), no longer valid, which prohibits government
servants from publishing books or contributing an article except with
the prior permission of the government or the prescribed authority (a
Times of India Report, July 8, 2001). The circular, issued by
a deputy secretary, with "the approval of the competent authority",
asks all members of the staff to follow the rules scrupulously. This
despite the fact that a 1995 notification of the department of personnel
and training (No. 11013/4/93 expressly states that this sub-rule does
not apply if the government servant publishes a book or speaks in the
public media in his official capacity. Sub rule 3 of the same says that
he/she must make it clear that the views expressed are his own and not
that of the government. The idea obviously is to make impossible criticism
of government policy by those best informed of what is going on as insiders,
and to keep those employed in autonomous government organizations in
their place as it were. There is no guarantee that the argument of those
paid by the state and employed by the state not being free to criticize
the government is not extended to teachers employed in government colleges
and schools, and eventually those funded by the UGC, unless these measures
are strongly opposed by the teaching community. Accreditation and creation
of autonomous colleges are already on the cards as instruments of discipline
and keeping academics in line.
cultural front, while national academies are being used as cultural
PR agencies for the government display of secular cultural expression
is being attacked by the affiliates of the BJP-with no action by the
government to stop these attacks. The attacks by the ABVP to enforce
dress codes, to disallow celebrations of New Year, by Shiv Sena on the
films Fire and Water, communal campaigns against the students of Jamia,
Shibli College in Azamgarh and AMU come to mind. In all these the BJP
government has actively connived with its Sangh Parivar partners.
attacks essentially on freedom of expression, and citizenship rights
of individuals and groups. Christian missionaries and Christian schools
have been specially targeted. The attacks on Christian schools in Gujarat
and other parts of the country, particularly in the tribal areas, must
be seen as attempts to forcibly get Christian schools and to find avenues
for extending the RSS schools. Similarly the dirty campaign on conversions
and the attempts at reconversions by the RSS cadres is an attack on
tribals way of life and their religion and culture.
on education and secular culture is an attack on the secular fabric
of the state. It is an attack on democracy and its institutions. It
represents moves to scuttle popular rights, and is a violation of the
Constitution and citizenship rights. The entire package must be resisted
and exposed for what it represents, and the BJP government made accountable
for what it has done to this country in the space of three years that
it has been in power.
strong and committed protests the BJP Government was forced
to withdraw its saffron agenda on education at the State Education
Ministers’ Conference held on October 22, 1998. The controversial
document to be made the basis of discussion was prepared by
Vidya Bharati, an RSS front organisation. In the name of making
education at all levels ‘Indianised, Nationalised, Spiritualised’,
the Government attempted to push through a fascist and right–wing
thrust into education.
right–wing thrust involves changes in content as well as the
structure of education through the infusion of religious fundamentalism
in school textbooks and through commitment to the globalisation
agenda in education.
recommendations that involve changes in the content of education
The curriculum from the primary to the highest level, even the
vocational courses, should incorporate “the essentials of Indian
culture”. This should form 10 to 25 percent of the syllabus.
Although no differentiation would be made in the curriculum
for boys and girls at the primary stage, at the later stages
the curriculum for girls should include “training in home keeping.’’
A comprehensive programme for mother tongue as a medium of instruction
at all stages of education should be launched.
In view of its unique contribution to cultural unity and ancient
wisdom, Sanskrit may be made a compulsory subject from class
3 to class 10.
Moral and spiritual education should be introduced at all stages
in all schools and the universities for inculcation of ‘national
character and desirable social and national values identified
by the Sangh Parivar as Hindu values)
Sanskrit vandana and Vande Mataram should be made compulsory
in all schools.
Curriculum should be enriched through its indigenisation (identified
again as saffronisation).
Sanskrit universities should be established in four zones of
the country. Already the budget for this has been sanctioned,
while many other branches of study are starved for funds.
course on Indian (read Hindu philosophy) in all higher education
programmes, especially vocational courses should be provided.
Upanishads and the Vedas should find due place in the curriculum
from primary to the higher level courses.
recommendations that promote changes in structure include:
Access to higher education should not be virtually unrestricted
as at present. Changing the mass character of higher education
will not only raise academic standards but also lead to substantial
General education should be given through the distance mode.
The initiative for education should lie with the community and
not with the government.
The new educational institutions started by the registered organisations/societies
running the educational educational institutions for the last
ten years should be automatically recognised and affiliated
to the Government or semi- Government organisations controlling
the educational systems at the states or the center. The system
of ‘ permit ‘ and ‘licence’ (affiliation) in education should
be abolished at the earliest to facilitate the recognition of
the Vidya bharati and RSS schools which have mushroomed all
over the country in the last decade).
Article 29 and 30 dealing with the rights of the minorities
to establish educational institutions should be amended. In
order ‘to avoid tension” this special provision should be done
Astrology Course: the Stated Objectives
are excerpts from the guidelines issued by the University Grants
Commission for setting up Departments of Vedic Astrology in
astrology is not only one of the main subjects of our traditional
and classical knowledge but this is the discipline which lets
us know the events happenining in human life and in universe
on time scale.
distinguishing feature of this subject is that it makes us familiar
with time, its nature and feature and its effects on human life
and other events and that way it helps us to manage and make
optimal utilization of time.
is a common feature that despite best methods adapted for estimation,
the events happen in different way and add to worries, tensions
and frustation in life. Here Vedic Astrology can help to see
the unforeseen, it being the subject dealing with time.
of the courses in Vedic Astrology in Universities will not only
impart the knowledge of this subject to the people but will
also add a new dimension for research in the fields of Hindu-mathematics,
Vastushastra, Meteorological Studies, Agricultural Science,
Space Science etc.”
are the excerpts from the government paper justifying the teaching
of karmakand (interestingly, misspelt as karamkand) in universities:
is the concept of rta or harmony in the external world and the
aim of education is to bring the whole man in tune with the
idea behind karamkand is to capture this process in practical
terms and utilize this method of learning to understand the
scientific and traditional wisdom in diverse fields such as
geometry, arithmetic, algebra, environment etc.”
too many people --- many of them academics and well known intellectuals
--- are today falling prey to the RSS propaganda that for several
decades academic institutions and education policies and content
of education in India were dominated by Left-leaning "academic-politicians,"
out of tune with Indian reality and Indian ethos. We are further
told that this was achieved through connivance with and patronage
from the ruling Congress government of the post-independence
years. The Sangh Parivar-controlled, BJP-led NDA government
is, therefore, simply restoring the balance. Put bluntly, if
the boot is now on the other leg, what right have the erstwhile-in-power
academic-politicians to crib about it? We give below the facts.
much-celebrated Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR),
now filled with RSS-linked persons, was never the Left bastion
it is made out to be. The fact sheet on the ICHR is sufficient
to demolish the RSS contention that the council has always been
filled with historians of the Left, or that only their books
have been selected for translations.
the former chairpersons of the ICHR, only two-- Irfan Habib
and R S Sharma--are Marxists. A R Kulkarni, Nihar Ranjan Ray,
Lokesh Chandra, Ravindra Kumar, S Sattar, B R Grover (the recent
chairperson who had been in the same post before), T R Sareen
can by no stretch of definition be termed so. Among the members
of the ICHR council have been K A Nizami, Amales Tripathi, H
D Sankalia, B Sheikh Ali, S Sattar, K V Ramesh, A R Kulkarni,
Y S Subbarayalu, B N Mukherji, S C Misra, A Q Rafiqi, J S Grewal,
M G S Narayanan, B N Goswami, Sushil Chowdhary, Rajat Ray, Lallanji
Gopal, G C Pande, Amales Tripathi, and others who certainly
are no Marxists. So, how does the contention of Marxist hegemony
of the ICHR and patronage by Leftists of Leftists, or the Congress
of Leftists, in the ICHR hold true? More than 81 books have
been translated by the ICHR in 12 languages, only five of them
being those of Marxists.
it appears that secular-Left historians are all over the place,
then surely the reasons are to be sought in the excellence of
their historiography rather than in the manipulations that the
Sangh Parivar alleges with regard to research institutions and
academic bodies. In any case, a point that needs to be emphasised
again and again is that their presence did not derive from a
Leftist government in place at the centre while the sole factor
for the presence of RSS-linked persons in the ICHR and other
academic bodies today is the BJP government and the state control
of these bodies by the Sangh Parivar. Why else was the 84-year-old
K S Lal, who cannot attend office due to health reasons, made
the chairman of ICHR? The man was on the RSS panel in the Ram
IIAS, IGNCA, AND NCERT
Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), in the news
these days for the petty and inter-factional fights of the RSS-filled
nominees in the council, has similarly had an eclectic composition
of officials as well as researchers associated with it. Social
science institutes funded by it all over the country have in
the past been headed by eminent people, not necessarily of Marxist
persuasion. These institutes have carried out research programmes
on various themes.
the past, the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS) at
Shimla has been headed by people like J S Grewal and Mrinal
Miri who would hate to be characterised as Marxists. The IIAS
has always had fellows and researchers working on varied themes,
and seminars on topics ranging from education, Indian philosophy,
religion, environment, epigraphy, culture, linguistics, urbanisation,
foreign policies, forest rights, peasant movements, tribals,
anthropology, literature and the arts on a scale that would
outnumber the number of Marxists in the entire country in that
particular field! If one remembers well, the institution was
increasingly being starved of funds, to the extent that a few
years ago academics across the board carried a signature campaign
addressed to the president to save the institution from being
converted into a heritage tourist hotel. Where was the question,
then, of great government patronage to Leftists in this institution?
Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) can, by no standards,
be seen as a Left bastion. In fact, its concerns and perspectives
on culture are far removed from the concerns of the Left.
National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT)
is today trying to impose the RSS-inspired National Curricular
Framework on the country and to change the history texts. Contrary
to all the RSS propaganda, the NCERT never had Romila Thapar,
R S Sharma or Bipan Chandra on their advisory committees, although
their books have been part of the curriculum for over two decades,
and have been revised a number of times following feedback and
suggestions from NCERT members.
mundanely, there were 12 vacancies in the governing body of
the ICSSR academic council, which the United Front government
left unfilled. Similarly, the post of chairperson and several
vacancies in the ICHR council lay unfilled. The post of director
of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library could, similarly, have
been filled had previous government been interested enough.
More than 20 posts in the NIEPA and NCERT remained vacant, waiting
for the likes of the infamous Rastogi to man the selection committees
in NCERT. The IIAS was starved of funds until the BJP found
funds to fulfil its agenda. The list could go on.
facts need to be marshaled not just for taking stock of the
dirty RSS campaign of slander, but equally for counting the
wages of default and neglect of education by secular political
parties--for seizing the initiative before it is too late. Leave
alone the state education system, even the largest private enterprise
in education--the Vidya Bharati network--must not be left unchallenged
in the days of globalisation and the euphoria over privatisation.