Communalisation of Education: Taking Stock Once Again
IT is well known that the present government has converted almost every national level education and academic body into an instrument for implementing the communal agenda of the Sangh Parivar. The impact of this takeover is now being felt in the changed priorities of these institutions, and the diversion of taxpayers’ money to fulfill an essentially anti-people agenda.
It is not merely a question of assigning some funds for Sanskrit, opening a few courses in astrology and karmakand; there is an attack on reason itself and the rational-secular basis of knowledge as evident from the academic schedules and subject matter of seminars and syposiums held at these institutions, the research projects initiated and got underway, and the output in terms of publications and reports emanating from these institutions since the changed composition of these bodies at the behest of this government.
The Indian Council For Historical Research (ICHR) has been much in the news for the withdrawal of the two Towards Freedom volumes edited by KN Panikkar and Sumit Sarkar from Press. These remain withdrawn and unpublished, despite being complete. The reasons are not difficult to guess. Both volumes contain sufficient documentation for the crucial years before Independence to expose the real character of the Hindutva forces, i.e., their role in dividing people rather than fighting the British.
Not everything can be managed for the Sangh Parivar by the ICHR, because secular scholarship has been predominant in history all over the country, and a lot of Phds get produced on a variety of themes in a routine fashion, and these continue, as do some of the earlier ongoing projects. Some of these projects were threatened but now continue due to pressure from secular historians. A great number of seminars and syposiums, funded by ICHR, get organised by history departments of various state universities, where Hindutva linked academics are not the organisers, or where secular historians are able to make their presentations. These involve many, but small funds.
BIG FUNDS FOR HINDUTVA AGENDA
But big funds for institution building and large projects that impinge on the culture, religion and society, and are known as ICHR projects, are now firmly geared to fulfilling the Hindutva agenda. Significant among these have been the grants to Indian Archaeological Society set up by SP Gupta, an archaeologist famous for ‘proving’ the existence of the Ram mandir under the Babri masjid on the side of the Ramjanambhoomi Trust than for anything else. This society has received funds for building its infrastructure, and for projects such as Atlas of Indus-Saraswati Civilisation, Growth of Cities During the Second Urbanisation in India (1000BC-100AD), Archaeological Research Methodology, Salvaging and Conserving the Damaged Source Material of History and Archaeology, all crucial for the communal perspectives on history and the ongoing secular critiques of the Hindutva campaigns. A project entitled Archaeology and Tradition has been given to DN Tripathi of Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Simla, another Hindutva inspired academic. The ICHR itself, in its Newsletter, claims these as the major new projects.
What else is happening to Archaeology by way of projects underway through government grants is quite obvious from the excavations at the site of the destroyed Babri masjid in Ayodhya. In time for the coming elections not only has the digging been arranged so to bring out a ‘report’ within a time frame crucial for the electoral campaigns, trumped up ‘evidence’ for the ‘temple’ under the destroyed masjid has also been arranged for by the Sangh Parivar and its sponsored archaeologists, to add fire to the already hate ridden campaign against the minorities and the political parties arrained against the BJP.
The report, under pressure from the secular archaeologists, who acted as voluntary observers, has mentioned presence of chewed bones in the very area where the temple is claimed to have stood, but has ignored them when deriving its conclusions for the existence of the temple. Nor does it specify the strata in which these have been found, because the presence of these bones in the strata in which they were actually found would go against the existence of any temple on that spot. It is similarly so with the kind of glazed ware pottery remains that have been found, which cannot for that period be identified with a temple. The famous pillars sited again and again by the Hindutva campaigners, on the basis of this report, turn out to be not pillars at all, because they are actually fillings and at that found at various levels. They could not possibly then in any case be ‘supporting’ any one ‘massive’ structure, or in fact even different structures at different levels.
Besides, in archaeology it is also possible to find out from the remains whether there are signs of any structures being deliberately destroyed. The Sangh parivar archaeologists have found no such evidence. Dating and periodisation and a concern for chronology, which are crucial to any enterprise related to history and evidence from the past, are precisely what have been given the go by in a report brought out by the premier institution for archaeology in this country. There is no doubt the fraudulent report is part of an effort to lend legitimacy to a fraudulent political campaign by the Sangh Parivar.
The mythical Saraswati is yet to be traced but, as The Indian Express reports (October 21, 2003), the union minister for tourism and culture, Jagmohan, has already announced a Rs 5-crore Saraswati Heritage Project, which aims to develop the “Saraswati river belt” as a cultural-tourist” hub with 15 centres. The aim is to establish the ‘authenticity’ of another fraudulent claim that Harappan-Indus civilisation was a Vedic civilisation, to push back the dates for the Vedic civilisation, and to establish the indigenous of the Hindus as opposed to the foreignness of Muslims and Christians. According to their claims, the Saraswati is mentioned in the Rigveda, and the effort of ‘finding’ its location in India is also to counter the fact that major sites of the earliest urban civilisation are located in what is now Pakistan. Earlier this year the minister had sanctioned Rs 8 crore to the ASI to ‘search for the river’. Programmes at government linked cultural institutions reflect similar priorities.
A year ago Jagmohan also initiated ‘Regeneration India’, a Rs 300 crore project to “boost cultural and spiritual tourism”, aimed at the domestic market (The Indian Express, October 21). While its ambit covers all significant monuments, including those built by Muslims, these are presented as ‘significant’ in terms of architectural achievements, the ‘spots’ identified with Hinduism are characterised as ‘sacred’ and representative of Indian civilisation. He wants to develop more than 50 such destinations. “Why can’t we develop our cultural centres and introduce the new generation to the profundity of ancient India?” he says.
The Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) funds state level bodies. Some idea of what is happening with some of its grants is indicated by the example of the Chennai based social science institute, Centre for Policy Studies (CFPS), in the news recently for having published a report, brought together in a book entitled Religious Demography of India, which tries to show that Muslim population will outpace the Hindu population in another fifty years, and which according to home minister Advani (in his foreword) is a matter for concern for national security. Other publications by this institute include Timeless India: Resurgent India on the ‘re-emergence of “Hindu Rashtra”’ and Food For All on “ the Indian discipline of growing and sharing food” (The Indian Express, September 23, 2003). The Director of the Maulana Abulkalam Azad Insitute of Social Sciences in Calcutta is Devendra Kaushik, who regularly writes in the Organiser, the RSS mouthpiece.
UNDERMINING SCIENTIFIC TEMPER
The new National Curriculum Framework, despite opposition from a majority of the states, remains in force for all practical purposes because examinations will eventually incorporate the changes introduced. Although the new NCERT books have been criticised widely by scholars, and some schools, particularly the private (public) schools, have even found alternative textbooks for classroom teaching, cannot get away from the new syllabus based on the National Curriculum Framework. Therefore even as we oppose the new history textbooks, what the new National Curriculum Framework and these books represent, with all their implications for the disadvantaged --- the minorities, tribals, dalits and for women has come to stay with us as part of our educational system, with its inherent consequences of perpetuating and reinforcing inequalities, and undermining scientific temper.
After Vedic mathematics and Vedic astrology we may soon have the introduction of Hindu science as subjects in formal education! The union minister of state for education, Sanjay Paswan, as if to outdo his senior, Murli Manohar Joshi, actually made a show of ‘walking on fire’ with two cobras coiled around his neck and demonstrated before a 2000-strong crowd his ideas and intentions on science. He wants tantric practices and exorcism included in curriculum! “This is all futuristic science and needs promotion by the State, media and civil society…I am saying this with conviction …” (The Indian Express, September 24, 2003). Such are our education ministers.
The political and academic world has simply not managed to prevent such unprecedented assaults on the sensibilities of independent India. Nothing short of a popular movement in favour of secular education can now reverse the changes already in place.