Modi, like a colossus, straddles India. His triumphant ride from Gujarat to Delhi supersedes the Rath Yatra of Advani – he seized the throne, while all Advani could do was leave blood in his wake. Modi has vanquished India. His acolytes say that whatever happened in 2002 in Gujarat is in the past. The future is in Development.

What is meant by Modi’s Development? There are two ways to gauge this. First, one can look at Gujarat – where Business has indeed thrived, but the livelihood of the ordinary people remains mediocre, where labor conditions are abysmal and environmental protections withdrawn. Second, one can go and find the theory of Modi’s Development. This is easily found in the writings of the head of his new Niti Aayog – Columbia University Professor Arvind Panagariya. The most important suggestions are for what Panagariya calls Track 1 reforms. Let us look at three points:

(1)Eviscerate labor laws. “Track 1 reforms require, first and foremost, the reform of India’s labor laws,” writes Panagariya. “Highly rigid labor laws have made entrepreneurs terrified of hiring workers.” Since the 1990s, the courts have whittled down the right to strike and other protections given to workers. But Modi’s Development requires more. It requires freedom for capital to fire labor as well as freedom for capital to declare bankruptcy and liquidate its labor force.

(2)Expand Privatization. The BJP’s Vajpayee government had set up a Ministry for Disinvestment, with the great warrior of the Right Arun Shourie in the minister’s seat. He went a long way toward the asset stripping of Indian industry. The Congress-led UPA was too embarrassed to do the job with such brazenness. It chose more refined ways to do the same kind of thing. Panagariya thinks the Congress simply didn’t go fast enough (besides in 2006, the UPA had to shelve its disinvestment program after the DMK felt smarted by the Neyveli Lignite deal). He wants more. “The government must restart efforts to privatize public-sector enterprises, especially those engaged in such activities as manufacturing fertilizers, chemicals and electronic and engineering goods.” Little divides the UPA’s Montek Singh Ahluwalia from Panagariya. It is merely that the BJP government is not hamstrung by the wiles of the regional parties or the ideological opposition from the Left.

(3)Privatize Education. One of the most serious gestures made by Panagariya has been his call for the privatization of higher education. In June 2014, he wrote that the government “should abolish such government bodies as the University Grants Commission, which set and enforce standards for all Indian universities.” There is a need, he wrote, for the government to “end its own bureaucratic stranglehold on the university system.” What would replace it? Some modest regulation of a largely fee-for-service educational industry.

 In essence, the mechanism to end poverty – which Modi has said is his major goal – is by freeing up the private sector to create jobs. The policies that Modi wants to install in India are precisely what have created a drought in global employment, according to the International Labour Organisation and the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

 Modi has said that it is poverty that he wants to fight, that social suffocation of India’s diversity is not his goal. Nonetheless, Modi’s election has strengthened the forces of suffocation, who now give full vent to their ludicrous yet dangerous ideology. There is always a whiff of fascism that hangs over the BJP’s allies. From Muzaffarnagar to Muzaffarpur, from the rhetoric of Varun Gandhi to Niranjan Jyoti, the evidence of this intolerance is evident. But these epigones of Modi are not new to the Indian stage. Advani would froth from the mouth during his Ramjanambhoomi campaign, as would Vajpayee in his Goa speech in 2002 (“Wherever there are Muslims, they do not want to live with others. Instead of living peacefully, they want to preach and propagate their religion by creating fear and terror in the minds of others”). The emotional register of the BJP and its Sangh Parivar is viciousness – it cannot speak without bearing its fangs.

Reading about the BJP can be monotonous. Most of the literature concentrates on the biliousness of its leadership – the kind of statements made by them, the awful positions they take on social and economic issues. There is a tendency to believe that if one merely exposes the kind of views of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar, the population will come to its senses, abandon them and flee to more liberal political parties. Such a view asserts that the people are deluded. But is this a sufficient analysis of the current situation, particularly when the BJP and the Sangh Parivar are quite willing to broadcast their most offensive ideology to the widest audience? Shouldn’t we have a deeper sense of the social processes at play that attract the forces of neo-liberal Hindutva? What are the classes that are drawn to the BJP, which caste fragments find their politics appealing? What are the ruling class sections that have given themselves over to the BJP, and not just those who are with the BJP now and would – opportunistically – be with the Congress later? More research is needed, surveys of the mohallas of UP where the BJP has been able to establish itself, surveys of the provincial college campuses where its student wing has been able to secure a base. Such work is essential. It would teach us how to better confront the Sangh Parivar.

 We cannot defeat the Right by being horrified by it. Patient assessment of its strength and patient work to build our own ranks are both essential. Unities of the popular classes have to be built as the only antidote against the Right. But these unities cannot be built on wishful thinking alone. They require hard work and hard thought. They require the kind of labor unity that could be glimpsed in the nation-wide coal strike and the local stoppages in different sectors; the kind of alignment of women’s groups and agricultural workers’ groups against the destruction of rural employment. These are bold maneuvers to build popular confidence and a popular will against neo-liberalism and Hindutva. The only real alternative vests in the growth of a united and bold Left. Anything else is palliative.

Vijay Prashad

Vijay Prashad is the Chief Editor at LeftWord Books. He is the author, most recently, of No Free Left: The Futures of Indian Communism (LeftWord, 2015) and a columnist for Frontline, al-Araby al-Jadeed and BirGün. 

mahIT was a scenario of great zeal and enthusiasm when a procession of shouting slogan students, with flags in their hands, hit the busiest roads of the historic city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra. They all were assembled here for the open session of the 15th Maharashtra state conference of Students Federation of India (SFI), which took place from January 3 to 6. The public meeting that followed in Tapadiya Natya Mandir was addressed by former SFI general secretary Nilotpal Basu, former SFI vice president Dr Ashok Dhawale, former state joint secretary Dr D L Karad, SFI president Dr V Shivdasan and SFI state secretary Vinod Govindwar. State SFI president Bhausaheb Zirpe presided.

While addressing the public meeting, Nilotpal Basu described how the ruling class parties are fighting on who will be the next prime minister while the actual need today is to change the policies. Dr Ashok Dhawale, at present the secretary of Maharashtra state unit of the CPI(M), dwelt on the destructive role of the Congress led government at the centre as well as in Maharashtra. He spoke about the increasing unemployment and the growing inaccessibility of education for the poor. He sharply criticised the communal and sectarian forces too in the state. He stressed the need to unite against all such forces. Dr D L Karad spoke about why the students movement should move hand in hand the with the working people’s movement for a change of policies. Bhausaheb Zirpe, in his presidential speech, described the SFI as a university where one gets a degree in struggles. We must continue our struggle by taking this degree, he added.

On the next day, the inaugural session was held at Govindbhai Shroff Hall where the state SFI president Bhausaheb Zirpe hoisted the organisation’s flag. Amid loud slogans, the delegates and leaders saluted the flag and paid homage at the Martyrs Column, before entering the hall. The hall was named after Dr Narendra Dabholkar, a martyr, and the stage was named after martyred SFI comrade, Sudipto Gupta.

Reception committee chairman and well known political analyst Jaydev Dole welcomed the delegates to the historic city of Aurangabad and thanked the state SFI unit for organising the conference in the city. Former police commissioner of Aurangabad city, Uddhav Kamble, inaugurated the conference. The session concluded with the address by Bhausaheb Zirpe.

A presidium comprising Bhausaheb Zirpe, Mohan Jadhav, Balaji Kaletwad and Manjushri Kabade was elected to conduct the proceedings of the conference. The steering committee comprised Vinod Govindwar, Datta Chavan and Shrikant Bhosale. A resolutions committee, a minutes committee and a credentials committee were also elected. State secretary Vinod Govindwar placed the condolence resolution, whereafter the delegates paid homage by observing two minute silence.

State secretary Vinod Govindwar placed the draft political and organisational report which, after dealing with the ongoing international and national developments, pointed to the poor status of education and its availability in the state and the apathy of the state government to release the funds for education. He also mentioned the major activities taken up by the organisation since the previous conference. These included activities to oppose the private universities act and the holding of a large rally of students and youth on November 29, in cooperation with the DYFI, on the issues of education and employment. This year saw a big success in mobilisation of students. The report also discussed the recommendations of the Lingdoh committee for student union elections. In its organisational part the report noted that though there were signs of improvement in some districts, shortcomings still persisted. Regular attendance, participation of members in deliberations, regular check-up and criticism as well as self criticism will ensure the proper functioning of the state unit, the report asserted.

Delegates from all the districts spoke on the report for about four hours. Apart from sharing their experiences gained while doing work in their respective areas, they mentioned the problems they are facing and various ways they adopted to deal with them. The delegates resolved to build up struggle against the current policies by taking up the local issues and to consolidate the organisation.

A special session was conducted after that. Dr Ashok Dhawale spoke about the qualities required in an organisation leader --- that he needs to be soft-spoken, clear, cool-headed and inclusive. He also spoke about Shahid Bhagat Singh’s passion for books and his consistent effort to gain knowledge. These are the qualities that leaders should imbibe. This will strengthen the organisation and help us in facing the opposition.

A total of 12 resolutions were moved at the conference. These were on opposing the opening of private universities and on strengthening the government universities, on the recommendation by the Lingdoh committee, on the need to fight for various facilities in tribal students’ hostels and schools, on taking the organisation to private and professional education institutions, on the need to oppose the communal and sectarian forces, on the need to oppose social injustice in the form of caste panchayats and honour killing, on strengthening the struggle against gender based violence, on the demand for increases in scholarships and freeships for EBC students. All these resolutions were adopted unanimously.

Balaji Kaletwad put forth the credentials report which stated that a total of 185 delegates came from 17 districts; among that 44 were girls. About 10 delegates were attending the conference for the first time that indicated that a new team is getting ready to take the struggle forward.
The conference unanimously elected a 31 member state committee which in turn elected a 10 member secretariat, with Mohan Jadhav as president and Datta Chavan as secretary. A passionate felicitation programme was held for the outgoing state SFI leaders that included Bhausaheb Zirpe, Vinod Govindwar, Shrikant Bhosale, Seema Jivrag, Sarita Sharma and Prashant Vidhate.

The newly elected state president, Mohan Jadhav, expressed gratitude for the Aurangabad district units of the SDI and other mass organisations for the all-out efforts they made for the success of the state SFI conference. The conference concluded with a rendering of the Hindi version of “We Shall Overcome,” which all the delegates sang in unison before leaving with a determination to strengthen the organisation and forging more struggles in the coming days.

Dr Bhausaheb Zirpe, Dr Ravindra Madne

THE Students’ Federation of India evolved through decades of ideological struggle and the organisation took the final shape in a four-day conference from December 27 to December 31, 1970 in Thiruvananthapuram. The Programme of the organisations was adopted on the penultimate day of the conference, and hence on December 30 this year SFI will be observing its 44th Foundation Day.
 
Why I said ideological debate is because after Independence there was a debate regarding the nature of the policies of the ruling class which led to a serious rift in the student movement. After Independence, the new Congress regime adopted a capitalist path of development on the basis of a historic compromise with landlordism and imperialism. As a result of which, neither economic growth nor democracy could have a stable base in the country. In the area of education also there was some progress in post-Independence time but it was limited to a privileged few and large masses were denied of education and the constitutional directive for universal and compulsory primary education remained largely unfulfilled. A section of the student movement insisted on the then Congress regime, thus making the student movement tail the government’s policies. But a section of the movement stressed on the struggles for right of education and better education facilities against the government mobilising common students. This section of the movement which become a symbol of struggles and its strategy gained popularity among students become the leadership of the majority of students of India under the banner of the Students’ Federation of India.
 
Our Programme explains history of the organisation – “The Students’ Federation of India inherits with pride the anti-imperialist, patriotic, secular, democratic, and progressive legacy of the Indian people’s struggle for national liberation from the British colonial rule. It carries forward the heritage of the progressive student movement of our country, which has always considered itself an inseparable part of the broader struggle for social transformation. It is this legacy that the Students’ Federation of India holds aloft in its slogan of ‘Independence, Democracy, and Socialism’!” Since its inception, SFI is amidst struggles for student rights and better education system on one hand and ideological struggles on the other as the student movement is very prone to both kind of deviation whether it is right extremism or the left adventurism. But it is the legacy of SFI to guide the country’s student movement to a right direction.
 
Forty-four years after SFI’s formation when we are celebrating our Foundation Day it’s our duty to identify our strengths, weaknesses and our challenges. As far as strategic and ideological line is concerned the history has proved us right. Our slogan of ‘Education for All and Jobs for All’ is still as relevant as when it was coined. Here we will concentrate only on one of the aim of the organisation narrated in our programme. Our Programme says, “The Students’ Federation of India fights for the realisation of its aim to establish a democratic, scientific, secular and progressive educational system ensuring education and jobs for all that calls for the implementation of comprehensive land reforms, elimination of the stranglehold of international finance capital and indigenous monopoly capitalism. The Students’ Federation of India aims to accomplish this by organising the student community in the struggles of the wider democratic movement of the workers, peasants, and other progressive forces”. If we analyse this objective we can identify the present challenges of the education system and direction of the student movement.
 
Education and Jobs for All
 
The slogan of “Education for All, Jobs for All” found a strong appeal with the student masses of the country, rallying them to the fold of the movement and the organisation and still has the same importance. This is because after six decades of Independence, the situation of India has not changed much. Even after continuous people’s struggles and enactment of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, millions of students still remain away from the sphere of education. Even minimum requirements of RTE have not been achieved even if we leave aside its limitations. The RTE Act had a number of requirements such as teacher-pupil ratio, teacher strength and infrastructure, which were to be achieved by March 31, 2013 but almost all of these couldn’t be achieved due to the government’s unwillingness to increase the public spending. A report in 2012 had estimated that more than 95 percent schools in the country don’t match the standards set by the RTE Act. Although enrolments have increased there is an increase in the enrolment to 96 percent for children in the age group of 6-14 years. But high drop-out rates is a problem that illustrates the ongoing inefficiencies in the system. While around 27 per cent children drop out in grade V, around 41 per cent of students drop out in grade VIII. Census data suggests that up to eight crore children are out of school (GOI, 2013).
 
In all these years there is massive privatisation of education and interestingly the pace of privatisation has increased even after implementation of the RTE Act. In 2005, all India rural private school enrolment was 17 percent, which rose to 29 percent in 2013. Apart from expenditure on private schools, the expenditure on private tuitions has also increased. This clearly shows the deteriorating condition of school education in the country. The situation can be understood only by the vacant posts of teachers in primary and upper primary schools, where 12.59 lakh teachers’ posts are vacant.
 
The story is same in the higher education sector where even more rapid privatisation and profit making is happening. India’s gross enrolment rate (GER) in higher education is 19.4 percent which is below the world average of 29 percent (as of 2010). There is an increase in the number of institutions of higher education. From 26 universities and 695 colleges at the time of Independence, we have grown to 700 universities and 35,53,912 colleges today. This is a 20-fold and 46-fold increase in the number of universities and colleges, respectively. However, as the low GER very aptly indicates, increase in the number of institutions has still remained inadequate to meet the increased demand for higher education.
There is huge faculty crunch in all the universities. Forty-two central universities with sanctioned faculty strength of 16,602 have 6,542 vacancies. Same is the case of other institutions. Fifteen IITs have 1,611 vacancies against the total strength of 5,092 faculty positions, Thirteen IIMs have to fill 111 vacancies out of 638 positions, Four Indian Institutes of Information Technology have almost 50 percent vacancy as 104 out of 224 positions are vacant, National Institutes of Technology across 30 states have 1,487 vacant of the total 4,291 positions. Even less than a decade-old Indian Institutes of Science Education & Research with five branches has been afflicted with faculty crunch - 131 vacancies out of the total strength of 518. The student-teacher ratio in India (24:1) (including IIT/IIM) is very low as compared to other countries, 9.5:1 in Sweden; and 13.6:1 in the United States. Consequently, the culture of questioning and reasoning cannot be inculcated as a part of most of universities.
 
With respect to GER in public, private and private unaided institutions, estimates from the NSSO highlight that 46 percent is in the public space, while over 50 percent is in the private (aided & unaided) space. While private players do bring investments in higher education, there is always the danger of dilution of quality and over-commercialisation of education. It is important to note that the higher education system in India is more privatised compared to other capitalist or market economies, for instance, the US, the UK, Canada and Australia. In the US, one-fifth to one-fourth of the total number of students in higher education, and about 30 percent of the global enrolment in higher education, are in private institutions; the remaining students go to public universities. On average, only 15 percent of the enrolments in the tertiary education system in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, and a meagre eight percent in the countries of the EU, are enrolled in independent private institutions, with a vast majority everywhere studying in the public sector. In contrast, in India, 66 percent of students in general education and 75-80 percent in technical education are enrolled in private, self-financing institutions (Planning Commission document, 2013). Higher educational institutions in the country are increasing financial burden on students. This has been mainly due to fee hike and reduced funding for higher education. Students are increasingly being made to bear the burden of rising costs of education and stagnant scholarships/fellowships. Due to rampant privatisation and inadequate public sector most of the potential youth is not able to get the strength of higher education.
 
India is one of the youngest nations with potential human resource available. According to International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates, by 2020 India will have 116 million workers in the age group of 20-24 years as against 94 million in China. In addition to this, the average age of Indian population by 2020 will be 29 while many developed countries will be in early or late 40s. To take advantage of the large human resource (indeed, to prevent socio-economic complications arising out of a large unemployable young population), this massive workforce would need to be gainfully employed. But employment for all is still far away from imagination. Policies adopted by successive governments resulted in jobless growth. Same trend still continues. ILO has said in its recent report that the unemployment scenario in India over the last two years has been showing a rising trend. If we analyse the unemployment trend of last three years only we will find that unemployment rate in India is showing an increasing trend since 2011 when it was 3.5 percent. The same rose to 3.6 percent in 2012 and climbed to 3.7 percent last year. This year, jobless rate is expected to rise to 3.8 percent, according to the report 'Global Employment Trends 2014'.
 
The biggest worry is the growing informal employment which counts for 94 per cent of the workforce and is growing faster than formal employment. According to the ILO report only 21.2 percent of working men (aged 15-59) had a regular salaried job (in 2011/12 period). The unemployment rate is also very high among educated youths of India. According to Labour Bureau's “Third Annual Employment & Unemployment Survey 2012-13”, one out of three graduates is unemployed in India. In spite of all its limitations and corruption, MGNREGA is giving some relief to the unemployed youths but the BJP government is trying to subjugate it. So the slogan of ‘Education for All, Jobs for All’ has to be championed among students.
 
Democratic, Scientific, Secular and Progressive Educational System
 
This objective has always attracted me personally. To ensure a democratic, scientific, secular and progressive educational system is our aim. These words ‘democratic’, ‘scientific’, ‘secular’ and ‘progressive’ are very important and should be understood in totality. In the present scenario when the NDA government led by RSS is doing all sort of ‘Manuvadi’ and ‘Hinduvadi’ experiments with education, these words become all the more important.
 
The education system should be democratic in the sense that participation of students, teachers, parents and community should be there in teaching-learning process and the teaching-learning process should encourage democratic values among students. But Indian education system runs only on the principle of pass percentage and grades. Mechanical cramming is there to gain high scores in this age of cut-throat competition. Intersects and potentials of the students don’t have any role to play. Nowadays even choice of courses is done on the basis of its market value but not on the interest of student. A big coaching industry is growing which ensures high percentage, admissions and success in competitive exams. In this market-run economy, parents are seen only as source of fees and they have only this limited role to play. Even in government schools assessment of teachers is done on the basis of merits and teachers are also involved in innovations to improve pass percentage, instead of innovations related teaching methodologies.
 
Meaning of ‘scientific education’ is to inculcate a scientific outlook and values among students to encounter the real life situation. But this aspect has always been ignored in our schools and higher education. Interestingly on many instances teachers and our educational leaders encourage unscientific attitude. When we are teaching a student that moon is satellite of earth and at the same time encouraging him to celebrate ‘Karva Chauth’ or inspire them to pray to god for good results from where this scientific attitude will develop. There have been efforts to introduce astrology as a science and the present government is also working on this aspect. When our Prime Minister is saying that Ganesha is creation of surgery and Karna of genetics and the same PM is addressing schoolstudents on various national days, how these growing minds can understand scientific values.
 
There are various incidences of caste discrimination in our schools and on many instances teachers are involved in these incidences. Recent incident of Rajasthan is still fresh in our minds. When students are witnessing all this feudal values in their families and schools how progressive education can be ensured. We are teaching them caste discrimination, gender bias, area biasness, colour discrimination, etc and hoping to develop a progressive society which can solve problems of inequality of our society!
 
There was a discussion in Parliament on the ownership of ‘Taj’- the symbol of love. Love doesn’t have any religion. And people, our MPs are claiming that it belongs to the Hindu community. There is an advocacy to teach part of the Gita in all classes and recently to declare it as a national holly book. Persons like Dinanath Batra are deciding the syllabus of our kids, which will be telling them that all Muslims residing in Hindustan are Hindu. In this scenario, how we can hope that education is imparting secular values to the younger generation. In the last six months, a series of developments are there which can be cited here but it will take space of another full article.
 
To conclude the objective of SFI to ensure democratic, scientific, secular and progressive educational system is very important to build an India which can resolve problems of all type of discrimination and feudal values. Only the citizens having democratic, scientific, secular and progressive values can lead to an egalitarian society and can contribute to national development. Mere beating the drums of glory of our past can’t serve the purpose.
 
SFI is always in struggles to achieve these objectives. Be it the attacks on education system or the attack on the national integrity out brave soldiers are in the forefront in the struggles. Our history is the history of sacrifices. It is only SFI, whose leaders are martyred in struggles of students in independent India. We dare to call upon our enemy after each sacrifice ‘you can kill our comrades but you can’t kill our ideas’. But a lot has to be done.
 
With the changes in the political and economic scenarios, challenges of student movement are also changing. It’s duty of our brave comrades to analyse the concrete condition and prepare for new struggles with new approach. With a government at the Centre which is committed to make big changes not only to further commercialise education but to communalise it also, then its need of the time to do extra efforts to organise students in campuses, where more aggressive attacks will be there on democratic rights of students. We hope on this 30th December, when we celebrate the Foundation Day of this progressive student movement full of sacrifices, we will take a vow to carry forward the legacy of study and struggle in all campuses across the length and breadth of the country.
 

Vikram Singh

communalIT 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.

FRAUDULENT CLAIMS

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.

Nalini Taneja

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