DinaNath Batra, chief of Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas, who has been causing distress in the academic sphere for his views against the present education system, lives on the second floor of Saraswati Bal Mandir in Delhi’s Naraina Vihar. Hinduism in its Vedic form welcomes you even before you can get to him. The elevator resonates with the Gayatri Mantra. And in case you don’t know the words to chant along, its written version is splashed across the elevator walls as well as outside, on the premises of primary school.
Batra, a tall 84-year-old in a khadi kurta-pyjama, shares his austere office-cum-residence with several others. It’s from here that they together, with passion, attack all that they feel is anti-India. His own room is dominated by portraits of Maharana Pratap, Swami Vivekananda, Chanakya, men he says are the real heroes of India.
Batra spoke with Nitin Mahajan on revamping education, inadequacies of Indian school curriculum and how he would like the Narendra Modi government to bring in text books for schools and colleges that have the right “Indian cultural perspective”.
Batra denies affiliation to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. But while the question and answer session was in progress, chanting of Hindu hymns could be heard. A satsang had been organised on the ground floor of the school building after school hours.
It has been alleged that you are trying to push the agenda of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh which aims to change the present education curriculum and saffronise it? What is your affiliation with the RSS?
I am not affiliated with the RSS in any way. I am national president of the Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (Trust for the Uplift of Education and Culture). Over the past several years I have written seven books that deal with India’s contribution to the world in the fields of science, mathematics, geometry, philosophy and religion. Books prescribed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) are bereft of Indian cultural values. Books are a mode for instilling cultural values, but NCERT books have failed to percolate the rich cultural landscape of India to children. They are dotted with disgraceful words and distorted history. These books do not acknowledge the contribution made by Indian scientists and mathematicians. For instance, there is no attempt to make it known to students that the Pythagoras theorem was discovered in India or that Aryabhata correctly stated that the Earth rotates on its axis. It is high time the books are revised. Even United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has said that a country should be rooted to its culture and wedded to its growth. Maine isme kya galat kaha? Kya apne desh ke maha-purush, jaise ki Swami Vivekanand ya Chanakya, ko unka yatha sthaan dilana RSS ka agenda follow karna hai? And even if it is RSS agenda, what is wrong if I am promoting nationalism in the country.
Is this the first time that you have approached the government or the human resource development ministry with your suggestions for changes in syllabus?
I have been an active person giving suggestions to education ministers over the past several years. This is not the first time that I have offered suggestions to the government. Most of our campaigns were during the United Progressive Alliance regime. During the previous National Democratic Alliance tenure, I had met the then HRD minister, M.M. Joshi, several times and shared my thoughts with him.
However, I did not receive much support from HRD ministers of Congress-led governments. Arjun Singh had banned my entry to the ministry during his tenure, while Kapil Sibal and M.M. Pallam Raju did not show any interest in these ideas. I have not met the present incumbent Smriti Irani so far. I have only submitted my suggestions to the minister and it is for her to take them or leave them. I do not run after politicians, it is for the government to take them or leave them.
The foreword to your books — some of which the Gujarat government has made part of school curriculum — has been written by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Have you tried to meet him to share your thoughts, suggestions?
I have no connection with the Prime Minister and have never met him. In fact, he wrote the foreword for these books while he was the chief minister of Gujarat and it was the Gujarat school education department that had arranged for this.
I think a person of Modiji’s importance needs to concentrate on more pressing issues like improving the country’s image and work culture which had suffered during the two consecutive terms of Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister. I hope that during Mr Modi’s tenure the country’s education is freed of all political pulls, pressures and leanings.
Modiji bahut samajhdaar vyakti hain. Ab Prime Minister ban-ne par bahut vyast bhi ho gaye hain. Abhi unke liye zaroori hai ki veh US jayen, Bharat ke padosiyon se sambandh badhiya banayen.
Has any other state government or political party approached you for the introduction of your books in schools? Do you feel that your books should be introduced in states other than Gujarat?
So far none have approached me. If any other state, educational organisation or a political party approaches me, I will be more than willing to give my assent. So far Gujarat government is the only one that has sought these books. And I have offered these books free of cost and am not claiming any royalties for them, which is what I would do with other states as well.
I want Indian cultural values to be propagated through these books. These books put in perspective the contribution of India to the field of science, arts and mathematics. Books in the curriculum should teach a child to live his life. They should help him imbibe positive values and contribute to nation building. I am not against Western culture but I am certainly against materialism being propagated in the name of Western culture. There is a need for universities and schools to adopt villages and promote the spirit of social service amongst their students. I think the government should make it mandatory for students to do mandatory social service of three months each time when they cross an important milestone, like Class X, Class XII or graduation. In fact, I would suggest to the government that it should form bodies like National Innovation Commission and All-India Research Centre. These bodies would help generate new ideas and research in the country which will ensure that we do not add to the unemployment in the country and do not look at the government alone for providing employment.
You got Penguin India to pulp The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger. What caused you to petition the court against the book?
The book is nothing but an attempt at denigrating Hindu religion and Indian way of life. It devotes too much in portraying that Hindus were obsessed with sex, had many denigrating references like Kunti was raped by Surya Dev. This is all uncalled for and unwarranted. The book implied that Lakshman had illicit relations with Sita, that Rani Lakshmibai was in cohorts with the English, and that Mangal Pandey was an opium addict; that Gandhiji was a strange person who slept with young girls and Swami Vivekananda was a beef eater; that Hindus don’t have a Great Book and the Rig Veda says that women are nothing but child-producing machines. The book is downright divisive. This was the reason that I petitioned the courts and demanded the withdrawal of the book.
What are your thoughts on the recent agitation by students against Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) in the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examinations? Do you support the cause of students who are fighting for Hindi and other regional languages?
Repeated governments at the Centre have tried to undermine Hindi and the use of other Indian regional languages while at the same time promoting English. The students are rightly taking up the cause of Indian languages.
Students from rural background are at a disadvantage due to English language paper being made mandatory at the preliminary stage. In 2012 UPSC results, out of 1,150 candidates selected only 26 candidated had chosen Indian languages, which is a dismal 2.3 per cent of the total.
I met Jitendra Singh, minister of state, department of personnel and training, and he assured us that the government will definitely take a positive view on the issue and that a committee is expected to submit its finding soon. I have also been told that the Prime Minister is looking at the issue.