Saffronising education

Saffronisation of education has always been a pet project of the RSS

Ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party’s poster woman Smriti Irani has been made the Union human resources development minister, she has been embroiled in controversies.

Right from her claim to having a Yale degree to the recent “good governance day” issue, she has been on a political roller coaster.

However, her decisions and policy announcements pertaining to what is called “saffronisation” of education are making it evidently clear that she is being used as a marionette to advance the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s agenda of promoting Hindu nationalism.

Within just weeks of her being sworn in as a minister, she reportedly formed a committee for studying the ancient Upanishads and Vedas, and choose the appropriate texts emphasising the Hindu contribution to science, mathematics and philosophy.

Then, suddenly, one fine day, she took a decision to scrap German and make Sanskrit as a third language.

The Peshawar school attack attracted massive criticism and condemnation from across the world. It was reported by some surviving students that the militants shouted “Allah-hu-Akbar” before killing the students, which substantiates the argument that the militants believed their heinous acts was in the name of god.

The Taliban aspires to make everyone Muslim and implement the Shariah law throughout Pakistan, which is not very different from the RSS and other affiliate groups’ objective of everybody in India becoming a Hindu and India becoming a “Hindu rashtra”.

“Saffronisation’’ of education has always been a pet project of the RSS which aims to cleanse textbooks of “Western” influences, and promote “patriotism”.

It was taken up by RSS loyalist Murali Manohar Joshi when he was the HRD minister during NDA’s previous rule. It appears that Ms Irani has taken up the unfinished task.

The saffronisation agenda means inculcating Hindu nationalism, promoting Hindu culture and stress on the idea of a Hindu rashtra, all of which is in gross violation of the National Curriculum Framework for Education 2005 (NCF).

NCF is the main education policy document in the country, which lays down guidelines and the framework for school textbooks and syllabus in India.

It was prepared by a National Steering Committee which consisted of well-known education experts such as Ramachandra Guha, Ashok Ganguly, Rohit Dhankar and others.

Unfortunately, BJP and RSS leaders’ views and ideologies about education are exactly opposite to what the NCF recommends.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s comment that Hindutva is a way of life and it is the cultural identity of all Indians negates NCF’s guideline of having a critical framework which helps children to see social issues and help them understand that democracy as a way of life can be chartered through a path where children reflect on how they regard others.

Post its revised version in 2005, the NCF has been instrumental in bringing about many changes. In 2006, National Council of Educational Research and Training decided to include the 2002 Gujarat riots, the Ayodhya dispute and the 1984 Sikh carnage in the Class 12 curriculum for political science, which was attributed to NCF’s guideline that the curriculum should be linked to real-life incidents. It was met with stiff opposition from the BJP and the RSS.

Though historical perceptions can be debated, especially given that NCERT decisions were taken during the UPA regime, even science, which is purely based on provable facts, experiments and physical results, is not being spared.

Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “We worship Lord Ganesh. There must have been some plastic surgeon at that time, who got an elephant’s head on the body of a human being and began the practice of plastic surgery”.

If that wasn’t enough, home minister Rajnath Singh added fuel to the fire by saying “Famous scientist Heisenberg’s theory of uncertainty was based on Vedas”.

Such irrational statements are in contradiction of the NCF’s guidelines that the science curriculum must be used as an instrument for achieving social change in order to reduce the divide based on economic class, gender, caste, religion and region.

Moreover, Dinanath Batra, the RSS ideologue, is now being roped in to lead a committee to advise the government on educational reforms in Haryana, thus, setting a dangerous precedent.

His books have been made compulsory across 42,000 schools in Gujarat which include atypical homilies, such as not blowing candles on birthdays as it is “Western culture”.

RSS’ agenda of saffronising education is completely against the basic premise on which the NCF was prepared in 2005 constitutional vision of India as a secular, egalitarian and pluralistic society, founded on the values of social justice and equality.

It has the perilous plan to indoctrinate students about Hindu nationalism and Hindutva and bring religion into classrooms.

Political parties and politicians need to realise that using education as a political tool to advance their ideologies will only take India backward.

However, based on their past actions, RSS and other Hindu groups cannot be trusted much to keep politics out of education.

But, Narendra Modi, the man who has promised to make India a global superpower, should take the onus and abstain from politicising education.

Students who grow up believing that plastic surgery existed in ancient India and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle originated from Vedas, will only become scientific illiterates.

India is already far behind Western countries in research and technology innovations and such bizarre thoughts from the senior leaders of the country will only widen the gap and weaken India’s opportunity to emerge as a world leader.

The writer is the founding member and Data Editor at the Political Indian. He has worked with Naandi Foundation, Monitor Deloitte, Teach For India and World Bank

Next Story