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The Rediff Special/George Iype
RSS seeking to indoctrinate children, say Joshi's critics
Human Resource Development Minister Dr Murli Manohar Joshi's move to introduce the Vedas, Upanishads, and Sanskrit in schools and colleges and teach Hindu philosophy through curricula across the country has predictably raised many hackles.
Education ministers from Opposition-ruled states locked horns with the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government's cultural agenda, forcing the HRD minister to desist from recasting the national education policy.
But academicians and historians say the government's attempt 'to Indianise, spiritualise, and nationalise' primary and higher education is the culmination of a longstanding campaign for the 'saffronisation of education' by the Bharatiya Janata Party and its mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
"Twisting school curricula to propagate political ideologies and drafting new textbooks on communal lines is a dangerous trend for a country like India," says Professor Sumit Sarkar of Delhi University's history department.
According to Professor Sarkar, the trend of inculcating the 'virtues' of Hindutva in schools and rewriting history textbooks began after the BJP started seizing power in some states.
The first state to change the school curriculum to suit the BJP was Uttar Pradesh. In 1992, Chief Minister Kalyan Singh had sweeping changes introduced in history textbooks. He claimed this would 'Indianise the real picture of history'.
In an attempt to justify the BJP's demand for a Ram temple in place of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya, the government even added a new chapter to the standard VI history book. Titled 'Religious policies of Babar', the chapter describes how the 16th century Muslim ruler destroyed a Ram temple and built a mosque over it in Ayodhya, even though this flies in the face of the fact that Babar himself never visited Ayodhya.
Similarly, school children in Uttar Pradesh are taught that the Aryans never displaced or enslaved the original inhabitants of the country because they themselves were the original inhabitants.
While the government deleted many chapters on Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln from the history books, the life and times of Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, founder of the RSS, found place in them.
The present government in Uttar Pradesh, again headed by Kalyan Singh, has established more than 2,500 'Saraswati vidyalayas' across the state. These schools are now actively reinterpreting Indian history 'according to Hindu culture'.
In 1994, Madan Lal Khurana, then chief minister of Delhi, appointed a 27-member committee to recommend ways and means to introduce moral education in the national capital's schools.
The committee, headed by Rajya Sabha member Vijay Kumar Malhotra, submitted an eighteen-page report suggesting that Hindu ideology be incorporated as a compulsory subject.
The report suggested that while mantras, shlokas, bhajans and kirtans from the Vedas and the Bhagvad Gita should echo in Delhi's schools, the morning assembly should begin with Vande Mataram and slogans from Hindu holy books instead of the national anthem Jana Gana Mana.
The Khurana government also wanted to alter the standard VIII history textbook to say that the Qutub Minar, built by Qutub-ud-din Aibak in 1206, was actually constructed by Hindu king Samudra Gupta who ruled over large parts of north India almost a millennium earlier.
Protests from Muslim leaders ultimately forced Khurana to abandon his move.
Academicians argue that HRD Minister Joshi's attempt to 'recast' the national education policy with a Hindutva touch is but an extension of the BJP-RSS's indoctrination plans.
"It is easy to corrupt young minds. That is why the Sangh Parivar is bent upon bringing in its cultural agenda in educational institutions," says history scholar A V Sunder Raj.
But pro-BJP historians justify Joshi's plan. "The government wants to make certain changes in the national education policy because successive Congress governments have not cared to include the contribution of various segments of Indian society to its history," says historian A N Chaturvedi.
According to him, the present Indian history textbooks are remnants of the British Raj with minor adjustments.
"This inaccurate presentation of history has resulted in communal, caste, regional, linguistic and parochial considerations in the country," argues Chaturvedi.
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