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Home > News > Columnists > Swapan Dasgupta

Communists! Keep off education

August 03, 2004

Nearly everyone who either lived through it or even experienced it tangentially has one interesting Emergency story. Last week, as the ideological detoxification campaign moved to newer heights, I was reminded of a conversation I overheard between two faculty members in the corridors of Delhi University's arts faculty, some 29 years ago. 'There is a problem in the Sanskrit department,' said one of them, 'most of the teachers have been arrested.' His colleague could barely conceal a smirk. 'That's a good enough reason to close it down permanently,' he retorted, adding by way of flourish, 'They are all RSS anyway.'

To those aware of the political divisions in 1975, it will probably come as no great revelation that the professor who revelled in the persecution of his colleagues in the Sanskrit faculty was one of those Arun Shourie has immortalised as 'eminent historians.' For them, the Emergency was a moment of supreme opportunity, a time to put into effect the historic task of ideological cleansing and to make India safe for socialism, not through persuasion but with a little help from State coercion.

Predictably, the CPI saw itself as the vanguard. History, wrote its principal ideologue Mohit Sen in New Age, had 'placed a heavy responsibility on our shoulders.' The Communists, he argued, had 'ceased to become the object of history and become its subject. not so much the product, as the producer of history.'

History may no longer be on the side of the Red Flag but the 'eminent historians' remain undaunted by the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the socialist fatherland. Encouraged by the best election results for the Left in independent India, the Communists have reassumed their role as the 'producer of history.'

Over the past two months, the country has been witness to a frenzied bid by the Left to purge the intellectual factories of all possible sources of contamination and replace them with dollops of dogmatic certitude. If Syed Nurul Hasan was their compliant battering ram in the 1970s, Human Resources Development Minister Arjun Singh has emerged as his worthy successor today.

The target isn't merely a handful of history textbooks. The NCERT has climbed new heights of intolerance by targeting books that smack even remotely of religion. The translation of a classical Tamil text, the compilation of Hindu religious verses and even the innocuous collation of international documents on education have been sought to be withdrawn from circulation.

Former NCERT chief J S Rajput has been declared a non-person and all traces of him have been ordered to be expunged.

The National Book Trust has been passed on to a historian who makes no bones about his admiration for the underlying objectives of the Emergency.

The vice-chancellor of Jamia Milia University has unveiled plans to create new temples of Jawaharlal Nehru worship on the campus.

Even a national storehouse of archival material like the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library is being sought to be handed over to a director who has the requisite degree of pinkness.

Communist cronyism has been elevated to the level of policy. It has been made sufficiently clear that to get places in academia you must first get a no-objection certificate from the Irfan Habibs and Bipan Chandras.

From chaprasi to vice-chancellor, the Left wants a stranglehold over academia, particularly the social science departments.

What is striking is that the purges are being tom-tomed quite openly. Apparatchiks of the CPI, it is said, have prepared a blacklist of undesirables who must be removed from the government-controlled media.

Information and Broadcasting Minister S Jaipal Reddy was publicly criticised by the Communists for allegedly dragging his feet on the purge of Doordarshan News.

Having achieved the exit of professional journalists, the Communists now want Reddy to throw out M V Kamath as chairman of Prasar Bharti and all NDA appointees from the Censor Board.

N M Ghatate has been compelled to resign from the Law Commission because he, apart from being a former BJP member, is a friend of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

A committee on education is being established which will be dominated by Leftists, Sahmat-style secularists who pride themselves on being anti-Hindu, and friends of a powerful Madhya Pradesh-cadre IAS officer in the HRD ministry.

The intolerance of the Communists is well known. They make no bones of their disavowal of civility and pluralism. It was their favourite Ashok Mitra who, when he was finance minister of West Bengal in the 1980s, proudly proclaimed he was a Communist, not a gentleman. However, and fortunately, the Leftists don't control the entire UPA. There are Congressmen who are aware of the havoc caused by the Left.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has a family knowledge of how the 'eminent historians' once preferred a card-carrying CPI mediocrity to a distinguished, non-Left historian for a Delhi University professorship. Why has he chosen to look the other way? Wouldn't a gentle word of caution from Race Course Road help? And why has the media meekly acquiesced in the Left assault on Doordarshan? If another regime had meddled in the workings of a newsroom, wouldn't the hacks in the Press Club shouted blue murder? Wouldn't they have all worked up about democracy being jeopardised?

Yet, apart from the usual suspects, we haven't noticed too many voices raised in protest. Apart from the UPA government still enjoying its honeymoon, the indulgence seems to be born of a belief that the shenanigans of the Left are harmless grandstanding. Since politicians are prone to create jobs for the boys, playing with academia is seen to be a bit of Left jobbery.

It may well be a case of it's-our-turn-now but that shouldn't minimise its dangerous implication. Unlike the Congress which believes in accommodating its supporters in positions of importance, the Left wants to influence policy. More important, it wants to control the way the country thinks and future generations think. The Left is playing for a long haul. It was precisely such a long-term planning that enabled the Left, for example, to exercise such a stranglehold over history departments in the universities. It resulted in all other traditions of historiography being edged out of Indian academia. Even the works of stalwarts like Sir Jadunath Sarkar and R C Majumdar were taboo for students.

The Left used Indira Gandhi and the Emergency to inveigle itself into positions of influence in India's intellectual centres. This time its objectives are even more ambitious. It aims to affect a purge of the non-Left. We have seen the beginnings in the sphere of education but there are signs that the media could also be a target.

In battling the Left, very little should be left to chance.

Swapan Dasgupta

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Number of User Comments: 69

Sub: I don't understand

May there are some misundersanding between us because of our different cultures.

Posted by hungrywait

Sub: Worst Example (contd)

Continued ... And also everything what you are suppose to know should be there in our hostory books.. We should only know about Rana Pratap ...

Posted by Joy

Sub: Worst Example (contd)

contd.... On the other hand Shahjahan cut the fingers of his own karigars who build the magnificient Taj Mahal.. And they also went to Rajasthan ...

Posted by Joy

Sub: Worst example

After reading the article i thought what if in this country we have more of these feudal people who want change the history to turn ...

Posted by Joy Mukherjee

Sub: Communists! Keep off education

Indian Communists have played miserably with the education. Distorted and wrong history and propaganda were the contribution of the Left and their fellow-travelers in the ...

Posted by Kiran B



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