Date: Mon, 13 Dec 1999 21:28:28 -0600 (CST)
Copyright 1999 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Right-wing Eye Control of Culture and Education
Commentary by Praful Bidwai, IPS, 10 dec 1999
NEW DELHI, Dec 10 (IPS) - Ananth Kumar, junior minister for culture, has just launched a youth programme, 'Vande Mataram', named after a controversial ultra-nationalist song which glorifies "Hindu India".
The programme includes production of cassettes of Hindu nationalist music, films on India's wars with Pakistan, youth festivals, culminating in a so-called millennium youth parliament. The emphasis is on inculcating "pure" and militant patriotism among the young generation.
Kumar is a long-standing member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) fanatical parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which was banned following Mahatma Gandhi's assassination by a Hindu bigot inspired by its ideology. The RSS used to characterise Gandhi as a traitor to the cause of Hindu nationalism.
Vande Mataram is only one of the initiatives of the BJP-led government. The most important part of their campaign relates to the systematic takeover of institutions responsible for the design of school curricula and national agendas in social science and historical research.
The BJP-nominated hardline Education Minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, has stuffed key organisations with loyalists or mediocre men. These include the University Grants Commission, All India Council of Technical Education, the Indian Council of Social Sciences and Historical Research, and Indian Institute of Advanced Study.
However, it is in the primary and secondary education areas, where younger minds can be influenced, that the BJP is causing the greatest damage. It has altered key personnel in the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), National Institute for Educational Planning and Administration, and National Open School (NOS), which has over a million pupils.
NCERT is charged with writing textbooks for secondary schools, which serve as models for all the 25 states of India, although they are not legally obliged to follow the national syllabus. NCERT and its associates, including the NOS, have been ordered to undertake comprehensive curriculum revision, the first such exercise since 1976.
They are in the process of preparing "Guidelines" and "Discussion Papers" which are meant to lay down the norms for writing textbooks, and stipulate the core values and objectives of education.
These will be eventually scrutinised by a Review Committee, which too is headed by a former Supreme Court judge known for a verdict favouring the Hindu-communal ideology of the BJP.
Some of the Discussion Papers go way beyond their general remit and specify some of the substantial content of textbooks. For instance, a paper prepared within the NOS system contains the following formulations about "Bharatiya" (predominantly Hindu- Indian) "culture" and identity.
Indians are "a race". More, they have "a mission" and "destiny" as a race.
"Bharatiya culture is the only culture which has understood the life problems (sic!) in their totality ... In the history of the world, it is the only effort to see the science, philosophy, religion, psychology and social life in an integrated form."
"Bharat excelled in every branch of Science ... Our sages realised reality lying in every sphere of life."
Such views deny the plain truth that India has since ancient times been a multi-cultural, multi-religious, syncretic society. The Discussion Papers greatly exaggerate ancient India's achievements and present the country as a victim of repeated foreign aggressions and invasions, especially from Islam. They argue that the time has now come for Indians (read Hindus) to assert themselves.
NOS and NCERT insiders say that the BJP's effort is to redesign curricula on the model of the RSS-run Vidya Bharati (VB) school system. This comprises 6,000 schools, with 1.2 million children and 40,000 teachers. In states ruled by the BJP singly or in alliance, these have been integrated into the official state-run education system.
The VB textbooks were recently scrutinised by an expert committee which concluded on the basis of elaborate, meticulous analysis, that they are "designed to promote bigotry and religious fanaticism in the name of inculcating knowledge of culture in the young generation."
The VB textbooks describe ancient India as the only civilised part of the world, which "for 3,000 years" was seen "with greedy eyes by the marauders, barbarous invaders and oppressive rulers ... To our ancestors these marauders were like mosquitoes and flies who were crushed."
According to them, the Vedas 2,500 years ago had secret formulas for building planes, even nuclear weapons!
The VB textbooks are notorious for their defence of obnoxious practices such as 'sati' or widow burning, the most extreme forms of male chauvinism, caste oppression, and "Aryan supremacy". They resemble in no small way the kind of texts that were produced in Hitler's Germany which too stressed Aryan "purity".
The BJP-led government may or may not last its term. But the damage caused by such malicious "education" is likely to outlast generations of Indians.
Origin: New Delhi/POLITICS-INDIA/
[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)