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Saffronization of education
By AN Shibli

In yet another attempt to saffronize education and pollute the minds of young children on communal lines the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Gujarat has ordered all secondary and senior secondary schools in the state to subscribe to Sadhana, roughly a Gujarati version of the RSS weekly mouthpiece Panchjanya. A circular by the state school commissioner describes Sadhna as ‘refined well-cultured and very good.’

This is a well-known fact that Panchjanya and its sister publication Organizer in English are published with the sole objective of spreading the ideology of Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh and propagate Hindutva. Every issue of Panchjanya and Organizer contain distorted stories to defame minorities specially Muslims and Christian.

This is not the first time when a BJP led government in a state has tried to use academic institutions to spread Hindu ideology and hatred against minorities particularly among Muslims children.

A book on social studies meant for class IX in Gujarat is said to contain the following excerpts: ‘Mahmud (of Ghazni) destroyed ten thousand temples at Kannauj, killed its inhabitants and seized their wealth. Why these atrocities? Because Islam teaches only atrocities. Apart from Muslims, even Christian, Parsis and some others are recognized as minority. Yet in some states Hindus are in minority and Muslims, Christians and Sikhs are in majority. Islam teaches only atrocities. Have not Islamic invaders perpetrated this wherever they have gone, be it India, Africa or Europe?’

The Sanskrit course teaches: ‘Thousands of opponents of idol, the followers of Islam, go to the pilgrimage centre of the Islamic community at the Ka’ba to worship the Shivalingam.’. Some questions with answers in the very same book are as follow:

‘Why is the Babri Masjid not a mosque?’ ‘Because Muslims till today have never offered Namaz there.’ ‘Between 1528 and 1914, how many devotees of Rama laid down their lives to liberate the Ram temple?’ ‘Three lakh fifty thousand.’ Other questions of the book include, when did Ramabhakta Karsewaks unfurl the saffron flag on the Shri Ram Janambhoomi, and mention the name of the boys who laid down their lives while unfurling the saffron flag.

The schools all over the country, sponsored by Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh (RSS) are twisting history to suit their ideology. The curriculum is well stocked with the details of how the Ram temple belonged to the Hindus and how Muslims demolished it. A book, which is compulsory for students in over 14,000 schools run by the Vidya Bharatiya Akhil Bharatiya Siksha Sansthan, has a question and answer series on Ram Janamabhoomi.

The book is a question bank for the Akhil Bharatiya Sanskrit Gyaan Pariksha, which is being taught to class VII students in Lucknow. The first chapter of the book has a map of Akhand Bharat, which includes Pakistan and Bangladesh. Even Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar’s name has been changed to Dr Bhim Rao Upadhya Babasaheb Ramji Ambedkar.

Some distorted questions and answers of the book are:

Question: How many Ram Bhakts laid down their lives to get the Ram Mandir free from 1528 to 1992? Answer: Three lakh forty thousand. Question: When did the District Judge, Mr KM Pandey order opening of the locks of the Ram Temple? Answer: On February 01, 1986. Question: When did the Shila Poojan for the construction of Ram Temple begin? Answer: September 30, 1989. Question: Who first constructed a temple at the birthplace of Lord Sri Ram? Answer: Son of Sri Ram, King Kush. Question: Which Mughal invader demolished Ram Mandir in 1528? Answer: Babar. Question: When did the Muslims decide to willingly hand over Ram Temple to Hindu? Answer: in 1857.

The new curriculum framework drawn up by NCERT has sparked off a fierce debate among the academicians. The new curriculum stresses on spirituality, education about religion, value-based education, teaching of Sanskrit and emphasizes on the traditional social order. Majority of academicians have criticized the new curriculum of the NCERT. Anil Sadgopal, eminent educationists and head of the department of education, University of Delhi said that while Sanskrit is important and should be taught to those pursuing subjects where knowledge of Sanskrit is relevant, it should not be made compulsory. Criticizing the NCERT’s attempts to introduce spiritual values and value education he said, ‘it is a tactful manner of introducing the Brahminical value system. Values are derived from humanism, ‘insaniyat’, whereas the assumption of NCERT is that all values are derived from religion.

Former MP and editor of Urdu Weekly Akhbar-e-Nau, M. Afzal told The Milli Gazette that Joshi and Company are trying to hijack the multi-religious and multi-lingual identity of India. Raising the issue of Babri Masjid they are diverting the attention of Muslims from their hidden agenda. On asking about the role of Shahnawaz Hussain, a central minister, he said ‘What do you expect from a person who has not seen even a single file related to his ministry in the last two or three months. He has no work there. It is a direct insult to a person who is an elected member. Considering his insult he should resign.

At UGC office not even a single person was ready to talk to this writer on the topic. On repeated requests, an official on anonymity said, ‘There is no such attempt in higher education. It may be on school level or in the curriculum of NCERT but I am not aware of it.

Recently inaugurating the last annual session of the Indian History Congress (IHC) in Calcutta the Nobel Laureate, Dr Amartya Sen said, ‘there was an organized attempt in India to write a history manoeuvered to suit a slanted agenda in contemporary politics. Such an attempt was being made with arbitrary augmentation of a narrowly sectarian view of India’s past, along with undermining its magnificently multi-religious history.’ Former Chief Minister of West Bengal Jyoti Basu also criticized the attempt to rewrite history and saffronization of education. He said, ‘unfortunately, today, some religious fanatics under the guise of historians, are using history as a tool to take us backward. Basu criticized those schools which according to him are ‘RSS paid schools and which have drawn a new map of India in their own textbooks, where Burma, Bangladesh, Pakistan and part of Nepal are shown to be a part of India.

It will not be wrong to say that ever since Murli Manohar Joshi joined the Human Resource Development ministry(HRD) it has changed into Hindutva Revival Department. He appointed the persons of saffron mind on higher posts in academic institutes like ICHR and NCERT. His major attempt to saffronize education was seen during the conference of Education Ministers in Delhi in 1998, where he had tried to start the conference with Saraswati Vandana. Joshi’s devilish attempt was halted with the walkout of education ministers of 12 states when Saraswati Vandana was included as a part of inaugural session. The walkout was supported not only by the states, which were ruled by Congress, Janata Dal, Rashtriya Janata Dal but also by BJP allies like Akali Dal, AIDMK, Telugu Desham Party and Trinamul Congress. After powerful agitation from the education ministers of different states not only he withdrew the objectionable portion of the agenda but also cancelled the presentation of Purshottamdas Chatlangia.

Everybody knows that Chitlangia, a Calcutta based industrialist is the president of educational institutions. Due to the powerful criticism by Education Ministers the following agenda was dropped from the conference:

Reforming the curriculum by indianizing, nationalizing and spiritualizing it, devoting 10-25 percent of the course content to essentials of Indian culture at all levels, making Sanskrit compulsory from class III to X and setting up a Sanskrit University, incorporating a course on Indian philosophy in all higher education and introducing a moral and spiritual education at all stages and in all schools are aimed at saffronization of education.

Despite a lot of proofs, evidences and criticism from noted educationist Joshi never accepted that there is anything wrong in his style of working. In a television interview to the editor of the Pioneer, Chandan Mitra on DD News Joshi refuted allegations that the educational system was being saffronized. He also denied that he appointed only those people who are ideologically close to the BJP and the RSS.

It is the responsibility of secular forces and noted educationist of secular mind to remain alert and united so that education is not saffronized and history is not rewritten or distorted.

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