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Astrology to be introduced as a regular course
By P.M. Damodaran

LUCKNOW: Lucknow University is set to become one among the first varsities in the country to introduce a course in Jyotir Vigyan (vedic astrology) even as the opposition parties as well as the ruling allies and scientists are preparing to challenge what they called as attempts at ‘saffronizing’ education by the central government. The Lucknow University’s decision to introduce Vedic astrology as a course has come in the wake of a stern warning given to the centre by a meeting of non-BJP chief ministers and education ministers not to meddle with the education curriculum. Besides a case challenging the controversial University Grant Commission’s (UGC) decision to start courses in Vedic astrology is pending in the Supreme Court.

According to the Lucknow University decision, the post-graduate course in astrology will begin from this academic session itself (late September) and undergraduate stream from next year. The new astrology department will have a professor, a reader and two lecturers. For the time being the department will be under the Sanskrit department of the University. The UGC has given a grant of Rs.1.5 million to the University for this purpose.

The vice-chancellor of Lucknow University, Prof. D.P. Singh, an ardent Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) man, is apparently taking keen interest in the project that was launched at the instance of the Human Resources Development Minister, Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi. Prof. Singh was the Sangh chalak of Kashi Pranth unit of the RSS. He is reportedly close to the former RSS chief Prof. Rajendra Singh, better known as Rajju Bhaiyya.

In fact the monsoon session of the Lok Sabha was rocked for two days in August over the attempt of the government to ‘saffronize” education. Significantly those who opposed the government attempt in the House included the ruling DMK and Samata Party members. They wanted the government to withdraw the circular issued by the UGC in this respect. On the other hand, Dr. Joshi defended his government’s decision to introduce Vedic astrology as a subject in the varsities pointing out that the subject was even being taught in the universities in the U.S. and U.K. But his claim proved to be a lie as no university in the two western countries were teaching Vedic astrology as a subject. Only some varsities are offering courses in Vedic astrology through correspondence course.

The Marxists are apparently more concerned about the government’s attempt at ‘saffronizing” the education. It is evident from their statements and convening a meeting of non-BJP chief ministers and education ministers in Delhi on September1 by the West Bengal Chief Minister, Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to chalk out a plan of action to checkmate the Sangh Parivar’s agenda. Mr. Bhattacharjee received a boost when even representatives from two ruling National Democratic alliance-ruled states of Meghalaya and Jammu and Kashmir participated at the meeting. The meeting called upon the central government not to go ahead with its plans before evolving a national consensus on education policy.

The members in the Lok Sabha and the speakers at the non-BJP chief ministers’ meeting alleged that the government was pursuing the Sangh Parivar agenda on ‘saffronization’. They pointed out that the government was trying to introduce Vedic astrology, Vedic mathematics, and pourohitya in the education curriculum as a part of its agenda. The role of the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) had also come in for sharp criticism. The present director of NCERT, Mr. J.S. Rajput, is a follower and, in fact, a student of the HRD Minister. The NCERT claimed that the experts had formulated the National Curriculum Framework for School Education. But the experts who, the NCERT claims, were behind its formulation have disowned their involvement.

The opponents of the ‘saffronization’ of education have expressed their fears that the government was trying to adopt the syllabus being followed by the Saraswati Shishu Mandirs run by the RSS-controlled Vidya Bharati in the general education in the country. The books being taught in Shishu Mandirs were attracting criticism during the past few years. In a book being taught in the 20,000-odd Saraswati Shishu Mandirs, it was mentioned that the Mughal emperor Babur had destroyed the Ram Temple in Ayodhya in 1528 and 3.5 lakh devotees of Rama had laid down their lives to liberate the temple!

In the meantime, a case was filed by some scientists in the Supreme Court seeking to quash the controversial government decision to start Vedic astrology courses in the universities. The apex court has issued notices to the HRD ministry and the UGC in the case. The petitioners have assailed the decision of the UGC to start jyotir vigyan on the ground that Vedic astrology as a science has not been tested or proved and to introduce it as a course in universities was “illogical and irrational”. The petitioners also said that the scientific community considered “the action (of the UGC) as a giant leap backwards undermining whatever scientific credibility the country has achieved so far.”

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