Mainstream, VOL LII, No 41, October 4, 2014
Cows, Candles and the Akhand Rashtra: Being Dinanath Batra
Monday 6 October 2014
by Navneet Sharma, Harikrishnan B. and Pradeep Nair
“Pakistan and Bangladesh are the 31st and 32nd states of India. Cow is our national animal. Swadeshi is my birthright. The Indraprastha is the Capital of the Akhand Hindu Rashtra. Hindi is our national language. ‘Ma Bharti’ is our national anthem. The national flag is of saffron colour. Hinduism is the oldest civilisation and the Nobel Prize is instituted in the name of Dinanath Batra.”
In this commentary, we wish to appreciate Batra’s attempt of writing and re-writing the history of India. His attempt for re-constitution of the moral fabric of India is also worth appreciation and analysis. For this, we would undertake the analysis of some ‘texts’ written by Dinanath Batra. At the conclusive end, we might suggest, if that is not blasphemy, why is the ‘teaching-learning’ attempt undertaken by him in his texts a source of indoctrination rather than education.
Being a student or being a teacher would not be easy in the times of Batra. One can be ‘guru’ or ‘disciple’ only. One would need not reason with the unreason perpetuated by the ‘texts’ written by Batra. The only problem, seemingly to Batra, is that Indians have grown too ‘Marxist’ and ‘Macaulayvian’. Somehow, Batra pushes for his agenda forcibly, when there is a Rightist Government at the helm, raises more problems for the ‘liberal’ agenda of his ‘own’ government. The problem with Batra’s approach is that it stands in contrast to Modi’s plank of develop-ment on which he won the massive mandate.
Reading Batra, one may presume that there are ‘scientific’ narratives about foetus trans-plant, sex change operations, creating LoCs, missiles, aphrodisiacs, helicopters, human flying, satellite transmissions, body implants when ‘Hindu’ texts refer to the ‘mythical’ transfer of Balaram, Shikhandi, Lakshman Rekha, Agni Baan,Dhritrashtra having 100 sons, Pushpak Viman,Hanuman crossing sea, Akashvanis,Ganesh getting a trunk face and many more. Comprehending Batra one may conclude that modern science and technology is nothing but footnotes to the works of fiction. The above may be a different ‘perspective’ on education or ‘indianisation’ of education catering to the whims, fancies and fantasy of Batra, but it attracts attention and scrutiny when this is made part of the curriculum and textbooks. The learners with ‘impressionable’ minds are given to ‘indoctri-nation’ rather than education, and in turn what we get is the ‘dedicated’ citizenry or blind-folded followers rather than ‘conscientised’ people for the country.
Usually, indoctrination refers to the moulding of children in somewhat the same way that propaganda refers to the moulding of adults. Sometimes it simply means influencing the immature; sometimes it means influencing them in a particular way, as by a play upon their feelings; and sometimes it means dealing with them in such a manner as to hinder their freedom of thought in a certain area. The RSS and people like Batra and their ilk have always followed the ‘catch-them-young’ policy for the above reason only.
Batra and fundamentalists like him do the same and disguise it in the name of education. For example, when Batra opposes the idea of blowing off candles on birthdays, he argues that this is not ‘Indian’. Batra might not appreciate that his idea of being an ’Indian’ confines it to the ‘fair, dwija, north Indian male’. Though the beginning of the custom of putting candles on birthday cakes stays obscure, it is widely believed that it has Greek origins. The Greek used to present offerings to the Moon God with candles. There are mentions about the tradition of putting candles along with birthday cakes from 18th century Germany as well. Though it is not very clear who started putting the candles on the cake and blowing them off, there are assumptions that this started as part of the practical wisdom of not to get the melting wax mixed with the cake. Anyway, as the birthday cakes got popular, so do the custom of blowing candles.
However, the murmurs against blowing candles are not new. The RSS had always taken this particular stand against this custom. The RSS leaders made a lot fuss when Atal Behari Vajpayee cut the cake after blowing off candles on his 71st birthday when he was the prime ministerial candidate for the NDA. For Batra, cakes and candles are more an extension of the White Christian invaders and their culture, not to mention blowing off the candles. Anyway, it was not just the RSS which were anti-cake in history. Religious hardliners like Puritans have opposed it, extending their protests against religious festivals, even to family occasions like birthday celebrations. On this, other religious fundamentalists like the ‘Islamists’ might come close to sharing Batra’s Hindu fairy-tale aka ‘parikatha’.
If indoctrination means influencing unfairly, as by a biased presentation of the evidence, or by a premature appeal to authority, or by immediate resort to emotional appeal, or by the other tricks employed among adults by unscrupulous propagandists, the use of indoctri-nation in school is subject to all the criticisms levelled at the use of propaganda outside of school plus the indictment that advantage is being taken of immaturity.
It is akin to Batra’s love (others, funda-mentalists included) for the ‘cow’ or ‘gomata’. Cows have been more than just bovine in the Indian political cow pen. Time and again cows are being dragged into the sacred realm no matter what they do. It is obviously up to the practitioners of the religion to consider it as a sacred animal as part of their religious beliefs, but when the sacredness is pushed to the primary school students in the form of supple-mentary knowledge, cows just turn out to be unquestionable holy cows.
In this reference, indoctrination is defined as any kind of teaching which hampers indepen-dent thinking in a given field, or any effort to secure acceptance of an idea in such a fashion as does not thereby help, as best as possible, to make the learner an independent judge in such matters.
While education actually aims at enabling the learner to understand different perspectives and to approach them critically, the holy cows in the holy supplementary reader starts indoctrinating, not educating. Obviously, when the cow is sacred, counting it as bovine or as part of diet, become sacrilegious. Though Hindu scriptures have conflicting accounts which suggest that people belonging to the higher strata of the society were also beef-eaters, the alleged sacredness of the cow now cuts off the present beef-eaters to be anti-Hindu and may be anti-nationals. Well, the same reasons which make the cow sacred can also be applied to Water Buffalo, then why is it not counted sacred?
With globalisation and advances in communi-cation technologies, the world is slated to shrink as a global village. But ethnic and cultural strife across the world is giving birth to new nations on a day-to-day basis. However, Batra still strolls in the idea of large expansionist campaigns with which rulers like Alexander wanted to extend the geographical boundaries of their empire. As per Batra, the real India— Akhand Bharat—actually exists scattered into different countries, including all the immediate neighbours like India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Thinking on the same line, countries which were part of the ancient Gondwanaland should be brought under a monolithic Gondwanaland, which will make us a much bigger and richer nation indeed. People who are intolerant about India’s present diversity, dreaming about adding more number of culturally and ethnically different communities under an undivided India could be a good example of irony for upper primary students. But when Batra’s book tries to supplement the knowledge gained in the learning process, the call for Akhand Bharat turns out to be a ‘historically’ supported fact, not irony, for facts are sacred and not to be challenged.
Education as contrasted with indoctri-nation is said to be a process of teaching the pupil how to think rather than what to think. Its object is not to secure the acceptance of any doctrine whatever, but to assist the learner to choose or develop his own doctrines. Any teacher who transmits ready-made conclusions is aband-oning teaching for indoctrination if the process is of such a type as to restrict the pupil’s ability to reach his own conclusions. The learner in this case is not supposed to visualise the idea of India but to abide by the idea of larger ‘Hindu’ Rashtra, the nation where the majoritarian Hindu benevolently accommodates other religionists for the sake of genial and ‘Hindutva’-guided cultural nationalism.
Education and indoctrination are two very different processes wherein one can say that indoctrination is a counter-process of education. Education has some aims associated with it which are not in consonance with the objectives of any kind of indoctrination. Indoctrination is against many educational aims.
Indoctrination overrides rationality, the deve-lopment of which is one of the important aims of education. Education should emphasise on developing a rational attitude in human being but indoctrination is intended to get one to accept the indoctrinator’s views without any rational method. Education should emphasise on the development of values based on reason and understanding whereas indoctrination doesn’t consider these aspects.
Education should be aimed at the indepen-dence of action and thought but indoctrination is about developing unshakable commitment through non-rational methods by changing the beliefs of a person. The beliefs formed through indoctrination can’t be open to dialogue and scrutiny due to the unshakable commitment but education emphasises on the individual’s independence for his/her own actions and thoughts, irrespective of any externally indoctri-nated belief.
The above issues clearly demarcate Batra and his kind as ‘indoctrinators’ rather than ‘educators’. We do not have any problem with whosoever makes a choice to submit or surrender to indoctrination, but this process must not be expressed as one of education and befool the people.
When the above is taught in a shakha, this is identified as ‘ideology’ but when this is taught in a school— ‘state-run school’— it is perceived as ‘knowledge’. Ideology as knowledge is more harmful than ideology and its hegemonic dominance. Batra stands guilty of the sin committed at the altar of knowledge. We as citizens can either take a call or wait for ‘Saraswati’ or ‘Vidya’mata to punish him for this sacrilege.
Navneet Sharma, Ph.D, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Teacher Education, School of Education, Central University of Himachal Pradesh (Dharamshala, Kangra district). Harikrishnan B. is an Assistant Professor in Department of Journalism and Creative Writing, Central University of Himachal Pradesh. Pradeep Nair, Ph.D, is an Associate Professor and Head in the Department of Mass Communication and Electronic Media, Central University of Himachal Pradesh.