Home > 2017 > What is the RSS Agenda in Education?

Mainstream, VOL LV No 42 New Delhi October 7, 2017

What is the RSS Agenda in Education?

Monday 9 October 2017

by Ram Puniyani

In its recommendation to the NCERT, the Shiksha Sanskriti Uthan Nyas, an RSS affiliate, asks for removal of English, Urdu and Arabic words, the thoughts of Rabindranath Tagore; extracts from painter M.F. Husain’s autobio-graphy; references to the Mughal emperors as benevolent, to the BJP as a “Hindu” party, an apology tendered by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the 1984 riots; and a sentence that “nearly 2000 Muslims were killed in Gujarat in 2002”. (July 25, 2017) As such these recent recommendations to the NCERT are a continuation of the same agenda which is working for its goal of Hindu Rashtra.

Education has been the major area of work for the RSS all through. Since it has a view of nationalism which is opposed to the concept of Indian nationalism, it already had made a lot of efforts to promote its views through Shakhas, through Sarswati Shishu Mandirs and through Ekal Schools. It has set up organisations to influence the policies in the field of education like Vidya Bharati. It has also started putting its followers in the top positions in universities and major research institutes of the country. The previous BJP-led NDA regime had already started the process of saffronisation by changing the school books and by introducing like courses like Paurohitya (priest craft) and Karmakand (rituals). The attempt to bring in their viewpoint on ancient, medieval and modern history have been intensified during the last few years (from 2014) with the BJP being in the seat of power. The RSS leaders have been interacting with the MHRD Ministry to overall change the education system. One can say that the gradual changes in education and the forthcoming education policy by the BJP is aimed at bringing it in tune with globalisation, privatisation along with the Hindutva agenda of manuwad.

The type of education aimed to be introduced intends to change the thinking pattern of the coming generations. The goal is to instil a pattern in consonance with the Brahminical norms, to promote an orthodox medieval mindset and to undermine the scientific temper. Now at a recent meeting their leaders are saying that the past governments have written history and other subjects the way they wanted. It was their history. Now it’s time to teach genuine history and take the education system in the right direction. Their aim is to introduce “Project Bhartiyakaran” in education.

Already there are signs that RSS volunteers are out to change the total education system and the content of history, social science and other books. Even before the BJP-led NDA Government came to power, with the rise of Modi on the political firmament, with the perception that he is likely to come to power, the Right-wing organisations intensified their offensive against genuine scholarship. Dinanath Batra, of the Shiksha Bachao Abhiyan Samiti and the RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas for many decades, succeeded in pressuring Penguin, the world’s largest publisher, to pulp Wendy Doniger’s scholarly book The Hindus: An Alternate History. This book brings out, through the interpretation of mythology, the need to understand the caste and gender aspects in a sensitive manner. The history she has focused on goes against the hierarchical mindset of the RSS combine and so pressure was put to pulp it. Already a set of nine books, authored by Batra, have been translated into Gujarati and introduced in the 42,000 schools in Gujarat. This may be a trial run before doing similar things on larger scale. Union Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu (now the Vice-President) explicitly stated as early as last year (June 23, 2013) that “it (the BJP) will change the textbook syllabi, if it returns to power”. Batra wants that a nationalistic education system has to be developed to address the requirements and through this a young genertion committed to Hindutva and nationalism has to be developed.

As a part of this scheme of things the Hindu mythology is looked up as a part of history. All the RSS pronouncements, like Aryans were the original natives of this land, are being given a higher projection. The distorted interpretation of Mohanjo Daro/Harappa being the Aryan civilisation are being presented forcefully and a lot of money is being spent in the research of the river Saraswati and to prove the historicity of Ramayana and Mahabharata. These two epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, are being given the status of History and attempts are being made to introduce these in the schools as part of the History curriculum. The assertions that this civilisation had achieved all the peaks of development in stem cell research, aviation (Pushpak Vimana), plastic surgery are being brought in as the part of ‘our’ achievements.

Similar distortions in the medieval period have been made part of the curriculum. Now it is being said that the Qutub Minar was built by emperor Samudragupta and its real name was Vishnu Stambha. At another level, the battles for power between Shivaji and Afzal Khan, the battle between Akbar and Maharana Pratap, Guru Govind Singh and Aurangzeb, are being given a religious colour. The syncretic traditions, the core of the spirit of India, are being sidelined and sectarianism is at the forefront in this version of history.

These changes have come under scholarly criticism from the professional, progressive, secular historians. Even earlier when the previous NDA regime made similar changes in books, the term ‘saffronisation of education’ for this presentation of history was used. Now this process is being done very blatantly. The ideological understanding of the RSS, that all the kings who fought against the Muslim rulers were Hindu nationalists is being openly propagated. It’s a total distortion of the under-standing of history as kings did not fight for religion; their fights were for power and wealth. And kings of the same religion also had running battles with each other.

With present recommendations to the NCERT, the agenda of Hindu nationalism is marching in a crude way. The ancient, medieval modern History is being given a tilt along with doing away with the scientific temper. It seems the RSS is out to create not just history but a whole knowledge system running parallel to its worldview of sectarian nationalism.

The author, a retired Professor at the IIT-Bombay, is currently associated with the Centre for the Study of Secularism and Society, Mumbai.

ISSN : 0542-1462 / RNI No. : 7064/62