BJP’s ‘National Agenda’ for Edn:


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BJP’s ‘National Agenda’ for Education:
an instrument of cultural fascism

Nalini Taneja
(The author teaches history and is an activist of the
DemocraticTeachers' Front, University of Delhi)

While an impression is sought to be created that the BJP is holding back its agenda in deference to a large body of opinion in the country being opposed to it, on the ground the BJP has been having a field day in pushing through its programmes. It is concentrating on and going full steam ahead on the cultural – educational front in polarising society along communal lines. There is an attempt to Hinduise the educational system, root out liberal and leftist influences, and to re-write history in order to justify its anti-minority outlook. This is evident not only from the much publicised agenda sought to be implemented at the recent State Education Ministers’ Conference but also from the massive text book revision undertaken by the Sangh Parivar in keeping with this design.

Much of their agenda is incorporated through moral education and general knowledge texts that concentrate on inculcating a Hindu consciousness and ‘pride in being a Hindu’. In the Government schools in the BJP ruled states and in the 20,000 odd Vidya Bharti schools and the shishu mandirs all over the country, the prescribed syllabus presents Indian culture as Hindu culture, totally denying its pluralistic character and the contribution of the minorities to the creation of the Indian identity. Everything Indian is shown to be of Hindu origin and the minorities are characterised as foreigners owing their first allegiance to political forces outside this country.

In the name of ‘Indianised nationalised and spiritualised’ education there is an attempt to polarise and divide people along religious lines by communalising their consciousness. Through a distortion and concoction of facts there is an effort to reconstruct history and tradition along communal and sectarian lines. In fact it becomes quite clear what the agenda paper at the Conference meant the abrogation of the Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution. Uma Bharti, the Union Minister of State in the Ministry of Human Resources has not taken long to pronounce that the Kashmir problem finds its roots in the teaching pattern in the Madrasas and that there is a need to closely monitor them.

Thanks to these books and the efforts of their ‘dedicated’ teachers lakhs of children grow up with prejudice and hatred towards the minorities, considering them alien, and a total ignorance of our composite and rich cultural heritage. By wanting to make Sanskrit and the Upanishads and Vedas compulsory in schools to the exclusion of other texts they deny not only the secular character of our cultural heritage but also the significance of popular cultural expression and languages in the making of Indian culture.

The homogenised and predominantly Hindu picture of Indian identity these texts present is contrary to facts and to peoples’ historical experience. Inspite of their verbal diatribe against Macaulay, they adopt, lock stock and barrel, the Orientalist Western British Imperialist sponsored theory that sees Eastern societies as unique and incapable of modern development independently. They have also conveniently appropriated the British divide and rule paradigm of Hindus and Muslims as separate civilisational entities that cannot survive together in peace. How much of their ideological ammunition has its source in the most reactionary theories of imperialist domination is a fact that should be talked about much more and be exposed for what it represents. These theories are asserted in the face of over whelming evidence to the contrary

A massive survey project by the Anthropological Survey of India published in the form of a series called People of India proves a number of points which give lie to the lies of the Sangh Parivar. It shows that approximately more than 4000-odd communities inhabit this country and their cultural profile is rooted and shaped by their relationship with their environment their occupational status their language, etc., primarily and that religion falls way down in the construction of their identities. This survey also shows that Hindus and Muslims share more than 95% characteristics of various kinds that are common and that it is shared lives that have given shape the diverse cultural expressions. Among other things the studies also show that nobody today can be characterised as an original inhabitant or a foreigner. The racial mixture is also diverse and encompasses many racial types that the communal forces today identify as ‘Muslim’.

In the history texts the old communal interpretation of history reigns supreme. The Aryans are shown as the original inhabitants of India and the builders of Indian civilisation and the coming of Muslims an intrusion that shattered the imagined homogeneity of Indian diaspora. In their imagination it was an attack of proportions that only Macaulay equalled. The ancient period of history, especially the Mauryan and the Gupta period, is painted as a ‘Golden because the rulers during this time are seen to be Hindus, and the medieval centuries as the advent of darkness threat to culture, and an attack on Indian civilization. The Moghul kings, especially Aurangzeb, are painted as cruel tyrants without reference to the medieval context in which these rulers acted. As far as these texts are concerned the cultural integration and emergence of new forms of cultural expression as a result of shared life translations of religious texts adoption of new dance musical and religious forms did not exist. Bhakti and growth of national languages and literatures of the regional languages are not seen as linked to the context of this shared life.

This communal and sectarian interpretation of history also extends to the study of the National Movement, where the Muslims are painted as the enemies of the nation and responsible for Partition and the Hindu communal forces as the greatest patriots The conflict between the Mughals and the Marathas and Rajputs, also feudal powers are given the status of nationalist struggles. Shivaji and Rana Pratap are great national heroes for their opposition to ‘Muslim power’. Similarly, K.S. Hegdewar and M.S. Golwalkar are great heroes in the books used as part of Sanskar Saurabh series where as Nehru does not find a mention. Among the great men of India no Muslim or or Communist finds reference, where as the most insignificant of Hindu heroes are extolled in extravagant terms. Those who cannot be ignored by any means are appropriated by misrepresenting them and what they stood for, as, for example, Bhagat Singh. The role of the people and popular struggles are also underplayed as unity across religions was quite pronounced in popular struggles and they are not easily open to a sectarian interpretation. Rationality, reason, factual correctness and a democratic perspective are all thrown to the winds in these texts.

Apart from these well known communal interpretations of Indian history there re numerous references, questions, and arguments in favour of the destruction of Babri Masjid, the presentation of the Kar Sevaks of the uninterrupted line of ‘freedom fighters’, of Mulayam Singh Yadav as a ‘mullah’ and murderer of Hindus. Excuses are found to reinforce all these lies not only through history texts but also through questions in the books and in the examinations- in Maths and General Knowledge papers example, questions such as names of people ‘martyred’ during the siege of Babri Masjid and the number of people murdered by the ‘mullah and murderer of Hindus, Mulayam Singh etc.


Religious chauvinism is carried to the extreme in the depiction of the map of India as Akhand Bharat, not only with Pakistan and Bangladesh as parts of it, but also the entire region of Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, and Myanmar. The more popular geographical names are substituted by Hindu names –for example the Indian Ocean as Hind Mahasagar, the Arabian Sea as Sindhu Sagar and so on.

There is a move to change the content of school education in general as well and a review of the NCERT syllabus is an integral part of this move As most of us would remember there was a concerted assault on the NCERT textbooks by the RSS backed political groups even during the Party government in the immediate aftermath of the Emergency. Among the books sought to be banned and consigned to a fascist type of bonfire were the history text books of our most eminent historians like Romila Thapar, RS Sharma and Bipan Chandra because they present a secular view on history. What they did not succeed in doing then they are trying to achieve now under the BJP Government rule. A Review Committee has been formed for the review of syllabus with a chairman whose only claim to fame is his landmark judgement that Hindutva is away of life not religion. The UP State education minister says publicly that by the next session twenty-five textbooks will have to be re-written. The RSS has undertaken to write along communal lines the history of every district, and has a separate Institute for coordinating and giving direction to this effort. Murli Manohar Joshi is already on record that the history and philosophy of foreign lands had prevented universities from becoming centres of learning. It is an indication of what they mean ‘Indianising’ education.


Science is sought to be combined with spirituality, in the name of which obscurantism and chauvinism are freely allowed to masquerade as national pride. Vedic Mathematics was introduced in the UP schools but had to be withdrawn. The recent directives curtailing experiments on animals in laboratories at the initiatives of Maneka Gandhi and sanctioned by the highest authorities in some scientific establishments, if implemented with all its clauses will set back research by decades and next to impossible almost any experiments .

The implementation of the compulsory Saraswati Vandana and Vande Mataram mandate in the Government schools in the BJP ruled states, the renaming of towns and streets, bhajan mandalis, ‘social service’, festivals, even sporting events, particularly cricket matches between India and Pakistan, are transformed into lessons of popular education outside the formal classroom. Internet is now being used as a major media of popular education, with special reference to the NRIs from whom they derive major funds and now increasingly for equipping the middle class with arguments, data, and the intellectual resources to fulfill their leadership role in the communal bandwagon. Land has already been earmarked and according to press reports a few months back, permission has been obtained by the Delhi Government from the relevant authorities, for setting up a Holocaust type of museum on Partition which would reflect the RSS sectarian view of the tragedy One can imagine the consequences of this along with their programme to ‘liberate monuments. These would in fact result in the reconstruction and manipulation of popular memory to suit their diabolical designs.


All this is reinforced by the capture of the institutions of learning and education with the stated goal of influencing the funding and direction of research and educational policy The control over committees and autonomous bodies through the strength of the State apparatus has already resulted in the creation of institutional structures designed to give sanction and legitimacy to the changes that they are pushing through and to survive the life of he present BJP Government. They guarantee the continuance of the fascist agenda even if the BJP Government is defeated at the hustings. The battle for the minds of the Indian people is clearly at a critical stage and the sooner the democratic movement in this country faces this reality, the better equipped it will be to face this onslaught on democracy –for clearly this is what it is. The struggle for a secular –third front in the Parliament is only one dimension of this larger struggle for the defense of democracy and peoples’ dignity


Hindu Rashtra or secular state?

By Tanika Sarkar

THE recent Education Ministers conference proved a stormy
affair, confronted with a draft which recommended the
Indianisation, nationalisation and spiritualisation of
education. The most contentious items were - Sanskrit and the
Vedas-Upanishads as compulsory readings from the primary
stage; obligatory moral instruction and ``home-keeping''
courses for girls. Another proposal - less noticed but equally
significant - is that teachers should have regular orientation
courses on Indianisation. Since the author of the draft is an
important member of several RSS organisations, it is clear who
will teach the teachers and on what lines.

RSS schools do conduct such training camps and their
compulsory courses in Bharatiya Sanskriti provide models for
the other suggestions. RSS shakhas and schools have evidently
laid down the pattern for the proposed education policy. Were
the suggestions to be taken seriously - as they already are in
the BJP-run States - we will have the nucleus of the Hindu
Rashtra that the RSS has promised to usher in, as a substitute
for a secular state order.

The HRD Minister has also insisted that Saraswati Vandana be
compulsorily sung at government functions, and that if State
Education Ministers object, they should forfeit the right to
their office. In Uttar Pradesh, the hymn has been made
compulsory at all State-funded schools in contravention of
Article 28 of the Constitution. Muslim children have been
forced to sing it, and have, moreover, been humiliated for not
singing it right.

There are those who argue that since Hindus constitute the
majority community, their religious idiom ought to provide the
binding cultural cement for a variegated people. And that
essence should be reflected in State education policies. They
also insist that since Hindus are uniquely tolerant, the
minorities have nothing to fear from a takeover of public
spaces and official occasions by Hindu rituals, nor should
they feel insecure if the nation is designated as Hindu.
Saraswati Vandanas and Vedas are, in any case, beautiful and
profound, and all ``pseudo- secularists'' who object to their
use by the state are anti- Hindu.

It is, however, obvious that religious texts lose their
``innocence'' when they are used for coercive and
discriminatory purposes, as the example of the Muslim students
has indicated. Since it is the Sangh Parivar which proposes to
Hinduise education, it is irrelevant to refer only to the
original, literal meaning of the texts and the hymns, and not
to the inclination and activities of the people who will
enforce and shape their use. Whether Hindus are tolerant or
not is not the point here: no one can deny the Sangh Parivar's
record of violent intolerance.

But much more is at issue: secularism, democracy and
citizenship rights. In a multicultural democracy, the state
and its associated offices and occasions have to be
scrupulously non- denominational, not identified with any
particular community to the exclusion of others. That is a
very specific proposal that has nothing to do with the
banishing of religion from social or public life. For, if the
state affirms its affiliation to a particular denomination,
the citizens belonging to other faiths or to no faith, would
be relegated to a secondary status, and located at a greater
distance from the state, upon which their claims would become
correspondingly weaker. Again, in a democracy, toleration
cannot be a substitute for equal citizenship status.
Toleration implies a relationship of power, where some
tolerate others who are dependent, on sufferance. In a
democracy, on the other hand, citizenship is a matter of
right, irrespective of what section the citizen belongs to.

If the nation designates itself as Hindu and the state
acknowledges it in its official sphere, then non-Hindus will
at best be tolerated as minorities, not as equal citizens.
Which is why, Article 28 laid down that in government-funded
schools, financed entirely by the state, there would not be
religious ritual or instruction. In a multi-cultural society
like India, not all the myriad religious systems can be taught
equally, and to leave out any would indicate to school
children that some religious communities are more important
than others. In aided or recognised schools, on the other
hand, the Constitution permits such instruction, but not on a
compulsory basis. Secularists do not oppose this, and, indeed,
RSS schools do compulsorily provide Hindu religious

Does this exclusion of religious instruction or ritual from
state schools constitute an offence against Hinduism? To
believe so is to believe that Hinduism cannot survive unless
the state props it up. And, if it is an offence against
Saraswati that a hymn to Her does not inaugurate a state
function, do we not, by the same logic, insult every other
faith, and the philosophy of unbelief, by not including them
in state-sponsored events?

There are wider contexts behind these suggestions for
education. The BJP has introduced sweeping purges in all
Centrally- funded research institutes: Indian Council of
Historical Research, Indian Council of Social Science
Research, Indian Council of Philosophical Research and Indian
Institute of Advanced Studies. Breaking most institutional
norms and rules, these bodies have been cleansed of subject
experts and renowned scholars, and packed with men
distinguished by RSS sympathies.

Change in personnel goes hand in hand with a methodical
doctoring of facts in school textbooks designed for the BJP
States. They pour unverified charges against Muslim rulers,
stridently catalogue alleged wrongs perpetrated on Hindu kings
and gods, abuse the BJP's adversaries like Mr. Mulayam Singh
Yadav by name and insert RSS heroes as great freedom fighters.

What are these changes in aid of? The RSS professes the notion
of Hindu Rashtra - that India belongs to Hindus alone. That
notion depends upon a relentless hatred against all those who
think otherwise. It has led to many bloody pogroms against
Muslims and, more recently, to gross violence against and
abuse of Christians. Universally-respected secular
educationists have faced intimidation and threats for opposing
the RSS politics or policies.

Apart from coercion, formidable hegemonic devices have been
perfected over the last 73 years, precisely to teach these
values. The RSS shakhas started functioning in 1925. Every
day, they have `boudhik' sessions that train members in
imagined ``histories'' of outrage against Hindus. A
documentary on shakhas for infants depicts a favourite game
that enacts the ``reconquest'' of Kashmir through battles. We
were proudly told by the headmaster of an RSS-run school in
Delhi that he held forth on the Babri mosque saga at the
assembly everyday: five- year-olds would clench their fists in
fury and swear vengeance under the influence of his oratory.
Night schools and sanskar kendras take these messages beyond
regular schooltime. The RSS itself is acknowledged to be the
classroom for all its affiliates and sub-affiliates: BJP, VHP,
Bajrang Dal and hand- picked cadres, trained in daily shakhas
over years, come to these fronts to teach RSS values and
intentions. Pedagogy is an essential tool for the Sangh

A lot of our intellectuals dismiss the massive interventionism
of the Sangh in education as a mere diversion from real issues
and problems that have resulted from the all-too-obvious
failures of BJP governance. This is perfectly true, but it
overlooks the real strength of their educational plan. For
issues and problems will become operationally ``real'' only
when they are widely recognised to be vital concerns, while
non-issues also need to be interpreted as secondary or
marginal. And that does not happen instinctively,
automatically, but only through long and systematic training,
through education. For decades now, the RSS has been imparting
an education that confuses perceptions of the real and the
contrived. It has taught that patriotism is vengeance, that
the nation is Hindu, that struggles for human rights and
equality and social justice are alien to our culture, they are
divisive and they are the fruits of Macaulay's poison tree. In
the BJP-run States, school textbooks have sections glorifying
the Pokhran tests. The RSS has insisted that we only look for
knowledge that is home-grown, however offensive or
exploitative that might be to Dalits, to women, to democracy.

As important as what it teaches is what it silences and
renders non-issue. It suppresses knowledge about what lies
behind Indian poverty, it displaces discussions on what is
welfare and social justice and how to attain them. The new
educational suggestions and policy guidelines are essential to
achieve a confusion of priorities on a nationwide scale.

A regimentation of knowledge and a suppression of critical
enquiry have proceeded for a long time through specifically
RSS agencies. This will continue unabated even if their
drastic misgovernance temporarily robs the BJP of state power.
Any effective ideological challenge to the Sangh Parivar must
confront the fascisisation of society and not just the
fascisisation of the state.

(The writer specialises in modern Indian history at St.
Stephen's College, New Delhi.)

[Source: THE HINDU, Tuesday, November 24, 1998, SECTION: Opinion]

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Last updated: February 23, 2000 .