Volume 15-05 No:173
It must concern all Indians. It’s not merely the question of Muslims or the minorities alone taking up cudgels. The way the Sangh-parivar elements are bulldozing the secular framework of education, the days will not be far when India will regress to an inglorious past when people were categorised as those who worked with the heads and hands.
It was only three years ago when a squeamish BJP-headed government had to beat a hasty retreat on the question of new curriculum in a meet of the Education Ministers from states in New Delhi amid boycott, walkouts and stiff opposition from the states ruled by the Opposition parties and even allies of the BJP. But those days of principled alliance are over. Content that NDA allies have no choice but to continue to plump the BJP at the Centre, the parivar elements are now riding roughshod and going hammer and tongs at the secular fabric of the nation by striking following their agenda on education and culture front.
Within the short span of a year the Government has bared its fangs against the educational system that in its perception ‘unnecessarily empowers the underdogs’. First came the report titled “A policy framework for Reforms in Education” prepared by business tycoons, Mukesh Ambani and Kumaramangalam Birla. The report had been prepared for Prime Minister’s Council on Trade and Industry. Instead of pleading for mass and compulsory education for 6-14 age group, it recommended compulsory education only upto 8th grade and high quality professional education for a select few in cutting edge technology like IT, Biotech etc., areas where the big powers could do the body-shopping in India. Its silence and lack of concern for the high school and non-professional stream college students testifies to the head vs. hand divide the Hindutva masters are out to inject back into the society.
Next came the fiat from the HRD Ministry in barring the access to higher education by the underprivileged. The University Grants Commission was asked to stop functioning as the financing body for Universities and they were asked to look for their own funds. This automatically placed the emphasis on market-friendly courses fetching hefty fees from the students or their industrial sponsors. The human and social sciences became orphans. And that is how the disciplines that focus on social inequalities and economic disparities are likely to be consigned to margins.
The most recent assault comes in the form of National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCFE). Under the garb of introducing values and spirituality, the exercise through the NCERT — a body not authorized to review or change the curriculum — the nation is being foisted with a curriculum laden with archaic, irrational contents that are drenched deep in saffron ideology. How else does one think of subjects such as Vedic mathematics, astrology, courses on training purohits besides introduction of Sanskrit? Besides being violative of the spirit of the Constitution - the Constitution talks about fostering scientific temper — the exercise carries no sanction from the Parliament, nor does carry the approval of the premier educational policy formulating body like the NCERT.
Going by the past experience of communalization of history and literature textbooks in Shishu Vihar and Vidya Bharti schools, it seems the NCFE is all likely to open the floodgates for lessons partisan towards religions other than Hinduism, foster spirituality of one kind and being heavily dismissive of the composite culture and heritage. Even while the NCFE asserts that ‘no rituals will be taught in the schools’, it emphasizes teaching of Sanskrit because ‘it is inextricably linked to life, rites, rituals ceremonies and festivals of vast Indian masses’.
The relative ease with which the schools in certain north Indian states perform Saraswathi Pooja under the garb of educational programmes, it should not take much for the authorities to only legitimize such practices under the new regime and policy framework.
It is unfortunate that at a time when the nation needed greater recognition of plural character of the society, the parivar elements are engaged in arbitrary homogenizing of the minds. These exercise are not only wholly unnecessary but seems to be motivated with ulterior objectives in that it has instead of pleading for doubling of budgetary allocation for expansion of literacy, calls for limiting the benefit of education to a minuscule portion of education in line with the policies pursued by the Brahminical Social Order of yore. The patently partisan motives of the initiatives by the Human Resource Ministry are evident from the chicanery indulged in by the document. Instead of terming it “Indianisation” with a straight face, the document calls it revival of indigenous traditions-culture-values-thinking-resources. Instead of “nationalization”, it talks of imparting of pivotal position to “Indian wisdom” and finally, replaces the old cry of “spiritualization” by “inculcation of religious-spiritual eternal values through teaching about religion. It is time, all of us took due notice of the verbal jugglery before the secular foundations of the nation begun to creak.