BJP’s Assault on Education and Educational Institutions

Nalini Taneja

                        [Excerpts]                                (FOR A FULL VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE CLICK HERE)

The BJP 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 State Education Ministers’ Conference held in October 98 but also from the massive text book revision undertaken by the Sangh Parivar in keeping with this design.

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. The UP State education minister says publicly that by the next session twenty-five textbooks will have to be re-written.

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 Vedic Mathematics was introduced in the UP schools but had to be withdrawn.

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.

The crucial institutional measures taken by the BJP government during its rule are:

It has filled the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) with historians notorious for their association with the VHP campaign on Ayodhya and without any credibility in the field of history writing. Of the twelve secular and eminent historians, who if the established practice had been followed would have remained for a second term, not a single one of them were permitted to continue. Among them are Prof. Sumit Sarkar and Prof. KN Panikkar. The Member Secretary, TKV Subramaniam, a noted historian, was not allowed to finish his term and now hardly any secular historian remains as a Council member. Of the new faces, three appeared on the VHP committee to argue the case for the RSS stand on Ayodhya temple. Among others, one is an active RSS pracharak, another one is 96 years old. The assault on ICHR is clearly aimed at influencing the direction and funding of historical research towards the Sangh Parivar’s communal agenda. In its caretaker capacity and in violation of all norms the BJP government now seeks to appoint a Chairperson from among three nominees selected after they took over, who are known advocates or sympathizers of the Hindutva campaign, two of them having actually been the leading participants on the RSS panel to prove the existence of a Ram mandir on the Babri Masjid site.

The Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) has been similarly reconstituted and filled with pro RSS men whose only call to fame is their support to the Sangh Parivar’s Hindu Rashtra agenda.

The Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS) in Simla has a new chairman and several other members of the same ideological colour, among them Kirit Joshi, member of the Ved Vidya Pratishthan, an RSS outfit and GC Pande, an orthodox Sanskrit scholar.

For the Nehru Museum and Memorial Library, the candidature of eminent historians like Professors Mushirul Hasan and Madhavan Palat were brushed aside to appoint as Director a person from the Doordarshan expected to be softer to their designs. The institution has big funds apart from a number of Senior Fellowships for research and scholarship, and is an important centre for organising seminars and discussions in social sciences.

The Indian Institute of Mass Communication, which comes under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, has been given a Chairman for its Advisory/Executive Council a person of RSS affiliations.

The Director of the All India Council for Technical Education has an Advisor with RSS links.

In the areas of Science and technology there is a systematic shift in budgetary allocations to favour branches linked with military and nuclear research and development (R&D), and to the detriment of research and studies in the fields of agriculture, health, medicine, and a general science education. The two favoured areas in keeping with the ideological predilections of the Sangh Parivar have been declared as benchmarks, which means that scientists from these branches will be part of selection committees for recruitment in the fields of science establishments. Scientists working in these areas have been given special incentives in the form of two increments at all levels and a raise of Rs. 2000/- at the higher level, which have the approval of the prime Minister’s Office. General science education, which has little place in the RSS scheme of an obscurantist and communal agenda for the ‘people’, has been relegated to the back stage.

People with known RSS links have been appointed as secretary and chairman of University Grants Commission (UGC). [And these people have been instrumental in introducing astrology in the university curriculum in the country - Ed.] The UGC is the primary body for higher education in the country, and it is well known that this government has already undermined its authority and autonomy with regard to decision-making and also completely flouted its recommendations with regard to teachers’ salaries, promotions and working conditions. The UGC is being systematically being used by this Govt. to privatise and commercialise education, to encourage commercial self-financing courses and to curtail state funding in the areas of study considered non-commercial.

Vice chancellors to various universities in the country have been appointed with the sole criteria of having a sympathiser at the helm of affairs.

In Delhi University, while the BJP was holding the State Government, all democratic norms were flouted and the functioning and role of the statutory bodies such as the Academic Council completely undermined. Governing Bodies of Delhi Administration and other colleges were filled with known sympathisers of no academic achievements or interest in education with a view to ensuring appointment of affiliated persons as Principals for the colleges. These RSS filled Governing bodies were openly used for undermining the autonomy of the University, and giving support to corruption and goondaism on the campus.

At the Aligarh Muslim University the BJP government, despite widespread protests from the University community, has openly supported the erosion of even nominal democratic rights on the campus by the Vice Chancellor. For a long time the VC tried to block the elections for the Students Union. Later, when a leftist was elected as President, he used his office to brow beat the legitimate expression of students demands and protest, dismissed from his appointment in the University the Secretary of the Employees Union for simply delivering a speech and organising a meeting, and has been continually harassing democratic and leftist teachers on the campus, even suspending them on spurious charges - all of which has found favour with the BJP govt. whose agenda is served by communal rather than democratic avenues for expression in institutions where minorities are in a large number.

A National Elementary Education Mission (NEEM) has been constituted with the aim of implementing and giving legitimacy to the BJP agenda on Education in the ‘mission mode’, i.e., on a war footing.

Key personnel in National Institute of Planning (NIEPA) and National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) have been changed, all with a view to bringing about changes through the ‘proper channels’. The selection committee for the appointment of the Director of NIEPA was reconstituted, and thereafter a known sympathiser of the Hindutva lobby was appointed to the post. The appointment is crucial not only in the context of the responsibilities involved but also in view of the fact that more than fifteen posts remained to be filled or made permanent in which the new director would obviously be a determinate.

A ‘Review Committee’ has been formed for the review of syllabus with a chairman (former Chief Justice of India JS Verma) whose only claim to fame is his ‘landmark’ judgment that Hindutva is a way of life not religion; hence there is nothing wrong with Hindutva ideology.

Through a directive that makes all schools running for 10 years automatically entitled to affiliation and recognition the BJP govt. has ensured large transfers of state funds to RSS schools in the states of BJP govt., especially if it can be easily shown that govt. schools are not functioning well.

Communal historiography may be quite old in India but the new additions reflect greater contemporary use in dividing society along communal lines. They are also stronger in the language and expressions used. Communal bias is woven into school textbooks with preposterous ‘facts’ in a way that can only have dangerous consequences for the educational standards in this country.

In the name of curriculum reform there is an attempt to rewrite textbooks along communal lines on a scale that will submerge all secular interpretations in school level teaching. A whole generation would grow up with their collective memory of a shared heritage destroyed and with ideas and information that have no basis in reality. A successful implementation of these texts on a widespread scale will mean the triumph of unreason as well as a tremendous and sudden deterioration in the quality of education, where the minimum criteria of correct empirical data and a scientific temper and reason are thrown to the winds.