After Bharatiya Janata Party’s political success, its ideological mentor, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is now focussing on promoting Indianness in education.
After successfully assuming political reins at the centre and several states, there is an effort being made by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to bring a nationalistic and Indian perspective in higher education.
To deliberate upon this, over 700 academicians, including the vice-chancellors of 51 universities, assembled in the national capital for a two-day workshop, hosted by Prajna Pravah, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) outfit.
Before we go further, what the workshop achieved in terms of deliberations is important to mention. The RSS outfit, Vidya Bharati, runs one of the largest private networks of schools in India. Vidya Bharati-run educational programmes were adopted in Madhya Pradesh as an alternate model of education when BJP was in power.
Besides Vidya Mandir, Saraswati Shishu Mandir propagates Indianness in school education.
At a 1998 conference of state education ministers, Vidya Bharati proposed that school education should be “Indianised, nationalised and spiritualised”, with the teaching of “the essentials of Indian culture”, which was perceived as “Hindu education”.
There were concerns when the Uttar Pradesh government made it mandatory to start the school day with Vande Mataram (the national song) and Saraswati Vandana (a hymn dedicated to the Hindu goddess of knowledge and wisdom, Saraswati), and the Muslim League forbade Muslim school children from joining in the singing. Vidya Bharati also demands that Sanskrit be taught in all schools and sponsors the revision of textbooks, which give a Hindu outlook of history and use Hindu examples in comprehension exercises.
Dinanath Batra, former general secretary of Vidya Bharati, had alleged that they were fighting an “ideological battle against Macaulay, Marx and Madrasawadis”.
In the areas of study that are peripheral to the core curriculum, such as physical education, music and cultural education, the institution worked out its own curriculum.
However, when it comes to higher education and institutions of higher education, the influence of RSS is in its nascent stage.
Hosting the event, J Nandakumar, national convener of Prajna Pravah, observed, “The lack of ‘Indianness’ in the educational system of the country has been pointed out by various commissions, and the Supreme Court too has called for incorporating Indian views to it.”
Many education commission reports — right from Dr S Radhakrishnan to the DS Kothari Commission — had stressed on one major point: the absence of ‘Indianness’ from our education system.
Interestingly, the agenda of the closed-door meeting called for developing a social and intellectual point of view, which will be able to solve the problems of the current generation. “We have to make students free of colonial values and establish national values in them,” it asserted.
Nandakumar said that the two-day event was held to allow the academicians to brainstorm on “how to bring the centre of gravity back to Indic thinking, given that the main weakness of our system is that it is western”.
Titled, ‘Gyan Sangam’, the convention was chaired by RSS head, Mohan Bhagwat. It was also addressed by chairperson of the Indian Council of Historical Research, Y Sudershan Rao, senior RSS functionaries, Sahkarvayah Krishna Gopal and Suresh Soni.
Academicians discussed “content, contemporary trends and challenges in their respective disciplines”.
The expert sessions were on different themes – ‘Cultural Onslaught’ was addressed by co-convenor of Swadeshi Jagran Manch, S Gurumurthy, and chaired by the vice-chancellor of Banaras Hindu University, Dr GC Tripathi. The second session on ‘Intellectual colonisation’ was chaired by the former principal of Brihan Maharashtra Commerce College, Pune, Anirudh Deshpande, Indologist, David Frawley (also known as Acharya Vamdev Shastri), and Dr Manohar Shinde, founder director, Dharma Civilisation Foundation, USA. The last session, ‘Resurgence of Nationalism – East and West’ saw Professor of International Law, Denver University, VP Nanda, with BK Kuthiala of Makhanla Chaturvedi Rashtriya Patrkarita Vishvidyalaya, Bhopal.
Planning to hold similar conventions across the country, the Delhi University professor and convenor of ‘Gyan Sangam’, Prakash Singh, asked academicians to explore possibilities of imbibing the Indian perspectives in subjects of art and culture, political science, management, pure sciences, journalism and mass communication, archaeology, law and economics, among others.
The call for rooting education in ‘Indianness’, by the RSS, is timely, even as the new education policy is being finalised after a gap of 12 years.
To put in perspective the first education policy was promulgated in 1968 under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and the second under Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1986. The 1986 National Policy on Education was modified in 1992 by the PV Narasimha Rao government. Later, in 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh adopted a new policy based on the ‘Common Minimum Programme’ of his United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.