Education for Hindu Rashtra: UGC-NCERT’s Rightwing Drive

By Ram Puniyani

The UGC and NCERT, guided by the Hindu nationalist agenda, are striking strong contrasts to the values of our Constitution.

As the ruling party BJP is close to completing two terms in office, its impact on most of the institutions is more than obvious. While ED-IT-CBI have played their role in cornering the opposition parties, Election Commission at times has played a partisan role, the UGC and NCERT are not far behind in changing the educational pattern to suit the political ideology of the ruling Government.

At one level the New Education Policy (NEP) is out to change the whole pattern and structure of our educational system. On a regular basis new instructions are being sent to induct the Hindu nationalist sentiments and ethos for the students. One recalls that when this Government was trying to intimidate and undermine the student movements and protests, these activities were labeled as anti National and the then MHRD Minister Smriti Irani came up with the idea of installing a tall pole in each University to hoist the national flag. The idea was also floated to put a military tank in JNU in particular, where the vocal students were articulating on various issues which went against the grain of thinking of the ruling Government.  

Recently a few more circulars have been issued. One is that students should be made to participate in the year long celebrations of the birth Centenary year of Dattaji Didolkar. Didolkar was RSS Pracharak, who set up the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). This cult building exercise for a Hindu Nationalist is particularly meant for colleges in Maharashtra. Is UGC right in promoting the celebration of figures from Hindu Nationalist stable? The figures who should be promoted are surely those who stood for Indian Nationalism or fought against British colonial rule. Mr. Didolkar, being a part of RSS, was never part of neither freedom struggle nor he stood for the values enshrined in Indian Constitution.

The other circular is asking for setting up of ‘Selfi points’ with the backdrop of Prime minister, Modi. Such a step is being taken surely with the 2024 elections in mind. This is an idea, which has no place in a democratic country. It is a deliberate propaganda for a leader belonging to one party and its supreme leader. It violates the ethos of democracy for sure! Such blatant violation of democratic and constitutional values; is a gross abuse of power by the ruling party.

Topping it all has come the instruction that for students between 7 to 12 standard Ramayan and Mahabharat should be taught as a part of history, (Times of India, 22 November). As per the expert Panel of NCERT, this will bring self esteem, patriotism and pride in the Nation! These two great epics of India are definitely a part of our mythology. They do represent the social norms of the   times when they were written. One can learn a lot about those times from these epics.

Ramayan amongst these is extremely popular not only in India but also in different countries of Asia like Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bali, Sumatra etc. Interestingly it has many versions. Originally written by Valmiki, later it was made more popular by Goswami Tulsidas, who rendered it in popular Avadhi. It became part of popular culture from 16th Century onwards in Northern parts of India. Interestingly, there are many versions of Lord Ram Story. The version being promoted by Hindu nationalists is one among many. The book by Richa Paulman, Many Ramayans (OUP) deals with the diverse version of Lord Ram Story. On similar lines, A.K.Ramnujan wrote an essay, ‘300 Ramayans: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on translation’. This remarkable essay was part of Delhi University curriculum till the ABVP protested and this was removed from the syllabus.

The Hindu nationalists want a particular version of Lord Ram’s story to be projected. Ramanujan in his essay tells us the diverse telling of the story, Jain version, Buddha version, Women’s version (by Rangnayakmma of Andhra). Adivasi Ramayan has yet again a different story line. Ambedkar wrote ‘Riddles of Hinduism’ and drew our attention to Ram killing Shambuk as he was performing penance, and as Shudra’s were not permitted such a thing he was done to death by the Lord Himself. Ram also kiiled Bali from behind, Bali is a king revered by backward castes, who chant: ‘Eida Pida Javo: Baliche Rajya Yevo’ (Let our pains go: Let Bali’s return as a King).

Ambedkar is very critical of Ram banishing Sita to forest on the suspicion of fidelity. Periyar is also critical of Lord Ram for imposing the North Indian Aryanism on the Dravidas. The real history is mired in some vague understanding while the great epic gives us a valuable insight into that time.

Similarly Mahabharat, composed by Maharishi Ved Vyas is the longest poem ever composed, gives us a valuable glimpse of those times. They are important sources of historical knowledge. To put them in the syllabus as history is a different idea altogether. It is linked more to the Hindu nationalist agenda than unraveling the truth of history.  

In addition, among many other moves by the panel; is to instruct the name India with Bharat on the ground that India denotes slavery, as the word was given by the British. They deliberately want to suppress the fact the variations of word India are prevalent from the times much before the British came here. As early as BCE 303, Megasthanese had called it Indica. The derivatives from river Sindhu have been in vogue from early times. ‘Bharat that is India’ is the perfect formulation outlined in our Constitution. But in tune with Hindu Nationalist Agenda they are not comfortable with the word India.

Lastly they want to re-periodize Indian history. The early period of Indian history, which the British called as Hindu period, they want to call it ‘Classic Period’. The idea is to present the values of that period as the baseline for our society. And these values, outlined in Manusmriti were the precise one’s which made Ambedkar rebel against and to burn this book.

UGC-NCERT are totally being guided by the Hindu Nationalist agenda, totally in contrast to the values of Indian Constitution.

(This article first appeared in News Click)

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