It is said that the destiny of the nation is built in classrooms. The effectiveness with which education system would be able to imbibe in young minds the values like harmony, respect, truthfulness will determine how peaceful, harmonious and united a plural nation like India can be. The efforts to impose a particular ideology and vision by the current government can be disastrous.
Developments in Indian education system during the last 60 years had several weaknesses and deficiencies. Yet there was one saving grace: Indian education system remained secular. From installing a pro-RSS man as ICHR head to replacing German with Sanskrit in Kendriya Vidyalayas, the current ministry of Human Resource Development is mired in controversies. It appears that Indian education system is poised to lose its secular character with efforts to communalize education system being started in right earnest by the current government.
History is of particular interest to communal forces because their perception of India is based on communal interpretation of the past and communal ideology hinges on the distorted and fabricated presentation of history. It is not only subjected to misinterpretations, it is also subjected to distortion of facts, selective and biased content correction
Some decisions by HRD ministry in its pursuit of communalizing education during last six months are:
- In July 2014, Sudershan Rao Yellapragada, a retired professor of history was appointed by HRD ministry as Chairman of Indian Council for Historical Research(ICHR). On assuming charge, Sudershan Rao Yellapragada vows to support research on ancient Hindu texts to pass on ‘new knowledge’ to coming generations.
- In September 2014, Central Board of Secondary Education(CBSE) asks students to write essays or poems on Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay to mark the 98th birth anniversary of BJP ideologue.
- In November 2014, HRD ministry orders probe into signing of MoU between KV Sangathan and Germany’s cultural institution Goethe-Institute and Max Muller Bhawan and announces its decision to junk teaching of German as third language in Kendriya Vidyalayas. Though ministry clarified that Sanskrit will not be compulsory, the decision effectively makes the language a must for KV students.
- In December 2014, HRD ministry asks educational institutions to observe ‘Good Governance Day’ on December 25th to mark birth anniversary of former Prime Minister A B Vajpaee and freedom fighter M M Malviya. Also, parliament witnesses opposition uproar over schools being asked by centre to remain open on December 25th.
Apart from the above decisions, resignation of IIT Delhi director R K Shevgaongar, forcing out NCERT director Praveen Sinclair, resignation of Rajasthan University Vice Chancellor Dev Sawroop citing difficulty in functioning and appointment of Zafar Sareshwala as Chancellor of MANU University raise some serious questions on motives of the ministry of HRD.
History is one such subject that has borne the maximum brunt of the efforts by vested interests to communalize the education. History is of particular interest to communal forces because their perception of India is based on communal interpretation of the past and communal ideology hinges on the distorted and fabricated presentation of history. It is not only subjected to misinterpretations, it is also subjected to distortion of facts, selective and biased content correction. The communal interpretation of history has not only erased the distinction between mythology and history, it is also creating a divide in society by portraying some set of people as foreigners. If the developments in the recently concluded Indian Science Congress were any indication, one can imagine how pitiable would be the state of scientific education in India, in the days to come.
The rewriting of history with communal motive is going to diminish the role of civil rights movements, anti-colonial struggle, struggle for human rights, equality, liberty and educational and religious reforms movements.
Regimes with narrow sectarian and undemocratic agenda, are those who seek to distort or suppress the impartial and objective education. The current ruling party in India has got certain ideological leanings. Their politics is based on communal rhetoric. It is no wonder that like fascists in Germany, the motto is to “catch them young”. Communalized education would serve this motto effectively by polluting young minds. Comparatively school education is more vulnerable than higher education to political manipulation, and perhaps ministry of Human Resource Development is conscious of this and hence is swiftly and urgently moving into school education.
The effects of these attempts would be harmful. The education system would produce prejudiced younger generation which may serve interests of current political establishment well but it will also exhibit a great disdain for democracy. The rewriting of history with communal motive is going to diminish the role of civil rights movements, anti-colonial struggle, struggle for human rights, equality, liberty and educational and religious reforms movements. A partisan and sectarian move to manipulate education can result in establishment of supremacy of market based neo-liberal rationality, state violence and fascist militarism. If these efforts to manipulate and communalize education succeed then our education system may start producing dogmatist individuals.
Education is integral to the type of society we wish to construct. A diverse and plural society requires individuals who are open minded and tolerant. In order to preserve the plural, diverse nature of India we need to resist and defeat the efforts by communal forces to manipulate young and formative minds.