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Textbook Fascism of the Hindu Kind?

January 15, 2007

Textbooks are back in news. This time it is the turn of the Social Sciences book for Class x students prepared by the Rajasthan Madhyamik Shiksha Board, Ajmer. One needs to remember that this book results from the decision of the Rajasthan government to reject the new National Curriculum Framework for School Education 2005 evolved by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). All BJP-ruled states had declared that they would prepare their own textbooks as the books prepared by the NCERT were biased according to them. It would be interesting to see, therefore as to how they fight out the bias of the NCERT books in the books prepared by their own objective teams.

This is how the Rajasthan social sciences experts do it. The first chapter of the book seeks to introduce the students to the basics of the Indian Culture: Our culture is known as Arya sanskriti, Bharatiya sanskriti and Hindu sanskriti. Lest there be any confusion in the minds of the readers, the book explains it further: in fact these three nomenclatures are synonyms.

What happens to the non-Aryans then? Where would the Adivasis, dalits go? The book does not forget them. Adivasis are called Vanya Jatis who were once organised and reformed by none less than Ramchandraji himself. Elsewhere you find Baba Ramdeo (a folk guru of Rajasthan) inculcating good habits in them. The assumption is that they are essentially backward and repository of many ills and they need one Ramchandra or Ramdeo to be cured of these ailments. After extolling the virtues of Bharatiya sanskriti in great detail, which you know is nothing but Hindu and Arya sankriti, it goes on to ask the students to answer these questions:

• (Choose any one) The ultimate goal of human life is: 1. Dharma, 2. Artha, 3. Moksha, 4. Kaam;

• Write the names of the four Ashramas;

• Write the definition of Bharat and Bharatiya on the basis of Vishnu Puran.

India is superior to other countries (or nations) because elsewhere they have only two-three seasons, whereas in India we have six of them. India is great because, can there be any doubt, astronomy, mathematics, medical science, surgery and even plastic surgery originated here only (Don’t you remember the famous case of the head of an elephant transplanted on Ganesh?). Biology, metallurgy, name any science or branch of knowledge, we had everything here before any other nation or culture, that is what makes us a great nation and culture. Since everything was already here, how can trade unionism be something we learnt from the West? The book informs its readers that workers revered Vishwakarma and exploitation was always fought with organisation.

Since the book has this “objective” view of what actually constitutes Indianness, in all the chapters it seeks to give the students an overdose of Hindu religion. Description of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, religious festivals, places of pilgrimage cover three-fourths of the book. If you ask as to how and why it should be called a Social Sciences book at all, you would be labelled as anti-Bharat.

The writers of the book have no ambiguity about the enemies of Bharat. On more than one occasion they are identified as a Samudaya Vishesh (a particular community) which lives on the borders of Rajasthan, pampered by both Pakistan and India, who keep going (where?) and coming back. This Samudaya Vishesh has been encouraging infiltration and there was also rampant trafficking of cows and minor girls before the good Seema Jan Kalyan Samiti (SJS) informed Rajiv Gandhi about the irregular allocation of land to the illegal infiltrators who then got them cancelled. SJS, incidentally, is one the many RSS outfits. Readers are informed that the people who live on the international borders are poor, uneducated, and superstitious owing to their dharmic shraddha. But Hindus can never be superstitious as Hindu religion is very scientific. Is it difficult then to guess who form this Samudaya Vishesh? When the chairman of the Board was told by a journalist that Muslims were very upset with this description, he retorted that the book had never named them and if they felt upset then it is what you say in Hindi: Chor ki daadhi mein tinka.

The book violates the basic principles of the Constitution and can’t be allowed to be inflicted as school knowledge on the defenceless children of Rajasthan. Some of us who have been trivialising the debate on textbooks need to take a hard look at it
The book also suggests that the growth in population of this community needs to be monitored closely, steps be taken to stop conversion and its appeasement.

The book dwells at length on the problem of terrorism. It states that in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) there are more than 100 terrorist organisations (Do not ask for the source of the data, it is more a matter of astha). It goes on to claim, without batting an eyelid that the J&K government works under pressure from terrorists and some leaders are in league with them which is why the Rehabilitation Act got passed (do not ask what exactly the “Act” is called), a temporary provision in the form of Article 370 was made in the Constitution which is being kept alive under the policy of appeasement. It says that there is an imbalance in the number of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats allocated to the Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Ladakh.

The book actually makes a prescription for abolishing terrorism. It asks for tough laws to prevent religious conversion and infiltration, to abolish all kinds of appeasement, political vested interests (whatever that means). It calls for the destruction of the bases of organisations like the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and removal of the names of infiltrators from electoral rolls, among other things.

After seeking an immediate repeal of Article 370, it demands poori chhut for the armed forces to finish off terrorism. And you thought that there are populations fighting for the repeal of Acts like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. It calls for an end to the discrimination against the Jammu and Ladakh regions and suggests that we need to talk to Pakistan in a language of power.

While discussing political philosophies, it is stated that fascism is significant as it removes the deficiencies of democracy, spreads the spirit of patriotism, allows a leader of strong will to take firm decision immediately without any hesitation.

Somebody said that this book is a crude copy of an RSS pamphlet and need not be taken seriously. Though written in a pedestrian language and full of howlers on almost every page, this book does need to be taken seriously as it is going to be imparted as the official and final knowledge to lakhs of students of Rajasthan who do not have the resources to go for any source of knowledge other than this State-sponsored textbook. It has been written in a very offensive manner belittling Adivasis, dalits and casts aspersions on the governments of J&K and Muslims. Its approach is militarist and it seeks to realise the project of an upper caste Hindu male nationalism. It violates the basic principles of the Constitution and cannot be allowed to be inflicted as a respectable school knowledge item on the defenceless school children of Rajasthan. Some of us who have been trivialising the debate on school textbooks by asserting that all governments seek to propagate their ideologies through textbooks need to take a hard look at the Class x Samajik Vigyan book discussed above. Parliamentarians, civil rights activists need to ask for its immediate withdrawal. Courts of the land need to take suo moto cognisance of this blatant violation of the right of an average Indian to live in dignity by the Rajasthan Madhyamik Shiksha Board and hold them accountable. Let us not allow ourselves to suffer from textbook controversy fatigue and keep talking about it.

Published in Tehelka

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Rajesh permalink
    January 16, 2007 2:57 AM

    Apoorva is right in saying that we should not suffer from textbook controversy fatigue. Much of this fatigue is generated by the mass media, especially TV channels, which have propagated this view that every ruling coalition changes textbooks according to its ideological outlook. So much so that in the NDA’s time, scholars like Romila Thapar and Bipan Chandra were equated with the abominable hacks who populated the NCERT then. All the larger issues of truth in scholarship, pedagogy, citizenship and democracy were lost in the nightly Big Fights with idiotic anchors play-acting as ‘impartial’ referees.

    But textbooks apart, we seem to have a larger problem with the appeal of fascism. Anil Wilson, Principal of St. Stephen’s College in Delhi, remarked in an interview once that the answer he heard most often from the academically proficient students he interviewed for admission, in response to the question, “Which historical personality do you admire most?”, was Adolf Hitler. In today’s hyper-competitive world, Hitler’s Final Solution and his war-mongering ways are considered worthy of admiration.

  2. Viren Lobo permalink
    January 17, 2007 10:31 AM

    Donning the garb of so called neutrality in order to black out the voice of sanity and reason takes many shapes and forms.
    I agree with Apoorvanand and Rajesh that we should not succumb to textbook controvery fatigue . It is only by struggle can we develop that alternative yardstick to evaluate authors of whatever ilk.

    Viren

  3. prachi permalink
    January 20, 2007 7:33 PM

    While I don’t disagree with the critique of the content of these textbooks and the need to monitor them, it is also important to consider the distribution and availability of the new NCERT textbooks in different regions. In many Pune schools that do prescribe the NCERT textbooks, this year they have been waiting since June for copies to arrive: many schools have only one copy which they xerox (this is one example that I have anecdotal evidence for, but it surely cannot be the only one). Queries to the NCERT office about distributors, wholesalers etc from booksellers and suppliers are met with the usual lethargy of a government office. Many of the distributors in Delhi don’t have copies, also don’t have, or provide any information about when they will be made available. Doesn’t this apathy towards the actual distribution of textbooks on part of the NCERT, after such controversy over the content, have an impact on what is finally reaching schoolchildren? It would be interesting to see how many of the new NCERT textbooks and their ideas are actually being utilized in classrooms: both for ideological reasons, and those of actual circulation.

  4. Rahul permalink
    February 1, 2007 8:36 AM

    Yaar this is the most motivated Hindu hating site that I have seen on the web. Kya bhai kya jihadi terrorists ka mukhiya banne ka plan hai is site ke owners ka… Hindu terrorist hai … Hindu fundametalist hai …. Dudh ka dhoola hai to Islam yahee hai is site ka message

  5. mona permalink
    February 11, 2007 8:07 PM

    The facism is in the authors brain and not in the suggested changes. Even the Indian supreme court admits that Hinduism is a way of life and Indian constitution says that another name of this country is bharat so what is wrong in calling our sanskriti bharatiya sanskriti. The vitrolic, irrational and hate ful arguments of this author against Hinduism are perhaps because of some deep rooted malice against the religion.

  6. Panini Pothoharvi permalink
    February 12, 2007 6:19 AM

    So now I receive this absolutely breath-taking news about myself: as a Hindu – not just any kind but a fiercely secular one (does that make me an anomaly? an unlikely Hindu?) – I have been involved in the activity of ‘motivating’ myself into ‘hating myself’. I don’t want to die laughing yet! Bhai Rahul and behan Mona, yeh to takreeban saaf hai ke aap koi aur Hindu haiN aur mujh jaisa adharmi Hindu bilkul hi koi aur. What is so hatefully anti-Hindu in not accepting the myriad anti-women, anti-shudra and anti-dalit shrutis that the Jhandewalan Nagpurias so highly extol? What is so offensive in rejecting the practice of Sati which the self-proclaimed Mahants and Mathadheeshs of Hinduism defend in public sphere with such ill-concealed manly glee? What is so hatefully anti-Hindu in feeling so self-reflectively sad (or shall be more appropriately say happy) about how the caste hegemony of Hinduism has pushed the disenfranchized and the marginalized to opt out of the fold? What is wrong and hateful in questioning histories that are located in the utopic narcissism of the few? These so called Hindus – what with the Valentine day drawing close – are going into overdrive to attack archies, round up amoratically inclined boys and girls from parks and restaurants, to slap them on camera, to smash window panes chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ attired in roebock pullovers and nike shoes, putting up highly exaggerated masquerades of virility all on the sacred path of bhartiya sanskriti. Ask them to chant two lines from any Hindu text and they would faint in disbelief and I am not just talking of the street performers of the Shiv Sena kind. Their ignorance has come to adorn the corridors of universities, colleges and schools. Problem with this such a pathetic notion of sanskriti is that it is vastly euphemistic as it does not brook the idea of inclusive and equal (sam) production/ creativity (kriti). Bhai Rahul and behan Mona, India is not just ‘shining’ or ‘poised’, it is also beginning to ‘move’. Scary, isn’t it?

  7. Ashok Joshi permalink
    March 15, 2007 3:03 PM

    Your title says all – ‘Fascism of Hindu Kind’. Fascism is clearly abuse and branding entire Hindu religion is in itself and act of Fascism. When you indulge into this kind of irrational generalisation you tar entire community with the same brush. It’s abuse and all abuse is rooted in hatred. Hatred breeds intolerance. Intolerance is the real fascism -which is so clearly visible in this article.

    If you are really interested in the truth, then why hide the bloodshed that Islam brought to this country. Tell me a single text book in India that speaks truth about Islam and its treatment of non-believers all over the world, including India.

  8. Aditya Nigam permalink
    March 15, 2007 8:53 PM

    Hatred seeps from every word of this delectable comment – and of course, ignorance of everything from Hinduism, fascism, Islam and what is more, like most of the self-hating Hindus who form the bulk of Hindutvavadis, it revels in this ignorance. Hindusim as Mr Joshi and his ilk seem to understand it is a trifle of the Bjarang Dal kind – a travesty of all the great traditions of Sanskritik literature, art culture and everyday lived Hinduisms. If Hinduism is under threat from anybody, it is from the likes of Mr Joshi who wish to reduce it to a mere vocabulary of political hatred and gangsterism. If the Rajasthan text books were written by the those who placed themselves in the learned traditions of ‘High Hinduism’, these would have been very very diffrent from the ones churned out by ill-informed, breast-beating slogan mongers.

  9. March 26, 2007 8:01 PM

    evils creep into every religion and society. But every post on this forum reeks of one sided anti-hinduness!

    1) WHY don’t you protest against the “whitewashing” of the cruel rule of ALL muslim kings which generations of students were forced to learn?
    2) WHY dont you have anything to say against the fundamentalist elements in muslim society who are proud to be against everything India stands for>
    3) WHY don’t you highlight the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri pandits from the valley who are forced to live as refugees in their own country?
    4) WHY don’t you appreciate the inhuman conditions our army has to work in, in Kashmir trying to protect the (muslim) population from fundamentalist groups.

    PLEEEZZZZZ do some research, use google for “Allah’s” sake, try finding out about Dukhtaran e milat… the only female terrorist group in Kashmir and how they terrorise the lives of muslim kashmiris. If Indian muslims are such a sorry lot, why dont they live in Saudi arabia or Pakistan?

  10. March 26, 2007 8:05 PM

    NO muslim country offers Haj subsidy
    NO country where muslims are a minority an even many muslim countries (turkey for eg) allows ploygamy.
    No non muslim country has a series of muslim presidents

    Hav you ever visited Darul-uloom? It looks like a arabic island! only shrouded women are allowed in, they only sell arabic books and ppl only lean to read the koran backwards (literally!) it has no place in a civilised, seculatr country.

    we need a Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to do a “kamal” for our desi muslims!… please google him if the name of this great leader doesnt ring a bell!

  11. Aditya Nigam permalink
    March 27, 2007 2:36 AM

    Research? Hmmmmmm!!!! Let’s leave that for writers of shoddy Rajasthan text books and other assorted self-hating Hindus…

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