Friday, April 17, 2009

Catch Them Young and Safeguard Secularism: The Need For A Central Board For Regulating Textbook Contents

I remember, as a school going child, my day at school began with India is my country, all Indians are my brothers and sisters being shouted out in as many pitches as there were students in the general assembly in the quadrangle. The immense beauty of that cacophony!!

That practice, sadly enough, appears to have vanished from schools now.

I do not know if this practice was prevalent in all the states in the country, but as a student in schools in Kerala and Tamilnadu , I remember vying with the students around me to be heard when I proclaimed my Indianness, my fellow feelings for the other Indians and my love for my country. It was a good practice. It had a subliminal effect on me, and had a role in creating a sacrosanct aura around the concept of ALL INDIANS ARE MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS, irrespective of caste and creed.

The site given above, which appeared in Hindu op - ed page a couple of days ago, is indeed distressing. It talks about injecting communalism in the minds of unformed, tender minds of children in Gujarat as a strategy to usher in Ram Rajya. Indoctrinating communalism in young minds can ensure only intolerance and violence in these future citizens. We see it happening with the Taliban and other fanatical religious groups. The world is reaping the harvest of uncontrolled violence sown through ‘religious’ instruction divorced from secular humanitarian values. An irony, ‘cos religion cannot be divorced from these values.

Now, the RSS-run publishing house in Gujarat has taken a leaf out of this practice of catching them young and poisoning their minds. Yes. It is poison. Hatred is poison. Any text that legitimizes and officialises hatred and violence is poison. Detoxification of the collective mind raised on such ‘righteous’ hatred and violence is a near impossibility. The process of communalizing the tender minds of Gujarat is in full swing now, if the article is to be believed. The motive is political – to ensure vote bank in future for a divisive political outfit.

The centre must step in. Not only in Gujarat but in all states and monitor and regulate the text books prescribed for schools, right from the nursery where, in some states, it is reported that pictures are shown demonizing minority groups.

We need a central regulatory board, totally apolitical in nature, comprising intellectuals of renown. The Board should have a set term and should not be dismantled every time the Central Government changes. Political appointments should not be entertained. Regarding the text books, social studies and history text books should have the same content through out the country The state specific chapters and lessons should be designed by the state board which should be governed by the central board. The content and syllabus designed by the State Boards should be prescribed and published only after getting the approval of the Central board. The state boards should be given strict guidelines to conform to ALL- INDIANS- ARE- MY- BROTHERS- AND- SISTERS CONCEPT.

I wonder if this sounds crazy but unless some bold step like this is taken, India’s secular credentials will become history. The process of sabotaging it is already in the works. A generation anchored in lethal communal ideology is emerging in Gujarat while intellectuals and industrialists sing paeans to the Gujarat mode of Development.

I foresee the type of comments this post will throw up. I will be questioned on why I have no problem with Christian indoctrination and Christian nations’ indulgence in violence through history, or the cracking down on the Sikhs after Indira Gandhi’s death, or Islamic terrorism. Why single out Gujarat alone?

My answer is this. I do have a problem with all this. I do have a problem with every religious or political outfit that brainwashes young minds into accepting hatred as a laudable emotion, and violence as a permissible tool for achieving desired ends. No religion justifies violence and murder. True, Christian nations from the middle ages onwards have indulged in the worst form of violence in the form of Crusades, Holy inquisition etc. But these are shameful chapters in the history of civilization which no one should emulate. These dark, cruel and shameful happenings should not be used as justification or precedence for inculcating hatred among people. The attack on the Sikhs or terrorists attack elsewhere in India are no justification for a State government to officially indulge in the type of indoctrination in the name of Hinduism which is a great religion of peace, a religion which does not provide space for violence. The engineering of the text books to create a generation of hate filled Hindus is NOT the way to counter Islamic terrorism. My problem with Gujarat is that communal politics is slowly but surely gaining legitimacy there, and the path is being made clear to make possible a theocratic state within ten years. For within a decade these fledglings who are being systematically indoctrinated through schools will become competent practitioners of communal politics characterized by hatred, violence and exclusionism.

Let’s remember that much quoted saying that an eye for an eye makes the world go blind. Gujarat is heading for this blindness, for seeds of vengeful hatred are being systematically sown in the minds of the children by the official machinery. All that talk about the sensational and successful development agenda of the Gujarat Government is a ruse to deflect attention from this dangerous, long term strategy to destroy the secular fabric of India.


  1. A central regulatory board is a truly BRILLIANT idea!

  2. How sad!. We all have problem with this topic. The hatred we see slowly seeping into everyday life is appalling.

    What to do? Why there are not many voices against these forces?

    How to voice our concerns?. The fear and the distress?

    Question .. questions..

  3. >> I do have a problem with all this. I do have a problem with every religious or political outfit that brainwashes young minds into accepting hatred as a laudable emotion, and violence as a permissible tool for achieving desired ends

    This is mere lip service really. I would appreciate if you were to write a blog _exclusively_ on Islamic terrorism or Christian conversions. Your blogs follow a pattern - Strongly condemn an incident done by Hindu fundamentalists and then in the last paragragh, write something like "Oh by the way, I hate other fundamentalists as well". What crap. Let me very clear here - I would like the world to be secular, in the true sense, not the mainstream media definition of secularism. I seriously would like the Gujarat textbook to be removed from curriculum. What I would also like is to crack down the madrassas which behave like indoctrination camps for the fundamentalists. I would like to stop money-offered conversions.

    if you write about islamic/christian fundamentalism, you could be branded communal...Will you risk your 'secular' credentials?

  4. 1.Who appoints the Board? The government? Would it be any better than the appointment of judges? Would there be community quotas?

    2. The Quran says that Islam would ultimately rule the world. They already do. All religions now want to dominate in the way that Taliban does in some parts of the world. Taliban seems to thus already rule the thinking of other religions. Even the Christians of Kerala who should know better than others, seem to be inclined to Talibanism.

    3. Thanks to the Internet, there are limits to control of minds by fanatics. Children can go beyond textbooks now.

    4. Soon, humans would be regulated genetically. The styles of thinking of a human would be decided at conception.

  5. @ abhilash
    you both miss and get my point.

    you get the fact that i am repetetive - cos i am consistent in what i believe (not that i believe consistency in a virtue - if truth appears in a different form, i'll subscribe to that even tho i might contradict my earlier position).

    but you miss the burden of my post(could be my fault-may not have made myself clear enough). that is INDIA SHOULD LEARN FROM THE MISTAKES OF ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY, AND NOT EMULATE THEM.if we answer fundamentalism with another type of fundamentalism, india will become another pakistan or afghanistan - a chaotic nation where religious groups fight with each other.

    all i am trying to say is india has remained stable for 60 plus years after independnce on account of its tolerance and commitment to secularism. that india is worth saving.

    if closing all the madrassas and banning conversion totally will save india, it has to be done.i have always believed that religion should be practiced within the confines of one's homes and mind.

    the saddest thing for me would be to see this country fall apart.

  6. @ stoic
    .\'Who appoints the Board? The government?'
    a million dollar question!
    @ karthilk and vetrimagal
    i think there should be public debates on such issues. but the truth is that even educational institution refrain fron debating about this for fear of the inflammatory speeches that students will come up with.

  7. @abhilash - I can understand the need to shut down Madrassas as it takes away Muslims from mainstream education and in some places even breeds fundamentalism. But why ban conversions? How is it harming the country? Christians have always been inclusive not exclusive like Muslims. Your secular claims crack a bit here.

  8. @KPJ
    I have to say that you also missed my point.

    >>you miss the burden of my post
    What I understand from your post is that you put the burden of secularism on one religion alone. My point is that give equal weightage to other fundamentalists rather than always writing on Hindu fundamentalists ONLY. Although I am a Hindu, I don't subscribe to Hindu fundamentalist's view of India, but I can feel that I am getting closer and closer to their idealogy because islamic fundamentalists are given a free run in India. The 'secular people' have a problem only when the minority feelings are hurt. Nobody dares to question the fatwa issuing mullahs. I have seen posters supporting Osama in Thiruvananthapuram and calls for revenge for Babri demolition. Nobody dares to question that. Your post seems to suggest that let them continue their mistake, but hindus should be secular. It is not a sustainable model. Hindu fundamentalism is not the solution, but we cannot have little pakistans inside India.

    I am NOT at all for blanket ban on conversions. But I do have a problem with pastors abusing Hinduism. I happen to see a christian convention. A pastor was saying statements like "Hindus go to temple and close their eyes. If they were to close their eyes why do they go to temple" and "Hinduism doesn't have a book to follow like Bible".

    I do respect Christianity, I studied in a christian school, I still keep the Bible given free from my school. I can even say Psalm 23 without referring the Bible. But it does irritate me when people attack hinduism. Please, for god's sake, can't the pastors leave hinduism alone?

    Oops, that's a long post, sorry KPJ :-)

  9. @ abhilash
    i think i get your point. yes. there shud be legislation banning reference to other religions in the sermons of all religions, as also teachings in the religious instruction classes of all religions that are detrimental to other religions or communal harmony.. i know some sects of xtians do that - but those r not the mainstream ones.

    The question is who will bell the cat?

    the point you missed is i wasn't attacking hinduism. as for that matter, i wouldn't attack any religion, be it islam, buddhism - -. it's the practitioners that do disservice to the religions, and of course politicians who exploit religious sentiments for political tirade was against the latter. you faild to understand that. i wasn't critcising the majority . only the political groups which claim to represent the malority.

    people and politicians are two distinct categories.

    am open to discussions and different opinions. No probs.

  10. Why not go back to the original and real meaning of 'secularism' as defined by the dictionaries?
    Religion is necessary only to those that have filled-bellies; not to the starving.

  11. Wait a minute...

    i want to ask what has rising jehadis got to do with ruining our kids????

    I can't understand how anyone would want their kids to grow up into hate mongers!!!

    if there is an afterlife, the RSS and the Jehadis are sure going to the same place!

    The state government of Gujrat has managed to ruin everything that India stands for. When they have finished with the muslims and christians, they will attack women. People from the same party/ideology beat up women in Karnataka!

    In our country, Hindu fundamentalism is a FAR bigger issue than Islamic terror

    THE BURDEN OF SECULARISM IN INDIA IS ON THE HINDUS cos hindus are the majority. if we threaten the minority, because they are outnumbered, they are bound to resort to extreme means to feel secure...

    Ismalmic terror is the headache of islamic nations.

    Thanks for shedding light on this issue KPJ. I for one am going to cross check the sylabus before puting my kids into school.. and warn all genuine parents, who want their kids to grow up into good human beings...

  12. With education fast catching up, the various political parties in our country have reached a point where their very existence is threatened. It is becoming increasingly difficult to have the kind of mass followers who obeyed the party’s every whim asking nothing in return. The “Gandhi” name is one of the only remaining factor that have that kind of an impact and that too is fast fading ( Mr. Varun, you aren’t helping at all. But then your dad was not bad at it either ).

    Well anyway, at this particular point it is always advisable to go back to your basics. What the Gujarat government is doing is an age old trick for any political party with aspiration. This is what the Nazi’s once did when they wanted power- get to the youth. Those chunk of the society which is the easiest to sway and best to sustain your ideology- the younger members. It guarantees future for your organization. It is the fasted method to bring about change.

    The Gujarat government is finding it easy- when it comes to God, everything is possible. Religion automatically brings its followers. But what about the left in Kerala, how hard it is for them to teach the young Mallu’s that God does not exist? How hard it is to make people understand when in trouble turn to the red book for solace? Have you though about their predicament? But that isn’t stopping them from trying.
    They all need to have obedient brain-washed followers who will not judge the party by their actions but rather follow them for what the party is based on. People will reason, “So what if the ministers are corrupt, we cannot blame the party for it, change the minister but keep the party.” This will ensure sustainability to the party, to the organization. The minster will always have a son or son-in-law to change to.

    Central board is excellent, so long as the board enjoys the authority and autonomy as those of the election commission’s office. Even the CBI is said to be within grasp of the central government. So the better solution is election commission model. But will this have the desired effect you are aiming at?

    No it wouldn’t, because the politicians might be corrupt but they are not exactly stupid.
    If they cannot teach them at school they have other institutions to do that. The madrassas and the Sunday schools will be used for this purpose. Like-wise establishments to teach the Vedas will spring up all over the country. And through these institutes the lessons will continue. Even 50 years from now India will not have the guts to shut these down. So then what? How many people will stop sending their kids to know their religion because they doubt it is political? Of course the courses will be conducted in such a manner that no one can pin point the political objectives. What is wrong in teaching that our religion (X.Y or Z) is the right religion and as true religious followers it is our duty to safe guard our religion against extinction. That we are bound to defend our religion and stand for our God against all odds? No one can blame these teachings unless they are communist.

    So how do one propose to stop that? The only problem is, what will the communist do once the central board comes? I guess they will figure out some way or the other. They too have a lot of those classes and teachers, don’t they?

    Remember the more you fight against them the more they grow.
    So in-short we mere mortals don’t stand a chance against the political forces.

  13. india is my country and all indians are my brothers and sisters.

    what ever the school's administration is - hindu, christaina, muslim budhhist or RSS - the kid will learn unconsiciously that they are indians first -- even if they blindly say and when they will think about it some day -- they will first know that " india is their country first "

    how many schools do that today. no wonder at the drop of a hat we are building riots --
    when u say the pledge a million times -- it will rise up someday -- some day we will think about it - refute it or accept it but we will think -


Dear visitors, dont run away without leaving behind something for me :-)
By the way, if your comment does not get posted at the first click, just click once more.