You cannot blame Bhavana Vaja, 12, for telling you that the first aeroplane was invented during the mythical Dvapara Yuga, when the Hindu God Ram flew from Sri Lanka to Ayodhya in India with his wife Sita and brother Laxman in a Pushpaka Vimana – a swan-shaped chariot of flowers.
By claiming that they familiarise students with India’s ancient heritage, some books printed by the education department of western Gujarat state teach children that aeroplanes existed in India since Lord Ram’s era. And that is just a sample of how religious content is included in science, history, environment, and mathematics books…
The Gujarat government has introduced nine new books this academic year for classes 1 to 12. These books, written by Hindu nationalist ideologues, have been delivered to 42,000 elementary schools across the state free of cost.
Eight out of the nine books have been penned by Dina Nath Batra, founder of the Hindu nationalist organisation, Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti. Batra was responsible for forcing Pengiun India Publishers to withdraw all copies of Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus in February this year.
Enthused by its success, Batra went on to force two other publishers – Aleph and Orient Blackswan – to withdraw books that he deemed “hurtful to Hindu religious sentiments“.
Good thing we have intellectual freedom here in the United States. We don’t have to confront theocrats like this more often than, say, once or twice a week. 🙂
Taking a leaf from Batra’s book, India’s prime minister and former chief minister of Gujarat state, Narendra Modi, last week said that genetic science existed in ancient India.
In fact, Modi wrote a foreword in Batra’s books saying his “inspirational literature will inspire students and teachers”…
There is already some talk of changing the school and college curriculum at the national level.
In Indian political context, “saffronisation” is used to refer to the policies of right-wing Hindu nationalist organisations, which, according to critics, are divisive. The term refers to the saffron-coloured robes worn by Hindu sages.
Barely four days after India’s new right-wing government was sworn in this May, Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, a former TV actress, issued her first statement saying the Vedas, the Upanishads and other ancient Hindu texts should be introduced in the classrooms.
Consequently, in July, a consultative body called The Bharatiya Shiksha Neeti Ayog (Indian Education Policy Commission) was constituted by the Hindu nationalist organisation, RSS and is mandated “to study the present education system and suggest corrective steps to make it Bharat-centric.” Bharat is the Hindi word for India.
And so it goes. In nation-states led and controlled by politicians whose ideology is infused with the supposed benefits of theocracy, school books and laws begin to be distorted a little at a time until the intellectual freedom of thought, speech and education we take for granted as modern standards – are made subservient to religion. Whether it be India, Turkey – or Texas.