Millennium Post

Educating Batra & other worthies

At them he throws the gauntlet of ‘anti-Hindu content’ and gets books, films, gestures, practices, ideas branded anti-nationalist in no time. He gets books banned, pulped, withdrawn from circulation as publishing behemoths supinely give up the battle for authorial independence, leave the court to Batra and his ilk, who then take to the text and rewrite pasts, reshape present, work out futures too shiny for intellectual comfort.

Like Batra, YS Rao, the new chief of Indian Council of Historical Research okays projects that seek to find material proofs of Ram Rajya, discover archaeological artifacts to bolster their flimsy mythical claims that they hold sacrosanct. They make universities drop seminal texts such as A K Ramanujam’s Three Hundred Ramayanas and Other Essays which prod students to question the very premise upon which the past is erected, doubt the official narrative and look for answers in oral and other lore. They even make publishing houses ‘review’ and eventually remove books that deal with uncomfortable topics, the range of which is increasing at an alarming pace, threatening to precipitate a veritable culture of self-regulation amongst academics, journalists and researchers with the now discouraged tendency to question everything.

While the holler to stop ‘saffronisation of education’ might be about making a mountain out of a mole hill, perhaps to say the signs that such a process has already begun wouldn’t be too off the mark. It is true that ideologues like Batra and Rao constitute, even now, a tiny minority among the educationists of this nation, but they are gaining ground everyday.

This cohort is writing textbooks that feed in blatantly false information about major world events, present an extremely distorted version of Indian history, bring in most disturbing and debilitating of stereotypes that make centuries of struggle for civil rights and cultural freedom redundant. In addition, they strike at the very base of primary, secondary and tertiary education, thereby creating an army of ill-informed, deeply compromised people, given to flares of wrongful passion and bouts of fanaticism, as seen in worldwide flashes of anti-Semitism of the 1930s, 40s or the present-day Islamophobia.

Until now, we have excused the fringe loonies in educational echelons as just that: a small and ineffectual bunch of noisemakers, who do not hold any real sway on the policies and vision that drive the ongoing project of nation-building. But now, it’s time to  reclaim the open and liberal public sphere.
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