Millennium Post

Textual secularism

Education is the latest battlefield of our political warriors. The spoils of edu-war include not just the minds and hearts of our young, they are about retaining or destroying the syncretic fabric of our composite culture. It is obvious that primary, secondary and tertiary education systems are under assault from right-wingers of all hues, especially fringe elements belonging to the two main religions of the country.

Education is being held hostage to the whims and fancies of fanatics like Dinanath Batra on the one hand, and the Deobandis on the other, who have mutually banned more books and had them withdrawn from circulation than many others. Indian government’s supine response to instances of extreme cultural intolerance, whether in the case of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses or Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus, has underlined the same hypocrisy, specificities of the regime notwithstanding.

While so far we have had these episodes periodically, it seems the frequency of such war cries for censorship has exceeded all limits of civility and consensus.

Competitive outrageousness has become the norm, evidently. While a Supreme Court judge recently declared he would like to have Bhagwad Gita and Mahabharata to be made compulsory texts in Class I, we have also had madrasas routinely imparting the most orthodox and warped ideas in the name of Islamic education to Muslim children. Similarly, creationism and other thoroughly debunked theories have been passed on over generations in conservative Jesuit schools, without anyone batting an eyelid.

While it’s all very good to cheer for plurality of voices, true secularism lies in an egalitarian and equal opportunity education, and not the competitive obscurantism that we get in the name of edification.   
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