In the last few years a new phrase has come to being. The saffronisation of Indian school text books. It was being bandied about quite often and usually in the same breath as the (in)famous Hindu right wing fundamentalists. Then another tribe started growing in the age of the internet — the internet Hindus they were called. Once a new term is coined, it feels like something far more tangible than just a thought a group of people had, doesn’t it?
While I heard about all this, there was never any need to encounter them, I thought. And I just pushed them into that corner of my mind where all hateful things lie, coloured in a deep red hue, unable to make out form from faction. Religion is something I am not comfortable discussing, mostly because I am so ambivalent and vague about what I believe in that to rally about my beliefs when I am almost apologetic about it, is very difficult.
Then I started work on my current work project where I (we) had to refer to all state curriculum text books across the country, and that’s when my moment of aghast began (am still to recover). The first textbook I referred to was my home state and couldn’t get over the self-congratulatory tone of Shivaji’s exploits. But then, since I am the first to dismiss any marathipan, from my Marathi surname, I didn’t say much. Kept it to myself thinking maybe only Maharashtra’s textbooks were doctored? It’s always easiest to be ashamed of one’s own..
Then I moved on to textbooks from North and South India and realised Maharashtra’s biggest folly was perhaps only bad language (and Shiv Sena ignoring Shivaji’s most important lesson of being fairl and tolerant a king above everything else but who knows if that is doctored). Most textbooks glorify all Indian kings for fighting against the “Muslim” rule but still being “tolerant” by allowing their subjects to practice Islam. Most textbooks refer to “ancient Indian texts” as a source of reference for everything, including the technology for airplanes. After all “Ram did return in an aeroplane.” So what if we are getting mythology mixed up with science?
What was scarier was the next line. “Logical people disagree with this.” It galls me to see school text books encouraging to blindly believe myth and reject logic and proof because it does not fit their stories. What’s worse is that child who is going to, in all likelihood, mug it, will grow up with this as part of his psyche and won’t understand the reasoning of why we call this “indoctrination.”
The child then grows up and decides to investigate for himself and turns to the internet, where he meets the scary tribe of internet hindus and because he has not been taught any style of application in education, he accepts with looking for logic or reasoning or even questioning why.
Talk about far-reaching effects!
And then, there are people who will believe almost anything read on a website, forgetting that even websites are written by people and one should only but use a pinch of salt with it. The internet is very important today as it gives so much information but it becomes imperative to have some sort of filtering mechanism, one that is based on your own thought process and not a borrowed one.
And then I finished reading this book, where he discusses how this book can be taught from a dharma-that-caters-to-a-universal-religion perspective rather than a religious text and it makes complete sense to me. That, of course, in the hindu in me but the difference is I realise it. What also makes the book even more palatable is the initial embarrassment Gurcharan Das talks about when people mention his name and holy books and studies in the same sentence. It’s something many urban hindus face today ( or I would like to imagine they do .. I know I do).
We need to save the opinions of children for tomorrow, don’t we? At least long enough for them to able to make them up on their own (and as I write this I realise how small and inadequate it seems as the problem seems as vast as India itself and blame to be ascribed to all political parties, for meddling where they have no business meddling).