One of the most memorable quotes from every person who has ever gone to school expresses not just the disappointing degradation in our youth’s vocabulary into a very limited number of cuss words, but also signifies a collective feeling. A feeling that binds us together as victims of the education system, despite our cultural, religious or intellectual differences. A feeling that is shared by the nerds, the delinquents, the plastics and every other denomination we came across within the walls of each of our institutions.
Schools or the Indian System of Education as a whole has had a popular history of being one of the most despised institutions in the history of sucky institutions with the KGB having a larger fan base than this dictatorial menace. And despite being the superior being propelling uniformity onto its deceived subjects, the education system is also being used as a tool for governments to extend their principles into the minds of the young people of the country – the only remaining part of the population who still think beef and one thousand rupee notes are important and delicious. Not in that order.
But, in all seriousness, 2016, with its high amount of celebrity deaths and primate worshipping, had also had India seeing its education systems revising its syllabus. As shocking as this sounds, considering the fact that our textbooks were printed before Gutenberg was conceived, this renewal of archaic study material was, however, not for improving the content but rather, manipulating it.
We’ve all thought about it. We’ve all whispered about it. But we’ve never like to admit the potentially fascist route our government is taking. To propagate an idea, one first identifies the most vulnerable targets. Stalin scoped out for disillusioned comrades. Hitler played the pipe for the ears of power-hungry Aryans. Donald Trump identified people with his similar pea-sized brain (and hands). Our government, however, has upped the ante when it comes to subtle influences. They’ve pinned down to school-going children who are as aware of politics as they are of how badly qualified their teachers are.
As of late, Indian History Textbooks, in particular, have gotten into the nasty habit of conveniently forgetting integral parts of the country’s past. The reason for this sudden oblivion remains unanswered but most recently, the Rajasthan state syllabus erased an entire section on Jawaharlal Nehru and his contribution towards the liberation of our country from colonial rule. Such a sudden rewriting of the past, particularly rejecting all facts associated with the Indian National Congress reeks of political interference in the one thing politics should have steered their plaguing presence away from – Education.
In the second edition of Rajasthan’s class VIII Social Science Textbook, while highlighting names like Vallabhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad and Subash Chandra Bose, the book has blatantly left out names of various freedom fighters associated with the Indian National Congress, most importantly the first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. On being questioned about this sly act, School Education Minister Vasudev Devnani had shed off all responsibility by saying “The government and I have nothing to do with it. I am yet to see the new textbooks. The syllabus is created by an autonomous body and the government does not interfere in it at all.” This may have carried a hint of believability if he hadn’t previously said that he wanted the curriculum to have a three-pronged effect: teach the child about the ‘veer’ and ‘veerangana’ of Rajasthan; make the child proud of Indian culture; and, create an ideal citizen and a patriot.
This atrocity, surprisingly remains as the tip of the ice-berg as the NDA had made publicly announced that it would ensure that the correction of ‘errors’ in NCERT textbooks will be undertaken by the ruling party. The BJPs’ ideological pillar, the RSS, sees rewriting of history as “crucial” since Marxists and other ‘secular’ political groups had shaped history in such a way that repressed Hindu pride in the past.
In response to the omission of Nehru, Rajasthan Congress President Sachin Pilot had appropriately termed it as a “mental bankruptcy” initiated by CM Vasundhara Raje’s government.
It is easy to point fingers at symbols and people, but what fears the liberal minds who had pride and courage for their nation, is not the rewriting of its history, but the rewriting of the word “patriotism”. Bringing a more alarming situation to light, Pilot had said “This is taking saffronisation to the next level”, presenting to us the corruption that academic literature is a victim to; how it is thrown around as a scapegoat for rendering an underground pathway for political ideologies to make their way into minds of potential liberals, looking forward to an India where people aren’t defined by symbols of a lotus or a palm. An India where citizens read about the heroism and cowardice of their politicians. Now, it may be asking for a lot to rehabilitate the entire political system, but fighting for the freedom of text is something that must not be put for later. Because, before you know it, the snot-nosed kids of today, reading their biased and rigid textbooks, would be the faces of tomorrow’s India.