The RSS charging the IITs and IIMs with “anti-national” activities is a new low in its freewheeling attempts at saffronisation of higher education in India ever since the BJP government took over. The institutions that have produced the largest number of global ambassadors for Indian education are suddenly at the risk of being overrun by irrational religious ideologues.
According to an article in the RSS mouthpiece, Organiser, these “premium institutes” are still controlled by the Left and the Congress, who have turned them into places of “anti-national” and “anti-Hindu” activities. According to the article, both (the Left and the Congress) are masters at ideological control. It takes the names of Anil Kakodkar, who resigned as the chairman of the Board of Governors of IIT Delhi and AM Naik, Chairman, IIM, Ahmedabad, for their criticism of the HRD ministry.
The article goes at length to describe how IIT Roorkee served non-vegetarian food despite its being located in Haridwar, and how IIT Rourkela prevented students from performing pooja in its community hall. “Faculties with low moral are misguiding students,” it further said.
The blatant attack of the RSS on the IIT and IIM managements is the sign of an impending crisis in Indian education.
The RSS wants to rewrite history, it wants to dismantle the autonomy of premier institutions and take over their control through the HRD ministry, and wants to have a major say in the new education policy of the Union government. On Saturday, the HRD minister Smriti Irani held discussions with members of several RSS-affiliated organisations on the new policy. Reportedly, a larger group will meet her again later this month. The Ministry is already pushing for a bill to wrest control of the IIMs from their board of governors.
The imbroglio that the government has forced on the students of the prestigious FTII in Pune, that has produced some of India’s best known filmmakers and technicians, by appointing a small-time actor, who is known for his proximity to the RSS than any professional record of consequence, as the institute’s chairman appears to be a pilot test.
Although the students, backed by the industry, have been on strike for two months, the government is in no mood to relent. The government wouldn’t change the new chairman, but would prefer the students, selected on merit, leave the institute. The RSS and the government know that if they give in, their saffronisation plans will come under pressure.
The government will want to brazen it out, succeed and then move on to the IIM Bill and the new education policy. AS Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen said on NDTV, there is a clear Hindutva pattern in the appointments of key educational and cultural institutions.
The obvious danger of the saffronisation project is not the appointment of party-favourites in government institutions, which every ruling party does, but challenging the principle of scientific enquiry and terming anything rational as anti-Hindu. No scientist ever claims that his/her theory is infallible and is not open to revision if there is newer evidence. Rather than being certain about their beliefs, what scientists - whether material, social or formal - engage in is a search for truth. Consequently, their public behaviour is rational too.
The biggest threat to a rational, scientific approach that the modern world is built on, is faith and agenda-driven fake science. Evidence and scientific processes give way to fundamentalist faiths, emotions and rhetoric - and that is precisely what the RSS is attempting to do with the help of its “cargo cult science” practitioners. And the HRD ministry is a willing partner.
Here is a brilliant example in Amartya Sen’s words: “The new head of the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR), Dr Lokesh Chandra, appointed by the Modi government, has informed The Indian Express that “from a practical point of view [Modi] supersedes the Mahatma [Gandhi].”
Chandra has also expressed the view that Modi is, in fact, “a reincarnation of God.” Chandra has said he believes that six million Koreans trace their ancestry back to an Indian princess from Ayodhya.” Imagine the damage that ICCR, which takes Indian culture to global cities, can cause to the image of India.
What’s ludicrous is how the displacement of the rational with the ideological contradicts Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s self-avowed ambition to make India a superpower. No country in the world has made technological and economic progress with religious ideologies and cult sciences. In fact, religious ideology and fanaticism have taken countries only backward - some almost irreversibly.
What Modi, who swears by technology, merit and economic growth and “Make in India", should realise is that the world is watching. For years, institutions such as IITs, IIMs and the FTII have kept the flag of Indian excellence flying high in world capitals and we haven’t been able to build anything new that matches their stature.
The world will listen to an Amartya Sen or an Adoor Gopalakrishnan than to a Rajiv Malhotra or Gajendra Chauhan. The saffronisation project will kill whatever little hope that we are left with.
Updated Date: Jul 21, 2015 08:39 AM