RSS activist Dinanath Batra shot himself in the foot on Monday, making sensational recommendations to the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), asking the group to review some portions of school textbooks.
The Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas, headed by Batra, sent five pages of recommendations. What did they ask for? As per a report in The Indian Express, he wanted no words in English, Arabic or Urdu in school textbooks. No excerpts from MF Husain's autobiography and Rabindranath Tagore's writings. Mentions of the BJP as a "Hindu" party and the National Conference as "secular" to be wiped out entirely. A paragraph that links the Ram Temple debate with the rise of BJP and Hindutva politics should be removed.
Batra received flak on social media after his list of demands went viral on Monday. A furious Sitaram Yechury called the requests "an insult to India".
Slamming the BJP-RSS ideologue, the Union minister also said, "By attacking Tagore, Urdu and other vital symbols of rich, Indian culture, RSS ideologues are again demonstrating how anti-India they are."
However, should one be surprised to see the list? It's far from the first time Batra has said or written something controversial and scandalous.
Batra has, for a while, been on a course to 'Indianise' the education scene. The self-proclaimed historian, whose books are now being taught in Gujarat schools, has written against the celebration of birthdays with cakes and candles, because "it is a western practice". In one of his texts, he also wrote, "Instead, we should follow a purely Indian culture by wearing swadeshi clothes, doing a havan and praying to ishtadev (preferred deity), reciting Gayatri Mantra, distributing new clothes to the needy, feeding cows, distributing prasad and winding up the day by playing songs produced by Vidya Bharati."
In another book, Batra said he does not believe that India's neighbours should be recognised as separate countries. In a book titled Tejomay Bharat (Shining India), he argued that the Indian map should include "countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Burma", as they're all a "part of Akhand Bharat".
Batra's "moral education" books are already prescribed as compulsory reading in government schools in Gujarat. He has actively advocated the teaching of Sanskrit to students, along with an emphasis on their respective mother tongues ("with 20 percent for Sanskrit"), with Hindi as a second language.
In one of his writings, he said, "Undivided India is the truth, divided India is a lie. Division of India is unnatural and it can be united again."
Back in 2014, he had objected to NCERT textbooks for being "misleading" and "full of flaws". Batra had said at the time, "The condition of Hindi books is even worse. Have you heard of Hindi books having English poems? There are 180 English words, 170 Urdu words, even Persian poems have been included. We are agitating against those books."
He also picked on how NCERT textbooks represented Hindu epics. "They say they are fiction. Ramayana is history. They are great books. They are not myths. They are history," he had said in an interview with Firstpost.
Speaking to IANS the same year, Batra had said, "English poems (in Devanagri script) and Persian couplets in Hindi are there in the school books. It is a distortion of Hindi language."
However, state governments have always appeared to be in favour of Batra and his suggestions. In 2016, the BJP government in Haryana introduced six books by the RSS ideologue in the state schools. While it revived a debate on the saffronisation of education, Batra continued to defend his writings. "Those who make such charges are unaware of the great Indian values, culture and tradition," he had said.
Before the books were out, when Batra was asked if controversial content from the Gujarat textbooks had made their way into books meant for Haryana schools, he told The Indian Express, "You can call it whatever you want but I'll write whatever evokes nationalism in children."
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Jul 24, 2017 17:40:37 IST