The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Too much of higher education in India is career driven rather than directed to the pursuit of knowledge. One necessary condition for the latter is an open mind to all forms of learning. An education that does not nurture intellectual curiosity produces sterile minds. For better or for worse, the modern Indian education system is derived from the British system. This is true not only for the structure of the system and modes of evaluation and instruction but also at a more profound level of what constitutes knowledge. Here notions of reason as derived from the Enlightenment and a Eurocentric scientism hold sway. Nobody will deny the benefits of education based on those Western principles. But even Western scholars are admitting that this particular epistemology and a pedagogy have their limits and are privileged because of a historical process which is a little more than 200 years old. Western reason and science conquered the world of knowledge because they travelled piggyback on imperialism. One major consequence of this was the suppression and the obliteration of indigenous forms of knowledge. This effect is most glaringly manifest in the utter marginalization of Indian philosophy in the academic curricula across the globe and even in India. Study of whole schools of philosophy, not to speak of practitioners and teachers of those systems, have disappeared. To describe a philospher today as a nayiyaik or an advaitabadi would be quite meaningless. Yet Indian philosophy is a rich fountain of knowledge. Similarly, the study of mathematics and astronomy, as developed in classical India, is lost today despite the discovery of zero and the heliocentric universe.

There is a need to revive such lost and suppressed systems of knowledge. Mr Murli Manohar Joshi, the human resources development minister, may or may not have an ideological agenda in his advocacy of forms of knowledge developed in ancient India. But this is not sufficient ground for an intellectual rejection of the project as being obscurantist or as being equivalent to superstition. In fact, the revival of such systems pose a challenge: a challenge of retrieval of texts and interpretations as well as a challenge to the Western domination in the pursuit of knowledge qua knowledge and in the academia. To turn away from this knowledge will be an act of prejudice and therefore of intellectual hypocrisy.

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