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Centre targets 'cultural pollution'

New Delhi, Sept. 7: The Narendra Modi government, which launched a clean India campaign last year, now wants to extend it to the cultural domain.

During a meeting with leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) last week, the Union culture and human resource development ministers pledged to launch a countrywide movement to rid the nation of " sanskritik pradushan (cultural pollution)", it has emerged now.

"We will cleanse every area of public discourse that has been westernised and where Indian culture and civilisation need to be restored - be it the history we read or our cultural heritage or our institutes that have been polluted over years," Union culture minister Mahesh Sharma said.

Apart from Sharma and HRD minister Smriti Irani, the education and culture ministers from several BJP-ruled states were also present at the meeting at Madhyanchal Bhavan (the guesthouse of Madhya Pradesh) in the capital late last week.

The issue was discussed on the sidelines of the key RSS meet where all cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister, presented what appeared to be "report cards" on governance over the past year.

The culture and HRD ministries will prepare independent roadmaps for the proposed culture "cleansing" exercise which will touch school curricula, art and cinema, science and technology and libraries, sources said.

"We have 39 institutions under the culture ministry, including grand museums and the National School of Drama, but we have not been up to the mark in presenting our Indian cultural heritage in a right way," said Sharma. "We will totally revamp all these institutions after a detailed roadmap is prepared."

Perhaps keeping in mind the possibility of fresh controversy, the minister cited an example that sought to project the cultural effort as an attempt to promote Sanskrit, whose neglect has been a topic of discussion among respected academicians.

It is a matter of embarrassment when an Indian student goes abroad and is asked to recite a Sanskrit couplet but fails to do so, Sharma said. "It is because we do not take pride in our ancient language and it has not been part of our learning. So, is not a change required there? We have to change the mindset of people."

Sources present at the meeting said it was decided that all RSS wings would ensure greater integration to make "key changes" in culture and education.

Scientists have reacted with dismay at the proposal, saying the desire expressed by the RSS and the government reeks of cultural policing.

"I suspect this is a bid to condemn the modern and scientific temperament we have achieved and is aimed at taking us back in time where everything with modern or western influence will be banished," said Pushpa Mitra Bhargava, a biologist and founder director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology.

"My biggest fear is that they will indoctrinate young impressionable minds with their mischief with the school syllabi."

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