The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sangh crows over syllabus victory

New Delhi, Sept. 13: The Supreme Court judgment upholding the new school curriculum has emboldened Sangh parivar outfits to dig in their heels on the contentious education policy, leaving its critics disappointed.

Authors of previous history textbooks brought out by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) avoided commenting on the court judgment but said the last word has not been said yet.

They maintained they were awaiting the new textbooks on history, kept on hold for the court order. As far as the curriculum framework is concerned, there are no obvious references that could be construed as “saffronising” education. “I would not like to comment on the court judgment because I have not seen it,” said historian Romila Thapar.

The Sangh parivar, however, grabbed the opportunity to let loose strident criticism of the Left-liberal academics who had charged it with a “sleight of hand” in the new school curriculum.

The shrillest criticism came from the RSS’s education wing, Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Shikhsha Sansthan, which runs a chain of 20,000 Vidya Bharati schools across India.

“The decision of the Supreme Court is timely,” says Dinanath Batra, general secretary of the Sansthan.

“The future generation will no longer have to learn that Aryans were outsiders or Mughals native to this land. They will not have to admit that our ancestors were beef eaters or treat Ram and Krishna as myths.”

The judgment has pleased Batra all the more because it has upheld the importance of value education which the general secretary described as “Dharma”.

“What can be more pleasing than the fact that the court has underlined the importance of teaching ‘Dharma’ in schools — this is not against the Constitution of India. This decision will throw anti-national and anti-Dharma elements out of the syllabus,” he said.

Intoning a similar sentiment, RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav said they were happiest about the court buttressing their stand on value education.

The brand of “Dharma” Batra’s Sansthan espouses shows little respect for any religion outside Hinduism. For instance, the Sanskriti Gyan (knowledge of culture) series brought out by the Sansthan derides Christianity and Islam in the same breath. It says India was “partitioned because of Christian missionaries and they are still active in the Northeast”. “According to scholars, Jesus Christ spent 30 years of his life in India in the company of saints and sadhus. This is clear from his teachings”.

In yet another place it says: “Muslims, even though they are against idol worship, go to Mecca every year to worship the Siva linga”.

“Is this how they understand ‘Dharma’' And is this how they are going to promote respect for all religions '” asked Arjun Dev, former head of the NCERT’s history department.

But the general feeling among those opposed to the RSS brand of history is that the court judgment has, at least for the time being, bolstered the Sangh parivar, particularly human resource development minister Murli Manohar Joshi and NCERT director J.S. Rajput. In fact, as some of them point out, the battle should have been fought not legally but outside the court room.

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