By Kancha Ilaiah
23 July, 2004
Ever since Arjun
Singh took over as Minister for Human Resources Development, he started
a process of desaffronising education. The process of saffronisation
was deep as Murli Manohar Joshi had pushed the Hindutva ideology to
all levels of the education system. This does not mean that during the
phase of secularisation of education, the education system was made
pro- productive masses. What the secular educationists did was that
they tried to mediate between Hindu and Muslim historical systems.
But, however, they
too did not realise and work out a historiography of the productive
mass based on multi-culturalism. For nationalist historians the national
ethos was based on Vedism. For Marxist historians it was of class without
any face of Indianness, which in essence was caste. For subaltern historians
the nation was of peasant or farmer, again unidentifiable in terms of
the real identity of the productive masses - the tanner, the shoe maker,
the potter, the shepherd, the tiller and so on, who struggle with the
nature to produce food and other goods and commodities for human survival
and each one of such social group is known by its caste name.
of education does not mean deleting some sentences and paras from history
books or deleting sections that deal with astrology from the books prepared
by the Hindutva historians. Indian history does not become representative
history only if the so called Vedic mathematics, Vedic science etc are
either removed or nuanced with the language of a secular historian.
The difference between caste communalism and secularism has been very
thin. India does not suffer from only religious communalism. It suffers
from caste communalism as well. Hence education should decasteise society
as a whole.
The school textbooks
brought out by the NCERT during the BJP regime really destroyed the
social foundation of Indian society. The Vedic Brahmanism was not only
made central to future life but it was made binding for people who live
in future too. The history of Muslim rulers was shown as a period of
devilishness. There was no scientific analysis in any particular form
or there was no serious examination of the history and social sciences.
The form and content of the books that were brought out under Rajput
leadership need to be scrapped. The question, however, is that what
do we replace it with? What kind of history are we going to hand down
to the millions of children? Is it enough to have a syllabus that teaches
that Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Bouddhas and Jains should live
side by side without involvingthemselves in social conflicts? But it
does not resolve the historical mindsets, stereotypes and caste biases.
The whole question
of teaching history and social sciences does not mean teaching about
religious institutions alone. History and social sciences have to deal
with, castes, cultures, different modes of customs, conventions and
the institutional structures that emerged based on all these factors.
In a caste society like India purely class-based analysis does allow
the student to understand the multi- cultural structures India. The
future citizens of India should know the positive and negative history
of India. They should know what should be practised what should not
be practised. They should know what is a vehicle to reach the goal of
equality and what is hindrance for equality. More significantly they
should know that the caste system destroyed dignity of labour.
Why should dignity
of labour be central to our school education? The school education all
these years has remained very vague. The sociological explanation, the
cultural history, the political history, so far, have not treated the
caste as a negative system. It is amazing that no historian has discussed
jobs like shoe making, pot making , shepherding and even tilling the
land. If the new education policy being framed by the Arjun Singh ministry
does not grapple with castes and the kind of indignity of labour that
it created once again we are in for a system which perpetuates caste
inequalities, thereby other inequalities as well.
No doubt Arjun Singh
himself is very sensitive to the question of communalism. And the committee
that he is going to constitute might have people who are very sensitive
to the communal mode of history written by earlier communal authors.
But there is a general feeling among most historians that a discourse
on caste is undesirable. But such an attitude towards history will show
a hidden respect for superstition among many of our otherwise progressive
There are some social
scientists who believe that if we discuss caste it will spread more
and more. It is like believing that if we discuss cancer it would spread
in the body and if we remain silent about it, it would automatically
disappear. There is also a school of writers who believe that if our
children are taught about sex education that will lead to spreading
of AIDS among them. Similarly some social scientists think that if school
children study about caste they would become casteist. This is a superstitious
belief. Cancer can be removed only by operation and AIDS can be abolished
only by scientific sex education among our child population. Similarly
caste can be abolished only by making our child population respect all
forms of labour in everyday life. They must also discuss the negative
influences of caste on the social system.