Blowing out birthday candles is apparently part of western culture and should be shunned. Instead one’s birthday ought to be celebrated by wearing swadeshi clothes, doing a havan, praying to ishtadev and feeding cows. Normally, such exhortations would be dismissed as not being worth the paper they are written on. But when the author is none other than Dina Nath Batra, whose civil suit earlier led to the pulping of eminent scholar Wendy Doniger’s seminal work on Hinduism, we must take this seriously. Mr Batra has also been rewarded for his ‘valiant’ efforts to promote culture and tradition by the Gujarat government, which has asked 42,000 primary and secondary schools in the state to make a set of nine books by him, a part of the curriculum’s supplementary literature. We can only hope that all his books are not of the calibre of the sort which talks of not using birthday candles.
It is highly questionable whether students will be able to develop moral values and imbibe our rich culture after studying Mr Batra’s works. However, it speaks volumes for the narrow-mindedness of Mr Batra that he thought it fit to spearhead the movement against Ms Doniger’s book, which by all accounts is a pathbreaking work. There are many like Mr Batra who see plots to subvert our culture in books, paintings, plays and other creative works.
Hinduism and Indian culture do not need ambassadors like Mr Batra, they have withstood the test of time precisely by being eclectic and inclusive.
The fact that Mr Batra has been given this sort of recognition can only encourage similarly myopic people who will appoint themselves as custodians of our culture. It is a pity that there was not a more forceful denunciation of Mr Batra when he led the charge against Ms Doniger’s book. The authorities in Gujarat should examine how including books that speak of including neighbouring countries as part of India’s map can help students in any way.
Apart from anything else, it is to teach children factually incorrect information. India does not lack scholars on culture and heritage. Mr Batra and his ilk are certainly not among them.