Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi took political indoctrination to a new level on Friday.
He addressed schoolchildren across Gujarat through Doordarshan’s state channel on Teachers’ Day. Surpassing ruling parties using textbooks written by ideologically compatible to promote their cause, Modi’s decision to capitalise on the audiovisual medium is unprecedented.
On the face of it, Modi talked about seemingly apolitical issues. They ranged from the state’s development, health, hygiene and environment to girls’ education.
But implicit in his address was the message that he is the torchbearer of ‘development’. For lakhs of impressionable minds, the message could not have been missed. Calling upon students to be cautious of terrorist activities, which he said are carried out “within” society, Modi was obviously referring to the politics around the Hindu-Muslim question.
This is perhaps the first time that state television has been used in this manner — making schoolchildren listen to the leader in their respective schools, where TV sets were hastily installed. The use of textbooks to propagate a party’s ideology however is not new in India.
Recently, a class VII textbook in Kerala was in the eye of a storm for allegedly promoting atheism.
In this case, a Muslim father and Hindu mother ask a school headmaster to leave the column on religion blank in their child’s admission form, saying “he will choose later” which religion to adopt. It was said that the communist government was promoting atheism through such indoctrination to make children more open to adopting Marxism as they grow up. On July 17, the Kerala government backed off and announced that it would “rewrite” the controversial portions.
Earlier, the NDA government had been accused of “saffronisation of education” when it decided to replace NCERT history textbooks written by Marxist historians. It also tried to introduce “value education” and courses such as Vedic Mathematics and Astrology.