The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh seems to be quietly broadening its remit these days. The RSS chief’s meeting with vice-chancellors and academics to discuss how social science research in the country should be guided and how to create a “positive national narrative in academics” is indicative of this. For an organisation which claims to be purely cultural, the RSS seems to be exceeding its brief quite regularly. The main thrust of the RSS these days seems to be to ‘reform’ education and purge it of all Leftist influences. Among the issues that seem to get its goat are the Mahishasur Shahadat Diwas and the Kiss of Love campaign, both seen as alien and corrupting in its eyes.
Education has long been in the RSS’s crosshairs as it realises its potential to influence the ideology of a younger generation. But to focus excessively on Indian culture and tradition would be to do a disservice to our students who will have to compete in a globalising world. They need the knowledge and skills for a highly competitive market where they will need the right education which will stand them in good stead. They don’t need to be force fed knowledge of a past large parts of which do not stand up to academic scrutiny. Education should not be seen in terms of ideology, rather it should focus on what courses and curricula are best for the students. While the RSS has every right to put forward its suggestions, as does the public, the vice-chancellors and universities should not be coerced into adopting these if they are not suitable. The serious task of curriculum framing and introducing changes should be left to those with domain knowledge, not an ideological outfit. The RSS has become increasingly assertive it the field of education with many people with open affiliations to the organisation securing top academic jobs. In several schools, particularly in Rajasthan, school textbooks have been rewritten to showcase the glories of a mythical past. Indeed, several chapters introduced are not based on fact.
This sort of interference by those without expertise could lead to a whole generation of students coming out of educational institutions filled with knowledge which will in no way help them to secure jobs or enhance their intellect. We should be looking at incorporating the best in the world into our curricula and attracting the best faculty we can. But with this sort of intervention by organisations like the RSS neither will be possible. This is to fail our students and deprive them of what they deserve.