The Rajasthan government has asked state-run colleges to introduce the RSS founder’s biography in their libraries, it emerged on Friday, setting the stage for a potential backlash by critics who accuse the BJP regime at the Centre of trying to saffronise education.
The directorate of college education (DCE) sent out a circular dated July 9 asking government colleges to purchase a particular book on RSS founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar for their libraries.
The circular has been put up on the DCE’s website.
The move comes close on the heels of governor Kalyan Singh – under whose watch the Babri Masjid was demolished in Uttar Pradesh -- saying that textbooks in Rajasthan schools should have chapters on Mewar ruler Maharana Pratap and not on “outsiders” like Mughal monarch Akbar.
Ever since coming to power in May last year, the BJP-led NDA government has set about what it calls a reform of the education system by focusing on India’s culture and heritage instead of eulogising people which it considers as invaders.
The opposition led by the Congress accuses the Narendra Modi government of attempting to introduce Hindutva ideology in textbooks and also of vitiating scientific temper by highlighting myths and legends.
The book pushed for by the BJP government in Rajasthan -- ‘Aadhunik Bharat Ke Nirmata Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar’ written by one Rakesh Sinha -- is available in both English and Hindi.
Published by the media unit of the ministry of information and broadcasting, the book is said to be the first authentic biography on Hedgewar, who had founded the RSS in 1925. The RSS is considered the ideological fountainhead of the BJP.
Rajasthan minister for higher education Kali Charan Saraf said there was nothing wrong in asking colleges to buy the book.
“Only Nehru and Gandhi were not freedom fighters…Hedgewar was a true son of the soil and a freedom fighter. There’s nothing wrong in introducing the book in college libraries,” he said.
The minister said the government had introduced books on Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose also in colleges.
“We are not saffronising education but giving sons of the soil their due,” Saraf said. The Rajasthan government had recently introduced several Hindu icons in school textbooks.
However, the move sparked outrage among educationists.
“The government is trying to enforce a mentality of a Hindu nation among the youth of the country. It wants to create a social divide, of Hindus versus non-Hindus, in their minds. It wants to look culturally and religiously pluralistic but is propagating a society which is determined by the principle Hindu social order,” said Rajiv Gupta, former head of sociology department, Rajasthan University.
Such decisions will gradually lead to cultural fascism, he added.
The book’s author Rakesh Singh told Hindustan Times on telephone from Delhi that a writer didn’t decide which government or which board of education would introduce his or her book to students.
“In my opinion, all sorts of books should be available in libraries,” he added.