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BJP’s patriot act, between the covers

‘Patriotism’ has replaced ‘nationalism’ as the pet chant of BJP leaders seeking to tinker with textbooks to saffronise the syllabus, reports Prasad Nichenametla.

delhi Updated: Feb 16, 2009 14:11 IST
Prasad Nichenametla
Prasad Nichenametla
Hindustan Times

‘Patriotism’ has replaced ‘nationalism’ as the pet chant of BJP leaders seeking to tinker with textbooks to saffronise the syllabus.

Some BJP-ruled states have proposed that an effective way to counter home-grown terror is to force students to love their country by cramming the syllabus with “another set of freedom fighters” and sanskara (traditional moral education) that is in sync with the party’s saffron philosophy.

“There is a need to change this trend where people are turning to terrorism even after having proper education, as seen in the recent cases of students turning to terror,” Madhya Pradesh Minister for Education Archana Chitnis told HT after the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) meeting, where she raised the issue.

“We want a nationalistic approach and patriotic fervor imbibed into our education system that would fill the students heart and soul with love for this country. We need to build another set of freedom fighters … we need to stop students from turning to terrorism,” she said.

She got support from Karnataka, another BJP-ruled state. “While our country has rich history, literature and achievements in every field, we have adopted western education. More than formal education, we need sanskara (moral education) taught to our children through which we can stop them from getting involved in terror acts,” Kageri Vishweshwar Hegde, Karnataka Minister for primary and secondary education told HT. Karnataka, he said, has already consulted experts to make changes in the state curriculum.

HRD Minister Arjun Singh, however, denied the issue of patriotism in the curriculum was discussed. “I did not hear anything like that,” he told HT at the meeting.

An HRD ministry official present, however, said the subject was brought up. “Some states have suggested a nationalistic approach to our education. If they want to bring those changes (at their level), they can do it as of now,” said the official, who did not want to be quoted because he is not authorised to talk to the media.

Both states plan to push these recommendations to the Centre, which ironically has just circulated among all states a draft bill for the formation of the National Textbook Council with a mandate to stop ideological changes from creeping in textbooks across the country.

Historians are naturally upset that ideology has replaced facts.

“Nationalism does not come from text books, it comes from the society. A child anyway cannot be proud of our nationalism when the society is full of ills like corruption. This is nothing but a political agenda where religion is mixed with terrorism,” said an eminent historian, whose books were targeted by the NDA.

“What we need is an autonomous NCERT where professionalism runs every aspect,” she said.

First Published: Feb 16, 2009 14:10 IST