1. Fears grow in India about Hindu ‘Narendra Modi-fication’ of education

Fears grow in India about Hindu ‘Narendra Modi-fication’ of education

Indians were flying aeroplanes, carrying out stem cell research and may even have been using cosmic weapons...

By: | New Delhi | Published: November 21, 2014 11:59 AM
Narendra Modi is the first prime minister to publicly back the view that holy texts show many discoveries of modern science were made by ancient Indians. (PTI)

Narendra Modi is the first prime minister to publicly back the view that holy texts show many discoveries of modern science were made by ancient Indians. (PTI)

Indians were flying aeroplanes, carrying out stem cell research and may even have been using cosmic weapons 5,000 years ago, according to the chairman of India’s leading historical organisation.

Professor Y. Sudershan Rao, the head of the Indian Council of Historical Research, has been criticized by fellow historians for comments that Hindu epics are adequate to understand the ancient world, rather than relying on evidence or research.

The Hindu nationalist government appointed Rao to the prestigious academic post soon after winning the biggest landslide in three decades, fuelling concerns of a push to teach the superiority of Hindu values and mythology at the cost of academic rigour, and cutting against the grain of secularism that runs through multi-faith modern India.

“We have so many proofs that these events happened,” Rao, 69, said in an interview, describing events in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the ancient Hindu epics about love and war, truth and deceit, that feature characters using inextinguishable fire and weapons with the destructive power of a nuclear arsenal.

Similar views have won support from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and in part reflect a belief that India’s history books are beholden to colonial powers, foreign invaders and Marxists.

While there is debate over the exact age of the Hindu epics, historians say they were probably written at least two millennia ago. Rao says this in itself is proof the texts are factual because humans did not develop the art of fiction writing until a few centuries back.

Many academics are horrified by such views, and describe his appointment as a blow for the history organisation set up four decades ago to guide research and hand out grants. They point to signs of a broader plan to bring more Hinduism to the classroom through changes to the curriculum.

Two Indian states run by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have recruited controversial Hindu nationalist Dinanath Batra to advise on writing textbooks.

In June, thousands of schools in Gujarat were given textbooks by Batra that claimed cars were invented in ancient India and told children to draw an enlarged nation to include countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Teachers at Batra’s organisation say they want the books to be in every school.

“The lessons from today’s history books are that Indians are nothing and good for nothing,” said Atul Kothari, secretary of Batra’s Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, or Save the Education Movement. “The truth is that historically we have been a far superior race.”

Education Minister Smriti Irani, a former soap actress, declined to comment on what revisions will be included in a review of the curriculum planned next year.

The last time the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party was in power a decade ago it began to rewrite school books in line with Hindu-nationalist orthodoxy.

When the rival Congress party came back to power it rewrote the books again. Academics say the loser in all this are confused, and sometimes ill-informed, school children.

Modi is the first prime minister to publicly back the view that holy texts show many discoveries of modern science were made by ancient Indians. He told an audience of doctors last month that the Hindu god Ganesh’s head was evidence of ancient plastic surgery. A warrior the Mahabharata describes as born outside his mother’s womb was a test-tube baby, Modi said.

“These claims can be interpreted as signs of an inferiority complex,” said Romila Thapar, a leading scholar on ancient India. “The most disturbing thing is that many people accept this without questioning it,” said Thapar, whose books one BJP leader has said should be burned.

  1. S
    S.Gonesh
    Nov 21, 2014 at 2:44 pm
    There we are. Why frustration if the Hindu Nation is looking for its own root? One of the fundamentals never put on the forefront is; why the Indian knowledge given by the Rishi/Munis are so precise and not comparable with other civilization? If this is true, why the Hindu kids do not get the chance to induct it as their own? Hindustan and its future can not be dominated by foreign nations. Purne Swadhinta, also on educational level.
    Reply
    1. S
      Sanjay
      Nov 21, 2014 at 2:13 pm
      Its not fear, but hope among Indians that the propaa against Hinduism, which was sponsored by Christian missionaries through maniting history and education syllabus with help from Congress party, is now going to be reversed and set right.
      Reply
      1. D
        Dev
        Nov 24, 2014 at 9:45 am
        What an insecure nation, unable to face its past, and make a difference between history, mythology and reality. Dangerous times ahead.
        Reply
        1. R
          RK
          Nov 21, 2014 at 3:45 pm
          Did you ever talked about Arjun Singh as that Churhut lottery scam fame or Sibbal as of Zero loss fame , them why disrespect Smirti Irani a legally valid appointed minister as a soap actress.
          Reply
          1. V
            vaachak
            Nov 21, 2014 at 9:10 pm
            What is wrong in rediscovering self? Instead of simply denying that were great, let there be research and prove that we were not that stupid as proclaimed by the west.
            Reply
            1. G
              globalindian
              Nov 21, 2014 at 4:52 pm
              What happened to all the technology then? Why did it disappear? If our ancestors were so advanced, how were they conquered multiple times by invading barbarians? Modern genetic research shows that all humans are very closely related, much more so than previously thought of. No one race is superior or inferior! Isn't it better to know that we are all (caucasians, africans, south asian, mongoloids, arabians and every other race on earth) one family than some are superior to others? Generally the older generation of India (people 40 years of age) have some sort of inferiority complex that leads to such claims. Young people, especially educated and exposed, have no such feelings of superiority or inferiority. We are all citizens of a global humanity. "You may say I'm a dreamer; But I'm not the only one; I hope someday you'll join us; And the world will live as one." - John Lennon, 1988.
              Reply
              1. C
                common
                Nov 22, 2014 at 12:30 am
                So Romila who believes the Indian history has arisen because of Britishers and socialism, can comfortably emigrate to Cuba or North Korea. It is silly to learn that being proud of heritage is inferiority complex. Yes, for the said professor from JNU, a squeezer of public money, socialism produced Hinduism and she is the only authority on Hinduism, just because she copied some British theories.
                Reply
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