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January 10, 2015

The Parivar’s intrusion


January 10, 2015


If there’s one thing the 102nd Indian Science Congress, just held in Mumbai, will be remembered for, it’s the outrageous claims made about the achievements of science in ancient India, including the assertion that Indians in 7000-6000 BC made airplanes that could undertake ‘interplanetary travel’, and fly backwards and sideways, as well as forwards!
These claims, which are now made with brazen confidence, confuse mythology with science, concoct history, and represent the fantasies of insecure ultra-nationalists who assert that ancient India’s accomplishments put even the modern era to shame. This speaks to the power of example set by Narendra Modi, who cited the mythical figures of Ganesha and Karna as proof that Indians knew about genetics, in-vitro fertilisation and cosmetic surgery thousands of years ago.
Such self-glorification can only make India the laughing stock of the world, but is an integral part of the Sangh Parivar’s obscurantist self-identity. Its impact is becoming visible in the Parivar’s Long March through the Institutions of the State.
Parivar activists are especially active in reshaping and subverting educational institutions. Their aim is to influence their working to reflect the Sangh’s ‘cultural nationalism’ by promoting Hindutva icons, engineering long-term changes in programmes and priorities, and making key appointments of personnel who will loyally execute changes.
The imposition of observing Christmas Day as ‘good governance’ day on central educational institutions – including thousands of schools, 45 universities, the elite Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) – was only one step in that direction.
The latest move is the award of National Research Professorships to Sangh sympathisers: Kannada novelist SL Bhyrappa, Maharashtra-based economics lecturer Ashok Modak and Hindi journalist/writer Suryakant Bali. Such Professorships were held in the

past by physicist and Nobel Laureate CV Raman, musician Ravi Shankar, writer Mahashweta Devi and sociologist Andre Beteille.
Bhyrappa is an accomplished and successful novelist, but he controversially accuses Tipu Sultan of religious fanaticism. According to BJP sympathiser Sudheendra Kulkarni, Bhyrappa nurtures a “fevered hatred of Indian Muslims”. Modak isn’t a distinguished scholar. And Bali’s claim to distinction is unknown, but the launch of his last book was attended by human resource development minister Smriti Irani and RSS joint general secretary Krishna Gopal.
The larger Sangh agenda includes substantive changes both in the content of education and appointments in prestigious institutions. In fact, Irani is formulating a whole new education policy. And the government has appointed pro-BJP individuals to head the apex-level Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), the renowned Indian Institute of Advanced Study at Shimla, and Banaras Hindu University (established in 1916).
This says something about the shape of things to come in other central universities including Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), some of the IITs and IIMs, and the Central Board of Secondary Education, among other institutions where appointments to top posts or councils/governing bodies are due soon.
An even stronger signal emanates from the manner in which Parvin Sinclair, the upright and independent-minded director of the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT), was ousted more than two years before her term ended, aborting at the last stage the revision (improvement and updating) of the National Curriculum Framework 2005 she had initiated.
The NCF was itself the product of a long, broadly consultative process of “de-saffronisation”, which led to the production of the NCERT’s widely acclaimed, secular-liberal, pedagogically vastly superior, school textbooks, adopted by many state textbook boards and schools.
An RSS affiliate, run by Dinanath Batra (of book-pulping fame) has long demanded “total” rewriting of textbooks to inculcate “patriotism”, reflect “Indian tradition, social consciousness… and spiritualism”, and help build a “strong and vibrant India”. He insisted that Irani reconstitute the NCERT. When Sinclair refused to toe Irani’s line, she was falsely charged with financial irregularities, not allowed to defend herself fully, and asked to resign.
Another recent Irani casualty is IIT-Delhi director RK Sheogaonkar who resigned in protest against her blatant interference in the institute’s affairs.
There has been no similar purge in other institutions so far. But the government has used three other methods to favour the Parivar: appointing RSS functionaries or loyalists to high positions although they manifestly lack scholarly competence, leave alone distinction; nominating pro-BJP mediocrities to head institutions; and co-opting the previous regime’s appointees by striking questionable pro-Parivar deals with them.
The recent appointment of Girish Chandra Tripathi as BHU vice-chancellor, a post held earlier by luminaries like philosopher-scholar S Radhakrishnan, falls in the first category. Tripathi, a longstanding province-level RSS official, was professor of economics at Allahabad university. But going by a Google-scholar search, he has published no books or papers, at least recently.
According to a former colleague of his, Tripathi “probably never taught a full 50-minute class”. But he shrewdly played Uttar Pradesh-style Brahmin politics as an understudy of Giridhar Malaviya, Madan Mohan Malaviya’s manipulative pro-RSS grandson.
Malaviya nominated Modi as the BJP’s Lok Sabha candidate from Varanasi. He also headed the search-cum-selection committee that recommended Tripathi, his own acolyte, for the VC’s post – a blatant conflict of interest!
The appointment of Y Sudershan Rao, a singularly undistinguished historian, as ICHR chairman is a similar, if somewhat less sordid, story. Rao rails against western and Marxist scholars and defends the caste system. He wants to prove the historicity of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.
Rao emphasises the relevance of the Puranas: “The ICHR has to play a catalyst role in taking to people their history” through the epics. According to distinguished historian Romila Thapar, Rao fails to distinguish between epics and historical texts. He has published no articles on the historicity of the epics in peer-reviewed journals.
The nomination by the MHRD of Chandrakala Padia as the chairperson of IIAS-Shimla, and by the foreign ministry of Kavita Sharma as the president of South Asian University, belong to the second category. Padia, who comes from Varanasi, does have some published work but its quality is not commensurate with her position at IIAS. Sharma was director of the India International Centre, Delhi and earlier principal of Hindu College, but can claim little academic accomplishment.
Third, the Parivar has cut deals with various UPA appointees who have turned pro-BJP-RSS, including University Grants Commission Chairman Ved Prakash and Delhi university VC Dinesh Singh. They both attended a lunch hosted by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat in Delhi on October 12. Prakash is anxious to continue in his post till 2017, despite vigilance and other inquiries against him.
Singh’s favourite, but mindless, scheme (Four-Year Undergraduate Programme) was recently shot down by Irani. Sensing the wind, he capitulated. He now plays Bhumihar-cum-Parivar politics and recently made more than 20 questionable appointments in university departments. He has also provided a platform to senior RSS functionaries on the campus, including Indresh Kumar and Krishna Gopal.
A dark presence behind some of these appointments is said to be the MHRD’s officer on special duty Sanjay Kachroo, who has worked with several corporate houses, including Reliance, and had access to secret MHRD files even before he received intelligence clearance.
With such players in key positions, the Parivar is intruding into education – probably with nasty communal consequences.
The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and rights activist based in Delhi.
Email: [email protected]




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