Ideological warriors like Dina Nath Batra should have no part to play, no influence to wield in the writing of Indian textbooks or on the content of the national syllabus. As a reporter, I met Batra in 2014 when Penguin India, to general bemusement, agreed to pulp extant copies of scholar Wendy Doniger's award-winning book The Hindus: An Alternative History.
I went to the school he ran in southwest Delhi and he proved, for the record, to be a genial companion. He is a man of considerable experience and achievement. But he is, without question, a crank.
Our discussion, apart from Batra's digressions into the existence of nudist colonies in Calfornia, mostly centred around the lack of cultural education imparted to Indian schoolchildren. But no one who is thinking critically would accept Batra's version of Indian culture and history. His myriad objections to passages in books amount to one overall objective - a desire to eliminate complexity.
And India and Hindu culture is nothing if not complex. As the reviled Doniger notes, there is no "single authoritative or essentialist view of what Hinduism is". Any one version, she writes, "of this polythetic polytheism (which is also a monotheism, a monism, and a pantheism), including this one, is no better than a strobe photograph of a chameleon, a series of frozen images giving a falsely continuous image of something that is in fact constantly changing."
Batra's desire to "Indianise"our children's education means force-feeding them RSS-sanctioned pabulum. No wonder, the Indian Express reports, that his organisation has written to NCERT to demand the excision of thoughts by the likes of Rabindranath Tagore.
Batra's organisation has written to NCERT to demand the excision of thoughts by the likes of Rabindranath Tagore.
A sample passage, from a Class 12 textbook, that Batra wants removed: In this system the status was probably determined by birth. They (Brahmins) tried to make people realise that their prestige was based on birth such parameters were often strengthened by stories in many books like The Mahabharata. Of course, Batra objects to any passage that suggests some Mughal leaders may have been open-minded, even tolerant.
The point is not that textbooks are infallible, it is that they should be ring-fenced from the political prejudices of the day. Textbooks, whatever the interpretations of their authors, should be largely based on verifiable fact and academic consensus. Of course, academic consensus can shift or change, and so emphases might change in textbooks from one generation to another. But better subtle inflections in emphasis than wholesale rejections of historical fact.
And while a good lesson for our children might be that textbooks should be questioned, that reading for oneself outside the prescribed text is the key to critical thinking, it's probably best if we don't fill textbooks with the dodgy meanderings of discredited ideologues in the first place.
Batra should not be taken seriously because he is not a disinterested academic. He is, for all intents and purposes, an activist. But he appears to have the ruling party's ear. More worryingly, the ruling party's vision for Indian schooling appears to be one of quasi-martial discipline, a false sense of cultural superiority, and scant room for questions or doubt. Batra is prejudiced and narrow-minded. He and his ilk must be resisted, by parents in particular.
Indian schooling, at all levels, is appalling. Year after year, surveys show that Indian children are not being taught basic skills, including reading at age-appropriate levels. As with much else, the divide is growing between those who can buy their children the necessary skills and those forced to rely on government schools. But the likes of Batra should concern us all because he wants to deny an essential part of what it is to be Indian: diversity - in language, in viewpoints, in religious belief, and thought.
Urdu and English words, for instance, tell us something about our history. In the prologue to India After Gandhi, Ramachandra Guha wrote that, "Because they are so many, and so various, the people of India are also divided." He used a verse from Ghalib to make his point, the same Ghalib who Batra would see struck off the syllabus.
Tagore, whose views on patriotism as opposed to humanity Batra so abhors, described nationalism as "carnivorous and cannibalistic." And what nationalism regurgitates, the indistinguishable mess it makes of the guts of our history, softened by chewing, is what Batra wants us to swallow.
Our past cannot be wished away, cannot be replaced by imagined glory. Instead, what we need is the opposite of what Batra and his saffron-clad colleagues want: not a simple narrative, but a more complicated one; not an unquestioning perspective but a critical one; and not shallow patriotism but a deeper love for our country founded on an understanding of our syncretic culture.
Textbooks are being rewritten. Is it too much to hope that the basis should be academic, not political or ideological?
Also read: BJP distorting history: Savarkar outshines Gandhi in Rajasthan textbooks
Here is the original post:
Why Dina Nath Batra wants Tagore, Urdu, Mughals removed from school books - DailyO
- Parramatta Laity Make Their Voices Heard in Dispute With Their Bishop - National Catholic Register - May 14th, 2021
- Matthew Wong Ink Works, Never Before Exhibited, Will Alight in New York - ARTnews - April 19th, 2021
- Double Blind by Edward St Aubyn review in pursuit of knowledge - The Guardian - March 31st, 2021
- How to Sound Like a Catholic When You Talk About Ashes and Death - National Catholic Register - February 25th, 2021
- The consolation of philosophy during Covid darkness - Offaly Express - February 25th, 2021
- What Is This 'QAnon' Thing They're Talking About? - Calbuzz - February 21st, 2021
- Manifestations of Higher Meaning: On Dana Gioia's The Catholic Writer Today and Studying with Miss Bishop - Los Angeles Review of Books -... - February 10th, 2021
- Arts Pantheon - The Daily Star - January 17th, 2021
- Christmas and the birth of truth on earth - TheCable - January 1st, 2021
- Pantheism | Definition of Pantheism by Merriam-Webster - November 29th, 2020
- No writer was better suited to chronicle the Depression than John Steinbeck - Spectator.co.uk - November 29th, 2020
- A world of mysticism and spirituality - Times of Malta - November 29th, 2020
- WHAT IS 'SPIRITUALITY OF PLACE'? | Bret Thoman - Patheos - November 29th, 2020
- Do Not Offend the Gods: 8 SFF Books Featuring Deities - tor.com - October 7th, 2020
- Religion, Non-Reductive and Saturated, Gains Respect in Post-Modern Academic World - Patheos - May 29th, 2020
- What's the difference between pandemic and epidemic? - ChicagoNow - March 31st, 2020
- Porfiry Ivanov: what Stalin said the main freak of the USSR - International Law Lawyer News - March 24th, 2020
- World Pantheism Revering the Universe, Caring for Nature ... - March 5th, 2020
- Freeman Dyson: The Passing of an Iconoclastic Physicist - Discovery Institute - March 5th, 2020
- Pantheism | Britannica - February 27th, 2020
- Dan McCaslin: Nature and Shallowing the Mind - Noozhawk - January 28th, 2020
- Spirituality and values in the Disney universe - Evangelical Focus - January 18th, 2020
- Tagore and Iqbal - Daily Times - December 26th, 2019
- The Adventurous Lectionary The First Sunday of Christmas December 29, 2019 - Patheos - December 18th, 2019
- Ross Douthat: What will happen to conservative Catholicism? - The Register-Guard - November 12th, 2019
- Liberation theology never went away. It morphed into liberation ecology. - Catholic Citizens of Illinois - November 12th, 2019
- Iqbal: The Metaphysics and The Reconstruction- Part I - The News International - November 12th, 2019
- How to properly use righteous anger about the Amazon Synod - Lifesite - November 12th, 2019
- EXCLUSIVE: Catholic priest defends burning Pachamama effigy as within law of God - Lifesite - November 12th, 2019
- Ah, to spend some time in the great outdoors - Idaho State Journal - October 27th, 2019
- The Big Bang! - Chron.com - October 27th, 2019
- Catholicism has a stronger view of creation than both eco-religion and materialism - Catholic Herald Online - October 27th, 2019
- Faithful Catholics Throw Amazonian Idols Displayed in the Vatican into the Tiber River - PJ Media - October 27th, 2019
- Cdl. Burke: Revolution Is the Goal - Church Militant - October 2nd, 2019
- Lay Faithful to Gather in Rome to Pray for the Church on Eve of Amazon Synod - National Catholic Register - October 2nd, 2019
- Dennis Andrew from Poole says 'I am Druid' - Somerset Live - August 25th, 2017
- Unitarian Universalism and Pantheism World Pantheism - August 13th, 2017
- Gratitude So Burdensome? - First Things - August 11th, 2017
- Staying power: a poet's place in God's agenda - National Catholic Reporter - August 10th, 2017
- This World as Philosophically Necessary - Patheos (blog) - August 10th, 2017
- About | Pantheism.com - August 6th, 2017
- Star Wars' religious imagery is more than just coincidence - Catholic Herald Online (blog) - August 5th, 2017
- Senryu pries open 'The Jaws of Life' to explore death on latest ... - Maryville Daily Times - August 3rd, 2017
- Is Your Christian Worldview Cohesive? - Cape May County Herald - August 2nd, 2017
- 'Heretics!' Illustrates the Contentiousness Surrounding Philosophy - PopMatters - August 1st, 2017
- Mendelssohn's philosophy, Mendelssohn's grandchildren - The Jerusalem Post - August 1st, 2017
- A Critical Look At A New Sefer: Alternative Medicine in Halachah - Yeshiva World News - July 20th, 2017
- Hindu-Americans Don't Vote Republican - The American Conservative - July 10th, 2017
- Nelsons Leads Tanglewood Resurrection - The Boston Musical Intelligencer - July 8th, 2017
- 20 Options on God (Find Yours Here) - Patheos (blog) - July 8th, 2017
- Should Tyler Cowen Believe in God? - New York Times (blog) - July 7th, 2017
- Hinman's ABEAN Argument Part 3: More Objections - Patheos (blog) - July 7th, 2017
- Pantheism | Philosophy Talk - July 5th, 2017
- A Modern Day Inquisition: Rabbi Joseph Dweck - The Jewish Press - JewishPress.com - July 3rd, 2017
- The Universe Is the Mind of God - The Costa Rican Times - June 29th, 2017
- On religion: Being aware of our connectivity to God and each other - The Intelligencer - June 29th, 2017
- New Names for Old Gods - Patheos (blog) - June 29th, 2017
- Views | Pantheism.com - June 26th, 2017
- This Former MTV Icon Found Inner Peace Through Islam - HuffPost - June 24th, 2017
- Who were the authors of the so-called Gnostic gospels, and what did they believe? - Aleteia EN - June 24th, 2017
- How Scotland inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula - The Scotsman - June 15th, 2017
- My Turn: Respecting Mother - Concord Monitor - June 15th, 2017
- Seven Things Evil Is Not: What the Death of My Son Taught Me - ChristianityToday.com - June 8th, 2017
- 'Sgt. Pepper's' Turns 50: The Newsweek Review of The Beatles' Masterpiece - Newsweek - June 1st, 2017
- Rishe Groner - Tablet Magazine - May 23rd, 2017
- Escape into the wild with Maasthi Gudi- The New Indian Express - The New Indian Express - May 13th, 2017
- Dunphy: The growls of empty stomachs - Alton Telegraph - May 9th, 2017
- Opposed to Catholicism - Church Militant - May 6th, 2017
- In response to Tim Martin, God exists - Eureka Times Standard - May 4th, 2017
- A war of opposites: Rubbishing Hinduism's eclectic nature, Hindutva treats any expression of dissent as sedition - Times of India (blog) - May 2nd, 2017
- Why I Had To Make a Clean Break With Christianity - Patheos - Patheos (blog) - April 27th, 2017
- Hitler Was Not a Christian - Splice Today - April 15th, 2017
- Winter is coming; help me turn yarn into warmth - Port Huron Times Herald - April 12th, 2017
- Families leave thousands of cremated remains behind - Bellingen Courier Sun - April 12th, 2017
- Hinduism vs Hindutva: The search for an ideology in times of cow politics - Hindustan Times - April 10th, 2017
- Adventists appeal court ruling on Kellogg Sabbath accommodation case - Adventist News Network - April 7th, 2017
- Composer Theofanidis unconvincing as theologian in Atlanta Symphony's Creation/Creator - Washington Classical Review - April 3rd, 2017
- Families leave thousands of cremated remains behind - The Sydney Morning Herald - April 2nd, 2017
- Need to propagate Sufism in its right context: Dr Qasim - Kashmir Reader - March 31st, 2017
- Why Sacrifices? - Algemeiner - March 31st, 2017