Some days ago, Shri Ram Shankar Katheria, the junior minister in Smriti Irani’s education ministry had stirred a controversy with his remarks that “if saffronisation of education is good for the country, it will happen”. He enlightened this vision at a function held to celebrate ‘Hindvi Swaraj Diwas Samaroh’ at the Lucknow University on Saturday.
His words : Reporters told us that some people are saying that our government is saffronising education in the country. Saffronisation will happen in both education and in the country. Whatever is good for the country will definitely happen, whether it is bhagwakaran (saffronisation) or sanghwad.He further said: “If our children do not read about Maharana Pratap or Maharaj Shivaji, then will they read about Genghis Khan?”
One wonders if it was the part of Development Agenda that BJP has recently pronounced.
That takes us to the basic dilemma – What is Saffronization?
However, as we fathom the impact of this new Indian coinage of ‘Saffronization,’ it would be refreshing to discuss about Saffron itself. It is one of the costliest spices that bears a shiny crimson color. This delicate fragrant herb or spice is derived from the flowers of Saffron Corcus. The styles and stigmas of the flower are collected and dried. It used mainly as a flavoring, seasoning and coloring agent in food.
Recorded history of food additives inform that it was probably first cultivated in or near Greece. But now, almost 90–93% of saffron is produced by Iran. Rest of saffron comes from the belt from Spain in the west to India in the east. The saffron of Kashmir is also in demand around the globe especially in Middle East.
I have produced all these snippets about saffron so that readers must acknowledge that RSS or BJP have no ownership or nothing to do with Saffron as such. Saffron habits were introduced and popularized in this world by the Aryans of Iran.
Off late since RSS / BJP captured power, we are hearing a lot and often sensing a lot about the ISATION of Saffron. To the best of my knowledge, it only the color of saffron that matches of Bhagwa color that is responsible about this protracted dialogue. It is interesting that Indian media is giving equal emphasis upon both ‘Saffronization’ or ‘Bhagwakaran.’
It was only a few days in power when BJP began to tinker with school textbooks to bring them in line with its Hindu-centered worldview. Smt Smriti Irani, the Human Resources Development Minister is doing a yewmen’s job to bring back the the glories of the Hindu “golden age.’’ Undoubtedly, those were the glorious chapters and recalling them is honorable deed. Though, as a poor student of school books, I have to confess that being Indian, I know more about Hindu India, present and past, than the Islamic history. All that I’d learned from the books that were introduced by Congress oriented academics and politicians. On the face of it, there’s nothing wrong if RSS wants to give a new tinge to it. We are given to understand by RSS intellectuals that the Congress governments, all along were ignoring the contribution of Hindu culture and religion to nation-building. The RSS feels that current textbooks as Left-leaning.
Actually, the “Saffronisation’’ of education has been is a campaign to purge textbooks of “foreign’’ influences especially the Islamic period and to promote “patriotism’’ that suits to RSS’ Hindutva agenda. In the name of sentiments of majority, the RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN) has demanded a “total change’’ in school education. Its lead campaigner is RSS pracharak Dinanath Batra who also runs the controversial Shiksha Bachao Andolan,which has earned notoriety for seeking ban on any book it regards “anti-Hindu’’.
Dinanath Batra had earlier proclaimed that “NCERT textbooks will be rewritten according to the aim and objects of the nation so that it inculcates feeling of patriotism among children. Modernity is not westernisation. We want modernity with Indian base (marked by) patriotism and spiritualism.’’
For the nation, interested to learn the real, the writing on the wall is clear. It’s not going to end with a few bland chapters on ancient India.
However, intellectual like historian Ramchandra Guha had advised that the HRD ministry should focus on institutional reform, not communalisation of the curriculum.’’
There have been burning and burning of books. After forcing Penguin to pulp Wendy Doniger’s book on Hinduism, there are demands to seek withdrawal of Sekhar Bandopadhyay’s popular textbook, Plassey to Partition: A History of Modern India, claiming that it is defamatory and derogatory to the RSS. There had been a sheer panic for neutral publishers. Orient Blackswan, had decided to “set aside” Oxford Rhodes scholar Megha Kumar’s book,Communalism and Sexual Violence: Ahmedabad Since 1969.
But now the dagger is out of its sheath. No mincing of words. The waters are being tested. Member of Parliament from Agra and Minister of State for Human Resource Development Ram Shankar Katheria has boldly stated, “There will be saffronisation of education and the country” and termed the process as beneficial for the country. He was speaking at the Lucknow University on Saturday at celebrations of Hindavi Swaraj Diwas Samaroh marking the 342nd coronation year of Maratha warrior-king Shivaji. Sharing the dias with the Minister was Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik who presided over the function.
The Agra MP said: “Some journalists ask if we are promoting saffronisation of education. I am saying, yes, there will be saffronisation of education and of the country. Jo acha hoga, woh hoga (Whatever is good for the country will certainly happen) be it saffronisation or sanghwaad (propagation of the RSS ideology).” Elaborating on the theme, Mr. Katheria said the need of the hour was to create a curriculum that would increase the nation’s samman (honour) and swabhimaan (self-respect) in the world. “We kept silent for such a long time and never accused anybody. But today the circumstances in the country are such.”
His remarks provoked criticism on social media and across political parties calling the remarks “highly objectionable and anti-national.” Mr Katheria is not new to controversy. Earlier this year, at a condolence meeting for a murdered VHP worker in Agra, he delivered “hate-speech” against Muslims, which led to uproar in Parliament.
Finding himself in troubled waters, on Monday, while speaking to ANI, Kateria took a u-turn and said “I just said whatever is good for the nation, we’ll accept that; whether its Bhagwakaran or green or red color.” The listeners are no fools Sir!It is worn out trick.
Let the RSS explain – It wants ‘Indianisation’ or ‘Saffronization’ or ‘Polarisation?”
By Naim Naqvi