Skip to main content

Batra’s books negate all that India represents: inclusiveness, pluralism

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
The Gujarat Government has done it again! That it does so, is on expected lines; but that it is doing so by throwing all caution and Constitutional propriety to the wind should be a cause of great concern to every citizen who values the principles of democracy and pluralism, which are the heart and soul of India. The topic in question is the approval and introduction of nine books (eight of which are written and edited by Dina Nath Batra) in more than 42,000 Government-run primary and secondary schools all over Gujarat.
In a circular dated June 30, 2014, the Gujarat State School Textbook Board (GSSTB) states, “These books on supplementary literature are aimed at imparting quality education. They will be provided free of cost to all government primary and secondary schools, public libraries and will be also available at GSSTB, Gandhinagar, for individuals interested in these books. These are to be incorporated from this academic session.”
Dina Nath Batra has earned his “fame” as the founder of the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti and who thinks that he and his organization will “save” the Hindu religion and culture. Sometime ago, he succeeded in getting Penguin to pulp the famed historian Wendy Doniger’s book on The Hindus: An alternative History and later because of his threats, Orient Black Swan undertook ‘a comprehensive assessment’ of Megha Kumar’s book, Communalism and Sexual Violence: Ahmedabad since 1969.
Batra, 85 , has become the rallying point for the right-wing forces in the country; today they leave no stone unturned to seize every opportunity they get to mainstream the Hindutva ideology; manipulating the educational system is an easy first step for them.
It is interesting to note that these books were officially published (in Gujarati) in January 2014 with laudatory messages from the then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi (today the Prime Minister of India) and also from Gujarat education minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama and his ministerial colleagues Vasuben Trivedi and Nanubhai Vanani. After a formal launching in March 2014, they were kept in cold storage till after the General Elections and very surreptiously introduced in the schools only early in July 2014!
The set of nine books are Shikshan nu Bhartiyakaran (Indianisation of Education), Tejomay Bharat (Shining India), Prernadeep 1, 2, 3 and 4 (Inspirational Light), Vidyalaya: Pravrutiyon nu Ghar (School: House of Activities), Shikshan ma Triveni (Trinitarian Education) and Vedic Ganit (Vedic Maths). The titles in themselves are seemingly innocuous but a careful analysis of these books indicate that their contents are capable (according to a well-known intellectual) of taking India “back into the dark ages”. The books are replete with myths and falsehoods, with superstitions and prejudices, with gross distortions and manipulations – propagating an ideology which is fascist and totally against the grain of all that Indian culture represents: inclusiveness, pluralism and the rights of all.
The books are clearly violative of Articles 28 and 29 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child since their contents are not only sub-standard but are also not a source of qualitative, accurate and objective knowledge to a growing child. Unfortunately, the children who are targeted by these books are those who go to Government schools (and most of them are surely from the poor and marginalized sections of society); the major objective of those who propagate such perverted knowledge seems to keep these sections of society ‘in the dark ages’.

Perverted knowledge

The contents of these books will surely shock any right-thinking citizen!
‘Racism’ seems to be high on the agenda. An anecdote entitled ‘Courageous Gurudevsinh’ in Prernadeep-2 (p 3) reads thus: “Sn aeroplane was flying at a height of thousands of feet. A strong and well-built Negro reached the back door of the plane and attempted to open it. The air hostess stopped him. The strong Negro knocked down the delicate-bodied air hostess. “Beware, if any one dares to move forward towards me”. An Indian jawan (soldier) came forward and hit him such a sweeping blow that the Negro’s firm feet were shaken. The Negro tried all kinds of boxing stunts but the grip of the Indian youth was so firm that the Negro could not free himself. In the meanwhile, the pilot also joined the jawan and both of them gave him a good thrashing and tied him up with a rope. The murderous terrorist struggled like a tied up buffalo. The plane landed at Chicago. All the passengers alighted safely and expressed their gratitude to the Indian jawan. The Negro turned out to be notorious criminal in the Chicago police records. The one who had the Negro arrested was an Air-India employee Gurudevsinh.”
In Prernadeep-3 (p 8) there is an obnoxious passage citing our former President Dr S Radhakrishnan: “Once before Independence Dr. Radhakrishnan went for a dinner party. There was an Englishman at the event who said “the English are very dear to God.” Hearing this, Radhakrishnan laughed and told the gathering, “Friends, one day God was making rotlis (Indian bread). The first rotli that he made was half-baked and that’s how the English were born. The second was over-baked and that’s how the Negro race was born. Realizing his previous two mistakes, he decided to bake a third one which turned out to be perfect and that was how Indians were born.”
There are several stories/ examples that advocate shunning of anything that is ‘western’; so an Indian according to Batra’s philosophy should not blow candles on one’s birthday but instead feed cows and listen to songs produced by Vidya Bharati (the RSS mouthpiece); he cites the example of Swami Vivekanand who apparently told an Englishwoman that he wore foreign shoes because that was where foreigners were meant to be – on his feet! While trying to propagate a disdain for anything ‘western’, Batra’s fantasies include that the motor car was invented first by the Indians during the Vedic period; research on stem cell began in India thousands of years ago, because in the Mahabharata, it is said that a holy man was able to convert a mass of flesh into hundred babies or Kauravas; that India has been using television, centuries before the rest of the world invented it because again in the Mahabharata it is written that Sanjaya sitting in the Hastinapur palace would give a live telecast of the Mahabharata battle to Dhristarashtra (who was blind) by using his ‘divya shakti’ (divine powers).
In keeping with the general trend of these books, it is natural that the English language should come under attack. Sanskrit shlokas are freely used throughout. He takes a categorical stand against the domination of the English language which he feels has sidelined the learning of Sanskrit. When the children do not know Sanskrit, he believes they will not be able to imbibe the pure ‘Indian culture’ and the vast knowledge that comes from the great epics. Added to Batra’s philosophy is the manner in which the Gujarat Government is also trying to promote Vedic Maths among the students.

Communal nature of books

The books are very communal in nature. Muslims and Christians are sometimes blatantly and other times subtly denigrated. Prernadeep – 2 narrates how Swami Vivekanand systematically exposed the selfishness and evil deeds of Christian missionaries (pg. 45). Tejomay Bharat emphatically states “it is better to die for one’s religion; a foreign religion is a source of sorrow” (pg. 118). The caste system gets legitimized in several ways; though the British are to be blamed for giving the lowly name ‘Shudra’.
The books also suggest the redrawing of geographical boundaries. Batra suggests that the students should now think of ‘Akhand Bharat’. In Tejomay Bharat, he says: “Students, how would you go about drawing a map of India? Do you know that countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Burma are part of undivided India? These countries are part of Akhand Bharat.” (pg.49). In another chapter, the students are told that “a divided India is a lie, whereas undivided India is the truth; the division of India is unnatural and India can easily be united again.”

In spite of his unabashed attack on “western” culture, language, inventions, people and even on what he calls “non-Indian” religions, Batra seems to ignore the fact that all his books are being printed in printing presses invented by the West. He does not call for a ban on the railways or on industries, he does not speak against cricket or tennis or for that matter against the computers, mobile phones and thousands of other things which India has happily adopted from the West. While Modi has blessed Batra and his books, it would be interesting now to see what is Batra’s take on Modi’s invitation to the rest of world “to come and make in India” from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day. Very significantly, ‘Manogat’ (August 2014), the BJP mouth-piece, openly endorses Batra’s books and its contents; highlighting their two-pronged strategy, ‘to simultaneously run with the hare and hunt with the hound’.

Much of the content of Batra’s books are laughable and could even pass off as third-rate joke books; but the attacks both direct and subtle on several sections of society are certainly no laughing matter. Given the fact that they target formative minds should be serious enough for civil society to voice their protests strongly on this matter. Mitali Saran in a very telling article entitled ‘Back to School’ (Business Standard, Ahmedabad August 2/3, 2014) sums it up: “A poor education teaches children disdain, excessive pride, exclusionary or majoritarian thinking, outright fiction in place of facts, and an inability to tolerate dissent or to think for themselves.”

Can we continue to remain silent when the Gujarat Government violates the ‘Rights of a Child’ – in such a blatant manner?



* Director, PRASHANT, Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace

Comments

TRENDING

CAG’s audit report creates a case for dismantling of UIDAI, scrapping Aadhaar

By Gopal Krishna  The total estimated budget of the biometric UID/Aadhaar number project and its cost: benefit analysis has not been disclosed till date. Unless the total estimated budget of the project is revealed, all claims of benefits are suspect and untrustworthy. How can one know about total savings unless the total cost is disclosed? Can limited audit of continuing expenditure of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), an instrumentality of Union of India be deemed a substitute for total estimated budget of the biometric UID/Aadhaar number project of UIDAI? It has been admitted by CAG that the audit of functioning of the UIDAI is partial because of non-transparency. The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India arising from performance audit of functioning of the UIDAI for the period from 2014-15 to 2018-19 is incomplete because it is based on statistical information “to the extent as furnished by UIDAI” upto March 2021. There is also a need to compa

Women for Water: WICCI resource council for empowering women entrepreneurs, leaders

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The Water Resources Council of the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry is formed for 2022-24. A National Business Chamber for Women, the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry ( WICCI ) is a premier association empowering women entrepreneurs and leaders in all walks of life through advocacy, pro-active representations to government, implementing projects for women via funds allocated by various government agencies and corporates, plus bringing awareness on all issues that concern women. WICCI boosts and builds women’s entrepreneurship and businesses through greater engagement with government, institutions, global trade and networks. WICCI enables fundamental changes in governmental policies, laws, incentives and sanctions through proper channel, with a view to robustly encourage and empower women in business, industry and commerce across all sectors. WICCI is supported by the massive global networks of ALL Ladies League (ALL), Women Eco

75 yrs of water in India: whither decentralised governance to sustain the precious resource?

By Shubhangi Rai, Megha Gupta, Fawzia Tarannum, Mansee Bal Bhargava Looking into the last century, water resources management have come a long way from the living with water in the villages to the nimbyism and capitalism in the cities to coming full cycle with room for water in the villages. With the climate change induced water crisis, the focus on conservation and management of water resources if furthered in both national and local agenda. The Water management 2021 report by NITI Aayog acknowledges that water and sustainability are of immense importance for the sustenance of life on earth. Water is intricately linked to the health, food security and livelihood. With business as usual, India’s water availability will only be enough to meet 50% of its total demand and 40% of the population in India will have no access to drinking water and sanitation by 2030 . Its Composite Water Management Index 2021 states that ‘India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and mil

Grassroot innovations in water management: Policy challenges amidst climate change

By Shubhangi Rai[1], Megha Gupta[2], Mansee Bal Bhargava[3] India despite of having a vast traditional water management history continue to struggle with water crisis from disasters like floods and droughts but more with social distress leading to asymmetric access to water goods and services. The rising water crisis in a country that is abundant in water resources and wisdom is worth questioning and resolving. The knowledge that was passed on by our ancestors who used a diverse range of structures that helped harvest rainwater locally besides replenish and recharge the groundwater along the way. Formal and informal rules were locally crafted by the community on who to use the water, how much to use, when to use, how to penalise for misuse, how to resolve conflicts and many more. As a nation, we need to revive our dying wisdom of the traditional water management systems and as water commons, enable the governing mechanisms towards sustainability. In the session on ‘ Grassroot Innovatio

Need to destroy dowry, annihilate greed and toxic patriarchy in India

By IMPRI Team Talking about an evil ever-persistent in our society and highlighting the presence of toxic patriarchy, #IMPRI Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organized a panel discussion on Destroy Dowry: Annihilation of Greed and Toxic Patriarchy in India under the series The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps on May 4, 2022. The chair for the event was Prof Vibhuti Patel, Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai and a Visiting Professor, IMPRI. The distinguished panel included – Asha Kulkarni, General Secretary at Anti Dowry Movement, Mumbai ; Kamal Thakar, Sahiyar Stree Sangathan ; Adv Celin Thomas, Advocate at Celin Thomas and Associates, Bengaluru; Shalini Mathur, Honorary Secretary, Suraksha Dahej Maang Virodhi Sanstha Tatha Parivar Paraamarsh Kendra, Lucknow and Secretary, Nav Kalyani Foundation, Gender Resource and Training Centre; and Dr Bharti Sharma, Honorary Secretary, Shakti Shalini

Impact of climate change on Gujarat pastoralists' traditional livelihood

By Varsha Bhagat-Ganguly, Karen Pinerio* We are sharing a study[1] based learning on climate resilience and adaptation strategies of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat. There are two objectives of the study: (i) to examine the impact of climate on traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Gujarat state; and (ii) to explore and document the adaptation strategies of pastoralists in mitigating climate adversities, with a focus on the role of women in it. In order to meet these objectives, the research inquiries focused on how pastoralists perceive climate change, how climate change has impacted their traditional livelihood, i.e., pastoralism in drylands (Krätli 2015), and how these pastoral families have evolved adaptation strategies that address climate change (CC)/ variabilities, i.e., traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat state. Pastoralism is more than 5,000 years old land-use strategy in India; it is practised by nomadic (their entire livelihood r

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: Implications for India and emerging geopolitics

By IMPRI Team In the backdrop of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, #IMPRI Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi hosted a panel discussion on Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: Implications for India and Emerging Geopolitics. The event was chaired by Ambassador Anil Trigunayat (IFS Retd.), Former Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Libya, and Malta; Former Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of India, Moscow. The panelists of the event were Prof Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu, Clinical Professor, Center for Global Affairs, New York University; H.E. Freddy Svane, Ambassador, Royal Danish Embassy, New Delhi; Maj. Gen. (Dr) P. K. Chakravorty, Strategic Thinker on Security Issues; and T. K. Arun, Senior Journalist, and Columnist. Ambassador Anil Trigunayat commenced the discussion by stating the fact that wars are evil. He opines that no war has ever brought peace and prosperity to any country and

Making Indian cities disaster, climate resilient: Towards actionable urban planning

By IMPRI Team  Three-Day Online Certificate Training Programme on “Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient: Towards Responsive and Actionable Urban Planning, Policy and Development”: Day 1 A three day Online Certificate Training Programme on the theme “Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient: Towards Responsive and Actionable Urban Planning, Policy and Development”, a joint initiative of the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) , Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, was held at the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi. Inaugurating the session Ms. Karnika Arun, Researcher at IMPRI, welcomed the speakers and participants to the program with an introduction to the eminent panellists. Day 1 of the program included Prof Anil K Gupta, Head ECDRM, NIDM, New Delhi and Mr Tikender Singh Panwar, Former Deputy Mayor, Shimla; Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI as conveners, an

Gender gap: Women face disproportionate barriers in accessing finance

By IMPRI Team Women worldwide disproportionately face barriers to financial access that prevents them from participating in the economy and improving their lives. Providing access to finance for women is crucial for financial inclusion and, consequently, inclusive growth. To deliberate and encourage dialogue and discussion for growth, the Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) of IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, organized a web policy talk by Mr S. S. Bhat, Chief Executive Officer Friends of Women’s World Banking India, Ahmedabad on ‘Access to Finance for Women’ as a part of its series The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps. The session was started by the moderator, Chavi Jain, by introducing the speaker and the discussants and inviting Prof. Vibhuti Patel to start the deliberation. Importance of access to finance for women Prof. Vibhuti Patel, Visiting Professor, IMPRI, New Delhi; Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, began by expre

Hindutva patriotism: State-sponsored effort to construct religion-based national identity

By Harasankar Adhikari Rabindranath Tagore (1908) said, "Patriotism can’t be our final spiritual shelter. "I will not buy glass for a diamond, and I will never let patriotism triumph over humanity as long as I live." Tagore’s view stands in sharp contrast to what we are witnessing today, when patriotism means religious differences between the majority (Hindu) and minority (Muslim). Our secular nation is gradually disobeying its secular nature and it is being patronised by political leaders and their narrow politics. India’s unique character of ‘unity in diversity’ is trying to be saffronised. Hindu extremism (Hindutvavadis) generates a culture of religious intolerance. Democratic India is based upon the ideology of equality of all. This nation is based upon different foundations than most of those which went before it. Its legitimacy lies in its being able to satisfy its various component communities that their interests will be safeguarded by the Indian state