Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Sunday, November 22, 1998

The growing menace of pseudo-secularism

Author: M. V. Kamath
Publication: Organiser
Date: November 22, 1998

One of the saddest, most tragic things one is being forced to witness these days is the degradation of secularism by its most vocal champions, the secularists themselves. We have reached a stage where, in the name of secularism, a determined effort is made to denigrate India's culture and national heritage and even to decry Sanskrit as Hindu and 'Brahminical' whatever that means. Secularism is equated with anti-Hinduism; ergo, the teaching of Sanskrit would be tantamount to undermining secularism. It is to this depth that professed secularists are taking us. Consider what The Hindu says on this subject: "The 'unique' role claimed for Sanskrit in fostering cultural unity would be contested sharply not only in the context of the Indian historical experience but also in terms of deeply divided caste perceptions which would reject Sanskrit because of its perceived association with Brahmanical hegemony." What the writer, in sum, means is that Sanskrit should be relegated to the ditch presumably along with the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Aranyakas, not to mention the writings of Kalidasa and Bhavabhuti to attain secular nirvana. The right place for our culture, apparently, is the dustbin. Admittedly, India is a multi-lingual nation; in ancient times the country was held together by Sanskrit. How else could Sankara, born and brought up in Kerala, without a drop of 'Aryan' blood in him, have travelled throughout the length and breadth of the country, communicating with his fellow Indians and spreading the message of advaila? Apart from the fact that scholars are increasingly challenging the concept of "Aryan" and "non-Aryan" it is the height of stupidity to
identify Sanskrit as a 'northern' language when all the three major Hindu philosophic concepts were formulated in Sanskrit by 'southerners' Madhva (dvaita), Sankara (advaita) and Ramanuja (vishishtadvaita). If Sanskrit is not to be taught in schools, what else should be taught in its stead to prove our secularism:

Arabic? Chinese? Aren't our Vedas and Upanishads and our Puranas the common heritage of all Indians, irrespective of their religion? Would a knowledge of the Upanishads make Muslims less Muslim and Christians less Christian? And what is more, should the teaching of the Vedas, etc, to children (especially Hindu children) be given up because Muslim and Christian parents would object to it? Most shocking is the decision of some of the State education ministers who assembled in Delhi at a Government-sponsored conference not to entertain a paper on education policy allegedly submitted by an RSS, sympathiser, one Shri P.D. Chitlangia. It betrays a fear of ideas that speaks poorly of the education ministers. But let us presume that Shri Chitlangia is a hard core RSS man. Surely even an RSS man is entitled. to be heard by educationists? Are our State ministers so frightened of ideas and is their secularism so fragile that a mere study paper sends them into apoplexy? And what are these ideas that our sophisticated media, too, refused to publish, lest they taint their newsprint?

Consider these:

  • Moral and spiritual education at all stages in all schools and universities; value education centres with the facilities ofcomparative study of all religions.
  • Sanskrit as a compulsory subject from Class III to X; a course on Indian philosophy at all higher education courses/programmes, especially in vocational courses.
  • Since the Supreme Court has already defined Hindutva as a way of life and not a religion, due place to be given for India's invaluable heritage of the Vedas and Upanishads from primary tothe higher level courses, including the vocational courses.
  • Mother tongue medium schools to be liberally favoured by the State and the Central Governments.
  • No State-aid to educational institutions on grounds of being managed by any section of citizens based on religion and language.
  • No differentiation in the curriculum for boys and girls at the primary stage. At later stages, the curriculum for girls mayinclude in addition, training in home-keeping.

What, pray, is objectionable, in these ideas? In a secular society is it the argument that, moral and spiritual education at all stages, should not be imparted? As regards teaching of Sanskrit which is a classical, not Hindu language, the point may be made that it will be hard to accommodate it within the three-language formula, but can't a provision be made that instead of
Hindi, students may be encouraged to learn Sanskrit which is the gateway to all our ancient writings?' What is so RSS about this? Besides, why should it automatically be presumed that because an idea has come from the RSS, it should be at once shunned? What sort of intellectualism is this? How irrational can one be? As Shakespeare might have said, of the RSS as he made one of his characters speak about Jews: "If you prick us do we not bleed?If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" What intellectual arrogance is it to insist that only secularists have the right to lay down the law? And if Indian students, studying in India, are not to be taught the Vedas and the
Upanishads on grounds that that would be “communal” where are they to learn of their own heritage: at Harvard? Chicago? Bonn where there are excellent centres of Sanskritic learning? The study paper submitted by Shri Chitlangia has been mocked because it advocates that additional training in home-keeping may be given to schools. And what is wrong with that, pray? It may be argued that similar training should also be given to boys as well but how many of our ‘secularists’ would wish to teach their sons how to cook? Or make their beds? In fact some of our
worst anti-feminists are our secularists.

The way the media has dismissed Shri Chitlangia makes him 'out to be an intellectual leper when he has some interesting ideas that should have been thrashed out. That was bad enough. Worse
is the deliberate insult to the goddess Saraswati offered by our secular education ministers. There are surely other means of protesting. At the conclusion of the Saraswati-Vandana, they
could have registered their protest in a dignified way, insisting that in their view the singing of the Vandana was inappropriate at an official function, but that they had nevertheless stayed on in order not to give offence to anybody. That would have been creditable. By their behaviour, the education ministers only showed they were boors and that their upbringing is singularly lacking. States with such men as education ministers have much to explain.

Let it be said in loud and clear terms: Present-day education is largely barren and soul-less. It calls to heavens for correction. And secularists are not the ones to fill in thelacunae.

Those of us who are contemptuous of our past cannot be trusted to make amends for the future.


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