An influential US newspaper has suggested that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s educational reform could be used to promote an ideology that sees “India’s history through the prism of the Hindu right wing.”
Modi “has promised India’s youth a bright future,” the New York Times wrote in an editorial published Thursday, with his Bharatiya Janata Party’s 2014 Election Manifesto calling education “the most powerful tool for the advancement of the nation.”
“The question now is whether educational reform will be used not just to create an educated citizenry and trained work force but also to promote a particular ideology,” asked the editorial titled: “False Teachings for India’s Students.”
During the May election campaign Modi had “promised to bring the ‘Gujarat model’ to national governance,” that many voters understood “to mean a commitment to a more dynamic economy,” it said.
“But the Gujarat model has a less attractive side to it: a requirement that the state’s curriculum include several textbooks written by Dinanath Batra, a scholar dedicated to recasting India’s history through the prism of the Hindu right wing,” the Times wrote.
The newspaper recalled that in February, “Batra led a successful effort to pressure Penguin India to withdraw copies of a book by Wendy Doniger, a religion professor at the University of Chicago, which he felt insulted Hinduism.”
“Batra’s teachings range from the trivial to assertions that simply cannot be taken seriously,” the Times said.
“More troublingly, they instruct students to draw maps of ‘Akhand Bharat,’ a greater India, presumably restored to its rightful boundaries, that include Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan,” it suggested.
In 1999, the then BJP national government put “Batra in charge of rewriting history textbooks to reflect these and other views of the Hindu right,” the Times said.
“Now it appears that the party intends to pick up where it left off when it was voted out of power in 2004,” it suggested.
“The education of youth is too important to the country’s future to allow it to be hijacked by ideology that trumps historical facts, arbitrarily decides which cultural practices are Indian, and creates dangerous notions of India’s place alongside its neighbours,” the Times said.