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The debate on NDTV on the relevance of the Bhagavad Gita in the school curriculum, hosted by a nervous Barkha Dutt (clearly out of her depth) highlights the importance of teaching the Gita in Indian schools. Barkha herself raised the question of why when she was going to school she read the Bible or learned about Greeece and Rome but did not read any of the classics in her own tradition. By this statement alone she admitted the poverty of her school education in that specific regard. At the same time she was unnecessarily belligerent towards the unfortunate Dhananjaya Kumar representing the Karnataka government’s educational department. She put words in his mouth, insisting that he had said that all non Hindus are foreigners in India! He protested, but to no avail. She insisted. You are putting words in my mouth Barkha, he said, but who was listening?
He consistently maintained that he had been misunderstood. Hinduism and the other Dharmic faiths like Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism are native products. Christianity and Islam came from the outside and in that sense they are foreign to the country. This was simply an historical fact, he said.
However, the other participants in the discussion also gave the poor man no quarter. Two women who appeared to be school principals kept repeating the word ‘Hindutva’ in the way the witches of medieval Europe would shake garlic in their paths to avoid the evil eye. There was a third participant, a young sociologist who spoke darkly about the Brahmins of Karnataka as if they were the evil force behind the state government’s recommendation that the Gita be taught in schools. He reminded one of the ploy that Arundhati Roy frequently used in her dark references to the Brahmanic Hindu state.
This was her favourite term of abuse. All of India’s problems stemmed from this mythical enemy that she had constructed.
Ofcourse, none of these theatrics flummoxed Dhananjaya Kumar who continued to evoke the well known historical fact that the Gita is an out and out native product of India.
The reader should also note that the young zealous reporter who was earning her first laurels ( no doubt )went out of her way while reporting the story to say something which would please lndian liberal audiences : the moral police of Karnataka want to start teaching the Bhagavad Gita in the schools; Hindutva has reared its UGLY HEAD again !
Now, why on earth should this young woman, or for that matter any Indian who has been raised in convent schools where the lessons from the Bible were taught, consider the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita to be outlandish ? And if it is Hindutva that recommends the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita, then kudos to them ! Do these young people even understand the contents of the Gita, or did this young woman really know the meaning of Hindutva or Hinduta ?
It continues to puzzle the present writer as to why words like Hindu, Hindutva, Hinduta, Hinduism, immediately set off a hysterical wave of opposition or denial from some of the liberal media or even some from the academic establishment. There is a psychological reason for this remarkable phenomenon, the Macaulay’s children syndrome, which after 60 plus years of independence is still the virus that has not been ejected from the body politic of the country.
There are other factors also to explain the panic reaction of the participants in the discussion at the mention of the word Gita. The two women appeared to be from the minority community and their understanding of India’s famed syncretic culture is that no Hindu text can be taught in an Indian school. Indian school children can happily be taught the Bible or greek or roman or anything else, as long as it is not the Gita. As long as that does not happen they are quite happy bandying the word ‘syncretic’ around, full of praise for the syncretic civilization of India ! These ladies talked darkly about the sources being ‘suspect’ meaning that those who proposed the study of the Gita were automatically suspect. They are unable to come out and say frankly that they DO NOT WANT the teaching of the Gita in schools, because their liberal image would be tarnished.
One of them even produced a convoluted explanation of how the topic of the Gita was being used by ‘suspect’ sources to enter the school system by the back door ! Neither seemed to entertain the possibility that reading the Gita may not be a bad thing after all, without any ‘dark’ and ulterior motives !
And all the while Barkha Dutt kept repeating the refrain “ The Bhagavad Gita is a lovely text “ !
The sociologist can be explained by the ‘secular’ vision
of his school and university years, no doubt imbibed from those
hallowed institutions of ‘secular’ learning, which means again a
revisionist reading of Indian history promulgated by the Left
historians of the learned institutions.
A quiet little man, the official representative of minority education, spoke tentatively about the solution : why not readings from the various scriptures of the world ?
This seemed a reasonable proposal and Dhananjaya Kumar agreed but put forward his own suggestion : why not start first with the Gita then , and see how the project works out?
Checkmate. The participants did not quite know how to react to that, whereupon Barkha came back with her original instrument for bludgeoning the hapless minister : how shocking it was that he called the non Hindu citizens of India ‘foreigners’ !
The reader can judge how useful those 45 minutes of discussion were !
(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university)
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Director, CBI, CGO Complex
New Delhi 110013.
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