The BJP governments both in states and at the Centre (during the NDA regime) have not forgotten to play the communal role their mentors had expected them to do. Even when they talked about ‘Secularism’, ‘Gandhian Socialism’ or ‘Cultural Nationalism’ without trumpeting their sinister communal aims, they did the same thing which they have been ‘hammered’ to do. The BJP retained the ministries of information and education during the NDA governments in 1996, 1998, 1999. It was perceived that by controlling the education ministry saffronisation of education will be perfectly done; and by excessive and slanted glorification of the past, revivalist and reactionary values will be promoted. The RSS slogan that “Hinduism is nationalism” will be stamped on the impressionable minds through this process. Even in the Orissa government, where the BJP is a junior ally with the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), it has wrestled for itself ministry of education and culture. Thus, it is part of the wider game plan of the Sangh Parivar to control educational system and thus control the minds of society.
Exploiting education as a means of implementing diabolical plans is not new in Indian context. At first the British started this trend, using education as a weapon of mass deception. H.M. Elliot and John Dowson in their multi-volume, History Of India As Told By Her Own Historians, state that the Muslim rule had to be depicted as oppressive and tyrannical in order to convince Hindus that they were better off under the British rule. This trend of using education for moulding the minds was also adopted ruthlessly by the Sangh Parivar. Saffronisation of education is dubbed as drastic reorientation of history by Romila Thapar. Because history textbooks were singled out for special treatment; India’s past in these books is not even remotely connected with the known facts of history. It is a falsification of history. There was a Hindutva bias in the textbooks and historical events were presented in a manner as to arouse and perpetuate prejudice against certain religious groups. Hindutva beliefs were presented in a manner to give the impression that all the Indians universally hold them.
Saffronisation of education has been done from the time the Sangh Parivar came to power in various states as early as 1991, and it was vigorously pursued with the formation of BJP-led government at the Centre. The ministry of human resource development has embarked upon the task of changing the composition and character of apex research and educational institutions like UGC, NCERT, ICSSR, ICHR, etc. An immediate action (after ascending the throne of New Delhi) was the arbitrary deletion of passages from the existing History textbooks. These passages included the origin and evolution of caste-based society in India, eating of beef in early India, difficulty of dating the Mahabharata and Ramayana, etc. as a year later these textbooks were replaced by hastily put together new ones, which were pedagogically incompetent, apart from their slanted history. Keeping in mind all the latest archaeological findings and linguistic interpretations, one can say that the culture of India goes back to 6000BC, the first manifestation of which is the Indus valley civilization. It declined in the second millennium BC and completely disintegrated by 1500BC when Aryans entered from northwest India but to prove the Aryan culture most ancient culture of India unscientifically it is traced back to even 6000 BC. A book called Gaurav Gatha prescribed for Class IV, declared that the Qutb Minar, whose creation is popularly credited to Qutbuddin Aibak was actually built by the emperor Samudragupta and was known as Vishnu Stambha. A book Itihas Ga Raha Hai states, “We went on winning one battle after another. We never allowed foreign rulers to settle down but we could not reconvert our separated brothers to Hinduism.” This is indeed the egregious game of the wounded psyche. Wherever the BJP was in power it has reworked the curriculum and wherever it is not in power, it has through extracurricular activities and extra reading-materials have managed to mould the minds of the younger generation. These books seek to contaminate a child’s mind with the viruses of communalism, and imbibe religious consciousness and pride of being a Hindu, for which, among others, both geography and history textbooks are invoked. The map of India drawn in all these books is that of Akhand Bharat, not only with Pakistan and with Bangladesh as a part of it, but the entire region of Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet and Myanmar are included in it. The familiar and internationally recognised geographical names are changed to suggest its Hindu connection: the Indian Ocean is renamed Hindu Maha Sagar, the Arabian Sea is called Sindhu Sagar, and the name prescribed for the Bay of Bengal is Ganga Sagar.
Even the anti-colonial movement is described as the struggle of Hindus against the British. They are also consummate in spreading rumours and unhistorical myths throughout the nation. In the bloody odyssey – the Rath Yatra of Advani in 1990 – some of the myths that have been disseminated were ‘from AD 1528 to AD 1914 three lakh fifty thousand devotees of Ram have laid down their lives to liberate the Ram temple at Ayodhya,’ ‘foreigners invaded 77 times the Ramajanambhoomi’. It is not futilely referred to as Rumour Spreading Society.
The educational strategy of the Sangh is not limited to infiltration through government agencies. As early as 1942 the RSS had initiated the steps to organise its own education network. In 1992 the Vidya Bharti Shiksha Sansthan (run by RSS) claimed to run 6000 schools with 1200000 students and 40000 teachers. It is estimated that in 1999 it has about 20000 schools under its control, imparting ‘education’ to 5000000 students.
Slogans on the eve of demolition of Babri Masjid, “yeh to keval jhanki hai; Kaashi Mathura baaki hai”, and “musalman ke do hi sthaan; Pakistan ya Kabristan” etc. are inflammatory to the core which are often resorted to appeal and aggrandise the repugnance for the ‘other’.Choices of the terms like ‘foreigners’ is also very objectionable. However, the child or the ignorant masses go through this lesson constantly. Much deeper plan the Sangh Parivar achieves through this methodology is that it manages to mould the mind of the learner in such a way that the child fails to see the enormous oppression and exploitation that goes on within his own community and perceives the existence of the ‘other’ as the major threat to his community’s existence. This phenomenon needs to be addressed by the experts in educational field as well as by concerned citizens. “There is little in these books that is historical,” observed the NCERT committee, “In their violation of history as a form of knowledge, these books have few others to match them. Written in a highly provocative language and style, they present an extremely virulent chauvinistic view of what they consider Indian history.”
Besides this educational tool, the Sangh Parivar also uses the most aggressive forms of cultural response. On the run up before the demolition of the Babri Masjid, Sadhvi Ritambhra’s talks depict the epitome of aggressive politicisation of culture. On the one hand, she invoked in her typical religious style the dance of destruction of the Shankar. Prakash Louis witnesses, “I too stood among thousands of listeners and could easily feel the communal stirring swelling up in the listeners as she thundered from the highest pitch of her voice, ‘shankar ko bus bum hone do’ , that is , let the destructive powers of you be unleashed – on the Masjid which is the symbol of Muslim invasion. On the other hand those who wanted to protect the Masjid she called them ‘Napunsak’ that is eunuchs.”
The emotions of two groups of people were attacked in this process. On the one hand, the listeners who were religious were converted to become communal due to invoking of the highest symbol of destruction. On the other hand, those who were religious but communally neutral were challenged when termed ‘impotent’, if not supporting the destruction.
The Sangh Parivar has been constantly in search for newer symbols for providing meaning to existing symbols. The Hindutva forces use a symbol like the Ayodhya temple to arouse the sentiment of the Hindus. However, they also use secondary symbols like celebrations of festivals, wearing saffron bands or caps, introducing Rath Yatras, wielding of trishul, and raising Jai Shree Ram etc. The symbol of cow is often used or exploited like this. Another area that the Sangh Parivar constantly utilises is the attempt to highlight the sense of martyrdom. This exercise is carried out in a systematic manner to draw the young and the old in a sense of national fervour but ultimately it enables it to incite communal feelings. For instance, after the Kargil war, the Sangh Parivar went all out to elicit a sense of reverence to those who were killed in the war. It renovated and renamed some parks after the names of martyrs. For example, the park near Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in South Delhi has been renamed after Captain Ahuja. In itself, the act is commendable. Nevertheless, the BJP has consistently refused to accept the security lapses in the entire Kargil region. It does not bother to provide all the facilities for the soldiers in that difficult terrain. In addition, the Sangh Parivar indulged in localising the heroes of the Kargil war. The chief of the RSS released the book on the martyrs of Uttaranchal. The fact of the matter is that instead of recognising the contributions of all those who were martyred the attempt to localise the martyrs will lead to parochialisation and segregation of the society.
Another field the Sangh Parivar has effectively harnessed is the media. It has a publication in every language, in some cases more than one. It even controlled a vernacular language news service. Pannikkar confirms that in 1970s this news service had 1000 correspondents spread over 24 news centres, with that they overtly or covertly contributed to the dissemination of the communal ideology. Hindutva communalism has succeeded in having a substantial presence in almost all the newspapers. This is not accidental but a well-planned strategy. Consequently, several newspapers now carry the Hindutva clamour without any restraint and several others endeavour to strike a balance between the secular and the communal. One feels that the secular is increasingly losing out in the struggle.
As said earlier, “The most glaring manifestation of communalism is communal violence or riots”. The felonies of Sangh Parivar have resulted in several communal riots, before and after the independence. Some of the prominent ones are mentioned as follows.
The 1947 “population exchanges” at the partition of India, resulting in an estimated 500,000 deaths.
Ahmedabad 1969: anti-Muslim riot.
Bhiwandi, Jalagaon: 1970 anti-Muslim riots.
Tellicherry 1971: anti-Muslim riots
Jamshedpur 1979: anti-Muslim riots.
Kanya Kumari 1982: anti-Christian riots.
The 1984 anti-Sikh riots in which the Congress Party played a major role in the killing of about 3,000 Sikhs following the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
The riots occurred in the aftermath of the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya by Hindutva nationalists on December 6, 1992. 500 people died in the resulting violence of the worst civil unrest in India since the partition.
The 2002 Gujarat violence, death toll estimated at 2,500, most of the victims were Muslims. Etc.
The most recent and the most egregious amongst the communal bloodshed in India is committed in Gujarat 2002, on the pretext of Godhra train burning in which 58 kar sevaks lost their lives, (which later turned out to be only a ploy of Sangh Parivar as forensic report of the burned bogies proved that fire was lit from inside). A brief description of that gory ethnic cleansing of Muslims is as follows:
In 2002 a series of communal riots took place between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat in February-May 2002, sparked by the Godhra Train Burning. According to the death toll given to the parliament on May 11, 2005 by the government, 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed, and another 2,548 injured. 223 people are missing. The report placed the number of riot widows at 919, and 606 children were declared orphaned. However, according to human rights groups, the death tolls were up to 2000. According to the United States Congressional Research Service, up to 2000 people, mostly Muslims were killed in the violence. Tens of thousands were displaced from their homes because of the violence. The large-scale, collective violence has been described as a “massacre” and an attempted pogrom or genocide of the Muslim population. According to New York Times, Reporter Celia Dugger, witnesses were “dismayed by the lack of intervention from local police,” who often “watched the events taking place and took no action against the attacks on Muslims and their property.” The perpetrators of the violence, Sangh leaders as well as the Gujarat government maintain that the violence was rioting or inter-communal clashes – spontaneous and uncontrollable reaction to the Godhra train burning. They even shamelessly tend to justify this genocide as a Hindutva stalwart argued, “Every action has its reaction”. This was nothing but the extension of the hypothesis: “a lasting government will be a Hindu government. If people do not like it, they can go to the country of their choice. Otherwise they must live at the mercy of Hindus.” (Ashok Singhal, president VHP in an interview with Frontline, March 25, 1994).
It will be pertinent to quote Ram Puniyani here from his Communalism Illustrated Primer Pp. 56 and 23 respectively regarding the action-reaction theory of Modi, “Mr. Modi will like us to believe that the Godhra terrorism gave rise to the Gujarat carnage. A deeper analysis will show that Godhra was projected as the terrorist offence to legitimise in advance the carnage which was planned much before.” However, “The extensive use of gas cylinders, the lists of Muslim households and business enterprises and the import of trucks of swords and dangerous chemicals also point to the fact of extensive planning which went into preparation of this pogrom.”
Hindutva communal forces always took refuge behind this ‘retaliation theory’ which is no doubt based on the false pretext. Justice Jagmohan Reddy Commission for Ahmedabad Riots, Justice D.P. Madon Commission on the Bhiwandi, Jalgaon and Mahad Riots, Justice Joseph Vihayathil Commission for Tellicherry Riots, Commission of Inquiry of Jamshedpur Riots, Justice Venugopal Commission for Kanya Kumari Riots and Sri Krishna Commission for Bombay Riots, all opined unanimously that the provocation was from the side of the Hindutva fanatics which ended up in the bloody combat between communities.
Thus communal invasion on culture and education thereby on the minds of the people is the most critical damage it had ramified on the Indian society. Prakash Louis concludes a chapter, Sangh Parivar and distortion of culture in his book as, “…in the process, non-issues take the centre stage… by focusing non-issues… the Hindutva forces have totally relegated to the background or dwarfed the burning issues like caste atrocities and oppression, tribal alienation and exploitation, discrimination against women, and violation of human rights. In this attempt the Sangh Parivar has been most successful. Hence the need of the hour is to realise the game plans of the Sangh Parivar and to oppose it in all the domains”.