Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
'I've only taken education a step forward, many have told me it's the finest syllabi ever' (Interview with Murli Manohar Joshi)

'I've only taken education a step forward, many have told me it's the finest syllabi ever' (Interview with Murli Manohar Joshi)

Publication: The Indian Express
Date: September 24, 2002
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/archive_full_story.php?content_id=10008

Murli Manohar Joshi, the ever-controversial Human Resource Development Minister, finally has reason to feel vindicated. The education policy drafted under his controversial helmsmanship, which generated reams of controversy and comment on the issue of revision of history text-books and the introduction of the study of religion, crossed a major legal hurdle when a petition alleging ''saffronisation of education'' was dismissed by the Supreme Court. Joshi tells Santwana Bhattacharya that his motives were always noble; and that all criticism was ''motivated and mischievous'.

Q.: The Supreme Court's September 12 judgement upholding the National Curriculum Framework for Secondary Education is a moral victory for you. But could the issue have been approached and tackled in a different manner?
A.: The best manner was adopted by us. There were so many levels of consultations on the National Curriculum Framework with the SCERTs (State Councils for Educational Research and Training). Experts were invited and there were interactions with teachers. Three thousand copies of the draft curriculum were circulated. The framework was circulated in its final shape to chief ministers, to all political parties and MPs concerned with issues of education. Nobody responded. Not even the editors of leading newspapers, who later criticised it without reading it.

Q.: But the criticism was never taken as a valid response.
A.: Because it was motivated and mischievous criticism, that was designed to keep the Indian school curriculum behind time. It was a case of suppressio veri and suggestio falsi.

In the Supreme Court, not a single word could be shown that was at variance with Parliament's statement on the National Policy of Education. It was a policy that had been passed by Parliament. I only implemented it. People started developing stomach aches because no one before me could implement the policy. The most vitriolic reaction came from the Leftists as they had to hide their own skeletons. They feared their own skewed curriculum would be exposed- their history and social science books which teach how Lenin inspired the Indian freedom struggle and which ignore Rabindranath Tagore, Subhash Chandra Bose or Gandhi's contributions.

Q.: If you did seek across the board consultation, why did you avoid constituting the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE)?
A.: The CABE wasn't ever constituted after 1994. Narasimha Rao did not do it, Inder Kumar Gujral did not do it. Why blame me? Do you know the structure of CABE? Apart from the state education ministers, it has posts for 50-60 experts which I would have had to fill up. Then they would have accused me of filling up CABE with BJP people. Then, CABE would have been under attack!

The CABE was set up by the British in 1935 to control the education policy of each and every state. Mahatma Gandhi was against CABE, the Congress was opposed to it. For the sake of opposition, they forget their own history.

Q.: Nobody would object to the working principle of periodic revisions and updating of textbooks. But fundamental alterations or radical changes make people a little uneasy.
A.: There is no change. I have only taken the country's education system forward, a step ahead. Many state governments, in fact, have called me up to say it is one of the finest syllabi that India has ever produced.

Q.: Hypothetically speaking, if, in two years time, you're sitting in the opposition and the new ruling dispensation decides to scrap your curriculum framework, what would you do?
A.: There should be a review every five years. If they find any part of the new curriculum obsolete, they can take it out. But after the Supreme Court judgement, I do not think anyone can tinker around with the National Curriculum Framework just for the sake of it. Why should we not teach our own time-tested values when the world over everyone is talking about value-based education?

Q.: The court has separated the ''philosophy of religion'' from ''religious education''. Do you think everybody down the line will maintain this fine distinction?
A.: Those who want to keep religion out of people's lives as the ''opium of the masses'' have not been able to stop Saraswati Vandana in their state (West Bengal). The study of religions leads to moral values in a civilised society. I am not teaching theology. India is a pluralistic society, there is a need to know each other's religion in order to appreciate and accommodate each other. For this, the philosophy of religion must be a part of the education framework. It is religion which provides the concept of right and wrong in a society.

Q.: But the BJP's concept of cultural nationalism, from the Ayodhya movement onwards, is a reflection of its majoritarian attitude.
A.: No, that is incorrect. The party has never projected any majoritarian viewpoint. On the contrary, the BJP is first and the only party which talks about equal rights to all religions: sarva dharma sambhav.

Q.: If that was so, how do you explain Gujarat? It is being said that the years of BJP rule in Gujarat have divided the communities there like never before.
A.: During the Congress regime, thousands of Sikhs were killed in Delhi. There is no likeness between Gujarat and Delhi, but the moot point is violence between communities can happen under any political dispensation. Christian nations in Europe have fought with each other, so religion is not always the basis of strife. In this case, religious alienation of the Muslim community dates back to the pre- partition days and not just the last 10 years. It was heightened and nurtured by a society based on the misinterpretation of secularism.

Q.: The Supreme Court's dismissal of the charge of 'saffronisation' was a victory not just for you and your ministry, but the entire Vajpayee government. But the BJP does not seem too keen to capitalise on it.
A.: The message has gone across to the people. I consider it low-level politics to capitalise on an obvious victory. Besides, I have received scores of letters, telegrams, telephone calls from across the world. People have responded positively. A few days ago, I met Jain muni Swami Vidyananda, he blessed me for introducing value-based education.

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements