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Basic feature of secularism - The Observer

Dina Nath Mishra ()
October 29, 1998

Title: Basic feature of secularism
Author: Dina Nath Mishra
Publication: The Observer
Date: October 29, 1998

Insulting anything related to the cultural traditions of Hindus
of this country has become a synonym of contemporary secularism
as practised by the opponents of BJP. This was amply demonstrated
in a recently-held conference of the state education ministers
and secretaries when hell broke loose on the melodious recital of
Saraswati Vandana. Gone are the days when Netaji Subhash Chandra
Bose organised a dharna In a college in Calcutta to press for the
right to perform Saraswati Puja by students in early 30s.
Saraswati Puja is celebrated in large parts of the country even
today. Even Marxist ministers take part in Kali Puja, Durga Puja
and Saraswati Puja in Bengal. In many states, including Bengal,
these are official holidays. Nobody objected to a similar
conference in 1997 organised by ministry of welfare, attended by
President K R Narayanan and the then Prime Minister I K Gujral,
apart from state ministers of concerned ministries, when the
conference started with Saraswati Vandana.

But this time, when the HRD minister Dr Murli Manohar Joshi set
the agenda of the conference, a chorus of protests started. Such
is the political atmosphere that many political parties genuinely
believe that insulting Hindu symbols will benefit them in terms
of Muslim votes. Even Akali Dal, Trinamul Congress and Telugu
Desam joined the protests. Apart from Saraswati Vandana, teaching
Sanskrit up to the tenth standard and Indianising and
spiritualising the education system were made issues of
controversy by the opponents of BJP. In 1956.57, the Nehru
government appointed a Sanskrit Commission, which recommended: To
'preserve the intellectual pre-eminence of the Indian heritage
Sanskrit be made a compulsory subject in all the schools'.

It may be recalled that Mahatma Gandhi wrote in daily Navjeevan
on March 23, 1927: 'Every Hindu must read Sanskrit, not only
Hindus, Muslim should also read Sanskrit for Ram and Krishna were
their forefathers also. To know them they should also learn
Sanskrit'. This is from Volume 33 of Mahatma Gandhi's Collected
Works. Education Commissions headed by Dr S Radhakrishnan and Dr
D S Kotheri too recommended Sanskrit in the curriculum. By
putting Sanskrit on the agenda up to the secondary level, Dr
Joshi has not done anything unheard of. After all, Sanskrit is
the oldest perfect language and has the richest treasure of
knowledge and wisdom. India's Hindu population is 82 per cent.
But vote bank politics applies the veto against Sanskrit and
anything related to Hindutva. It is this mentality which has
resulted in the partition of the country.

In 1934, during the Kakinada session of the Indian National
Congress, when Vishnu Digamber Palushkar sang Vande Mataram in
the beginning, Maulana Mohammad Ali, who was the president of the
Congress, walked out saying that worshipping Durga as mother
India was nothing but idolatry. This mentality ultimately gave
way to two-nation theory which, in turn, caused the partition.

The walkout and protest during the recent conference of education
ministers are a similar example of insulting and abusing Hindus
symbols. Then, it was Vande Mataram and now it Is Saraswati
Vandana and Sanskrit, etc.

A lot of noise was made about P D Chitlangia's paper's inclusion
In the in the agenda. He happens to be the president of Friends
of Tribal Society, Calcutta. His society aims at spreading
primary education in the tribal areas, thereby making the village
youths productive members of the village community and checking
their immigration to cities and towns.

Since 1990, when the society started functioning, it has
established 13,000 non-formal education centres in as many
villages and has covered about 40,000 children. The society has
also aroused a genuine and emotional interest among the urban
population in village children, so much so that busy city-folks
started visiting these education centres.

The problem of primary education is gigantic, to say the least.
He said in his paper: 'I compare the status of literacy in few
selected countries. Literacy in USA, China, Vietnam is over 90
per cent. In Germany, It is over 80 per cent. In all these
countries the male female literacy ratio is more or less the
same. In India, however, male literacy is 65 per cent and female
literacy is around 40 per cent, overall 52 per cent. Clearly,
India is far away from the critical literacy threshold required
for achieving all round balanced economic growth. In 1951, the
literacy level in the country was only 18 per cent of the
population. By 1991, the level increased to 52 per cent. This
percentage growth in literacy loses its relevance, when I find
that after 50 years of Independence there are about 40 crore
illiterate persons, a number more than total population of the
country at the time of Independence. Let us compare the growth of
literate persons in India and China in 4 decades, 1951 to 1991.
While the total (number of) Illiterate persons In India during
this period increased from 30 crore to 41 crore, whereas in China
it (got) reduced from 33 crore to 22.5 crore. We all know,
China's population is higher than that of India.'

Chitlangia has evolved a system of primary education in tribal
areas where a group of 30 village children cost his society Rs
10,000 in all. The cost per child is about Rs 350. The teacher is
from the village itself, educated up to the eighth standard.

Our educationists have been coining slogans like 'each one teach
one'. Here is a person who has accomplished a great task in
primary education by educating more than 40 thousand tribal
children and is still aiming high.

But our secular brigade has painted him saffron. They would
rather house India with the largest stock of secular illiterates
than replace them with Hindu literates.

And what type of an educationist is he? It can be seen in the
concluding paragraph which he was to read in the conference, but
was denied the opportunity. There he says: 'It is painful to find
the growing state of value degeneration in all walks of our
social life. The education which does not seek to create the
moral fabric of a nation in keeping with its cultural heritage is
no education in true sense of the term. Swami Vivekananda,
Tagore, Gandhiji throughout their life, endeavoured to make
education as the instrument for moral rearmament. Students need
to be elevated to become more committed to the community and
family, and more faithful to the values of life. Gita, Ramayan,
Granth Sahib, Bible and Koran are not purely religious books, but
are the store houses of values. Let our education system be
guided by these values ...'

Accepting the moral contents of Koran and Bible is the Hindu way
of thinking, and assaulting anything related to the Hindu
tradition is the essence of secularism.

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