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HVK Archives: Our students don know India's problems (Interview with Murli Manohar Joshi)

Our students don know India's problems (Interview with Murli Manohar Joshi) - The Week

Debashish Mukerji ()
November 15, 1998

Title: Our students don know India's problems (Interview with Murli Manohar Joshi)
Author: Debashish Mukerji
Publication: The Week
Date: November 15, 1998

The cabinet minister most closely identified with RSS is
certainly Dr Murli Manohar Joshi. With his prominent tilak, his
angavastram and choti, he still looks the RSS pracharak he had
been for many years. It was widely held that Joshi, a former
physics professor in Allahabad University, was allotted the
Human Resource Development (HRD) portfolio because the RSS
wanted control over this crucial ministry.

Hemmed in by the fact that education is a state subject, as well
as by the National Agenda for Governance which skirts all the
issues dear to the RSS heart, Joshi has nevertheless managed to
make the RSS presence felt in this area. While his
reconstituting the governing boards of the Indian Council for
Historical Research, the India Council for Social Science
Research and the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies merely
drew media flak, his effort to get the RSS blueprint for
educational reform discussed at the conference of state
education ministers raised such a furore that he had to back
down. Joshi, however, remains unfazed. Excerpts from interview:

Q: Your recent statements suggest that you are unhappy with
curriculum and syllabi in schools. What is lacking?
A: First, the curriculum should be related to the social and
economic conditions of the country must create a confidence in
the student about the nation we can do something. These are our
achievements. This is what we have contributed over the
millennia: this is the philosophical contribution, this is the
literary contribution, this is the scientific contribution.

At present out young people do not know. We have to convince
them that we have certain achievements to our credit, and they
are not few. In fact they are quite substantial. Nobody points
out that the iron pillar at the Qutub Minar has been standing
for at least 1,500 years, maybe 2,000 years. If young people are
informed that we had this sort of metallurgy so long ago it
would give them confidence.

Q: Have we achieved nothing since that we can be proud of?
A: If you remember, on August 15 this year, while we were
winding up our 15th anniversary celebrations, I screened a film
showing the attainments of Indian science in the last 50 years.
In my office in the science and technology ministry youl find
photos of all our top scientists put up in the corridor: Bhabha
is there, S.N. Bose is there, Raman is there....

Q: Do you believe that the period between the first Muslims
invasions and 1947 was our equivalent of Europe's Dark Ages?
A: No, no, I would say.... Haldighati. It is being taught in the
defence curriculum of our military academy. Or the Taj Mahal.
Whatever are the achievements of India are common achievements.
But the idea that India began only after the advent of
Britishers, that canard must be fought. What about Aryabhatta?
Nagarjuna? The achievements of India, ancient or modern, are not
known well enough.

Q: So that is what is wrong with our syllabi. Was it a
conceptual fault or a failure of effective communication?
A: It is conceptual fault. Because a mindset has been fostered
that the leadership of the freedom struggle belonged to only a
narrow set of leaders.

Q: By the Congress?
A: Of course. I don't even find the name of Netaji Subhas Bose
highlighted. Or of Sardar Patel. You don't hear the name of
Aurobindo. Even the life of Guru Gobind Singh is not
sufficiently known. What about Lala Lajpat Rai? What about the
revolutionaries?

Q: Many feel that the BJP and RSS seek to underplay the non-
Hindu contribution to the making of India?
A: This is an old stick to beat the BJP with. People who have
kept India illiterate for 50 years cannot understand and
appreciate our programmes. They feel completely frustrated when
they find that within eight months we have put forth so many
schemes and ideas.

Q: Do you think the uproar on the education ministers
conference was the result of some conspiracy against you?
A: It was a result of politics.... and some misunderstanding.
There may be some elements who are trying to work behind the
scenes.

Q: Conspiracy against the BJP or against you personally?
A: Against us both. After all, apart from BJP I am nothing.
Maybe because elections are around the corner some people
thought that by raising such issues they could get the votes of
certain sections.

Q: Do you and the BJP also feel education should be ndianised,
spiritualised, nationalised=94, as proposed in the controversial
annexure introduced at the education ministers meet?
A: I have always been saying that education should derive its
sustenance from the strong points of India culture, tradition
and history. Despite being educated, a student in India today
has no idea of the immensity of India's problems. He is trying
to seek some foreign solution to some foreign problem under
Indian conditions. So let us orient the Indian mind to Indian
problems.

Q: Spiritualised too?
A: Even the Unesco declaration has accepted the worth of
spirituality. The Arab countries were present at the Paris
conference where I made this suggestion (World Conference on
Higher Education, Paris, October 5-9), and it was accepted.
China, Russia and Pakistan were also present. By spiritualism I
mean we must learn to share. Only through spiritualism you learn
to share your happiness and sorrows with others. If we are
wholly material, then there is no need to share with others,
there is only greed, grabbing, conflict. Was Aurobindo communal?
We Gandhi communal? Was Nehru communal? All of them have
stressed the need for spiritualism.

Q: What do you feel about the recommendation to introduce he
essentials of Indian culture=94? What do you understand by Indian
culture?
A: Indian culture is unity in diversity. My emphasis is more on
the unity. Diversity is a manifestation of this essential unity.
The language spoken in Kashmir, is different from that spoken in
central India, which is different from the languages of the
south. But if you examine the axle length of the bullock cart,
youl find it is uniform from Kashmir to the south. That
doesn mean I want to carry India into the bullock cart age.
The white light of the sun is dispersed into the colours of the
spectrum. Plurality is like the colours of the spectrum, which
go to make up the white light of unity.

Q: Is too much emphasis being given to the colours these days,
and not enough to the white light? We are making too much of
plurality?
A: Yes, I think it is a wrong understanding. I can understand
that there are shades, sub shades, but the basic light is the
white light.

Q: What about the suggestion that girls should be taught
omekeeping
A: (Smiles and waves away the question) That's their agenda. I
would say if there is a course in homekeeping, it should be
common fir both sexes.

Q: The recommendation also included amending Article 30 of the
Constitution to allow even those from the majority community to
set up their own schools.
A: This is a matter on which we as a party have not said
anything. So I won comment. The government is only committed
to the national agenda.

Q: you allies force you to stick to the national agenda. Are
they an impediment in implementing you vision, considering some
of them objected too?
A: No, no. The basic idea of the conference was to create a
consensus on certain very important aspects of education -
particularly elementary education, education of girls and spread
of education in rural areas.

Q: Why did you try to bring in an utsider as the opposition
parties put it, to address the education ministers?
A: See, apex bodies of industries and economic experts have
addressed even the cabinet... There is nothing unprecedented in
what I tried to do. And what was P.D. Chitlangia going to say?
What was objectionable in his speech?

There is a statue of Saraswati in Rashtrapati Bhavan. There are
inscriptions from the Vedas and the Upanishads in the Lok Sabha
and Rajya Sabha. Are you going to remove them? Does it make the
Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha communal? The Speaker's chair has an
inscription from the Vedas. Will you remove it? Our national
slogan in Satyameva Jayate. Are you going to give it up? Without
understanding, without knowing, people criticise.

Q: This only shows that even earlier non-BJP governance gave
Hindu culture its due importance, that there is no question of
Hindus or Hinduism having been ignored as the BJP often implies.
A: I not saying that. I am just pointing something out to
those who objected.

Q: How do you justify the changes in the research institutions
like ICHR, ICSSR, etc?
A: Nothing has been changed. When the terms expired the boards
had to be reconstituted. It is not as if they were existing
boards which I dissolved or changed. In the case of ICHR, the
term expired in December 1997! Many times the ICHR was
reconstituted in the past, but a particular group was always
given excessive representation in it. And they didn do any
work! Nothing came out of the Freedom Movement project, nothing
came out of the Economic History of India project.

If you concede that the earlier group was ideologically
committed in one direction, you have no business to criticise
this new group for its ideological commitment. I don say so. I
say the earlier ones were historians, these people are also
historians, these people are also historians, these people are
also historians. If anyone can prove I have appointed a
substandard person, without the right credentials, I will accept
the mistake.


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