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HVK Archives: The growing menace of pseudo-secularism

The growing menace of pseudo-secularism - Organiser

M. V. Kamath ()
November 22, 1998

Title: The growing menace of pseudo-secularism
Author: M. V. Kamath
Publication: Organiser
Date: November 22, 1998

One of the saddest, most tragic things one is being forced to
witness these days is the degradation of secularism by its most
vocal champions, the secularists themselves. We have reached a
stage where, in the name of secularism, a determined effort is
made to denigrate India's culture and national heritage and even
to decry Sanskrit as Hindu and 'Brahminical' whatever that
means. Secularism is equated with anti-Hinduism; ergo, the
teaching of Sanskrit would be tantamount to undermining
secularism. It is to this depth that professed secularists are
taking us. Consider what The Hindu says on this subject: "The
'unique' role claimed for Sanskrit in fostering cultural unity
would be contested sharply not only in the context of the Indian
historical experience but also in terms of deeply divided caste
perceptions which would reject Sanskrit because of its perceived
association with Brahmanical hegemony." What the writer, in sum,
means is that Sanskrit should be relegated to the ditch
presumably along with the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Aranyakas,
not to mention the writings of Kalidasa and Bhavabhuti to attain
secular nirvana. The right place for our culture, apparently, is
the dustbin. Admittedly, India is a multi-lingual nation; in
ancient times the country was held together by Sanskrit. How
else could Sankara, born and brought up in Kerala, without a
drop of 'Aryan' blood in him, have travelled throughout the
length and breadth of the country, communicating with his fellow
Indians and spreading the message of advaila? Apart from the
fact that scholars are increasingly challenging the concept of
"Aryan" and "non-Aryan" it is the height of stupidity to
identify Sanskrit as a 'northern' language when all the three
major Hindu philosophic concepts were formulated in Sanskrit by
'southerners' Madhva (dvaita), Sankara (advaita) and Ramanuja
(vishishtadvaita). If Sanskrit is not to be taught in schools,
what else should be taught in its stead to prove our secularism:
Arabic? Chinese? Aren't our Vedas and Upanishads and our
Puranas the common heritage of all Indians, irrespective of
their religion? Would a knowledge of the Upanishads make
Muslims less Muslim and Christians less Christian? And what is
more, should the teaching of the Vedas, etc, to children
(especially Hindu children) be given up because Muslim and
Christian parents would object to it? Most shocking is the
decision of some of the State education ministers who assembled
in Delhi at a Government-sponsored conference not to entertain a
paper on education policy allegedly submitted by an RSS,
sympathiser, one Shri P.D. Chitlangia. It betrays a fear of
ideas that speaks poorly of the education ministers. But let us
presume that Shri Chitlangia is a hard core RSS man. Surely
even an RSS man is entitled. to be heard by educationists? Are
our State ministers so frightened of ideas and is their
secularism so fragile that a mere study paper sends them into
apoplexy? And what are these ideas that our sophisticated
media, too, refused to publish, lest they taint their newsprint?
Consider these:

* Moral and spiritual education at all stages in all schools and
universities; value education centres with the facilities of
comparative study of all religions.

* Sanskrit as a compulsory subject from Class III to X; a course
on Indian philosophy at all higher education courses/
programmes, especially in vocational courses.

* Since the Supreme Court has already defined Hindutva as a way
of life and not a religion, due place to be given for India's
invaluable heritage of the Vedas and Upanishads from primary to
the higher level courses, including the vocational courses.

* Mother tongue medium schools to be liberally favoured by the
State and the Central Governments.

* No State-aid to educational institutions on grounds of being
managed by any section of citizens based on religion and

* No differentiation in the curriculum for boys and girls at the
primary stage. At later stages, the curriculum for girls may
include in addition, training in home-keeping.

What, pray, is objectionable, in these ideas? In a secular
society is it the argument that, moral and spiritual education
at all stages, should not be imparted? As regards teaching of
Sanskrit which is a classical, not Hindu language, the point may
be made that it will be hard to accommodate it within the three-
language formula, but can't a provision be made that instead of
Hindi, students may be encouraged to learn Sanskrit which is the
gateway to all our ancient writings?' What is so RSS about this?
Besides, why should it automatically be presumed that because an
idea has come from the RSS, it should be at once shunned? What
sort of intellectualism is this? How irrational can one be? As
Shakespeare might have said, of the RSS as he made one of his
characters speak about Jews: "If you prick us do we not bleed?
If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not
die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" What
intellectual arrogance is it to insist that only secularists
have the right to lay down the law? And if Indian students,
studying in India, are not to be taught the Vedas and the
Upanishads on grounds that that would be "communal" where are
they to learn of their own heritage: at Harvard? Chicago? Bonn
where there are excellent centres of Sanskritic learning? The
study paper submitted by Shri Chitlangia has been mocked because
it advocates that additional training in home-keeping may be
given to schools. And what is wrong with that, pray? It may be
argued that similar training should also be given to boys as
well but how many of our 'secularists' would wish to teach their
sons how to cook? Or make their beds? In fact some of our
worst anti-feminists are our secularists.

The way the media has dismissed Shri Chitlangia makes him 'out
to be an intellectual leper when he has some interesting ideas
that should have been thrashed out. That was bad enough. Worse
is the deliberate insult to the goddess Saraswati offered by our
secular education ministers. There are surely other means of
protesting. At the conclusion of the Saraswati-Vandana, they
could have registered their protest in a dignified way,
insisting that in their view the singing of the Vandana was
inappropriate at an official function, but that they had
nevertheless stayed on in order not to give offence to anybody.
That would have been creditable. By their behaviour, the
education ministers only showed they were boors and that their
upbringing is singularly lacking. States with such men as
education ministers have much to explain.

Let it be said in loud and clear terms: Present-day education is
largely barren and soul-less. It calls to heavens for
correction. And secularists are not the ones to fill in the

Those of us who are contemptuous of our past cannot be trusted
to make amends for the future.

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