By Makhdoom Babar in Islamabad Christina Palmer in New Delhi
While the Congress is set to form a new government in India and it has constantly been calling for end to terrorism and extremism in the region and Delhi has been showing all the willingness to do so, it becomes highly imperative that the Congress government should act promptly and solidly to make certain amendments in the curriculum of it educational text books and the policies at schools, particularly the religious schools and these amendments and change must be made in the light of the findings of Ms. Felice D Gaer, Commissioner of the US Commission for International Religious Freedom who had pin pointed an alarming state of affairs at hundreds of Hindu educational institutes throughout India that are producing thousands of Hindu extremists and fundamentalist militants every year and are actually being run on the pattern of Madrassas of former Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
Findings of The Daily Mail, in this direction, reveal that the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom on 10th June 2002 held a detailed hearing on Gujarat’s anti Muslims riots. The hearing brought to light the atrocities committed in Gujarat by extremist Hindu groups such as Vishwa Hidnu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatia Janata Party (BJP) all components of umbrella organization ‘Sangh Parivar’. During the commission’s hearing, several speakers had called to block the funding and fund raising of the Extremist Hindu Groups and their sponsors in the United States.
Later, Felice D Gaer, Chairperson of the Commission sent a letter to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad America (VHPA) conveying concern over the support provided by them to Hindu groups involved in Gujarat violence. In response the President of VHPA, Mr. Jyotish Parekh had blatantly stated that VHPA was a tax-exempt, charitable organization merely supporting benevolent works and educational projects in India catering the needs of children, youth and adults “instilling time tested eternal Hindu values”.
The Daily Mail’s findings reveal that contrary to the claims of Jyotish Parekh, extremism and bigotry is being taught at the religious schools run by VHP and RSS under the garb of inculcating the knowledge of Hindu Dharma ((Hindu religion) and Sanskaar (culture) in the Indian youth. These schools continue to provide ideological training and motivation to those who take part in violence targeting religious minorities in India. It is because of this that many independent observers regard these mythological schools more badly than the Taliban sponsored Madras. These schools and education outfits have been producing hundreds of thousands of hate-indoctrinated pupils for years now.
The Daily Mail has explored that one such so-called charitable educational project, listed by VHPA is the sponsoring of Ekal Vidyalaya (mythological religious schools network) all over India. In fact thousands of such schools have been opened in India through financing of VHPA and other VHP branches worldwide. Many independent reports including that of Human Rights Watch (HRW) and even India’s own National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) regarding the Ekal Vidyalaya as the rock bed of Hindutva hate philosophy. In its report on the “Genesis of violence in Gujarat,” HRW assesses the two educational schemes of ‘Vidya Sahaks’ and ‘Ekal Vidyalaya as the heart of Sangh Parivar’s pogrom of “Saffronisation” process. According to HRW, in Gujarat alone the state government handpicked 20,000 RSS diehards and appointed them teachers in the state run schools replacing the incumbents. Alongside the ‘Saffronisation of State education system is the programme of private Ekal Vidyalaya schools.
Indoctrination of Hate through Schools Text Books
The Daily Mail’s findings reveal that the State of Gujarat like many other Indian States having BJP dominated governments in the past had even changed the school textbooks and curriculum from 1998 onwards replacing them with hate-filled texts against the minority communities accusing them of undermining the divine ‘Dharma’ (religion) of Hinduism by converting Hindus of lower caste and economic strata to other religions. The things continued unchanged during the last tenure of Congress government.
According to India’s own National Steering Committee on Text Books Evaluation, RSS and VHP sponsored schools such as Vidyalaya Bharati, Shishu Mandris (Temple Schools), Parmarth Shiksha Mandir (Spiritual Teaching Temples) and Ekal Vidyalaya use blatantly communal writings in the series entitled, Sanskriti Jnan (Learning Sanskrit). The committee’s report found that much of the material in the so-called Sanskrit Jnan series “is designed to promote bigotry, religious fanaticism and outright communal chauvinism based on RSS and VHP agenda in the name of inculcating knowledge of culture in the young generation”. The number of students registered per year under Vidya Bharati schools alone is claimed to be around 150,000. A reflection of these groups’ expansionist mindset is reflected in one such narration in the book about Pakistan and Bangladesh, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and ‘Brahmadesh (Land of Hindu God Brahma) or Myanmar’ as supposed to be parts of India. Sri Lanka is regarded as a country which licks India’s feet and reminds Hindus of the defeat of Lanka’s ‘demon God King’ Ravana at the hands of Hindu God Ramachandra. Interestingly claim is also laid by some extremist Hindus on Argentina as being the land of their mythological hero Arjun of Mahabharata (greater India) and North America regarding the language of Red Indians to be derived from Sanskrit.
Links with Fascism and Nazism
The Daily Mail has explored that The Sangh Parivar umbrella organizations have close ideological links with two most dreaded movements in the 20th century Europe and even still regarded as dangerous. A report in Jane’s Defence Weekly in January 2003 also cited Gujarat State Text Book, which declares “Hitler lent dignity and prestige to German government by establishing strong government set-up”.
The textbook of the Gujarat State Board for the student of X Grade, describes the “Ideology of Fascism” in a frightfully positive ambivalence that stands further heightened in later paragraphs that deal with “Nazism”. The book describes the Ideology of Fascism, whereby the State is sovereign and an individual exists for the State. An individual does not have freedom over and above the State. Where, everyone is absorbed within the State and national interest and progress are its basic aim. Fascist Party according to the textbook believed that a leader endowed with Divine power should wield the total power of the nation. The striking similarity of this doctrine with the RSS manifesto of ‘Ek Chalak Anuvartitva’ (obedience to one leader) is no accident or coincidence. In fact Dr. Moonje and Dr. Hedgewar the founding fathers of RSS were inspired by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy and fashioned their organization on the same pattern after the former had a meeting with Mussolini in 1931.
The Daily Mail’s investigations reveal that while describing the Ideology of Nazism the textbook eulogizes the unlimited total and all embracing and supreme power granted by Nazis to the dictator of ‘Fuhrer’ Hitler. “Besides the phrase on Hitler’s “lending dignity and prestige to the German government” the book describes his attempt at creation of “the vast state of Greater Germany in a positive connotation. Again the similarity with Sangh Parivar agenda of creating a Greater India (Maha Bharat) is striking. A passing reference is made to the policy of opposition towa5rds the Jewish people and advocating of the supremacy of the German race, which gives an impression as if it were an unavoidable necessity to achieve a greater objective. According to the textbook Hitler’s “new economic policy and brought prosperity to Germany”. It goes on to say “he (Hitler) began efforts for the eradication of unemployment. He started constructing Public buildings, providing irrigation facilities, building Railways, roads and production of war materials. He made untiring efforts to make Germany self-reliant within one decade. Hitler discarded the Treaty of Versailles by calling it just ‘a piece of paper’ and stopped paying the war penalty. He instilled the spirit of adventure in the common people. In order to ensure that the German people strictly followed the principles of Nazism, it was included in the curriculum of the educational institutions. (Gujarat state social studies text for Std. X).
Following is the Saffron education policy of Sangh Parivar which seeks to instil Hindutva (Hindu domination) ideology in populace through state approved textbooks as well as private school systems targeting select groups.
On Caste System and Untouchables
The Daily Mail’s research into the issue reveals that the caste (Varna) system receives generous treatment in Indian textbooks. The Gujarat State Text Book Board’s book describes Varna as “a precious gift of the Aryans to the mankind. It was a social and economic organization of the society built on the basis of the principle of division of labour. The Aryans divided the society into four classes or ‘Varnas’. Those who were engaged in the pursuit of learning and imparted education were called ‘Brahmins or Purohits (the priestly classes). Those who defended the country against the enemy were called the Kshastriyas or the warrior class. Those who were engaged in trade agriculture were called the Vaishyas. And those who acted as servants or slave of the other three classes were called the Shudras. The importance of the ‘Varna” system as an ideal system of building the social and economic structure of a society cannot be overlooked”.
It is worth mentioning that Varna in Sanskrit means the colour of skin and the caste system was probably used to distinguish the fair coloured Aryans from the dark coloured natives. The people of higher castes (Brahmins, kshatriyas, and vaisyas) were Aryans. The dark skinned natives were the Shudras, the lowest class in society, whose duty was to serve the high class. The despicable reduction of Shudras to untouchable status and having no civil rights under the caste system is conveniently overlooked. The fact that much of the sub-continent’s social problems in human inter action stem from the compulsive caste system and its attached nuances that stigmatise system and its attached nuances that stigmatise some social classes, receives no mention in the textbooks at all.
Widow burning on Funeral Prayers of husbands (‘Sati’) regarded as virtue
The Daily Mail’s probe reveals that the text books extol the inhumanly practice of burning of widows on funeral pyres of husbands as a mark of self-respect in Rajput women who “would burnt themselves in the fire of jauhar (blessing) rather than fall victims in the hands of their enemies. It is narrated in the text book that Rani padmini, with 16,000 Rajput women did jauhar in Chittorgarh by walking into fire when their men marched into the battlefield to fight to the finish instead of surrendering themselves to their enemy.” The book reinforces the ancient Hindu concept of not allowing re-marriage of widows and marrying the daughters of the family at an early age in order to safeguard their honour. These curriculum books preach virtual slavery of women at the hands of their husbands through concepts such as “Pati Verta” (husband worshiper) meaning a wife can only achieve salvation by absolute obedience to her whether right or wrong. Mythological references are brought in to reinforce the belief.
Venom against Christianity and Islam
There is considerable venom against Christianity and Islam in the books not only taught at the Shishu Mandirs and Ekal Vidyalaya Schools but also in the textbooks published under the state text book boards. These books selectively speak about the excess of the followers of Christianity and Islam while maintaining a deafening silence on similar deeds by Hindu Maharajas, Brahmins and other ruling elite. The Social Studies,, grade IX text of the Gujarat Board has a section with a sub-heading, ‘Minority Community’, that labels Muslims, even Christians and Parsees, as ‘foreigners’. One statement on Christianity in a Shishu Mandirs and Ekal Vidyalaya School book regards the “conspiratorial policies of the followers of this religion” to be the cause of “partition of India”. It goes on to say, “Even today Christian missionaries are engaged in fostering anti-national tendencies in our country because of which there is grave danger to the integrity of present day India”. The degeneration of Catholic Church before renaissance in Europe and untowardly feudal behaviour of some Christian priests receives special mention in these books without any similar reference about the Brahmin/Purohits Hindu priest class, although their exploitation in the name of religion is well documented in all eras.
Perhaps this hate mongering and indoctrination of youth explains the targeting of Christian and Muslims by RSS, Bajrang Dal, VHP and BJP die-hards in such vehement manner. Even in January 2003, American missionary Rev Joseph Cooper from New Castle was deported by Indian authorities after being attacked by RSS zealots in Kilmannur near Thiruvananthupuram. Similarly, earlier this year, many Churches were burnt to ashes in different parts of India and many Christian families were brutally tortoured…
It is a great tragedy that such extremist organizations are enjoying a tax-exempt status in the United States to carry forward the agenda of hate. In fact VHP and RSS have setup many front offices, shops and organizations is the US to siphon both overtly and covertly finances to Hindutva organizations sponsoring saffron terrorism in India. To circumvent regulations these organizations even recommend to Non Resident Indians (NRIs) to send donations directly to fictitious accounts so that funds cannot be traced to any one organization. One such other VHP/RSS affiliate organization providing financial support of RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal is the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF). It has even started its Master credit card in association with National Script Centre. All purchases at non-participating merchants done through this credit card earn IDRF 1%. Similarly IDRF and VHP have entered into agreement with several businesses in the USA, which are listed as friendly enterprises by them prompting to NRI for use their services. As reciprocation these businesses give a certain % of their earning from Indians to IDRF. One such company is the Isterra Primus Telecom Group which gives 2% of long distance call bill to VHP-IDRF projects.
The Daily Mail has learnt that the US government is also considering to take up this issue with the Indian government as the Obama administration is on record through a Hillary Clinton statement that Washington is already in touch with certain governments of the Muslim World for bringing about certain religion related changes and amendments in the curriculum of the educational text books to eliminate religious extremism. It may be mentioned here that a similar move was initiated by the Bush administration but the same could not be persuaded which resulted with a huge negativity It was therefore found imperative to take up the issue on the same lines with the Indian government as well and it is most likely to be pursued by Washington after the installation of a new Union Government at Delhi later this month.
In the light of the above mentioned situation, one can easily evaluate that the Indian leadership very seriously needs to bring about certain changes and amendments in the txt book curriculum throughout India and also to modify the policies at the Hindutva schools if it is sincere in a lasting peace in the region. It is obvious that with the existence of such curriculum and with such religious hatred policies and bigotry oriented education system at thousands of religious schools in India, no effort for a lasting peace in South Asia and particularly between India and Pakistan can succeed the constant growth of Hindu extremists and fundamentalists from these schools would remain a constant threat to peace and a source of religious extremism and terrorism in the region in particular and across the world in general.