By Tanvi Sharma
Edited by Sanchita, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist
You might have heard of the moral police as well as the fashion police, ever heard of a ‘book police’?
Well, Dinanath Batra, the self proclaimed custodian of Indian culture who was responsible for the pulping of eminent American scholar, Wendy Doniger’s seminal work on Hinduism has written some highly questionable books which the Gujarat government has prescribed for compulsory reading in the schools of Gujarat. The books are intended to develop moral values and imbibe rich Indian culture among the students according to the government. However, this move has been widely slammed by educationists across the country who have termed Mr. Batra’s works as “fantasy” far away from “facts.”
The books are nothing but narrow minded accounts of “Akhand Bharat” or undivided India according to which Pakistan, Bangladesh, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Myanmar should be a part of India and the map of India should be redrawn in accordance with the idea of “Akhand Bharat.” Not only this, Mr. Batra has found an innovative way of criticizing western culture and promoting Indian culture.
His works suggest that blowing Birthday candles should be banned, as it is a mere imitation of the West.
Instead, wearing swadeshi clothes, reciting mantras, performing havans and feeding cows should mark birthdays.
To add to the students’ misery, his books have been made a part of the school curriculum’s supplementary literature in 42,000 primary and secondary schools in the state of Gujarat. Is it a promotion of Indian culture and values among the children or a denigration of the values that they have grown up with? It is extremely problematic that young, impressionable minds are being exposed to such “fanatic” content at the behest of the state government. The government is jeopardizing the future of Indian students by making them study the works of certain culturally intolerant teachers like Mr. Batra. Cultural diversification should be the mantra rather than cultural inclusiveness and eclecticism.
I am sure, Hindu culture does not need brand ambassadors like Mr. Batra nor do the students need teachers like Mr. Batra to make them understand Indian culture and heritage. There are many renowned teachers and historians in our country who understand Indian culture and history better and are better suited for the job of writing publications for Indian students.
The Gujarat government should first examine the credibility and the reliability of the content in Mr. Batra’s works before making it mandatory for students to read them. Blowing of Birthday candles is in no way causing any harm to Indian culture. Moreover, the idea of “Akhand Bharat” can garner strong reactions from our neighboring countries leaving the government in a state of bashfulness. Such notions are far away from reality and the students should not be exposed to such unwarranted myths, which have no place in Indian history.
Can the students really gain knowledge of Indian culture after reading books that tell them not to blow birthday candles? Well, the answers are baffling. However, such narrow minded, absurd and historically incorrect content should not be a part of the school syllabus. Young minds should not be exposed to misinterpreted facts and stories.
Studying Mr. Batra’s books will hinder students’ education and will lead them into the dark. It is a pity that the authorities of Gujarat have still not awakened from their deep slumber. Books of good caliber should be made a part of the school syllabus rather than factually incorrect works. It is a high risk that the government is taking. Including racist words such as “negroes” and highly fantasized anecdotes in his works already speak volumes of Dinanath Batra’s narrow mindedness. We do not want to inculcate the same parochial attitude in our children.
The big question remains unanswered, “Are Dinanath Batra’s works the true propagators of Indian culture or are they a mere epitome of force feeding the students with factually incorrect information?”
Tanvi firmly believes in the power of words over weapons. She is here to change the way people look at things. An avid reader, a closet singer and an inveterate foodie who can live her entire life on the Internet.