Myth of Saffronisation of Education in India

Have you heard of the Rashomon effect? The Rashomon effect or the Rashomon principle basically refers to divergent and contradictory interpretations and understanding of a single or same event by different individuals, depending on the particular vantage point of a particular person. And so it is when it comes to the alleged saffronisation of education in India. Of course, as always, let us start with definitions first. After all, unless you understand a word’s “use”, how will you know of its deliberately distorted “misuse”!

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Saffronisation actually is a new-age political neologism, a term that denotes different things to different people. While on the one hand, it is seen as a conspiracy of the right-wing Hindu nationalists to push their Hindutva agenda on to the unsuspecting masses, however on the other hand, it is being seen as a glorious revival of the glorious ancient Indian traditions which until now had been told through the white man’s narrative.

Well, if you have been following the news, you know that ever since the BJP rose to power, accusations have been levelled against the government, accusing them of plotting in order to promote their Hindutva agenda and ramming it down people’s throats. There, of course, is no proof of these allegations…but as it often is…proof means little in politics. Truth, according to these politicians, is measured not by evidences but by screaming matches. And often the highest decibels win!

In fact, let us look at some of the specific allegations that have been purported in support of their alleged “saffronisation” conspiracy theory, whereby according to these conspiracy theorists…RSS-run schools are teaching its students erroneous history in order to promote saffronisation. So, what are these “saffronised” history lessons? Simply for the sake of brevity, I shall analyse only two for now (because if we cover them all, we might need an entire series of articles and run them for a month):

  1. Saffronisation Lesson No. 1: Qutub Minar was built by emperor Samudragupta and its real name was Vishnu Stambha. [Erroneous according to a certain website that calls itself the mouthpiece of the Indian youth.]

Well, clearly the author sees an error because he/she has erroneously confused between the two terms: ‘Minar’ and ‘Stambha’. The ‘Minar’ in Qutub Minar actually refers to the brick minaret (the one in red and buff sandstone), while the ‘Stambha’ is the ‘rustless’ iron pillar that stands in the Qutab complex. Of course, their blissful ignorance needs to be forgiven, for they probably assumed that whoever built the Minar must have erected the iron column too, not bothering to find out that it was not constructed there…it was brought there.

They probably also did not pause to read the writing on the wall — quite literally! — for else they’d have known that whilst the inscription on the Minar is in Arabic, the inscription on the iron pillar (or the Vishnu Stambha) is in Sanskrit. [By the way, no scholar, archaeologist or historian debates this fact that the pillar was constructed in the early Gupta period, determined on the basis of palaeography, content and language of the inscription and the style of execution. In fact, the only difference of opinion is on (1) the issue of who is referred to as the “Chandra” king: Samudragupta or his son Chandragupta II and (2) the exact location of its construction.]

  1. Lesson 2: Stem cell research was invented by Indias Dr. Balakrishna Ganpat Matapurkar. [Once more claimed to be erroneous by the same website in question.]

Well, if you don’t believe in the ingenuity of Indians and only believe in the superiority of the white race, then at least you should believe the feat of Dr. Matapurkar, who created history by winning the first patent on organ regeneration from the American patent office for successfully regenerating/repairing organs in human beings. See, he got the patent first!

By the way, another hard cold fact: it wasn’t the RSS, but Dr. Matapurkar who said that the inspiration of stem cell research came to him through his reading of the Mahabharata. In fact, he says and I quote, “There is nothing new in what I have done. Our ancestors had done this in the age of the Mahabharata itself. One day, a question suddenly arose in my mind that if we consider the Mahabharata to be true, the how would Gandhaari have given birth to 100 children? I found the answer to this question in Chapter 115 of the Adi Parv in the Mahabharata. I was surprised to read that it had the description of the entire scientific process of giving birth to 100 Kauravas from the stem cell. I realised on that day that I was not doing anything new”.

Conclusion:

The truth is: man has always been a victim of his vanity…even when proof lies before his very eyes. Of course, when it comes to Indians, our problems are manifold:

1) We are vain enough to believe that we are the smartest generation in the history of mankind (so what if we have not been able to replicate their technology that in fact existed six centuries before christ. I mean, why do we still allow our iron to rust?

2) Most Indians are rote-learners and bad-researchers. Research means to ask questions…incessantly. Unfortunately, such inquisitiveness is not nurtured in our education system. which is why the minute they learn-by-rote that Qutab Minar was built in 1193 by Qutab-ud-din Aibak, they assume the iron pillar in the Qutab complex must have been constructed by him too.

3) The white-man’s burden has now become the brown-man’s burden…the burden to believe that westerners are superior. We do not believe that an Indian doctor could have pioneered stem cell research. I mean, come on…Stem Cells sounds so western.

The tendency to hate all things Indian and love all things Western is the reason behind this supposed myth. For if you started researching India’s glorious past, you’d have much to be proud about. Did you know that Rishi Sushrata is called the Father of Plastic Surgery or that the Sushrata Samhita describe in much detail about haemorrhoidectomy, amputations, plastic surgery, rhinoplastic, ophthalmic, lithotomic, and obstetrical procedures. The various methods described include sliding graft, rotation graft and pedicle graft. By the way, just in case you think I am attempting to teach you erroneous history about Rishi Sushrata, refer the US National Library of Medicine. Because obviously…it is saffronisation…unless and until it has the stamp of a white man!

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