Jaipur- In the past two months since the BJP assumed power in Rajasthan, a discernible shift towards Indianization has been observed, marked by controversies like the Jaipur Hijab dispute and incident of a Dalit teacher compelled to worship Saraswati idol on Republic Day in a government school in Bara, raising concerns about potential deviations from constitutional values.
The present educational landscape in Rajasthan resembles an aircraft navigating through turbulent weather, facing a series of controversies and reforms.
The recent hijab controversy, which stirred unrest among the Muslim community, is just one facet of the challenges. Education Minister Madan Dilawar's proposed reforms, including stringent dress codes, the directives making installation of Saraswati idols or pictures in schools madatory , and the removal of objectionable content from the curriculum, have sparked concerns, particularly among minority groups.
In the midst of the controversy surrounding the worship of Saraswati idols in schools, teachers, particularly in Southern Rajasthan, shed light on the practical challenges they face. Many schools in the region lack Saraswati Mandirs – spaces designated for the goddess's idol or picture – due to resource constraints and infrastructural inadequacies.
Teachers emphasize that in schools grappling with insufficient benches, tables, and basic stationary arrangements, the prospect of incorporating idols becomes a secondary concern. "When there are not enough benches and tables in the school, blackboards or stationary arrangements are a struggle; how can one expect to place idols?" they question.
Experienced educators reveal that in some instances, the introduction of Saraswati idols is driven by parents or villagers offering to contribute to the school's betterment. These proposals often involve the donation of a Saraswati idol. However, this practice is not universal, and at a larger scale, most government schools in rural areas lack such religious symbols.
The teachers' perspectives highlight the ground-level challenges faced by schools in Southern Rajasthan, where prioritizing basic infrastructural needs often takes precedence over the introduction of religious symbols.
In a recent significant development, Rajasthan's Education Minister, Madan Dilawar, has voiced his reservations about the state's school curriculum, expressing concern over alleged efforts to misguide and distort historical facts.
While conducting surprise inspections in various schools, Minister Madan Dilawar clarified that while he is not advocating a complete overhaul of the curriculum, he remains steadfast in his dedication to ensuring the removal of objectionable content.
The minister, adamant about preserving the integrity of Indian history, particularly criticized the portrayal of figures like Akbar and Veer Savarkar in school textbooks.
Minister Dilawar asserted his stance on preserving the true essence of historical narratives, stating that deliberate attempts are being made to tarnish the legacy of great men and mislead the younger generation. He questioned the glorification of Akbar, stating, "How did Akbar become great? He was a rapist. He used to run Meena Bazaar." Dilawar further emphasized the need for an accurate representation of historical events, pointing out the war between Maharana Pratap and Akbar, asserting that anyone opposing Maharana Pratap cannot be considered beneficial to the country.
Expressing deep concern, the minister highlighted instances where Chandrashekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh were allegedly labelled as terrorists in certain books. He pondered on the potential impact such misinformation could have on the minds of impressionable children and the direction it might steer them towards. Dilawar categorically stated that any content found objectionable in the curriculum would be reviewed and replaced promptly.
As the controversy surrounding the Education Minister's remarks on the removal of Akbar's content from school curricula unfolds, many teachers and academicians, while expressing reservations, choose to remain anonymous when discussing the issue openly. The Mooknayak spoke to several educators who perceive the move as unjustified and potentially detrimental to the educational fabric.
"Removing content related to Akbar from the curriculum seems like an unjustified move," says one teacher who preferred not to be named. "History should be presented in its entirety, allowing students to form their own perspectives."
Several academicians echoed similar sentiments, emphasizing the importance of presenting historical figures within their context. "Akbar was a Mughal emperor, and his role in shaping Indian history cannot be denied. Editing out such crucial aspects may lead to a skewed understanding of our past," remarks another educator.
"Changing the curriculum with every change in regime is a sheer wastage of money and time, demanding significant manpower resources. Why not establish a common committee with experts from all groups to make informed decisions on what should be taught?" suggests Dr. Shri Krishna Jugnu, a senior historian and author of school textbooks in Rajasthan.
"An inclusive approach involving representatives from diverse backgrounds in a common committee can streamline the curriculum development process, ensuring stability and continuity," adds Dr. Jugnu.
Discussing the Mughal period, Dr. Jugnu highlights, "It was during the Mughal era that maximum Sanskrit texts were promoted. The period witnessed substantial growth in painting, sculpture, and culinary arts, with Akbar playing a significant role in fostering cultural and intellectual advancements."
The state government also proposes alternate celebration in government schools on Valentine's Day, rebranding it as "Matra Pitra Diwas" – a day to honour and celebrate parents. This initiative, seen as an attempt to infuse Indian cultural values into the observance of love, comes as no surprise amidst the well-established objections from right-wing groups towards Valentine's Day.
The Education Minister recently articulated the rationale behind this proposal, stating, "Our parents brought us into this universe, and who else should be worshipped and paid respect other than our parents."
It is worth noting that a similar directive was issued by the previous Vasundhara Raje government in April 2018, advocating for the celebration of "Matra Pitra Vandan" on February 14 in schools. However, the implementation of this order was halted when the Congress government assumed power in December 2018, marking a shift in the policy landscape.
The proposed celebration of Matra Pitra Diwas on Valentine's Day reflects the ongoing dialogue around cultural and ideological considerations within the educational domain.
As the proposal unfolds, it remains to be seen how this initiative will be received by various stakeholders and the extent to which it may shape the cultural ethos within the educational sphere in Rajasthan.
Social researcher and women's rights activist in Banswara, Dr. Nidhi Jain, voice apprehensions about the current generation facing a precarious situation akin to a double-edged sword. According to Nidhi, deviating from a balanced path could prove perilous for the youth, emphasizing the critical role of education in shaping their perspectives.
Dr. Jain contends that history, as a chronological narration of past events, forms the bedrock of understanding for the present generation. Any distortion, she argues, risks rendering it untrue and may result in a skewed perception of reality. Drawing a metaphorical parallel, she questions the wisdom of teaching only one colour as the right one, without acknowledging the existence of others. In her words, "If we tell children only saffron is the right color and not tell them the existence of green, what would they learn?"