• How does the BJP Control Educational Institutions in India?

    A book extract from Hindutva Rising: Secular Claims, Communal Realities

    Achin Vanaik

    October 23, 2017

    Image courtesy Tulika Books

    …With regard to educational and cultural institutions of all kinds, the plan is simple: put Sangh loyalists into positions of control and authority in each and every case. If the BJP is in power, appointments favourable for the party are made by the central or state governments. If they are not in power in a state, this cannot be done directly. The BJP, then, uses governmental pressure to ensure this. Coming under the scope of the Sangh, then, are heads and senior personnel of central and state universities and research institutions; bodies empowered to determine the content of textbooks for government schools at central and state levels; cultural academies of various kinds; archival centres; training institutes, from the select and prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), to those institutes producing film and television graduates; censorship boards; and so on. Besides this, the Sangh has its own network of schools. It is the biggest such private network in the country. They can substantially determine the curriculum and have it approved by its own state governments. In July 2016, the central government announced that it would institute a cultural mapping of artistes of various kinds into three categories – ‘Outstanding’, ‘Promising’ and ‘Waiting’ – for the purposes of sanctioning official funds and trips abroad. This, of course, is a way to introduce its own system of patronage to gain loyal members within the cultural sector.

    Since the Sangh does not have a penumbra of intellectual heavyweights around it, too many of its appointments lack essential credentials, or even credibility as serious scholars or administrators, thus arousing public criticism, and sometimes, strong opposition within the institutions, as was the case in the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Hyderabad Central University (HCU). More specific protests by university students against interventions by either BJP governments, or the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the RSS student wing, which seeks to suppress their freedoms of association and speech, have taken place in Allahabad, Benares and Chennai. Such public criticism is usually dismissed as coming from politically motivated figures comfortable with earlier dispensations which were highly biased and routinely appointed leftist intellectuals. In short, what the government is now doing is rectifying an earlier bias. On the whole, this counter-argument is not very persuasive because the mediocrity and unsuitability of various appointments has become very blatant…

    … On 31 October 2015 a five-member committee, comprising four bureaucrats and one favoured academic, was set up to bring out what is now called the T.S.R. Subramanian Committee Report, to serve as the basis for a new education policy. It was submitted on 27 May 2016 to the government, which has not so far made it public, arousing suspicions that even before the possibility of  any widespread public scrutiny and discussion, it might be quietly finalised and pronounced as a policy after consultations with some state governments. The drafts were to be sent to state governments, but the education minister Ashok Chowdhary, of the non-BJP government of Bihar, pointed out that no draft had been sent to his office, even as the former central human resources and development minister, Smriti Irani (now replaced in a recent cabinet reshuffle), castigated Bihar for not sending in its suggestions. The report was procured by Frontline magazine, and two of its recommendations are particularly disturbing. It talks of the necessity of ‘value education’ being integral to teaching. This is a long-standing obsession of the Sangh, and is shorthand for inculcating and indoctrinating Hindutva values and beliefs in schoolchildren from an early age. At the university and tertiary level, the report calls for curbing student involvement in politics, meaning that educational institutions should effectively ban or otherwise prevent such activities. This can also clear the way for the ABVP, which is affiliated to the RSS (and not to the BJP). The RSS claims to be a cultural, not a political organisation…

    … Shortly after his victory, Modi ordered the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to carefully start monitoring issues trending in the social media. In particular, there was to be a close vigil on people tagging Modi by name in blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts. This obviously creates the possibility of data being passed on to intelligence agencies like the Intelligence Bureau, whose former head, A. Doval, is now the national security advisor at the PMO; to the Research and Analysis Wing; and to the Central Monitoring System, which is a clandestine electronic mass-surveillance data-mining programme. Modi has not proposed privacy legislation that would protect personal data from abusive use by government authorities. In fact, a stronger surveillance state is being constructed.

     An earlier measure instituted by the previous UPA government is important here. It was an effort to give each citizen a unique identification number and card, courtesy of the Unique Identification Authority of India, on the basis of quite detailed personal information on each person’s mobile number/s, occupation, residence, family details, and so on. This is also called the ‘Aadhar’ card. In one respect, this is part of the neoliberal project to help target welfare schemes, and avoid universalising such benefits. The effort to make such a card make compulsory is in order to receive certain benefits has not been stymied by the Supreme Court. But the process of expanding the net of Aadhar card-holders is going on, as is its linkage to certain consumption rights, even though these cannot, technically, be denied to non-card-holders. The real danger is the database that will come out. Despite official assurances that this huge reservoir of personal information will not be misused, the Aadhar legislation, as it stands, has no guarantee of recompense against possible misuse, while crucial exceptions are laid down that can allow secret surveillance and elimination of the assumed privacy of those investigated. District judges (who, unlike judges at higher levels, can be pressured by the government much more easily) can sanction access to this database for the government without disclosure to, or discussion with, the person or persons affected. Furthermore, a joint secretary authorised by the government can do the same ‘in the interests of national security’…


    This freshly edited extract has been published from Hindutva Rising: Secular Claims, Communal Realities, by Achin Vanaik, New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2015, with permission from the publishers.

    Achin Vanaik is a writer and social activist, a former Professor of Political Science at the University of Delhi, and a Delhi-based Fellow of the Transnational Institute, Amsterdam. He is the author of numerous books, including The Furies of Indian Communalism (1997) and The Painful Transition: Bourgeois Democracy in India (1990).

    Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the writer's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Indian Writers' Forum.

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