With the motive to ‘bright-age’ the cultural heritage and ‘ancient history’ of India, the Uttar Pradesh Committee on the implementation of the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has recommended books authored by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev for philosophy students in universities across the Northern state. Adityanath’s Hathyoga Swarup va Sadhna and Baba Ramdev’s Yog Chikitsa Rahasya will now be part of the second semester undergraduate philosophy curriculum. The Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut, run by the UP government has already incorporated the said books in the syllabus.
The varsity’s move can be seen in the light of the University Grants Commission (UGC) provision which allows State governments to decide what constitutes 30 percent of the academic curriculum in each course. Further, the books were recommended for their ‘high literary value’ and academic rigour as suggested by one of the members from the recommendation committee. While such a reclamation is seen as a bold revolt against Western hegemony, it in fact is a slavish and conscious reimposition of Brahmanical supremacy in knowledge production.
The recommendation certainly supplements the already ‘saffronised’ National Education Policy. The 2020 policy draft overtones the ‘infallibility’ and ‘perfection’ of ancient India and promises to bring back the ‘valour’ from our past. This recalls another incident when the newly elected BJP minister Smriti Irani opened her account in the Ministry of Human Resource and Development by announcing plans to give a ‘Hindu perspective’ to school curriculums.
In 2002, the former director of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) JS Rajput in an affidavit to the Supreme Court noted that the old framework has erred by overstressing a secular outlook and neglecting the spiritual heritage in the country. In this context, he proposed the introduction of ‘value education’ sanctioned by the Hindu religion. This political and cultural awakening was also evoked by Mahatma Gandhi in the colonial period. In the same vein, the recent revival is the renewed version of the bigoted reinforcement of ‘spritual value’, leaning explicitly on the Hindu heritage.
Moreover, the critical approval of the NEP by the opposition forces like Shashi Tharoor, also signifies the Congress’s compliance to further Brahmanise and corporatise the Indian education system. The liberal lobby’s implicit facilitation to Brahaminise the education system exposes the honest disposition of the supposedly democratic forces in the country.
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The narrow definition of ‘Hindutva’ as an ultra-right propaganda adopted by the secular liberals is a purposeful display of ignorance with an intention to preserve the Brahmanical hegemony prevalent in the knowledge system. The cultural appropriation of the right wing forces is just a miniscule part in the manufacturing of Brahmanical knowledge production. Hence, it is crucial to understand that ‘saffronisation’ is ‘Brahmanisation’.
In the context of academia, most of the conversations around caste are reduced to institutional discrimination and violence. This saves one from questioning and challenging the hegemonisation of power and position in the Indian educational institutions. It is then convenient to avoid any confrontation of the pervasiveness of Brahmanical primacy in the knowledge production process and pedagogy.
The material reality of caste mediates the relation of production and power in all institutions, including academia. Since the majority of the academia is dominated by the Brahmins – the ones who define what knowledge is, produce that knowledge and decide what knowledge is to be produced – the intellectual gatekeepers of the country have a Savarna-Brahman social background. The knowledge developed which in turn is highly Brahmanical, badges a universal, secular and ‘non partisan’ validity, and is completely normalized due to hegemonisation of academia by the oppressor castes.
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The research work of the students and professors from a privileged caste background reveals their caste consciousness and Brahmanical value systems. This successfully relegates and invisibilises the scholarly contribution and literary work of the marginalized scholars and social scientists. Similarly, the mainstream academic courses on History hardly study the Dalit and Bahujan scholars like Ambedkar and Periyar as historians. On the contrary, the textbooks provide anti-Bahujan and anti-minority narratives and valorize such histories. For example, while talking about the grandeur of the Peshwa rule, the Indian history texts fail to recognize the casteist violence of the rulers. Similarly, the Battle of Bhima Koregaon and contributions of Bahujan women like Jhalkari Bai are often missing in conventional histories.
The receding importance of Sanskrit in post-colonial scholarship and its recent promotion seen in the NEP 2020 signifies the Brahmanical desire to gain monopoly over language articulation in academics. Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd explains that the traditional conservatives who presently revolt against the expansion of English education in the country have most benefited from it. The Brahmins who were the first to receive English education in colonial India, realized that once the British leave India, the hegemonic power will be conferred to them since they were the most educated. Thus, what Sanskrit was once, English became to them, offering global connectivity and network. And the recent anti-English movement to reclaim ‘cultural heritage’ by endorsing Sanskrit is only a stoop to facilitate intellectual monopoly over the English language.
Phule and Ambedkar, both of who benefited under the Christian Missionary Schools in British India, brought the idea of education outside the Brahmin monopoly. This enabled Ambedkar, Jyotirao and Savitri Bai Phule to establish pioneering movements for education. Mahatma Jyoti Rao’s philosophy of education was a revolutionary weapon for the marginalized communities to fight the oppression and inequality perpetuated by Brahmanism.
Similarly, Ambedkar, in his philosophy on education stressed that educational programmes and policies should not merely equip an individual to adjust to society with its customs and conventions, but develop in the receiver an agency of change. Ambedkar’s philosophy of education aims to create a liberating consciousness, which is not just formal education acquired to become an industrial person, but rather a critical, systematically enquiring mind with proper intellectual training. His approach towards education was constructive and structural.
The invisible proximity between material reality and knowledge will never be able to produce an egalitarian society based on constitutional ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity. Unfortunately, the modern education system is focused on reimposing Brahmanical education by whitewashing it as common inheritance, promoting rote learning or facilitating critical studies that are convenient and foreign to India’s structural materiality. Hence, what is required is an absolute democratization of education to realise the formidable nuances of India’s systemic structures.
- Brahmanical Hegemony in Knowledge Production and Pedagogy
- India’s Educational Policy: Visionary or Rhetoric?
- On Saffronisation of Education