DAYS AFTER an RSS-affiliated organisation recommended removing works of Rabindranath Tagore from NCERT textbooks, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, while expressing shock over the issue on Tuesday, said West Bengal will fight against any such move. “How can one remove him (Tagore) from textbooks? He is the pride of the nation. Bengal will fight against the move till the end. Everyone respects him and I think no one is supporting this move,” she said in New Delhi.
Trinamool Congress leaders also seemed to be prepared to take on the BJP and RSS over the issue. “Our chief minister has already made it clear that we will fight for this issue. We will hit the streets over the issue. BJP and RSS is now targeting Tagore, our pride, apart from spreading communal hatred. Our party high command will plan a road map for protest rallies,” said a senior leader.
On Monday, The Indian Express had reported about RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas sending several recommendations to the NCERT, which had recently sought suggestions from the public on reviewing school textbooks of all classes. The Nyas had claimed that the Class X English textbook “places nationalism against other ideals” as “an attempt has been made to show a rift between nationality and humanity by citing thoughts of Rabindranath Tagore”.
Some of the other recommendations included — removing English, Urdu and Arabic words, a couplet by Mirza Ghalib; extracts from painter M F Hussain’s autobiography; references to the Mughal emperors as benevolent, to the BJP as a “Hindu” party, and to the National Conference as “secular”; an apology tendered by former prime minister Manmohan Singh over the 1984 riots; and a sentence that “nearly 2,000 Muslims were killed in Gujarat in 2002”.
The Nyas is headed by Dina Nath Batra — a former head of Vidya Bharati, the RSS education wing. Nyas secretary Atul Kothari had told The Indian Express: “We have found these things objectionable and have sent suggestions to the NCERT. We hope that these will be implemented.” Batra and Kothari, veteran RSS pracharaks, are among the selected leaders who regularly participate in the organisation’s annual meets. On Monday, Union Minister and senior BJP leader Uma Bharti had said that Barta has the right to suggest changes in the curriculum and his freedom of expression cannot be taken away. This comes at a time when Bengal BJP unit and RSS dubbed the news report as “malicious propaganda”.
“The recommendations stated that along with Rabindranath Tagore, works of Swami Vivekananda, Rishi Arobindo and Bankim Chanda Chattopadhyay should be a part of what we teach students. The recommendations never said to do away with the works of Rabindranath Tagore,” state BJP secretary Sayantan Basu said. “In fact, Tagore’s nationalism and that of ours is no different. Some sections are spreading these lies to defame the RSS. Already, RSS leaders in Bengal had called up the organisation and soon a clarification will be issued,” he added. “Do you have any proof? Those who have raised this in Parliament, I challenge them to prove it. When one wolf howls, others also join They are trying to mislead the people,” party state president Dilip Ghosh said.
Bidyut Mukherjee, Prant Pracharak (south Bengal), said in a Facebook post that RSS strongly denounces such reports. “Of late, we have observed that there are reports in certain sections of print and electronic media about an RSS-affiliated organisation’s purported recommendation to NCERT to exclude pieces of Rabindranath Tagore and Mirza Ghalib from school textbooks.The organisation in question, Siksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas, is an independent body and their office-bearers have clarified that this is a completely false and fabricated propaganda aimed at maligning Sangh’s image and creating a social rift using the instrument of provincialism. RSS strongly denounces such irresponsible act and also does not subscribe to the views expressed in the reports,” he said.