Dina Nath Batra has not been on a mission to get one book banned. A key petitioner in the case that led to publisher Penguin deciding to withdraw all copies of Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative History, Batra is now in the middle of reading On Hinduism by the same author. It is next on his hit-list.
The dyed-in-the-wool RSS supporter concedes the withdrawal of Doniger’s book is a “big one”, even though it is not his only claim to fame.
Batra and his Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti (SBAS) have also been responsible for removal of “objectionable passages” from NCERT textbooks, filing a case against paintings by M F Husain, diluting the sex education curriculum and campaigning for the removal of eminent scholar A K Ramanujan’s essay from a Delhi University history course, among others.
But Batra insists his real mission is to change the face of Indian education.
Batra is in the thick of a plan to set up the first-of-its-kind non-government education commission for India and is also simultaneously pushing through an “education manifesto” for Lok Sabha polls, advocating greater weightage to value education, patriotism and Indian knowledge and traditions.
While he emphasizes that his “mission” has no political colour to it, his plans and associates are a dead giveaway. His key collaborators to set up the commission include, among others, Prof J S Rajput, the director of NCERT in the Vajpayee government, who was responsible for the controversial “saffronisation” of NCERT textbooks.
The Batra blueprint for education in India has no place for NCERT or for eminent academics who helped “desaffronise” textbooks as he calls them “Marx aur Macaulay putras” (the progeny of Marx and Macaulay).
“The idea is to do away with them altogether…NCERT changes according to its political masters,” Batra told The Indian Express.
This is Batra’s third major move at “reforming” the Indian education system and a core group has been formed to work on the proposed education commission.
While Batra started with SBAS that took on NCERT textbooks and the government’s plans to introduce sex education in schools, the movement expanded to the Shiksha Sanskriti Uthan Nyas which he heads and which has a presence across 20 states.
The core group has already held six-odd meetings to create a three-tier system that will look at all educational issues including school-to-college textbooks.
The “education manifesto for upcoming Lok Sabha elections” that has been sent to all major political parties focuses among other aspects on “Jeevan Mulyon ki raksha” (saving value systems), “Bhartiya gyan-vigyan tatha paramparon ko sthan” (mainstreaming Indian knowledge and science systems as well as Indian traditions) and inspiring greater “deshbhakti” (patriotism) among students.
It also calls for allocating 6 per cent of the GDP towards education, imparting primary education compulsorily in the mother tongue and making knowledge of English non-compulsory across competitive examinations.
Born in Dera Ghazi Khan, now in Pakistan, Batra reached India only in late-1947, well after his entire family had crossed the borders. It took him three years to find his family again. He has come a long way from the school teacher-turned-principal he was at one of the Arya Samaj’s DAV (Dayananda Anglo-Vedic) schools in Dera Bassi, Punjab, and at the Gita School in Haryana’s Kurukshetra.
Taking up his mission to fight for the “cleansing” of textbooks post retirement, Batra claims he won the President’s national award for teachers, wrote nine books on education that are now also translated in Gujarati, won nine major cases of distortions in books and textbooks, has taken on the NCERT for its “distorted” representation of history and says will continue to wage “war” against all those who write books like Doniger’s.
Batra also has a curious argument to explain why a range of historians and academics may be echoing Doniger’s views over the years. He says the endless fight between good and evil, gods and demons continues and this is played out in writings and books as well. He, however, is not giving up, he stressed.
HISTORY OF CONTENTION
* Got court to remove “objectionable passages” about Lord Mahavira and Jains from NCERT textbooks.
* Objected to 75 passages linked to Rana Pratap, Shankaracharya and Arthshatra, among others, in NCERT books. Court ordered removal of 67.
* Led group objecting to inclusion of A K Ramanujan’s essay ‘Three Hundred Ramayanas’ in reading list of DU history undergraduate course. DU dropped essay.
* Protested and forced government to dilute sex education curriculum.
* Filed case against “objectionable paintings” by M F Husain.
* Got Calicut University to drop poem ‘Ode to the Sea’ from English textbook in 2013 alleging its author Ibrahim al-Rubaish was a “terrorist”.