Asymmetry and lack of information are the reasons Mr. Patwardhan

December 5, 2020

Rohit Dhankar

Mr. Anand Patwardhan’s article in The Indian Express is a well written informative article, which raises a very important question. This question has two parts:

  1. Why is Faisal Khan, a human rights activist, in prison for an act of peace?, and
  2. What explains Hindutva’s rage against Faisal?

Faisal Khan offered namaj to Allah in a temple in Mathura, the priest lodged a complaint and Faisal was arrested. Mr. Patwardhan’s article is raising these questions on the outcome of this incident. I will dispose off the first question first: why Faisal should be in jail for offering namaj in a temple? The direct and clear answer is he should not be. This is a motivated and unjust act, which is against the ethos of India, Indian constitution and Hindu-dharma.This is an act of injustice under public pressure, and possibly present day UP government’s unreasonable attitude to religious issues is also playing a part in it.

But the second question Mr. Patwardhan raises is more important and is not considered seriously by Indian intelligentsia. Even Mr. Patwardhan raises this question more as a rhetorical device to automatically indict what he calls ‘Hindutva’. He neither offers any analysis nor any insights into it. Though he offers a supposed to be ‘clue’ in Badshah Khan’s answer to why the original Khudai Khidmatgars suffered worst “massacres and persecutions” at the hands of the British. Badshah Khan’s answer, according to Mr. Patwardhan, being “because the British thought a non-violent Pashtun was more dangerous than a violent one”. Mr. Patwardhan wants to apply the same logic to the present situation.

This may have been true in the case of Badshah Khan and original Khudai Khidmatgars, but to offer it as an explanation of so-called “Hindutva’s rage” in Faisal’s case is less of a reasoned argument and more of emotional appeal to the respect and affection thinking Indians have for Badshah Khan. It works as a device to avoid thinking about present day communal problems in India. A full analysis of the issue will require perhaps several articles seriously analysing concepts like ‘Hindutva’ and ‘Brahmanism’, and their pernicious use in political discourse today.

Without getting into the longer discourse, however, I would like to hint at three very simple reasons worth exploring further.

First, there is a very serious asymmetry in Islamic and Hindu thinking on religious matters that reflects in behaviour of people. In the context of the issue being discusses, as far as religious thought goes, and the way most of the Hindus think there are no theological strictures against offering namaj in a temple. But one cannot offer an arati in a mosque. And that rejection of arati or pooja in a mosque is at the level of theology as well as the thinking of a common Muslim; thought I am not as certain regarding the thinking of a common Muslim as I am about the theological part of it.

I feel, at present may not have any strict proof, that if there were any possibility of offering an occasional pooja in a mosque most of Hindus will have no objection to offering an occasional namaj in a temple. In the presently surcharged communal atmosphere and due to this asymmetry, offering of namaj in a temple can very easily be interpreted as a kind of taking over, or at the least sharing unequally the temples, but keeping mosques exclusive. This exceptionalism is the problem.

This asymmetry runs deep. One would hardly find a human rights activist who is a Hindu and is particular to do his arti or pooja on prescribed times wherever he happens to be. And it would be even a rarer one who would like to express communal harmony though doing pooja in a mosque. There is no blame involved in these remarks, these are the ways of thinking and general spontaneous behaviours of Hindus and Muslims. And they have their right to their respective beliefs and thinking. When due to various reasons people become aware of these differences and start analysing the fundamental asymmetries become visible and naturally start bothering people.

Such asymmetries are one of the main reasons for worry of many Hindus caused by Hindu girls marrying Muslim boys. Without going into details, a Hindu (man or woman) may marry a non-Hindu without conversion as per her religious tradition, but a Muslim cannot. Also, due to punishment for apostasy a Muslim can not convert easily. Conversion is much easier for a Hindu for many reasons. This situation results an open-minded Hindu converting to Islam, and only rarely to a Muslim converting to Hindu-dharma.

Another problem cause by this asymmetry in openness in discourse on religion is the periodic eruption of communal problems for so-called insult to this or that religious figures. An article in OpIndia today quotes Saif Ali Khan saying  about an upcoming movie that “… we will make him [Ravana] humane, …, justify his abduction of Sita”. The Hindu mythology has aften been reinterpreted. Duryodhana is presented in positive light, Karna is justified in literature; and Mahabharata itself has enough room for this kind of interpretation. Similarly, in some not very well known attempts Mahishasur is portrayed in positive light and Durga is shown as marrying him to finally deceive and kill. Another example of is Aubrey Menen’s Ramayana that describes Sita herself going with Ravana in a bargain to save lives of Rishis who were being killed by Ravana’s soldiers. In this retelling of Ramayana Sita also admits sleeping with Ravana without being forced. The point I am making is that Hindu mythological texts—which are considered by large section of Hindus as holy scriptures—have a tradition of various retellings and interpretations. And in my view, this is a healthy tradition, Hindus should keep it alive.

But I am also certain that Saif Ali Khan’s remarks, and if the movie turns out to be as he claims, will raise controversy and anger.

Again, I think that the very significant part of this intolerance of such retellings is because of the asymmetry I mentioned above. Any comment, analysis and reinterpretation of Muhammad and Islamic thought generates huge anger and triggers riots and murders. Because of the past experiences of Rangila Rasul, The Satanic Verses and many other incidents no one explores hints available in Islamic history about Ayesha’s relationship with a camel driver or Muhammad’s killing of Jewish tribe. Thus, some Hindus feel that their religious figures could be reviled, but one can say anything of Islamic figures.

One can build an argument that, well, Hindu-dharma has that tradition of toleration to showing of their religious figures in ‘bad light’ but Islam does not. So, one should behave accordingly. The problem in this argument is that all religions are also political ideologies, identity building instruments and tools for attempted hegemony. These things have come on surface much more starkly in the current atmosphere. Thus, the tradition of openness can easily be used in loosening the faith of one people, and cannot be use for the same purpose for the other group. This makes the playing field unequal. It also reflects in numerous personal encounters of people, where egos flareup. Reflects in power of identity creation and generating unifying issues—right or wrong—and therefore in bid to political power. Thus, either all religions have to be equally open in these matters or equally closed. Asymmetry will not do. If we keep our constitution in mind and safeguard freedom of expression then the only logical course is equal openness, and not being cowed down by any threat of any group. Unfortunately our track record of this fair treatment is abysmally bad.

Two, people perhaps did not know the full story of Faisal Khan. If they knew, and were properly informed, about Faisal’s track record of harmony, it seems to me there would have been less public support to the people who want to punish him. However, here I am taking Mr. Patwardhan’s account of his work and intentions as accurate. (The problem is in the present atmosphere at least I am left with very little trust in whatever is published. This is because of the experience of people’s cherry picking and distortions in their writing. There are hardly any exceptions these days; be they right-wing, left-wing, liberal, non-liberal, or whatever. Without any prejudice to Mr. Patwardhan, I am reading his account of Faisal Khan in this general atmosphere. That is why the cautious comment that I am taking his account as accurate.) Lack of full information can be used for generating rage.

The third reason is complete blackout of any discussion of these asymmetrical issues. Anyone who mentions them is immediately dubbed as communal. In creating public harmony this is extremely important to understand the theological limits of all parties and working out a solution keeping that in mind.

The theological openness of Hindu-dharma is seen a vulnerability by many Hindus in the present day India. I know that there shall be an immediate reaction to my mention of ‘theological openness’ of Hindu-dharma here. But it can not be denied that as far as belief in the divine, ways of offering prayer and adherence to religious rituals is concerned, popular as well as philosophical Hindu-dharma is quite open. Accepting this does not mean closing one’s eyes from the caste problems, various other kinds of rigidities and objectionable elements in Hindu society. But this theological openness coupled with lack of knowledge of their own dharmas among Hindus and the theological-philosophical problem of non-availability of clear criteria for who is and is not a Hindu become vulnerabilities in the face of aggressive identity formation and proselytization. Many of these are internal problems of the Hindu society and Hindu-dharma. Part of the rage is also because of frustration with these problems of their own, being exploited by others.

What is interesting in India is that such problems of religious communities other than Hindus, even if they are because of their perception and not real, are discussed with adequate sensitivity. But when the issues of Hindus come, they are either outright dismissed or attributed to propaganda of Sangh Parivar or, worse still, blamed on some fundamental evil streak in the very idea of Hindu-dharma. A common Hindu in India is as good or bad, wise or ignorant, as anyone else. S/he certainly is more open as far as the religious views and commitments are concerned. Therefore, her perceived problems need understanding and then equally sympathetic attempts to dispel them, in case they be unreasonable. And need to be addressed in case they are reasonable. But the intelligentsia discourse, as said above, is unsympathetic to them. As a result, the pent-up anger.  An alternative discourse on social media is developing to address this issue. Which is often, through not always, unhealthy and unreasonable; but it appealing to people. I feel if the main stream intellectual discourse starts discussing these problem with fairness both anger will go away and the alternative discourse will become more healthy and better informed.

At the end: ff Mr. Patwardhan’s account of Faisal Khan is accurate, then we need more Faisal Khans who can offer namaj in temples. But we also need many open minded religious Hindus who are working for harmony and want to express that through poojas in Mosques.

********* 5th December 2020


Blasphemy: its uses and abuses

November 16, 2020

Rohit Dhankar

These days, again, deliberate blasphemy is becoming a hotly debated topic on social media.  This new wave of interest in blasphemy started after slaying of the French teacher Samuel Paty for showing Muhammad cartoons. This act of mindless bigotry invited President Emmanuel Macron’s tough stand against Islamic terrorism, which, in turn, provoked further Islamic violence in Europe and threatening protest in many parts of the Islamic world. Many Islamic clerics and Muslim politicians supported by large numbers of believers in Islam seem to hold the view that the only punishment for insulting Muhammad is beheading. The underlying message of this attitude is that ‘in expressing your views publicly and debating in your own countries you will have to behave according to standards dictated by us, or we will kill you’. A completely unjustifiable supremacist stand on part of Islam. This is a successfully practiced centuries old, though crude, method of controlling peoples thinking. Limiting discourse is a sure way of controlling thinking, as thoughts develop in conversation in societies.

This tendency, though most pronounced and most violently practiced in Islam, is by no means unique to Islam. All religions and all believers in religious precepts do have this tendency, even if not always practiced so violently. As a reaction another section of people is resorting to mindless blasphemy. I came across some examples on a twitter handle depicting Rama and Muhammad in a homosexual embrace and a similar depiction of Sita and Kali.

The twitter handle announces more ‘art’ like this, involving Hindu Goddess Kali and Muhammad. The person(s) seems to be mainly interested in Islamic religious figures and Hindu gods/goddesses. In my view this is precisely the kind of blasphemy that needs to be avoided and discouraged. By discouraging, however, I most certainly do not mean beheading, trolling, banning or any kind of forcible restriction. All I mean is expressing opinion against such art.

To my mind this expresses only filth of mind. Why do I say that?

When blasphemy is used as a tool against curbing of freedom of expression and action it serves a purpose of widening discourse and making an important point to protect freedom. But when it is indulged in only to test the limits of tolerance of real or pretending believers it creates undue reaction which will eventually harm the openness of discourse.

To use it as a tool against imposition of undue restrictions on freedom of expression one has to make relevant points through it. For example if one makes cartoons of Rama to bring out or critique issues in his preaching, behaviour; or preaching and behaviour of his followers, believers and pretending believers; then it serves a point in the ongoing ideological struggle and discourse. There can be many issues in Ramayana of this nature, depending upon one’s interpretation. One can take Shanbuk’s killing, Rama’s and Lakshamana’s behaviour with Shurpanakha, Sita’s agni-pariksha, Sita’s banishment to forest, and so on.

Similarly, with Muhammad. One can take his bigotry, issues of child marriage, behaviour with his wives and slave girls, his preachings on war-booty, claims of revelation, claims of angels fighting alongside Muslims, necessity of fighting in jihad and so on. This kind of blasphemy will serve the purpose of bringing out issues in Quran and Muhammad’s own behaviour.

But making caricatures of sexual indulgence and imagining other kinds of deliberately insulting caricatures serves no purpose. Of course, one can stretch the point that Quran pronounces horrendous punishment for homosexuality, and therefore, showing Muhammad in homosexual relations is a comment on his preaching on the issue. But in my view, it should be done only if there are any indications of Muhammad himself being inclined to homosexuality, if there is reliable evidence of such acts on his part. Simply because he was against homosexuality does not justify, to my mind, such caricatures. Also, if there is any evidence in mythology (any version of Ramayana) of Rama being inclined to homosexuality it may bring out a point in the discourse.

What I am trying to argue is that the blasphemy regarding religious figures and divinities (prophets, gods, sons and daughters of The God, etc.) should be around the historical or theological evidence. That will help in bringing out characteristics of those figures which arrest discourse and human freedom. And will weaken the arguments of their believers on the basis of authority of these figures. On the other hand mindless juvenile filth will discredit the attempts of useful and positive blasphemy, will create a reaction against it and destroy its power of pungent irony and deep cutting satire.

On the pain of repetition, I am not talking of banning blasphemy or killing for it. All I am arguing for is a thoughtful use that opens up minds and avoiding uses which will finally blunt the weapon itself.

*******

16th November 2020


A weak link in the elementary education chain

October 15, 2020

[Published in The Hindu https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/a-weak-link-in-the-elementary-education-chain/article32856519.ece?homepage=true 15th October 2020]

Rohit Dhankar

******

For about three decades now, a large number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are intensively engaged in the task of improving elementary education in the country. A paper (https://bit.ly/3doEEI3) in the Economic & Political Weekly of May 2005, titled “How Large Is India’s Non-Profit Sector?”, estimates about three million paid workers in the voluntary sector through 1.2 million organisations. The paper estimates that 20.4% of this workforce (about six lakh workers) is engaged in education. According to a newspaper report, “India has 31 lakh NGOs, more than double the number of schools” (August 1, 2015), the number of NGOs in the country was more than 31 lakh — more than double the number estimated in the above mentioned paper. With these data, it should be a safe guess to estimate that there are now more than 12 lakh NGO workers engaged in education (even if there could be only 50% of them in school education, and the remainder involved in improving reach and quality). The lower end of the estimated number of NGO staff working for the improvement of quality and reach in elementary education must be over three lakh.

Scope of work

It is most probable that these workers are engaged in direct teaching in classrooms, demonstrating various activities and methods to teachers, conducting teacher workshops and so on. Most NGOs and large foundations believe that these people work as catalysts and influence the functioning of the system. For various reasons, they are supposed to be more effective than regular employees in the government system.

There is a lot of discussion around education and the Continuous Professional Development of Teachers (CPDT). These NGO workers have a significant part in the CPDT, for example, in annual in-service training and pedagogy improvement workshops. We should be asking ourselves whether these workers are adequately prepared for this difficult task. As an example, let us take quality improvement, which is currently the biggest concern in education.

Anyone who can successfully contribute to the improvement of educational quality must have some idea of what educational quality happens to be. A very common notion of what good quality school is in our society is based on a high score in the board examinations. Suppose the curriculum is irrelevant to the life of people (as it is often claimed), would it still indicate high quality? Further, suppose that high scoring is achieved by subjecting children to severe punishment and stress, would it still remain an indicator of high quality? If the response to last two questions is negative, then we can conclude that appropriateness of curriculum and pedagogy also need to be considered in defining quality of education. But how do we know what good or appropriate curriculum and pedagogy are? On what criteria can we decide that?

Key documents, framework

The four documents currently providing a framework of principles, guidelines and legal stipulations to deal with such questions are the National Curriculum Framework 2005 (NCF), The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE), the National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education 2009 (NCFTE) and the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020). Even if the NCF and NCFTE change in the near future, the new documents are likely to have much in common with the present ones. Therefore, it is worthwhile to assume that any worker engaged in education improvement should reasonably understand these and similar documents. Let us take an example from each one of these documents to see what is involved.

Regarding pedagogy, the RTE, in Section 29(e), recommends “learning through activities, discovery and exploration in a child friendly and child-centered manner”. To use this definition in school improvement, the NGO worker has to ask himself questions such as : What is discovery? How and what can children learn through discovery? Does discovery method have any limitations as a pedagogy? Further, the NCF recommends constructivist pedagogy. What is the constructivist method of learning? Is it the same as recommended by the NCF?

On curriculum, NEP 2020, paragraph 4.23 says “certain subjects, skills, and capacities should be learned by all students to become good, successful, innovative, adaptable, and productive human beings in today’s rapidly changing world. … these skills include: scientific temper and evidence-based thinking; creativity and innovativeness; sense of aesthetics and art; oral and written communication; health and nutrition; physical education, fitness, wellness, and sports; collaboration and teamwork; problem solving and logical reasoning; vocational exposure and skills; digital literacy, coding, and computational thinking; ethical and moral reasoning; knowledge and practice of human and Constitutional values; gender sensitivity; Fundamental Duties; citizenship skills and values”.

If we want to use this policy, we need to understand what paragraphs such as the above say. One has to note the complexity and profusion of terms used. What do all these words and phrases mean? Is the paragraph internally consistent? Is this paragraph consistent with the NCF? Do the NCF and NEP need to be consistent with each other?

The paragraph from NEP 2020 also highlights certain aims of education: namely, to make all children “good, successful, innovative, adaptable, and productive human beings in today’s rapidly changing world”. Are these aims consistent with each other? Do they have any relative weightage? What if some schools produce children who are highly successful, innovative, adaptable, productive, extremely competitive, and uncaring for others? Would we be happy to call them “good” and consider such an education to be high quality education?

The last example, the NCFTE (page 23), says that we need teachers who “[P]romote values of peace, democratic way of life, equality, justice, liberty, fraternity, secularism and zeal for social reconstruction”. Are these two quotes, one from NEP 2020 and the other from the NCFTE, compatible with each other? Are they emphasising the same values or have significant difference with each other?

Need for deep insights

It seems bringing about improvement in the quality of education is not a simple task that one can accomplish just by desire, hard work and interaction with teachers. It seems to require answers to a plethora of questions. Could it be that our attempts for over three decades have failed, at least partly, because most people working for improvement do not have reasonable answers to such questions?

Just reading these documents may be adequate for a layman not engaged in educational activities and teacher capacity building. But for someone engaged in CPDT, a study of these documents alone will neither answer the questions raised above nor give him/her any better insight into these documents. The positions taken in these and other such documents, as well as in decision making in education, are based on a vast repertoire of theoretical knowledge. A major part of this theoretical knowledge is drawn from the philosophy of education, political theories, sociology of education, psychology of learning and development, and a contextual understanding of the current needs of our society. Understanding an adequate part of all this and their implications for curriculum, pedagogy, and teacher development, therefore, becomes imperative to be effective in quality improvement or to contribute to good education.

An immediate task

If the argument outlined so far is even tentatively acceptable, then a strong programme for capacity building of NGO workers engaged in educational improvement becomes an urgent need.

However, NGOs do not seem to be paying adequate attention to this very important area. Nor are universities and teacher education colleges seem to be offering any short term and/or distance learning courses for this sector. If we want to implement NEP 2020 — presently leaving its merits and demerits aside — and really want to see improvement in the quality of education available to our children, we need to pay very close attention to capacity building of this vast workforce engaged in the field. Without adequate preparation, the assumption that the mere appointment of a person in an NGO and being placed in the field will automatically develop the capabilities of these workers is incorrect, and a case of sheer injustice to them, to the education system, and to children in schools.


Foundations of Education

October 6, 2020

FoE 2020 Online will start on 1st November 2020.

Last date for enrolment in the course is 20th October 2020.

For further details visit the online course page here.

Please share the information as widely as possible.

COURSE OVERVIEW

An increasing number of people are concerned about education and have intentions to contribute to making it ‘better’. However, either these people find themselves at a loss regarding what can they do or end up using the popularly appealing ideas to guide their actions, some of which might end up creating problems instead of solving them.

This course is created for the people who care to understand the conceptual basis behind their practices in education to make right choices for action. It is designed with the belief that any practitioner who wants to do worthwhile work in the field of education will need to have both an intuitive and a conscious sense of the larger socio-political reality within which education finds its place, of the value framework within which choices are made, and of ways of educating. It will help in articulating the intuitive and developing the conscious sense of all these aspects through a series of modules which will provoke people to inquire and think about fundamental issues in education.

Be it teaching-learning, curriculum development, material creation or teacher education; for the educational practice to be at all educational, it must be guided by a certain framework of principles. If there are no principles, there is effectively no ‘educational practice’; in such a scenario what we have is either a habituated routine or just random activity. This course is designed to acquaint the participants with the foundational ideas which will help them turn their activities into coherent educational practice.

Course Structure

The entire course comprises eight core modules and any two of the elective modules.

List of Core Modules:

  1. Introduction to Education (Starts on 1st Nov. 20)
  2. Philosophy of Education (Starts on 8th Nov. 20)
  3. Sociology of Education (Starts on 22nd Nov. 20)
  4. Perspectives on Learning (Starts on 29th Nov. 20)
  5. Human Understanding and Curriculum (Starts on 6th Dec. 20)
  6. Pedagogy and Assessment in Schools (Starts on 20th Dec. 20)
  7. Teacher Education (Starts on 27th Dec. 20)
  8. Action Research for Teachers (Starts on 3rd Jan. 21)

List of Elective Modules:

  1. Language 1 (Hindi, Primary)
  2. Language 2 (English Primary)
  3. Mathematics 1 (Primary)
  4. Environmental Studies (Primary)
  5. Language 3 (Hindi, Upper Primary)
  6. Language 4 (English, Upper Primary)
  7. Mathematics 2 (Upper Primary)
  8. General Science (Upper Primary)
  9. Social Studies (Upper Primary)
  10. History (Upper Primary)

*******


E-learning in India, a case of bad education

September 23, 2020

[In The Hindu, 23rd September 2020 ]

In poorly performing educational systems as in the country, online learning may not usher in a revolution

Rohit Dhankar

Equality of opportunity to all is one of the basic principles of our Constitution. From an educational point of view, John Dewey, American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer, strongly argued that “[A]n environment in which some are limited will always in reaction create conditions that prevent the full development even of those who fancy they enjoy complete freedom for unhindered growth.” Another point he makes equally strongly is that for good education, one must lead the child’s current interests and abilities organically to logically organised human knowledge. This second point is an indicator of the quality of education.

The key issues

Our education system was never very efficient even in the best of times. The COVID-19 pandemic has rendered it extremely biased and faulty. The main thrust of providing learning opportunities while schools are shut is online teaching. There are several sets of guidelines and plans issues by the government, the The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) for this purpose. The Internet space is teaming with learning schemes, teaching videos, sites and portals for learning opportunities. The content of all government sites and schemes is primarily the NCERT-issued Alternative Academic Calendar (https://bit.ly/3kE5nCN), videos of teaching, digital editions of textbooks, and links to other such material.

There are three pertinent issues in this whole effort of online education and schemes that need serious consideration. One, an exacerbation of inequality; two, the pedagogical issues leading to bad quality education; and three, an unwarranted thrust on online education, post-COVID-19.

Exacerbation of inequality

It is worth repeating a truism that calamities, be they natural or man-made, affect the underprivileged the hardest; COVID-19 is no exception. The plight of millions of migrant labourers, many of who walked thousands of kilometres right in the beginning of the lockdown, proved the point adequately. A similar but less noticed deprivation is being visited to children of the same people, which may push the next generation in a direction of even greater comparative disadvantage.

In our society there is no large movement that may generate any hope of an improved situation in terms of equality and social justice. Therefore, any positive change that might come about will be a cumulative result of the development of capabilities and grit in individuals. The COVID-19 shutdown has affected this opportunity for the poor even harder than their counterparts from well-to-do sections of society. The government began plans for students with no online access only by the end of August. The plans themselves were the usual glib talk always served to the poor. These plans assume semi-literate or illiterate parents teaching children, community involvement, mobile pools, and so on. Anyone with an understanding of rural India will immediately note these to be imaginary. As a result, whatever online or digital education is available is for students with only online access. Thus, digital India may become even more unequal and divided than it already is.

Even if one takes it as an emergency measure (that ‘something is better than nothing’) and also accept ‘for some is better than for no one’ despite it being against the principle of equal opportunity, the quality of online teaching-learning leaves much to be desired. The NCERT declares in its Learning Enhancement Guidelines (https://bit.ly/3iWdxWD), or LEG that 60-70% students, teachers and parents consider learning satisfactory. However, its survey asks a single question on the feeling of students using the criteria of ‘joyful to burdensome’. The happiness or otherwise of the student while learning is, of course, important, but it says nothing about the quantum and depth of learning.

Listening to lectures on the mobile phone, copying from the board where the teacher is writing, frequent disconnections and/or having blurred video/audio can hardly and organically connect the child’s present understanding with the logically organised bodies of human knowledge.

No focus on concepts

If one sees videos of teaching mathematics, science, history, and the English language, one can hardly avoid noticing problems with them. In the science and mathematics videos, in particular, there are many misconceptions and ambiguities. The emphasis is more on ‘tricks’ to remember for success in an examination than laying the stress on conceptual understanding.

The government of Delhi also uses videos by the Khan Academy (“a nonprofit with a mission to provide a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere”). Many American educators have questioned the quality of teaching and have pointed out inadequate or plainly wrong concepts, particularly in mathematics. To quote an article in The Washington Post, “Khan Academy: The revolution that isn’t” (July 23, 2012 – https://wapo.st/3mJU4dV) “teachers… are concerned that… the guy who’s delivered over 170 million lessons to students around the world… considers the precise explanation of mathematical concepts to be mere ‘nitpicking’.”

The secondary students are in a better position still because of their relative independence in learning and possible self-discipline. The beginners in the lower primary can get nothing at all from this mode of teaching. An example of assumptions in the NCERT’s planning in LEG can be instructive; it is glibly pronounced that “for a child in grade I, the learning outcome — associates words with pictures — can be easily taught with the use of resources available from or at home such as newspapers, food packets, things at home, TV programmes, nature, etc. All that will be needed is guidance to the parents.” Well, if it were all that simple, then why are our children not learning to read and write? Education does not happen in chance encounters with print. As Michael Joseph Oakeshott who also wrote on education would say, it requires well-connected, regular efforts that are incrementally building to help the child focus his attention and to provoke him to distinguish and to discriminate, and develop a habit of staying on task. And this requires help from someone who knows the child as well as understands the objective of education. Food packets and newspapers in the hands of even ‘guided’ semi-literate parents will be good enough to present a plan on paper, but will be completely useless for the child’s learning.

The thrust, post-COVID-19

IT has been presented as a harbinger of a revolution in education for more than three decades now. However, all reliable studies seem to indicate that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the classroom helps in already well functioning systems, and either has no benefits ornegative impact in poorly performing systems. That does not indicate much hope from IT in our education system.

The NCERT’s LEG states that “COVID-19 has created a situation which demands transformation in school education… the transaction mechanisms in school education may go through a drastic change. Therefore, even if the pandemic will get over, its traces will be there and school education needs to remodel itself….” It recommends that “alternative modes of education for the whole academic session including Internet-based, radio, podcast, community radio, IVRS, TV DTH Channels, etc.” should be developed. This transformation of schools in the current understanding of pedagogy, suitability of learning material and quality of learning provided through IT will further devastate the already inadequate system of school education in the country. Of course, IT can be used in a balanced manner where it can help; but it should not be seen as a silver bullet to remedy all ills in the education system.

Institutional environment

The importance of an institutional environment cannot be overemphasised when one thinks of online teaching. Even when the institutions function sub-optimally, students themselves create an environment that supports their growth morally, socially and intellectually in conversations and interactions with each other. The online mode of teaching completely forecloses this opportunity.

In conclusion, our democracy and public education system have, as usual, left the neediest in the lurch and are providing bad education to those who matter.


Watch “शिक्षा और धर्म: कुछ बुनियादी मुद्दे | Vikash Sharma in Conversation with Prof. Rohit Dhankar” on YouTube

September 22, 2020


मजहब का अपमान बनाम अभिव्यक्ति की स्वतन्त्रता

August 13, 2020

रोहित धनकर

सामाजिक माध्यमों पर दर्जनों पोस्ट्स हैं जिन में कृष्ण को बलात्कारी और व्यभिचारी कहा गया है। कई पोस्ट्स हैं जिन में राम को मर्यादा पुरोषोत्तम कहे जाने पर सवाल उठाए गए हैं कि अपनी गर्भवती पत्नी को जंगल में छोड़ देना कैसी मर्यादा है? हिन्दू देवी-देवताओं की तस्वीरें हैं जिन में उन्हें विभिन्न मुद्राओं में दिखाया गया है जो उनके भक्तों को अपमान जनक लग सकती हैं। इन सब पर गाली-गलोच होता है, धमकियाँ दी जाती है। और यह ऐसा करने वालों की मूढ़ता और बदतमीजी है। पर कभी किसी ने कोई दंगा किया हो मुझे याद नहीं पड़ता। पिछले कई वर्षों में जो दो-तीन घटनाएँ याद आरही हैं वे जुलूश निकालने, आंदोलन करने या न्यायालय में मुकदमा करने की हैं। हुसैन की सरस्वती पर उनकी एक प्रदर्शनी में तोड़-फोड़ की गई थी, जो की हिंसक घटना थी, पर वह भी लोगों के घर जलाने और पुलिस पर हमले की घटना नहीं थी।

जो तीन घटनाएँ मुझे अभी याद आरही हैं उन सब में ऐतराज अनुचित था। हुसैन के सरस्वती के चित्र पर बखेड़ा करना अभिव्यक्ती की स्वतन्त्रता पर हमला था। इसी तरह वेंडी डोनिगर कि पुस्तक पर मुकदमा करना भी अकादमिक स्वतन्त्रता पर हमला था। दिल्ली विश्वविद्यालय के कोर्स में से रामायण पर लेख को हटाने के लिए सड़कों पर निकाल आना भी अकादमिक स्वतन्त्रता पर सफल हमला था। पर इन में से किसी ने भी दंगे की शक्ल नहीं ली। किसी की हत्या नहीं हुई। किसी का घर नहीं जलाया गया, किसी पुलिस चौकी पर हमला नहीं हुआ। ये सारे विरोध गलत थे। इन में हुसैन को सारे समझदार भारतीयों का समर्थन मिला, सभाएं हुई और उन पर हमले की सभाओं और लेखों में घोर निंदा हुई, जो उचित थी। डोनिगर पर मुकदमे की भी निंदा हुई, और वह किताब भारत में अभी भी उपलब्ध है। दिल्ली विश्वविद्यालय ने रामायण पर लेख को कोर्स से हटा दिया, यह दुखद, गलत और हुड़दंग करने वाली भीड़ के सामने घुटने टेकना था। और इस को अभी भी असहिष्णुता के सामने आत्मसमर्पण माना जाता है, जो कि सही है।

साफ भाषा में बात करें तो ये तीनों उदाहरण हिन्दू-अतिवादियों के हम सब की चिंतन और अभिव्यक्ती की स्वतन्त्रता पर हमले थे। और इन्हें यही कहा गया, इन्हें यही समझा जाता है। उनकी भावनाओं के लिए किसी प्रकार की नरम भाषा का उपयोग ना तो किया गया, ना ही वह उचित होता।

पर यदि हम भारत में ऐसे ही हमले मुस्लिम-अतिवादियों की तरफ से देखें तो उनकी संख्या और प्रकृती बहुत भिन्न पाएंगे। 29 नवम्बर 2015 को मराठी समाचार पत्र लोकमत ने इस्लामिक-राज्य (ISIS) को पैसा कहाँ से मिलता है इस विषय पर एक लेख छापा। लेख में एक कार्टून भी था। जिस में आम तौर पर ‘पिग्गी-बैंक’ (गुल्लक) कहे जाने वाले चित्र पर “अल्लाह हु अकबर” लिखा हुआ था[1], जो इस्लामिक-राज्य के झंडे पर लिखा नारा है। दूसरे दिन ही लोकमत के कार्यालय में मुस्लिम-अतिवादी भीड़ ने तोड़-फोड़ की और लोकमत ने माफी मांगी। इस्लाम का अनादर करने के लिए। इस्लाम का अनदार आईएसआईएस के झंडे पर यही नारा लिखने पर नहीं हुआ, इस नारे के साथ लोगों के विडियो पर गला काटने से नहीं हुआ, पर लोकमत के लेख से हो गया।

उत्तर प्रदेश के एक राजनीतिज्ञ आजम खान ने संघ के सदस्यों को समलैंगिक कहा। जवाब में कमलेश तिवारी नाम के एक व्यक्ती ने मुहम्मद को समलैंगिक कह दिया। इस के विरोध में मुसलमानों की सभाएं हुई, उस को मारने वाले को 51 लाख रुपये इनाम में देने की घोषणा हुई। उसे गिरफ्तार कर लिए गया। बाद में उसके छूटने के बाद उसकी हत्या हो गई।

ऐसी कई घटनाएँ भारत की हैं। अद्यतन घटना 11 अगस्त 2020 को बंगलोर में लोगों के घर जलाने की, पुलिस चौकी जलाने की और बहुत से वाहन जलाने की है। कहा यह जा रहा है कि बंगलोर के एक विधायक के रिश्तेदार पी नवीन ने इस्लाम का अपमान करने वाली तस्वीर  फ़ेसबुक पर पोस्ट की। इस से भड़क कर मुस्लिम भीड़ ने दंगा किया। पर यह कहानी धुरी है। इसका एक दूसरा रूप यह भी है की पहले एक मुस्लिम ने सामाजिक मीडिया पर किसी हिन्दू देवता का अपमान करने वाली सामाग्री पोस्ट की, इस के जवाब में नवीन ने अपनी पोस्ट की। जिसके कारण दंगे हुए।

इस बात को ठीक से समझने के लिए हमें इन दोनों पोस्ट्स की विषय-वस्तु पर विचार करना होगा। संचार माध्यमों की नीती यह है की इस तरह की पोस्ट्स की विषय-वस्तु नहीं बताई जाती, सिर्फ उस का मूल्यांकन की वह अपमान जनक थी, बताया जाता है। शायद यह नीति ठीक भी है। पर इस की समस्या यह है कि लोगों को पता नहीं चलता कैसी सामाग्री को अपमान जनक माना जा रहा है। और यह जान-बूझ कर लोगों को अंधेरे में रखना उनके स्वायत्त निर्णय का अपहरण होता है। क्या छपना उपायुक्त है और क्या नहीं का निर्णय या तो भीड़ करती है या संचार माध्यम। अतः, इन की विषयवस्तु पर कुछ विचार जरूरी है।

मैंने ऊपर कहा कि कृष्ण को बलात्कारी कहने वाली दर्जनों पोस्ट्स सामाजिक माध्यमों पर हैं। बहुत सी तो अभी इसी महीने की हैं। पर इस पूरी घटना की दूसरी कहानी का दावा यह है कि नवीन ने जिस पोस्ट के जवाब में एक तस्वीर पोस्ट की वह लक्ष्मी पर थी। मेरे पास जो जानकारी है उसके अनुसार किसी बसीर नाम के व्यक्ती के लक्ष्मी की स्तुति में गाये जाने वाले कन्नड़ के एक लोकप्रिय भजन की अपनी दो पंक्तियों की परोडी पोस्ट की। इस में लक्ष्मी को बहुत वासना की दृष्टि से देखा जा रहा है और उसकी छातियों का जिक्र है।

नवीन ने इसके जवाब में जो पोस्ट की वह तस्वीर इंटरनेट पर उपलब्ध है। उसने खुद नहीं बनाई। उस में इस बात का जिक्र है की मुहम्मद की शादी 51 वर्ष की उम्र में 6 वर्ष की आएशा के साथ हुई। और फिर दो हदीस और तीन कुरान की आयतों के संदर्भ हैं। पहली हदीस आईशा और मुहम्मद के साथ नहाने के बारे में है। और जो कुछ भी पोस्ट में कहा गया है वह आधिकारिक हदीस की किताबों के अनुसार सही है। दूसरी हदीस मुहम्मद के आयशा के साथ दाम्पत्य संबंध बनाने की उम्र और उस वक्त मुहम्मद की उम्र के बारे में है। यह भी किताबों के अनुसार सही है।

कुरान का पहला संदर्भ आयात 65:4 का है। इस में जिस बात की तरफ पोस्ट में इशारा है वह लड़कियों की महवारी शुरू होने से पहले उन से दाम्पत्य संबंध बनाने, शादी, और तलाक के संबंध में है। जो की कथित आयात के अनुशार सही है। कुरान का दूसरा और तीसरा संदर्भ मुहम्मद को आदर्श व्यक्ती मानने के बारे में है, जो की आयात 86:4 और 33:21 से है। दोनों संदर्भ कुरान के अनुसार सही हैं।

अर्थात नवीन की पोस्ट में हदीस और कुरान के सारे संदर्भ आधिकारिक पुस्तकों के अनुसार सही हैं। पोस्ट उसकी बनाई हुई नहीं है। यह इंटरनेट पर आराम से उपलब्ध है। फिर इस में इस्लाम या मुहम्मद के लिए अपमान जनक क्या है? पर कुछ है। उसे भी ठीक से समझने की जरूरत है।

एक, यह पोस्ट जान बूझ कर मुहम्मद और इस्लाम की कमियों को दिखाने के लिए, उन्हें नीचा दिखाने के लिए बनाई गई है। हदीस और आयतें इसी उद्देश्य से चुनी गई हैं। हालांकी वे सब उद्धरण सही हैं। सवाल यह है कि क्या किसी धर्म की आलोचना के लिए उसकी खराबी बताने वाले उसी के धर्म-शास्त्रों के उदाहरण देना अभिव्यक्ती की स्वतन्त्रता का दुरुपयोग है?

दो, पर इस पोस्ट में मुहम्मद के अनुयायियों को बुरी लगाने वाली बातें और भी हैं। इस में अल्पवयष्क लड़की से दाम्पत्य सम्बन्ध बनाने को बलात्कार कहा गया है। यह शब्द हदीस में नहीं है, पर इस प्रकार के संबंध को भारतीय कानून के अनुसार और आज-कल के विमर्श में बलात्कार ही कहा जाता है। क्या हदीस को आज के विमर्श की भाषा में देखना-दिखाना गलत है?

तीन, इस में एक तस्वीर भी है, जिस में मुहम्मद और आयशा को दिखाया गया है। तस्वीर अपने आप में अश्लील नहीं है। पर मुहम्मद की तस्वीर बनाने पर तो कई हत्याएं हो चुकी हैं? सवाल यह है कि क्या आज के जमाने में, आप मुहम्मद का गुणगान तो खूब कर सकते हैं, पर कोई उसे तस्वीर के माध्यम से दिखाये तो आप उस पर अपनी संहिता थोप सकते हैं? क्या यह दूसरों की अभिव्यक्ती की स्वतन्त्रता पर हमला नहीं है?

नवीन गिरफ्तार है। क्या यह उसकी अभिव्यक्ती की स्वतन्त्रता का हनन नहीं है? बसीर का कोई अतापता नहीं है। कृष्ण को बलात्कारी कहने वाली पोस्ट्स के बारे में कोई शिकायत या गिरफ्तारी नहीं है। क्या यह नवीन जैसों के जवाब देने के हक को छीनना नहीं है? क्या नवीन पुलिस से छूट जाने के बाद सुरक्षित है? या उसका भी वही हस्र होगा जो कमलेश तिवारी का हुआ?

आज के महोल में बहुत लोगों को यह लेख सांप्रदायिक और इस्लाम विरोधी लगेगा। कुछ उधार की भाषा वाले इसे हिंदुत्ववादी और फासिस्ट भी कह सकते हैं। ये सब तो उनके चुनाव हैं, जिन से मुझे कुछ खास लेना-देना नहीं। पर जो समझना चाहते हैं बात को, उनके लिए थोड़ा समय इस बात पर लगाने की जरूरत है कि इन जानी पहचानी बातों पर मैंने इतना समय क्यों लगाया? मैं अपने कारण नीचे लिख रहा हूँ।

एक तो मैं ऐसा मानता हूँ कि भारत में शांति-समृद्धि और हर प्रकार का विकास तभी संभव है जब यह देश एक बहुलतावादी, पंथ-निरपेक्ष लोकतन्त्र रहे। इस के बिना यहाँ शांति-समृद्धि और विकास संभव नहीं है।

दो, आज कुछ लोगों की ना समझी के चलते मजहबी-पहचान की राजनीति (politics of religious identity) इतनी प्रबल हो गई है कि अब मजहब राजनैतिक विचारधाराएँ (political ideologies) बन चुके हैं। उनमें न कोई आध्यात्म (यदि कभी था भी तो) बचा है न सत्ता से दूरी। वे सब अब सामाजिक और राजनैतिक सत्ता के खेल में खुल कर खेल रहे हैं।

तीन, लोकतन्त्र में राजनैतिक विचारधाराओं में बहस, टकराव, एक-दूसरे की आलोचना, उनकी मान्यताओं पर आक्रमण, व्यंग, कटाक्ष, अपमानजनक टिप्पणियाँ, और हर प्रकार के शब्द-बाण चलाने जरूरी हैं। यह लोकतान्त्रिक विमर्श के, लोगों को विचार के आधार पर, मान्यताओं के आधार पर, अपनी तरफ मिलाने और विरोधी से दूर करने के तरीके हैं। इस की जद में उन चिचार धाराओं की मान्यताएँ, उनके प्रणेता, उनके रहनुमा और नेता; सभी आते हैं। यह लोकतान्त्रिक बहस की प्रकृति है। इस में किसी खास विचारधारा (ideology) को विशेष संरक्षण देना दूसरों के साथ गैर-बराबरी और अन्याय है। क्यों की सभी मजहब सत्ता के खेल में कूद कर अब अपने आप को राजनैतिक विचारधारा बना चुके हैं, अतः उनको कोई विशेष संरक्षण देने से बाकी पंथ-निरपेक्ष विचारधाराओं के प्रती अन्याय होगा। अतः अब सारे मजहब, उनके प्रणेता, अवतार, देवता, नबी, पैगंबर, ईश्वर और ईश्वर-पुत्र कटाक्षों, व्यंगों और शब्द-बाणों की जद में आने जरूरी हैं। क्यों की वे अब मजहब कम और राजनैतिक विचारधाराएँ अधिक हैं। उन्हें किसी प्रकार का संरक्षण देना पंथ-निरपेक्षता की हत्या होगा। जो हम करने में लगे हुए हैं।

ऐसी स्थिती में आप यह नहीं कर सकते की किसी एक पंथ या पंथों के समूह के देविदेवताओं, महापुरुषों और गुरुओं की छेछालेदार और कटाक्षों की तो छूट है, पर अन्यों के मजहबी विचारों और प्रतीकों पर ऐसे ही कटाक्षों की छूट नहीं है। यह भी नहीं कहा सकते कि पंथ-निरपेक्ष राजनैतिक विचारधाराओं के ग्रन्थों और प्रणेताओं की तो आलोचना कर सकते हैं, पर मजहब चलाने वालों और उनके ग्रन्थों की नहीं।

हाल में देखिये किस तरह की सामान्य बातों को लेकर हास्य-अभिनेताओं और अन्य लोगों के साथ गाली गलोच हुआ है। अल्लाह, मुहम्मद और कुरान पर तो आप कभी सवाल उठा ही नहीं सकते थे, अब तो राम, कृष्ण, रामायण और महाभारत जैसे मिथकों (जो कि ठीक से धर्म-ग्रंथ भी नहीं हैं) पर भी सवाल नहीं उठा सकते। यह ठीक है की अभी तक तगड़ी हिंसा, आग-जनी और हत्याएं इन पर टिप्पणियों के कारण नहीं हुई हैं। पर जिस तरह की अभद्र और ऊग्र भाषा का उपयोग होता है वह बस उस से एक कदम ही दूर है। यदि समाज इस्लाम से संबन्धित मजहबी टिप्पणियों पर हुई हिंसा को हल्के से लेगा, यदि इस हिंसा को ‘भड़काऊ टिप्पणी के कारण हुई, लेकिन गलत हुई’ की नरम भाषा में वर्णित करेगा, साथ ही औचित्य लगाने वाला स्पष्टीकरण भी देगा; तो ऐसा ही दूसरी तरफ से भी यही होने लगेगा। इसे आप नहीं रोक पाएंगे। इसे रोकना है तो आप को इस्लाम की मुहम्मद की हर आलोचना पर मार देने की धमकी की भी उतनी ही कड़ी आलोचना करनी होगी जितनी दूसरे पंथों की असहिष्णुता की करते हैं। अब आपको नेहरू, गांधी, राम, कृष्ण, माओ, मार्क्स, मुहम्मद, आदि सब को एक तराजू में तोलना पड़ेगा।

समाज इंटरनेट और सामाजिक-माध्यमों के जमाने में उन पर क्या लिखा और पोस्ट किया जाएगा इस पर बंदिश चाह कर भी नहीं लगा सकता। इन माध्यमों तक संयमित, विवेकशील लोगों की पहुँच है; तो मूर्ख, कम जाननेवाले और यहाँ तक की बदतमीज धूर्तों की भी है। इसे आप नियंत्रित कर सकते हैं कुछ हद तक, पर सामाजिक-संचार माध्यमों पर विभिन्न टिप्पणियों को नहीं रोक पाएंगे। क्यों की इन पर पोस्ट करने से पहले अनुमति नहीं लेनी पड़ती, हटाने के लिए मेहनत और शिकायतें करनी पड़ती हैं। जब तक आप ये सब करेंगे तब तक नुकसान ही चुका होगा। साथ ही यहाँ पहचान छुपाने की सुविधा भी है। यह कुछ भी इन माध्यमों पर प्रसारित करने की सुविधा देती है। और ये माध्यम सब को उपलब्ध हैं।

मेरे विचार से बसीर ने लक्ष्मी पर अपनी वसना की अभिव्यक्ती करके केवल अपने मन का मैल बिखेरा है। इस से न तो लक्ष्मी को कुछ फर्क पड़ा, ना ही उसके भक्तों को पड़ना चाहिए। इसी तरह से कृष्ण को बलात्कारी कहने वाला अपने देखने का नजरिया बता रहा है, या जान बूझ कर गाली-गलोच कर रहा है। और जहां तक मुहम्मद और इस्लाम पर कटाक्षों के लिए इस्लामिक ग्रन्थों से ही उद्धरण देने का सवाल है वह तो कोई बात ही नहीं है। जिन्हें राम की शंबूक बध पर आलोचना बुरी लगती है, वे रामायण से शंबूक बध निकाल दें। इसी प्रकार जिन्हें मुहम्मद के एक नौ वर्ष की बालिका से दाम्पत्य संबंद की आलोचना बुरी लगती है वे ऐसी सब हदीसों को निकाल दें जिन से इसकी पुष्टी होती है। जब तक ये संदर्भ रहेंगे लोग इन पर बोलेंगे।

इस समस्या का इलाज कमलेश और नवीन जैसों की गिरफ्तारी में नहीं है। इस का इलाज रुशदी और तसलीमा की जुबान बंद करना नहीं है। इस का इलाज किसी विश्वविद्यालय के कोर्स में से रामायण पर लेख निकाल देना नहीं है। इस का इलाज इन सब को आलोचना की छूट देना, और इन पर आक्रमण करने वालों को यह बताना है कि दूसरों के विचारों और उन की अभिव्यक्ति को हिंसा और डर से दबाने का उनका कोई हक नहीं है। अब सभी धर्मों को शब्द-बाणों और हर प्रकार की आलोचना के दायरे में लाने का समय है, इन को बचाने का नहीं।

एक बात यह कही जाती है कि मजहबों की आलोचना करो ही मत, सभी उनका आदर करें, शालीन भाषा का उपयोग करें। यह अच्छी बात है, सब को शालीन रहना चाहिए। यह सभ्य समाज में अच्छा सामाजिक मूल्य है। पर इसे कानून बना कर बल से लागू नहीं किया जा सकता। बल से लागू करना लोगों की विचार करने की आजादी छीनता है। किसी को यदी गीतगोविंद में कोई अध्यात्म नहीं बल्कि रति-क्रीड़ा ही नजर आती है, तो आप उसे मूर्ख कह कर चुप नहीं करवा सकते। उसे अपनी बात कहने का हक है। इसी तरह से यदि किसी को काबा की सब मूर्तियाँ तोड़ना धर्मांधता, असहिष्णुता और हिंसा लगती है तो उसे भी कहने का हक है। मैंने ऊपर कहा है कि सभी मजहब राजनैतिक विचारधाराएँ बन चुके हैं। यदि वे सत्ता के खेल से दूर रहते, तो शायद कुछ हद तक उनकी कठोर आलोचना से बचा जा सकता था। पर अब उन को संरक्षण देना उनकी असहिष्णुता से डर कर पंथ-निरपेक्षता को कमजोर करना होगा।

******

13 अगस्त 2020

 

 

 

 

 

[1] https://www.newslaundry.com/2015/11/30/lokmat-having-to-apologise-for-a-cartoon-on-isis-shows-the-sorry-state-of-press-freedom-in-india


Mandir-Masjid 3: Kashi-Mathura

August 11, 2020

Rohit Dhankar

[Continues from 10th August 2020]

The BJP and RSS officially have not said that Gyanvyapi Mosque next to Kashi Vishwanath and Idgah next to Krishna Janmbhumi in Mathura should be given back to Hindus. But according to Times Now a “Karnataka Minister KS Eshwarappa said that since the movement behind the creation of a Ram temple had fructified, it was about time that people come together to liberate the holy cities of Kashi and Mathura”. The very language of “liberating” “holy cities” is misleading, emotive, and acrimonious, as if the whole cities are occupied by some alien forces and need liberation. In another news item according to IANS “Kashi, Mathura Our Next Focus” says the Akhil Bhartiya Akhara Parishad. Earlier even BJP leader Vinay Katiyar had said that mobilization for building temples in Kashi and Mathura will gather momentum once Ram Mandir is completed. In June, a Hindu body had moved the Supreme Court of India and challenged a provision in the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, to “reclaim” land that belonged to Hindus. And if OpIndia is to be believed “Krishna Janmabhoomi Nirman Nyas” is set up in Mathura, with 80 sadhus from 14 states named as members. These are enough indicators that once the movement becomes acceptable to the Hindu population the RSS and BJP will officially jump on the bandwagon. Actually, they might be testing the waters by keeping officially aloof but allowing their supporters to initiate these divisive efforts.

These are threats to Muslims issues from time to time by various elements connected with the Sangh Parivar. These are deliberate and nefarious attempts to keep medieval wounds of atrocities open.

This country is a constitutional democracy and not some medieval kingdom under some bigoted despot. The country has an Act called “The Place of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991”. The purpose of the act is stated as “to prohibit conversion of any place of worship and to provide for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th day of August, 1947, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.” It further states that “It is hereby declared that the religious character of a place of worship existing on the 15th day of August, 1947 shall continue to be the same as it existed on that day.” The act was constitutionally passed in the parliament.

Clearly in the light of the constitution and this act the political leaders like Vinay Katiyar and so-called sadhus like the members of Karishan Janmbhumi Nirman Nyas are acting against the constitution. They want to undo history, which is a foolish attempt. You cannot undo past events; all you can do is commit another atrocity in retaliation of some earlier atrocity. And that does not ‘undo’ the earlier atrocity, rather it adds one more to the record of history. This helps only in keeping the gullible public in the state of revengeful state of mind. Which helps no one, and harms all.

The AIMPLB has the backing of theological principles of Islam in proclaiming ‘once a mosque, always a mosque’ and sizable part of the Muslim population; what do these Hindus who want to take up the issues of Kashi and Mathura have? As far as I know there is no statement in Hindu shastras that says that “once a temple always a temple”. Therefore, they have no theological ground for the demand. However, Muslim insistence of ‘once a mosque, always a mosque’ may provide them with a similar rationale; ‘once a temple, always a temple’. Presently, however, it seems they assume a backing of sizable Hindu population, if not immediately then in future as a result of their campaign. They dream of the majority bending the constitutional provisions through its demands; and that certainly is belligerent majoritarianism.

History should be understood, and we should learn from it; but it cannot be undone. The demand for handing over Kashi Gyanvapi Masjid and Idgah in Mathura next to supposed to be Krishna Janmbhumi is unjust and infectious. There are no chances of any government or court or Muslims accepting such demands. Neither is it a just demand in a democracy. Supposing that it is accepted it will certainly fuel dozens, if not hundreds, such further demands. It exhibits a medieval mindset where injustices and violence done centuries back is sought to be redressed through similar barbaric acts today. We became a modern democratic nation when accepted the constitution, which promises equality, freedom, justice and dignity to all citizens. Muslims are as good Indian citizens as Hindus in this respect, and their rights are as important as those of Hindus. In acceptance of the constitution it is implied that India is as it was on 15th August 1947. Yes, this new India was built on the thousands of years old civilization, culture and religion. But is also is a democracy which was never before. This old culture is capable of accepting a democratic polity and further developing it.  But is it not a monocultural theological state. It is a multicultural, multireligious society and secular state. What we have today is brought about by a complex historical process. It is not open to us to undo that process and create India in the image of some ancient ideals, as understood by some people living in the past, be they imaginary or real.

The statements of many leaders who demand Kashi and Mathura sites also support Hindu Rashtra. It is certain that any kind of theocratic state would be a retrograde step. All theocratic states take away citizens’ freedom of thought, expression and right to shape their own lives as they like. Theocracies impose on people their vision of good lives. Examples of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are clear enough. I don’t think Indians want India to turn into a Pakistan.

Demand for Kashi-Mathura then is not a simple demand of taking back some temple land. It is an attempt to change the political character of the country, it is to say ‘no’ to democracy and rule of law.

But the real issue is: why sizable numbers in the two communities harbor suspicion and animosity towards each other? Unless we understand the causes and reasons behind this acrimony, we will not be able to find the right solution.

Concluded.

*****

11th August 2020