A letter to PM Modi and response to it

July 28, 2019

My comments are within square brackets and in bold.

Yesterday I read a letter written by some celebrities to PM Modi expressing concern over lynching etc. and statement in response to it by another set of celebrities. I read both documents carefully, wrote comments in the text in red font for my own understanding, saved and forgot. Then before going to bed by chance hit upon some TV debates on the issue, including one on the channel run by that mindlessly shouting pretender Goswami. I was aghast! The kind of anger (pretended?) unleased against the people who expressed concern over lynching etc. There was nothing of a debate or listening to the other’s point of view in that. All one could hear was just shouting names and calling these people anti-nationals.

Snippets from both documents were mentioned out of context and distorted. That gave men the idea that may be sharing both documents with people who might look for them with my own comments in the text is not such a bad idea. So here they are.

Letter to MP Modi

“23 July 2019

To,

Shri Narendra Damodar Modi

Honourable Prime Minister of India

Dear Prime Minister,

We, as peace loving and proud Indians, are deeply concerned about a number of tragic events that have been happening in recent times in our beloved country. [Only recent times?]

Our Constitution describes India as a secular socialist democratic republic where citizens of all religions, ethnicities, gender and castes are equal. Hence, to ensure that every citizen enjoys the rights given to her/him by the constitution, our submission is:

The lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately. [It is a very serious and genuine concern, the governments, States mainly, are duty bound to stop this. Are Dalits considered minority separate from Hindus? Or are they an underprivileged section of Hindus?] We were shocked to learn from the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) reports that there have been no less than 840 instances of atrocities against Dalits in the year 2016, and a definite decline in the percentage of convictions. [Why are these atrocities clubbed with “lynching”? Were they lynching? Or just an oversight that might give a misleading interpretation?]

Further, 254 religious identity-based hate crimes were reported between January 1, 2009 and October 29, 2018, where at least 91 persons were killed and 579 were injured (FactChecker.indatabase (October 30, 2018). The Citizen’s Religious Hate-Crime Watch recorded that Muslims, (14% of India’s population) were the victims in 62% of cases, and Christians (2% of the population), in 14% of cases. [in the 62% Muslim cases who were the perpetrators? In 14% Christian cases who were the perpetrators? Who were the remaining 26% victims of Religious-Hate crime and who were the perpetrators in these cases?] About 90% of these attacks were reported after May 2014, when your government assumed power nationally. [If the data are correct it is a very serious situation and the BJP government should be held responsible. But the questions above are very important to makeup one’s mind.]

You have criticized such lynchings in Parliament Mr. Prime Minister, but that is not enough! What action has actually been taken against the perpetrators? [Blaming the central government alone for this is unfair. Where the state government is BJP it still makes sense, but in states rules by non-BJP governments PM alone cannot do much in this.] We strongly feel that such offences should be declared non- bailable, and that exemplary punishment should be meted out swiftly and surely. If life imprisonment without parole can be the sentence in cases of murder, why not for lynchings, which are even more heinous? [YES] No citizen should have to live in fear in his/her own country! [Yes. But who is scared? It needs much more analysis. There seems to be an exaggeration here.]

Regrettably “Jai Shri Ram” has become a provocative ‘war-cry’ [war cry may be a bit overboard, provocative slogan/chanting, yes.] today that leads to law and order problems, and many lynchings take place in its name. It is shocking that so much violence should be perpetrated in the name of religion! [These lines clearly indicate that religious violence is perpetrated only by “Jai Shri Ram” chanters, that is, only by Hindus. Even in todays India where Muslims are portrayed as ‘scared’ this is not true. Even if one takes only the physical violence there are many incidents where Muslims have indulged in spontaneous violence on imagined issues. Most recent examples are from Chandani Chauk Delhi and Shastri Nagar, Jaipur.] These are not the Middle Ages! [No, not Middle Ages, therefore, we all should be united against Middle Ages mindset and practices in all religious communities, for example child marriage, triple talaq, unequal status of women, not tolerating critique of religious dogmas and all.] The name of Ram is sacred to many in the majority community of India. As the highest Executive of this country, you must put a stop to the name of Ram being defiled in this manner. [The government can and must stop violence; but why should the name of a religious mythological figure be a concern of any executive of the government? And what if the believers in Ram themselves are defiling that name (which seems to be the case)?]

There is no democracy without dissent. People should not be branded ‘anti-national’ or ‘Urban Naxal’ and incarcerated because of dissent against the government. [Dissent in democracy is a right. But it is not as value to perpetrate, it is a weapon for fight injustice, and should be protected as such. The dissent presently in India is expressed all around, including in this letter. The cases where there seems to be misuse of the laws to stifle dissent should be carefully considered. Not every one who might have been arrested is necessarily ONLY for dissent, there might be something more into it than just dissent. Who calls people anti-national? If it is the members of public then what can the sate do? Does state brand people antinationals? Why active abettors and facilitators of Naxalite violence should not be called ‘Urban Naxals’ if living in cities?]  Article 19 of the Constitution of India protects freedom of speech and expression of which dissent is an integral part. Criticising the ruling party does not imply criticizing the nation. [True, and therefore, critiquing the government and BJP is a right of every Indian citizen. But in the obsession of criticizing the ruling party if people forget the difference between the party and the nation and start abusing everything Indian then there is a problem. For example, this letter itself is trying to obliterate the difference between individuals who call some people anti-national and the government and trying to give impression that branding as anti-national is done by the government. The JNU incident and lectures after that are very good examples of blaming the nation and everything Indian. One should listen to those loectures very carefully.] No ruling party is synonymous with the country where it is in power. It is only one of the political parties of that country. Hence anti-government stands cannot be equated with anti-national sentiments. An open environment where dissent is not crushed, only makes for a stronger nation. [Absolutely true. But those who use their right to free speech selectively in favour of one section and against another can not be called champions of free speech. They harm the democracy. Let’s at least now listen to Hamid Dalwai: that Indian liberals should unite and criticise all obscurantism and religious bigotry equally, irrespective of it being Hindu or Muslim. Selective criticism, he cautions, will result in collapse of secularism and democracy. Which is happening right in front of our eyes.]

We hope our suggestions will be taken in the spirit that they are meant – as Indians genuinely concerned with, and anxious about – the fate of our nation.

With best regards,

Yours sincerely”

Signed 49 or so celebrities.

Statement in response to the letter

“Against Selective Outrage & False Narratives

An open letter which has been published on July 23 2019, and addressed to Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has astonished us. Forty-nine self-styled “guardians” and “conscience keepers” of the nation and of democratic values have once again expressed selective concern and demonstrated a clear political bias and motive. [Every Indian has a right to be a self-styled guardian and conscience keeper of the nation. It can not be questioned. Political bias in the Open Letter to PM is actually less clear than in this one. That letter expresses everything as concern for the nation and democratic values, and it is really very difficult to say which particular opposition party that letters favours; however, this one clearly favours BJP. The writers of the first letter certainly are better in clear thinking and balanced expression in public debate compared to the writers of this one.]

To us, the undersigned, this document of selective outrage comes across as an attempt to foist a FALSE NARRATIVE with the intention of denigrating the democratic ethos and norms of our collective functioning as a nation and people. [The First letter certainly is in the tradition of a particular narrative in todays India, that narrative is biased and attacks one community and the government while favouring the other. But this issue needs much more careful consideration, as this discourse has become the only way Indian intellectuals can think. This is not deliberate on their part, this is how they think under a host of unexamined assumptions.] It is aimed at tarnishing India’s international standing [The first letter does have issues which may be biased, but is not designed to tarnish India’s image. This is an exercise of their democratic right to criticise the government; and every Indian citizen has the right to speak against Prime Minister Modi’s functioning if s/he genuinely disagrees.] and to negatively portray Prime Minister Modi’s untiring efforts to effectuate governance on the foundations of positive nationalism and humanism which is the core of INDIANNESS.

The signatories to the “open letter” have, in the past, kept silent when tribals and the marginalised have become victims of Naxal terror, they have kept silent when separatists have issued dictates to burn schools in Kashmir, they have kept silent when the demand for dismembering India, for making pieces of her -Tukde Tukde – were made, they kept silent when slogans chanted by terrorists and terror groups were echoed in some leading university campuses in the country. [This kind of selective silence is the hallmark of Indian liberal intellectual, many of them may have been guilty of this. Indian liberals can not speak against minority even when they are wrong, particularly they can not speak against Muslim community at all.]

For the signatories, it seems the freedom, unity and integrity of India can be bartered away in the name of freedom of speech and expression. [Not true from reading the first letter. This is the kind of shoddy thinking which the writers of the first letter call branding dissenters as anti-national. Writers of this letter are partially proving their point. There are prominently visible people in the Indian public which brand every dissent as anti-national. However, the writers of the first letter make the mistake (or deliberately create confusion) of blaming the government for this.]   But for us, the unity and integrity of India, her freedom is sacrosanct and anyone who questions these, who works to dilute or destroy these who conspires to disturb these need to be resisted. [These things are sacrosanct for most Indians, including the writers of the first letter.] Some of the signatories to the “open letter” have a record of acting as mouthpieces and ideologues for insurgents, separatists and terrorists in the past. Their concern, therefore, smacks of dishonesty and opportunism. [This might be true of some of them, but then they should be named and evidence should be shared.]

They have argued that “anti-government stands cannot be equated with anti-national sentiments”, in fact under the Modi regime we see maximum liberty to differ, to criticise and to abuse the government and the dispensation in power – the spirit of dissent has never been stronger. [“maximum liberty” and “dissent has never been stronger” may be exaggeration. But liberty of expression of the critique of the government and particularly by the liberal intellectuals is under no threat in India today. However, the attack liberals launch on those who disagree with them smacks of their own extreme intolerance.] The Constitution of India certainly gives the right to dissent but not the right to try and break India apart. To disguise the propensity for subversion by the name of dissent is a dangerous trait. [Yes, it would be a dangerous trait, but the first letter does not do that.]

Prime Minister Modi has very succinctly put forward the mantra of his governance and that is SABKA SATH, SABKA VIKAS and to that he has now included SABKA VISHVAS. [Yes, Modi has given these slogans, but he has not been able to include Muslims so far, nor has delivered on VIKAS.] Lynching is a social malady which has to be dealt up front, Prime Minister has spoken out against it repeatedly and respective state governments are empowered to take action. We would urge everyone to give up being selective and condemn lynching, discrimination and desecration of religious places with equal vehemence when they occur. [Yes, this impartiality is extremely important at this juncture. Both sides represented by these two sets of letter writers have been guilty of partiality and bias in this regard.] Instead of indulging in grand-standing, personalities with a social and public profile ought to generate greater awareness on the need to tackle and eliminate the mind-set that leads to lynching. [The slow movement of law and inefficiency of police is the main culprit, improvement in them will be much more effective and that is the responsibility of the governments, centre and states, both. The sangh parivar organisations can not be completely absolved of spreading hatred, but then neither can many Muslims and Islamic terror groups can be absolved of the same crime.]

Today the marginalised and the oppressed have been empowered like never before, not through the smoke-screen of hollow slogans and political claptrap but through creative schemes. [What is the evidence for this claim?] The “open letter” comes across to us as an attempt to mock the mandate of the marginalised, to create a false sense of fear and siege and to try and derail India’s march towards collective empowerment of all sections of society. [There might be some truth that the letter is one sided and therefore may help in creating a false sense of fear and siege”. It is clearly an attempt to defame the nation. [It is not. One can say that it blames the government and also implicates the Hindu community; but not the nation.] WE DO CONDEMN the conspiracy. [That is the democratic right of the writers of this letter.]

These signatories have strangely kept silent:

1) When those who chant Jai Shree Ram were imprisoned, were called criminals and were being killed and maimed [It is very likely looking at the habits of Indian intellectuals; but references are needed. When? Give references.]

2) When complaints of being forced to chant Jai Shree Ram were being repeatedly exposed as being false and concocted. [That is true, there have been some incidents of this nature. But still references are needed.]

3) When members of a certain community – in this case Hindus of Sandeshkhali in West Bengal, were being prevented from exercising their franchise during the last Lok Sabha elections and were being terrorised by one Shah Jehan Sheikh who was passed off as a popular “social worker” [References from the press would have helped. Though it sounds likely.]

4) When an orgy of unprecedented violence was unleashed during the Panchayat. [When? What panchayat? References needed.]

5) When violence was unleashed in the state during the Lok Sabha elections this year. [When? Which state? References needed.]

6) When Jagannath Tudu was bludgeoned to death in Purulia just because he followed a different political ideology from that of the ruling dispensation in West Bengal. [Sounds likely but References from press needed.]

7) When students were fired upon in Daribhit High School, Islampur, just because they wanted teachers for Bengali, Geography and Computer Application instead of being forced to learn Urdu. [References?]

8) When temples were vandalised in Kaliachak, Deganga, Baduria, Raniganj and even as late as in July 2019 in Chandni Chowk in Delhi. [Yes.]

9) When there was a concerted conspiracy by a certain section, taking advantage of the Sabrimala Temple entry movement, to disguise themselves and try and enter the temple and thus hurt the sentiments of millions of devotees. [References?]

10) They are silent when farmers are killed by cattle smugglers and live in terror due to them [Yes, there are incidents of this nature, but still References?] or when Jawans along some sectors of our borders are attacked and murderously assaulted by these smuggling cartels. [This is well known, and true. Indian liberals don’t react much to deaths of jawans, but do on deaths of militants. Even when they react on killing of jawans they blame the government policies, and argue as if the government has killed those jawans, and not the Islamic militants.]

11) When Hindus in Kairana (UP) had to migrate leaving their home and hearth behind. [References?]

12) They were silent when Kashmiri Pandits were driven out of the Valley and have never till date spoken of their plight. [This is well known and true. Indian intellectuals were not moved at all by plight of Kashmiri Pandits. They were and are much more concerned with the plight of Rohingyas and Bangladeshi infiltrators. They are also quite unmoved by the Hindu refugees coming from Pakistan.]

This very group did not display the courage to stand beside women who were opposed to and are struggling against the regressive Triple Talaq tradition and did not speak out for the need of equality and empowerment in this case. [True.]

The selective outrage and amnesia of this particular group makes us believe that they are working to a certain agenda and are only playing into the hands of those forces that are out Balkanise India and to destabilise her. [to Balkanise is a bit too much, but yes, for their political agenda tarnished the image of India, most probably they do not want it, but their selective highlighting of incidents do create this impression. And blaming Hindus for everything is often comes across.]

This group has also repeatedly expressed disdain for the faith of the majority in India. [Yes. However, perhaps that is simply because they feel free to criticise Hinduism as majority of them are Hindus, and keep their mouths shut when there is an issue concerning Islam.] They have repeatedly heaped derision on those who believe in Lord Ram and who derive strength and solace by chanting his sacred name. This letter is a disguised attempt to pour disdain on the subalterns for whom faith and worship are defining dimensions. [Criticising any ideology, including religious ones, is part of freedom of speech. It does not matter who believes in that religion, whether the elites or subalterns, Hindus, Muslims, or anyone else. Problem in India is not that Hinduism is criticised, the problem is that everything in Islam is defended. No criticism there is either offered or tolerated.]

We are confident that India shall continue her march of all round development, of progress and of social equity [tathastu!] and not pay heed to those who try to destabilise her polity and society through trying to generate a false sense of siege and victimhood. [Have to pay heed to them if progress is to be made. If they raise genuine problems it has to be taken on board; if motivated and wrong, it has to be refuted.] Finally it shall be the triumph of democracy, of unity, of the Constitution and of the mantra of Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishvas! [tathastu!!]

 The letter was signed by the following:” 

Signed by 62 celebrities.

****** 28th July 2019


शिक्षा का रुख २: उद्देश्य

July 15, 2019

रोहित धनकर

[ जो शिक्षक ‘सच बोलने’ को दक्षता मानेगा वह द्रोणाचार्य की तरह “सदा सच बोलो” वाक्य रटने को कहेगा, जैसे द्रोण ने कौरवों और पांडवों से कहा। और बहुत संभावना यही है कि इस तरह के शिक्षण में युधिष्ठिर की तरह का जागरूक छात्र भी “अश्वस्थामा मारा गया, नार या हाथी” करके उस दक्षता का उपयोग करेगा। महाभारत की इस कहानी में युधिष्ठिर “सत्य के जीवन मूल्य” का पालन नहीं किया, “सत्य बोलने की दक्षता का उपयोग किया”। ]

शिक्षा नीतियों में शिक्षा के उद्देश्य अलग से कोई उपशीर्षक दे कर पहले भी नहीं लिखे जाते रहे हैं। पर समाज की एक तस्वीर, उसे चरितार्थ बनाने में शिक्षा की भूमिका और उस के लिए शिक्षित व्यक्ति के गुण और योग्यताओं पर कुछ साफ तौर पर कहा जाता रहा है। राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति (शिनी-८६) में एक लोकतान्त्रिक समाज और शिक्षा के माध्यम से लोकतान्त्रिक मूल्यों के विकास की बात इस लेख के पिछले हिस्से में हमने देखी। मोटे तौर पर कह सकते हैं कि शिनी-८६ में शिक्षा के माध्यम से लोगों में निम्न योग्यताएँ और मूल्य विकसित करने की कल्पना थी: “राष्ट्रीय मूल्यों को हर इंसान की सोच और जिंदगी का हिस्सा बनाने की कोशिश की जायेगी। इन राष्ट्रीय मूल्यों में ये बातें शामिल हैं : हमारी समान सांस्कृतिक धरोहर, लोकतंत्र, धर्मनिरपेक्षता, स्त्री-पुरूषों के बीच समानता, पर्यावरणका संरक्षण, सामाजिक समता, सीमित परिवार का महत्त्व और वैज्ञानिक तरीके के अमल की जरूरत।” इसके अलावा शिक्षा का के उद्देश्यों में “आर्थिक व्यवस्था के विभिन्न स्तरों के लिए जरूरत के अनुसार जनशक्ति का विकास” शामिल था। अर्थात शिक्षा के माध्यम से ऐसे व्यक्तियों के निर्माण की बात थी जो:

  1. संवेदनशील हों, और जिनकी दृष्टि प्रखर हो।
  2. जो अपनी समझ और चिंतन में स्वतंत्र हों। और वैज्ञानिक सोच को अमल में ला सकें।
  3. जो संविधान के मूल्यों को समझते हों और उनके लिए प्रतिबद्ध हों।
  4. जो आर्थिक उन्नति में योगदान दे सकें।

प्रारूप राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति (प्रा-१९) शिक्षा के उद्देश्य पूरे दस्तावेज़ में एक से अधिक जगह बिखरे हुए हैं। शिक्षा के माध्यम से जो इंसान बनाने की कल्पना है उसके प्रमुख गुण है: “अच्छा, सफल, नवाचारी, अनुकूलनीय, उत्पादक इंसान।” यह अंग्रेजी संस्करण का सही अनुवाद है। हिन्दी संस्करण में जो गुण लिखे हैं वे हैं: “बेहतर, अच्छा, सफल, नवाचारी, परिवर्तनशील, उत्पादक इंसान।” “बेहतर” शब्द जोड़ दिया है और “अनुकूलनीय” को “परिवर्तनशील” कर दिया गया है। “अनुकूलनीय” (adaptable) परिस्थिति के अनुसार ढलजाने वाला होता है। “परिवर्तनशील” तो परिस्थिति को बेहरी के लिए बदलने वाला भी हो सकता है। परिस्थिती के अनुसार ढलने में और परिस्थिती को उचित दिशा देने के लिए उसे बालने में बहुत फर्क है। यह इंसान शिनी-86 में चाहे गए इंसान जैसा नहीं है। पर आर्थिक और तकनीकी केन्द्रित ‘ज्ञान-समाज’ के लिए पूरी तरह उपयुक्त है।

ऐसा व्यक्ति बनाने के लिए जो सिखाया जाना चाहिए उसमें प्रा-19 के अनुसार सर्वाधिक महत्वपूर्ण हैं कुछ दक्षताएं। उनकी सूची इंसान के उपरोक्त गुणों के तुरंत बाद दी गई है: “वैज्ञानिक स्वभाव; सौंदर्यशास्त्र और कला की समझ; भाषाएँ; सम्प्रेषण की क्षमता; नैतिक तर्क; डिजिटल साक्षरता; भारत का ज्ञान; और उन महत्वपूर्ण मुद्दों का ज्ञान जिनसे स्थानीय समुदाय, राज्य, देश और दुनिया रूबरू हो रहे हैं।” हिन्दी संस्करण में ‘स्किल्स’ का अनुवाद “हुनर और कौशल” किया गया है, और “वैज्ञानिक स्वभाव; सौंदर्यशास्त्र और कला की समझ; भाषाएँ; सम्प्रेषण की क्षमता; नैतिक तर्क” को सूची से निकाल दिया है। शायद अब देश में हिन्दी और अंग्रेजी भाषियों के लिए अलग अलग शिक्षा नीतियाँ होंगी!

दक्षताओं की यह सूची प्रा-19 में शिक्षा से प्राप्त की जाने वाली चीजों में सर्वाधिक महत्वपूर्ण है। यह सूची बार बार दी गई है। शिक्षाक्रम और शिक्षण-शास्त्र पर अध्याय के आरंभ में ही उसे उद्देश्यों के रूप में लिखा गया है। इस जगह पर शिक्षा के उद्देश्य के रूप में “समग्र विकास” का भी जिक्र है, और कहा गया है कि शिक्षाक्रम को 21वीं सदी की दक्षताओं के लिए रूपांतरित किया जाएगा। 21वीं सदी की ये दक्षताएं हैं: “समालोचानात्मक चिंतन, रचनात्मकता, वैज्ञानिक स्वभाव, सम्प्रेषण की क्षमता, सहयोग, बहुभाभाषिकता, समस्या समाधान, नीतिशास्त्र,सामाजिक जिम्मेदारी, और डिजिटल साक्षरता।” प्रा-19 में शिक्षा के उद्देश्यों को हम एक साथ देखें तो वे कुछ इस तरह से होंगे:

  1. अच्छा, सफल, नवाचारी, अनुकूलनीय, उत्पादक इंसान।
  2. २१वीं सदी की दक्षताओं से लैश इंसान।

शिनी-१९ में दक्षताओं की बहुत लंबी सूची है। यह कई जगह पर बिखरी हुई है। इन में २१वीं सदी की दक्षताओं का प्रमुख स्थान है। पर प्रा-१९ के नीति निर्माताओं का दक्षता प्रेम २१वीं सदी की दक्षताओं तक सीमित नहीं है। उनके लिए “दक्षता” शिक्षा से संबन्धित एक मात्र प्राप्त करने योग्य वस्तु है, और सभी अवधारणों को समाहित करती है। हमें इस दक्षता-ग्रसित-मानसिकता को ठीक से समझना चाहिए।

यह ठीक है कि भारतीय शिक्षा के बारे में आम राय है कि यह सिर्फ जानकारी देती है, काम करने की काबिलियत नहीं देती। इस समस्या को अभी हमारे देश के शैक्षिक विमर्श में ठीक से नहीं समझा गया है। कई बार कहते आज की शिक्षा “सिर्फ जानकारी” देती है, कई बार “सिर्फ ज्ञान” देती है, कई बार “सिर्फ सिद्धान्त (theory)” देती है। मैंने ऊपर “जानकारी” लिखा है, क्यों की “ज्ञान” और “सिद्धान्त” में एक गहरी समझ और उनको चरितार्थ करपाना अवधारणात्मक स्तर पर शामिल होता है।

नई शिक्षा नीति कुछ करने की योग्यता पर बल देना चाहती है, जो उचित ही है। पर इस में कुछ करने की काबिलियतों के विभिन्न रूपों की समझ नहीं झलकती। ना ही “ज्ञान”, “सिद्धांत” और “कुछ करने की काबिलियतों” के रिश्ते को समझा गया है। इस लिए सारी मानवीय योग्यताओं को “दक्षता” ही मान लिया है। यह शैक्षिक विमर्श को बहुत उथला और संकुचित बना देता है, और इससे गंभीर नुकशान हो सकते हैं।

प्रा-१९ में दक्षताओं की बानगी के लिए ये सूची देखें: बिजली का काम, बागवानी, मिट्टी के बर्तन बनाना, लकड़ी का काम, सम्प्रेषण, डिजिटल साक्षरता, मात्रात्मक तर्क (quantitative reasoning), नेतृत्व, विश्लेषण, सहयोग,  समालोचनात्मक चिंतन, अंतःक्रिया (लोगों से), भाषायें, तार्किक-निगमन, समस्या समाधान, टीम वर्क, करुणा, अवधारणात्मक स्पष्टता, रचनात्मक सोच , सृजनात्मकता, सांस्कृतिक-समझ, सांस्कृतिक जागरूकता, जिज्ञासा, सहानुभूति, समता, नीतिशास्त्रीय-तर्क (ethical reasoning), धैर्य, समावेशिता, स्थानीय समुदायों के सामने महत्वपूर्ण मुद्दों का ज्ञान, भारत का ज्ञान, नैतिक तर्क (moral reasoning), बहुभाषिकता, धैर्य, दृढ़ता, विनोदप्रियता, चरित्र-बल, वैज्ञानिक स्वभाव, सौंदर्य और कला की समझ, सामाजिक संपर्क, सामाजिक जिम्मेदारी। पता नहीं यह शैक्षिक विमर्श में आवश्यक अवधारणाओं की अनभिज्ञता है या निष्पादन-कुशलता को ही सबकुछ मान लेने की धारणा।

पारंपरिक दृष्टि से ‘दक्षताएं’ उन मानवीय काबिलियतों को कहा जाता है जो (१) बारंबार आभास से साधी जाती हैं, (२) जिनके सीखने में ज्ञान का आधार अपेक्षाकृत संकुचित होता है और गहन-चिंतन जरूरी नहीं होता, (३) जिनका उपयोग जिस परिस्थिती में सीखी जाती हैं उन के आस-पास ही होता है, समान्यकरण की संभावनाएं बहुत सीमित होती हैं, और (४) जिनका उपयोग दक्ष-व्यक्ति की इच्छा पर पूरी तरह निर्भर करता है।

इस दृष्टि से वाहन-चलना एक दक्षता है। क्यों की इस पर ऊपर लिखी चारों शर्तें लागू होती हैं। और ‘करुणा’ दक्षता नहीं है, क्यों की वह भावों से पैदा होती है, करुणा पर आपका बस नहीं होता, और ‘करुणा’ को एक दक्षाता के रूप में उपोयोग करने का अर्थ होगा जहां करुणा नहीं है वहाँ करुणा का दिखावा करने का अभ्यास; यह अनैतिक और छद्म होगा। इसी तरह से समालोचनात्मक-चिंतन, वैज्ञानिक स्वभाव, सौन्दर्य-बोध, सांस्कृतिक-समझ और काला-बोध भी दक्षताएं नहीं हैं; क्यों की वे  ज्ञान के व्यापक आधार पर गहन-चिंतन से पैदा होतीहैं, सामान्यीकरण उनकी जरूरी शर्त है और वे व्यक्ति का चारित्रिक गुण बन जाती हैं। समानता, न्याय, समवेशिता, सामाजिक दायित्व, आदि भी दक्षताएं नहीं हैं, क्योंकि वे ऐसे नैतिक मूल्य हैं जो व्यक्ति के दूसरों के प्रती सम्मान और संवेदना से पैदा होते हैं, खास परिस्थिति में बारंबार अभ्यास से उनका नाटक करना ही सिखाया जा सकता है, इन मूल्यों की समझ और उनके लिए प्रतीबद्धता नहीं। धैर्य, चारित्रिक-दृढ़ता और विनोदप्रियता भी दक्षताएं नहीं हैं; ये चारित्रिक गुण जीवनानुभावों से विकसित होते हैं, इनका नाटक करने से नहीं।

दक्षताओं की इस आलोचना पर यह सवाल उठाया जा सकता है कि ‘ठीक है, कुछ शब्दों का हेर-फेर है, पर इस भाषाई मशले को आलोचाना का मुद्दा बना कर बाल-की-खाल निकालने की क्या जरूरत है?’

यदि यह बाल की खाल निकालना है तो इस की जरूरत कई कारणों से है। पहला तो यह कि, शिक्षा में कोई भी योग्यता विकसित करने के लिए विद्यार्थियों के कोई विषय-वस्तु सिखानी पड़ती है। उदाहरण के लिए रोज़मर्रा के हिसाब-किताब के लिए लिखना, पढ़ाना, संख्यापद्धति, गणित की संक्रियाएँ, आदि सिखानी होती हैं। शिक्षाक्रम बनाने वाले और शिक्षकों का किसी योग्यता के प्रति नजरिया यह तय करने में काम आता है कि वे कौनसी विषय-वस्तु चुनें और किसी विधि से सिखाएँ। समता और स्वतन्त्रता को दक्षता मानना वैसा ही है जैसे सच बोलने को दक्षता मानना। जो शिक्षक ‘सच बोलने’ को दक्षता मानेगा वह द्रोणाचार्य की तरह “सदा सच बोलो” वाक्य रटने को कहेगा, जैसे द्रोण ने कौरवों और पांडवों से कहा। और बहुत संभावना यही है कि इस तरह के शिक्षण में युधिष्ठिर की तरह का जागरूक छात्र भी “अश्वस्थामा मारा गया, नार या हाथी” करके उस दक्षता का उपयोग करेगा। महाभारत की इस कहानी में युधिष्ठिर “सत्य के जीवन मूल्य” का पालन नहीं किया, “सत्य बोलने की दक्षता का उपयोग किया”।

मानवीय मूल्यों, सृजनात्मकता, समालोचानात्मक चिंतन, विवेक, वैज्ञानिक स्वभाव आदि का विकास दक्षताओं की तरह करने की कोशिश का नतीजा यह होगा कि शिक्षार्थियों के चिंतन, निर्णय और व्यवहार उनकी भावनात्मक, बौद्धिक और नैतिक समृद्धि से नहीं बल्कि यांत्रिक नियमों से संचालित होंगे। उनमें व्यक्तित्व की गहराई, अपने चिंतन पर विश्वास और आधिकारिक आत्मा-चेतना के बजाय एक प्रकार की थोथी और दिखावटी आत्म-चेतना विकसित होगी। आधिकारिक आत्मचेतना से मेरा आशय है ‘मनसा-वाचा-कर्मणा’ होना, और अपने आप को पहचान कर अपने नैतिक सिद्धांतों, योग्यताओं, भावनाओं और इच्छाओं में समरसता स्थापित कर पाना; जो की शिक्षा का एक बहुत महत्वपूर्ण उद्देश्य होता है।

इस दृष्टि से यह स्पष्ट है की प्रा-१९ में शिक्षा के उद्देश्य इस की शिक्षा-दृष्टि से तो संगत हैं; क्यों की वह शिक्षा-दृष्टि ही एकतरफा है। पर मानव जीवन की भावनात्मक-नैतिक-बौद्धिक समरसता और भारतीय लोकतन्त्र में प्रखर-स्वतंत्र-चेता नागरिक की वर्तमान जरूरत की दृष्टि से एकांगी हैं। इस असंतुलन को दूर करने के लिए २१वीं सदी के दक्षाओं पर आधारित उद्देश्यों के बजाय भारतीय सांस्कृतिक  और संवैधानिक मूल्यों पर आधारित उद्देश्य चाहियें। हम अपनी दृष्टि और उद्देश्य पश्चिम और यूनेस्को से शब्दावली, भाषा और भाव सहित यों का यों नहीं ला सकते। हमें अपनी ही सांस्कृतिक-संवैधानिक नजर से अपने धेय बनाने होंगे और विश्वभर में जो कुछ भी शुभ उस दृष्टि खरा उतरता है और उसे आगे विकसित करने में मदद करता है उसे, पर सिर्फ उसे ही, खुले मन से अपनाना होगा। पर सब से पहले अपने सामाजिक, सांस्कृतिक और संवैधानिक धरातल पर अपनी दिशा तय करनी होगी।  

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A case of confused thinking

July 13, 2019

An edited and shorter version of this article is published in The Hindu on 13th July 2019.

[All this goes to show that the Draft NEP2019 itself lacks the very abilities it emphasises; i.e. critical thinking and deeper understanding. It is a badly written document which hides behind half understood plethora of terms clubbed under the overarching master concept of ‘skill’.]

Rohit Dhankar

Draft NEP2019 devotes about 50 pages to curriculum and pedagogy. That should gladden the heart of any schoolteacher who is concerned with quality of curriculum and principles of pedagogy in the country. But alas, quantity hardly makes for quality here.

Coherent and worthwhile recommendations on curricular choices require a framework of principles defining desirable society and general aims of education. The supposed to be practical knowledge without such a framework produces unwieldy and unjustified ideas jostling together for space. That is what has precisely happened in the curricular recommendation in the Draft NEP2019.

It does have many good recommendations though,  such as: flexibility and wider scope at the secondary level, space for moral reasoning, reemphasis on true spirit of three language formula, focus on the core concepts and key ideas in subjects, doing away with rote learning, vocational courses,  and focus of assessment on understanding. But it also has too many subjects/courses at upper primary level, three languages at early childhood education, and is replete with verbose confusing statements. This has made it a laundry-list of subjects, topics, and skills, at the upper primary stage. This seems to be a result of certain kind of thinking on vision, content and pedagogy. This thinking coupled with careless use of terms involved in curricular and pedagogical discourse has made the matters worse. 

India Centered vision?

The vision of education articulated in the document is that of “an India centred education system that contributes directly to transforming our nation sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society, by providing high quality education to all.” The term directly seems to indicate some urgency and impatience with deeper aspects of education which may not be ‘directly useful’ in ‘knowledge society’. The ‘India centred-ness’ of education is limited to recommendations on Indian languages and mention of Indian knowledge systems. The operational vision actually is that of a ‘knowledge society’ and almost entirely contained in UNESCO preached 21st Century skills. The democratic ideal is neither mentioned nor used in deriving aims of education or curricular recommendation, though democratic values are mentioned in the list of key skills to be integrated in the subjects. In fact, the policy seems to have no concept of aims of education beyond 21st century skills.

A possible counter argument to what I have said in the paragraph above could be that the knowledge society as defined in UNESCO documents emphasises freedom of expression and other human rights, therefore, it takes care of the democratic ideals in education. But the idea of knowledge society also puts all its eggs in the baskets of digital connectivity and economic development. One wonders whether democratic rights and values can be safeguarded by digital connectivity and economic development alone; or is it the other way around: that a richer understanding and commitment to democratic values and freedoms make equitable development and connectivity meaningful and accessible for all.

The Minister’s message in this regard speaks volumes: “To reap the benefits of … demographics, our Government … had promised that it will implement a National Education Policy to meet the changing dynamics of the population’s requirement with regards to quality education, innovation and research, aiming to make India a knowledge superpower by equipping its students with the necessary skills and knowledge …”. The ‘knowledge’ in the Minister’s message, of course, is the knowledge of skills. The Chairperson’s Preamble seems to be a little more balanced as it at least mentions “a just and equitable society” after contribution “to many growing developmental imperatives”. The economic development through demographic advantage takes the centre stage and democratic vision gets lip service at places like in the list of ‘skills’. It is ‘mentioned’, not made the basis of the policy or deriving anything worthwhile from it to inform the curriculum.

Another place the democratic ideals are mentioned is in the finance pages. While arguing correctly for increased budgetary allocation for education as “the best investment” democratic ideal are also mentioned, “… this is without even considering many of the most important aims and benefits of education, which cannot be viewed in economic terms at all, e.g. robust democracy, an equitable society and cultural vibrancy”. The problem is that the vision is grounded somewhere else. The curricular objectives and recommendations are derived from knowledge society and 21st century skills, the democratic ideals are tagalong artefacts.  

One may ask: what is so wrong with that? It is a matter of emphasis. The primary concern of education aught to be the moral development. That, in contemporary world, is articulated as a critical and concerned citizen who upholds the democratic ideals of justice, equality, liberty and dignity for all. All societies need a robust economy as well; therefore, economic aims are necessarily part of the educational scheme and curriculum. But the economic abilities are necessary ‘resources’ for democratic ideals and not the other way around.  The intellectual qualities, knowledge and skills that are necessary for development of such an individual constitute the curriculum. If one takes the skills for 21st century economy as the fundamental focus the moral aspect comes as a ‘bunch of skills’ needed for knowledge society; not as a guiding principle to organise the society, polity and economy. That results is a skewed curriculum which de-emphasis social political life, in favour of economically utilitarian ‘skills’ which are presented a ‘self-justified’. That is very much visible through out this draft.

Curricular Objectives

The knowledge society  vision directly leads to the  objective stated for the chapter on curriculum and pedagogy: “Curriculum and pedagogy are transformed by 2022 in order to minimise rote learning and instead encourage holistic development and 21st century skills such as critical thinking, creativity, scientific temper, communication, collaboration, multilingualism, problem solving, ethics, social responsibility, and digital literacy.” The most important educationally worthwhile term is ‘skill’ and everything has to fit in within that; even ethics and social responsibility! “The goal” according to the draft policy “will be to create holistic and complete individuals equipped with key 21st century skills.” That makes definition of ‘holistic and complete individuals’ quite clear.

After a host of curricular recommendations including new subjects/courses comes another statement which may look like articulation of curricular objectives or aims of education under the heading of “Curricular integration of essential subjects and skills”. The opening statement and list of subjects/skills are worth understanding properly. It states: “… this Policy envisions that certain subjects and skills should be learned by all students in order to become good, successful, innovative, adaptable, and productive human beings in today’s rapidly-changing world. In addition to proficiency in languages, these skills include: scientific temper; sense of aesthetics and art; languages; communication; ethical reasoning; digital literacy; knowledge of India; and knowledge of critical issues facing local communities, States, the country, and the world.” (emphasis added). The broad goals are “good, successful, innovative, adaptable, and productive human beings”. This is not the citizen who may want to think for herself whether to ‘adapt’ or to ‘challenge’; rather it is to succeed and adapt in what is given. The interpretation of all ‘human abilities and qualities of character’ then become ‘skills’ to be used in this adaptation and success. We need to remember that values are to guide us in what aught we to do, and skills are the tools that help us in doing well what we have decided to do. When values become skills, the question ‘what aught we to do?’ is already answered: success in a system given to us. Commitment to values as defining one as a human being is different from ‘values as a tool kit’ for success.

The list of eight ‘skills’ (sic) is supposed to ‘create’ such successful and adaptablke individuals. The use of terminology defies all logic. Not only that ‘sense of aesthetics’ and ‘ethical reasoning’ are supposed to be skills; ‘evidence-based and scientific thinking’ are used together everywhere, implying that there can be ‘scientific thinking’ which is not evidence based. Or it may be dominance of current fashion of ‘evidence based’ terminology without really understanding what ‘scientific temper’ means. Baffling assumptions are stated with certainty, see one example: “[E]vidence-based and scientific thinking throughout the curriculum will lead naturally to rational, ethical, and compassionate individuals who can make good, logical, and sound decisions throughout their lives”.

The term ‘rational’ is much wider than ‘scientific thinking’ as there are rational ways of thinking that go beyond scientific, for example, ethical and aesthetic judgments. Thus, if not scientific thinking than rational thinking should guarantee the intellectual aspect of the ‘ethical thinking’. But, ‘ethical individual’ also has a ‘commitment to values’, which requires something in addition to rational thinking or scientific thinking alone. How scientific thinking alone will develop ‘compassion’ is beyond one’s understanding. Further, problem solving and logical reasoning is a separate heading in this all important list of skills, indicating that they are included neither in scientific thinking nor in rational thinking. It is interesting that ‘evidence based and scientific thinking’ is supposed to develop ethical, rational, and compassionate individual but not ‘logical and problem solving’ individual. One wonders what part of logical and problem-solving abilities remain outside evidence based, scientific and rational thinking? All this happens because the skills are taken as ‘self-evident truths’ or basic axioms. Therefore, a desire to make as long a list of them as possible from the terms in vogue. What exactly they happen to mean and how are they related to one another and to human capabilities is too cumbersome to dwell upon.

The discussion so far in this article may be seen as nit-picking by some people. However, a policy document is read and interpreted at many levels and influences educational discourse. The document which places so much emphasis on clarity of understanding and critical thinking cannot itself afford to fail in meeting the same standards. Shoddiness of thinking at the national level makes one wary regarding the possibility of proper interpretation and implementation of the policy. This is already reflected in some policy recommendations. A few such examples are given below.

The daft policy is quite confused on what it calls foundational stage. It rightly criticises private pre-schools for being downward extension of primary school and formal teaching in them. And then goes on to prescribe learning alphabets and reading in three languages for 3-6-year olds. This in the name of ‘enhanced language learning abilities of young children. The policy mistakes ‘language acquisition when children are immersed in more than one languages’ with ‘language teaching situation’ where immersion is impossible in three languages; and then extends it completely unjustifiably to learning three scripts. It laments that the preschools are being run as downward extension of primary school and then recommends preparing children for primary by teaching them alphabets, forgetting that that is precisely what downward extension of primary school means. It wants to teach reading and script from age three, but writing from age six, and wants to introduce ‘some textbooks’ from age eight. One wonders what is their notion of textbooks? And how are they going to teach reading and script without printed/written materials? Why withhold introducing textbooks for two years when the children are being taught reading and writing by the age of six? Is learning easier when introduced simultaneously with writing or is it better to first teach reading for three years and then talk of writing?

The draft policy rightly stipulates that the “mandated contents in the curriculum will be reduced, in each subject area, to its core, focussing on key concepts and essential ideas.” This is to “yield more space for discussion and nuanced understanding, analysis, and application of key concepts.” A very good suggestion. But then hogs more than the space vacated by introducing six new laundry-list subjects/courses in addition to already existing eight. Some of the new subjects like (often called “courses” at upper primary level, without explaining what is the difference between a subject and course at this level) ‘critical issues’ and ‘moral reasoning’ can be much better taught in a revised concept of social studies as the context for both is the society. But the policy wants them as standalone subjects. In any case, social studies need more space in the upper primary curriculum, teaching it in a manner that it connects with the society can be a very good way of introducing critical issues and moral thinking. Moral reasoning taught by itself is likely to have the same fate as so-called moral science in many schools. Similarly, Indian classical language and Indian languages can constitute a single rich subject. Identifying key concepts and essential ideas is a matter of rational curricular decision making based on some principles, not listing ideas as they come to one’s mind.

Missing socio-political life

The absence of discussion on socio-political life seems to be another casualty of emphasis on knowledge society and 21st century skills. Actually, social studies seem to be entirely absent from the mind of the committee, as it is mentioned once and then left alone for the entire curriculum discussion. This precisely is the subject area in upper primary that situate the democratic values in the curriculum most appropriately. But the vision of this policy rests on UNESCO declarations and reports rather than Indian constitution and development of democracy in this country; in spite of wanting to make education India centred.

All this goes to show that the Draft NEP2019 itself lacks the very abilities it emphasises; i.e. critical thinking and deeper understanding. It is a badly written document which hides behind half understood plethora of terms clubbed under the overarching master concept of ‘skill’. However, to give the devil its due, it also manages to make some good recommendations on the curriculum front, even if half undone by itself.

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प्रारूप शिक्षा-नीति २०१९ का रुख १: दृष्टी

July 8, 2019

रोहित धनकर

[ मूल मंत्र क्या है? ज्ञान और नैतिकता में समृद्ध लोकतान्त्रिक समाज, जो आर्थिक विकास को मानव के साधन के रूप में देखता है; या फिर आर्थिक विकास और तकनीकी केंद्र में रखनी है और लोकतान्त्रिक मूल्य बस कई शर्तों में से एक शर्त है, और नागरिक उसके लिए संसाधन है?]

राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति २०१९ का प्रारूप आखिरकार जनता के सामने आ गया है। ‘आखिरकार’ इस लिए की इसका लोगों को पिछले पाँच साल से इंतजार था। पहले दो दस्तावेज़ लग-भग प्रारूप जैसे जारी हो चुके हैं, और सरकार कई बार इसके जारी होने की तारीखें बदली हैं। खैर, देर आयद दुरुस्त आयद। पर क्या ‘दुरुस्त’ आयद? इतने लंबे इंतजार के बाद लोगों की यह अपेक्षा तो जायज है कि राष्ट्र की शिक्षा नीती बहुत बढ़िया और शिक्षा को आगे कई वर्षों तक दिशा देने वाली होने के साथ-साथ शैक्षिक सिद्धांतों और भारतीय लोकतन्त्र की दृष्टि से भी खरी उतरे। इस दृष्टि से इस दस्तावेज़ को समझने की जरूरत है, इस के विश्लेषण की जरूरत है। शिक्षा राष्ट्र के जीवन पर बहुत गहरा असर डालती है, इसे न तो नजरअंदाज किया जा सकता है न ही सरसरी नजर से देखा जा सकता है; और ना ही इसे किसी तात्कालिक फैशन के हवाले लिया जा सकता है।

यह लेख राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति प्रारूप के इसी नजर एक से विश्लेषण का प्रयास है। जाहिर है, शिक्षा को और उस पर नीति को लोग बहुत अलग अलग नजरियों से देखते हैं, और संचार माध्यमों से अपने नजरिए बांटते हैं, ताकि कोई आम सहमती का नजरिया बनाया जा सके। यही लोकतन्त्र का तरीका है और यह हर समझदार नागरिक का कर्तव्य भी है। लेख के इस हिस्से में मैं प्रारूप राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति 2019 (प्रा-19) के सामान्य ढांचे और मान्यताओं पर विचार रखूँगा। विशिष्ठ अनुसंसाओं की चर्चा आगे के हिस्सों में होगी।

प्रा-19 को देखते ही एक बात जो दिमाग में आती है वह यह है कि यह शिक्षा नीति पहले की शिक्षा नीतियों से बहुत अलग है। सब से पहले तो यही की 1968 की शिक्षा नीति महज 7-8 पृष्ट की थी, 1986 की कोई 28-29 पृष्ट की; पर प्रा-19 अँग्रेजी में 484 और हिन्दी में 650 पृष्ट की है। लग सकता है कि यह कोई महत्व की बात नहीं है, इस पर क्या विचार करना? पर वास्तव में यह शिक्षा नीति की धारणा में बदलाव का संकेत है। शिक्षा नीति में जो चीजें निश्चित रूप से होनी ही चाहियें उनकी सूची  पर नीति निर्माताओं के बदलते विचारों का संकेत है। पहले की शिक्षा नीतियाँ शिक्षा में राष्ट्र से लेकर स्कूल तक निर्णय लेने के लिए एक ‘सैद्धान्तिक-ढांचा’ होती रही है। वे दिशा निर्देश देती है, वास्तविक ‘निर्णय’ क्या हों उनपर सिर्फ सिद्धांतों से सहमती की मांग होती रही है, विस्तार से क्या करना है और कैसे इस यह तय करना राज्यों का काम होता था। इसी लिए शिक्षा नीतियाँ शिक्षा-क्रम और शिक्षण-शास्त्र पर सिर्फ दिशा-निर्देश देती थी, कौनसे विषय हों, उनमें क्या-क्या हो आदि शिक्ष-क्रम निर्माताओं पर और अन्य विशेसज्ञों पर छोड़ दिया जाता था।

इस का कारण यह है कि शिक्षा नीति एक राष्ट्रीय दस्तावेज़ होता है, भारत में शिक्षा संविधान की समवर्ती सूची में है, अर्थात इस के बहुत से पहलू राज्यों के अधिकार क्षेत्र में हैं। शिक्षा-क्रम शिक्षा का एक ऐसा ही पहलू है। भारत में राष्ट्रीय पाठ्यचर्या एक अनुसंसात्मक दस्तावेज़ होता है, राज्यों पर इसे मानने का कानूनी बंधन नहीं होता। हर राज्य अपना शिक्षा-क्रम स्वयं तय करता है। इस लिए नीतियाँ सिर्फ ऐसी बातें कहती थीं कि सम्पूर्ण राष्ट्र के स्कूली शिक्षा-क्रमों में कौनसी बातें लाज़मी तौर पर होनी चाहिए; जैसे: स्वतन्त्रता आंदोलन का इतिहास, संवैधानिक मूल्य, वैज्ञानिक सोच, पंथ-निरपेक्षता, आदि।

प्रा-19 इतनी बड़ी इसलिए है कि इसमें कई चीजें समाहित करली गई हैं, जैसे: नीति, नीति को लागूकरने का कार्यक्रम, चुने हुए मुद्दों पर शिक्षा-क्रम का विस्तार, चुने हुए मुद्दों पर पढ़ाने की विधियों का विस्तार, आदि; और एक ही चीज को बार-बार कहना। राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति 1986 में शिक्षा-क्रम के विस्तार में जाने कि बजाय ये सैद्धान्तिक बातें कही गई हैं कि सारे भारत के शिक्षा-क्रमों में एक “सामान्य केंद्रक” (common core) होगा। उसमें कुछ राष्ट्रीय मूल्य भी दिये हैं। “इन राष्ट्रीय मूल्यों में ये बातें शामिल हैं : हमारी समान सांस्कृतिक धरोहर, लोकतंत्र, धर्मनिरपेक्षता, स्त्री-पुरूषों के बीच समानता, पर्यावरणका संरक्षण, सामाजिक समता, सीमित परिवार का महत्त्व और वैज्ञानिक तरीके के अमल की जरूरत। यह सुनिश्चित किया जायेगा कि सभी शैक्षिक कार्यक्रम धर्मनिरपेक्षता के मूल्यों के अनुरूप ही आयोजित हों।” प्रा-19 में शिक्षा-क्रम पर विस्तार से अनुसंसाओं के बवाजूद “लोकतंत्र, धर्मनिरपेक्षता, सामाजिक समता” पर ज़ोर नहीं है, और 1986 की शिक्षा नीति की यह पंक्ति “यह सुनिश्चित किया जायेगा कि सभी शैक्षिक कार्यक्रम धर्मनिरपेक्षता के मूल्यों के अनुरूप ही आयोजित हों” शिक्षा में धर्म-निरपेक्षता पर जो बल देती है वह नहीं है। प्रा-19 सांप्रदायिक हो या किसी खास धर्म की तरफदारी कर रही हो ऐसा नहीं है, पर इस में वह दिशा निर्देश भी नहीं  है कि शैक्षिक कार्यक्रम पूरी तरह धर्मनिरपेक्ष होगा। इस नीति के लिए देश में सांप्रदायिकता कोई मुद्दा नहीं  है।

दूसरी बात, शिक्षा-क्रम और शिक्षण-विधि के विस्तार में जाने का कारण यह हो सकता है कि नीति निर्माताओं को भरोसा नहीं है कि हमारा शिक्षा-तंत्र इस के सही विस्तार की, सही निर्णयों की और ठीक से लागू करने की काबिलियत और ईमानदार इच्छा रखता है। पीछे की नीतियां, शिक्षा-क्रम और शिक्षा का अधिकार कानून जिस तरह से शिक्षा-तंत्र ने लागू किए हैं उसे देखते हुए यह शक गैर-वाजिब भी नहीं है। शायद हमारा तंत्र न तो सक्षम है ना ही ईमानदार मेहनत करने वाला। पर इस समस्या का समाधान नीति के स्तर पर अनुचित विस्तार में जा कर तंत्र पर अनुचित बंधन लगाना नहीं हो सकता, इसके लिए तंत्र की काबिलियत और प्रतिबद्धता का विकास करना होगा। और यह कैसे किया जाये यह बताना नीति का काम है। नीति का काम सम्पूर्ण तंत्र के काम को अपने हाथ में लेलेना नहीं है।

प्रा-19 में इसकी शिक्षा-दृष्टि (educational vision) और शिक्षा के उद्देश्यों का बहुत ध्यान से विवेचन होना चाहिए। इस पर विचार करने से पहले राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति 1986 (शिनी-86) में शिक्षा-दृष्टि और उद्देश्य देखना समीचीन होगा। इस लिए नहीं की अब भी वही दृष्टि और उद्देश्य हों, बल्कि इस लिए कि हम बदली परिस्थिती में अनुसंसित बदलाओं को ठीक से समझ कर उनका औचित्य-अनौचित्य समझ सकें। शिनी-86 में एक बहुत छोटा-सा अधयाय है, “शिक्षा का सार और उसकी भूमिका” नाम से। यहाँ इसको पूरा देखना जरूरी है। आगे मैं उसे पूरा उद्धृत कर रहा हूँ, सिर्फ विभिन्न अनुच्छेदों को दी गई संख्याएं हटाई हैं: “हमारे राष्ट्रीय परिप्रेक्ष्य में ‘‘सबके लिए शिक्षा’’ हमारे भौतिक और आध्यात्मिक विकास की बुनियादी आवश्यकता है। शिक्षा सुसंस्कृत बनाने का माध्यम है। यह हमारी संवेदनशीलता और दृष्टि को प्रखर करती है, जिससे राष्ट्रीय एकता पनपती है, वैज्ञानिक तरीके के अमल की संभावना बढ़ती है और समझ और चिंतन में स्वतन्त्रता आती है। साथ ही शिक्षा हमारे संविधान में प्रतिष्ठित समाजवाद, धर्मनिरपेक्षता और लोकतंत्र के लक्ष्यों की प्राप्ति में अग्रसर होने में हमारी सहायता करती है। शिक्षा के द्वारा ही आर्थिक व्यवस्था के विभिन्न स्तरों के लिए जरूरत के अनुसार जनशक्ति का विकास होता है। शिक्षा के आधार पर ही अनुसंधान और विकास को सम्बल मिलता है जो राष्ट्रीय आत्म-निर्भरता की आधारशिला है। कुल मिलाकर, यह कहना सही होगा कि शिक्षा वर्तमान तथा भविष्य के निर्माण का अनुपम साधन है। इसी सिद्धांत को राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति के निर्माण की धुरी माना गया है।”

यह अनुच्छेद बहुत संक्षेप में पर बहुत स्पष्टता के साथ ये चीजें कहता है: मानव जीवन में शिक्षा का महत्व, राष्ट्रीय जीवन में शिक्षा का महत्व, लोकतन्त्र में शिक्षा के उद्देश्य और आर्थिक आधार के रूप में शिक्षा। यह शिनी-86 की ‘शिक्षा-दृष्टी’ (educational vision) है। आगे उद्देश्य, कार्यक्रम, शिक्षा-क्रम और शैक्षिक ढांचे आदि पर निर्णय लेने में यह दृष्टि “धुरी” का काम करेगी।

अब देखते हैं की प्रा-19 की वह धुरी क्या है? प्रा-19 अंग्रेजी में लिखी गई थी। फिर उसका हिन्दी अनुवाद हुआ। हिन्दी अनुवाद में शिक्षा-दृष्टि (vision): “राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति २०१९ एक भारत केन्द्रित शिक्षा प्रणाली की कल्पना करती है जो सभी को उच्च गुणवत्ता की शिक्षा प्रदान करके, हमारे राष्ट्र को एक न्यायसंगत और जीवंत ज्ञान समाज में लगातार बदलने में योगदान देती है।” मेरे विचार से यह ठीक अनुवाद नहीं हुआ है। इस लिए मैं निम्न अनुवाद काम में लूँगा।

“राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति २०१९ एक ऐसी भारत केन्द्रित शिक्षा प्रणाली की कल्पना करती है जो सभी को उच्च गुणवत्ता की शिक्षा प्रदान करके, हमारे राष्ट्र को  ‘कायम रहने वाले तरीके से’ (sustainably) एक समतापूर्ण और जीवंत ज्ञान समाज में बदलने में सीधा योगदान दे।”

यहाँ दृष्टि मूलतः एक ज्ञान-समाज की है, यह ज्ञान-समाज समतापूर्ण होना चाहिए, इस के निर्माण में शिक्षा को ‘सीधा’ योगदान देना चाहिए और बदलाव ‘कायम रहने वाले तरीके से’ होना चाहिए। बहुत अधिक तर्क के बिना भी यह साफ है की यह दृष्टि ‘ज्ञान-समाज’ केन्द्रित है। यह शिनी-86 की दृष्टि की तुलना में संकुचित है और अंतर्राष्ट्रीय आर्थिक और तकनीकी केन्द्रित नजरिए से लाई गई है। ऐसे कौन से नए बदालव हुए हैं कि प्रा-19 में मानव जीवन और लोकतान्त्रिक मूल्यों को एक शब्द ‘समतापूर्ण’ में समेट दिया गया है? या अब हमें मानव जीवन में  वैज्ञानिक तरीके के अमल की, समझ और चिंतन में स्वतन्त्रता की, और हमारे संविधान में प्रतिष्ठित समाजवाद, धर्मनिरपेक्षता और लोकतंत्र के लक्ष्यों की आवश्यकता नहीं रही? क्या वे प्राप्त कर लिए गए हैं? या वे तो सब जानते ही हैं और शिक्षा तो उन्हीं की राह पर चल ही रही है? या अब दुनिया बादल गई है इस लिए लोकतान्त्रिक समाज के बजाय ज्ञान-समाज अधिक महत्व पूर्ण हो गया है? यह सही है कि ज्ञान समाज की धारणा में यूनेस्को अभिव्यक्ति की स्वतन्त्रता, मानव अधिकारों, और लोकतान्त्रिक मूल्यों की बात करता है। पर ये सब आर्थिक विकास और संचार तकनीकी के संदर्भ में होते हैं। मूल मंत्र क्या है? ज्ञान और नैतिकता में समृद्ध लोकतान्त्रिक समाज, जो आर्थिक विकास को मानव के साधन के रूप में देखता है; या फिर आर्थिक विकास और तकनीकी केंद्र में रखनी है और लोकतान्त्रिक मूल्य बस कई शर्तों में से एक शर्त है, और नागरिक उसके लिए संसाधन है?

प्रा-19 को ध्यान से पढ़ने पर दूसरी, अर्थात आर्थिक और तकनीकी विकास की केन्द्रीयता साफ उभरती है। सवाल यह नहीं है आर्थिक और तकनीकी विकास की जरूरत है या नहीं; यह जरूरत तो है ही। सवाल यह है कि लोकतान्त्रिक मूल्य और संविधान आर्थिक विकास को दिशा दे या आर्थिक विकास की मांगें संविधान और समाज को दिशा दें। प्रा-19 की शिक्षा-दृष्टि इस मामले में कुछ असपष्ट है, और जितनी स्पष्टता उसमें है उसमें आर्थिक विकास केंद्र में दिखाता है।

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Misinterpreting secularism, Indian culture and education

July 6, 2019

Rohit Dhankar

Professor V. Santhakumar’s article “Indian Culture, Secularism and Education: Let us be Realistic and Pragmatic” completely misses the point regarding secularism in education due to misinterpretation of the ideal of secularism. He assumes that the central point in the ideal of secularism is to make disappear “non-secular ways of life through” secular education and that there is a necessary dichotomy between emphasis on Indian culture on one hand and secularism on the other in school education.

The declaration of Indian constitution “to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual” is an embodiment of secular ideal in the constitution, right from the beginning, despite of not having the word “secular” in it before 42nd amendment. The declaration in the preamble does not make a distinction on the basis of religion among the citizens and is not guided by any religious doctrine. It is a state policy which implies in its very proclamation that ‘religious doctrine and ideals’ are not going to govern or influence the relationship between the citizens and the nation state.

For the rigour of this blog piece it is enough to say that secularism “in the twentieth century has come to refer to two interrelated practices: (1) a mode of political organization in which the state is neutral with reference to all established religions; and (2) later in the century, a political practice of the state that protects the rights of minorities in a multicultural society”.[1] The ideal of secularism then is an ideal to be followed by the state; in separating its policy from the religion and religious considerations. And it is not about making people abandon their religious or communitarian practices. Some religious practices, however, may have to be restricted in case they interfere with others’ rights and entitlements; that will be necessary for the state to fulfil its promise to all its citizens. I will discuss some such cases below.

Strictly for the present purpose, if we take the promises of justice, liberty, equality and dignity made by Indian constitution in its preamble (and then expanded in fundamental rights) then the state, on certain occasions, may come into conflict with religious practices of various communities. The constitution makes these promises to the ‘individuals’ not to ‘religious communities’ and makes these promises to all its citizens without any consideration of their practiced or professed faiths.

If a religion prescribes unequal treatment to its adherents then the state has to take note of it, and if any individual approaches the state with a complaint of injustice or inequality or encroachment upon his/her liberty etc. then the state is duty bound to protect its promises made to individuals irrespective of their religious affiliations. For example, from this perspective whatever the religious communities may believe the state cannot allow unequal access to public facilities (public transport, hotels) in the name of caste. If the state decides for health and other reasons to ban marriage before 18 years, then it cannot make considerations on the basis of Manu’s criteria of marrying a girl before puberty or Mohammad’s example of marrying a girl of 9 years. In such cases a secular state necessarily comes into conflict with practices recommended by religions. But this is because these practices trample on girl’s rights grow up as free individuals.

In India we are not very secular in our lives and the state actually does not fulfil the promises it made in the constitution. (That, however, does not make secular ideals any less important.) Our politicians indulge into non-secular practices as office bearers of state (Modi’s meditation in the cave) and we have state schemes that are non-secular in character (Kejriwal’s promise to send elderly Delhi residents on religious tourism on public exchequer). Modi and Kejriwal are free to practice their religion in their personal life, but not as office bearers and as state schemes. That is what secularism means.

If a religion wants to encroach on public spaces in the name of Ganesh or Durga puja or in the name of Friday namaz, it is the duty of the state to protect other citizens’ right to use those spaces; and not to advise people to stop either Ganesh/Durga puja or Friday namaz. That is none of the states business, all the state is concerned is that you practice your religion privately.

If a religion does not want to give women equal share in ancestral property, as was the case with Hindu women till as recently as 2005 and is the case with the Muslim women today, then the state is duty bound to protect the individual right of the woman who considers herself wronged. If the state does not do that with all women whatever their religion than it is not fulfilling the constitutional promise. However, if the woman herself in pursuance of her religious beliefs forfeits her rightful share, then the state, as far as I understand, has no business interfering in it. Professor Santhakumar assumes that the secular ideal is about not allowing the woman to donate her property to her brothers under her exploitative religious beliefs; as far as I understand, that is not the case, it is only if the woman wants her equal share, the state should ensure that she gets it. The secular ideal provides a framework of liberties and entitlements to each individual irrespective of their religion, it does not force them to depart from their religious practices if they do not encroach on other citizens’ rights.

Religions are known throughout history to accord unequal status to sections of population, treatment of Dalits and women in Hindu practices is an example. Treatment of women in Islam is another example. Whether the communities themselves reflect and amend these practices or not, the state is duty bound to provide opportunities through a legal framework to those who want to resist this unequal treatment.

The religions also have had ideals of not allowing other religions flourish or even exist. And the conversion of non-believers is mandated as sacred duty of believers in scriptures of some religions. That has been interpreted as theological legitimacy of conversion through force, fraud, fear and allurements; and is being practiced even today. A secular state that gives equal rights to practice their faiths to all its citizens can not allow this. And has to intervene even if the religious communities do not reflect and change themselves. And our students should understand these ideals and positions and should build a rational commitment to them. That is the duty of education.

Religions also put restrictions on people not belonging to their own communities. The present-day beef ban is an example. Not being able to buy meat on certain festival days is another example.   This is not about demanding from Hindus that they eat beef, nor from Jains that they eat meat. They are free to eat what they like; it is only about the rights of other citizens to eat what they want. It can not wait for the communities to change themselves and become open minded, it is about telling them that there are other people who live here, and they do not have any right to force their choices on them. And our future citizens should understand this, through education, of course.

Another issue in India, and in the world, has been of expressing one’s opinion freely without fear. This is part of liberty of thought, expression and belief. A citizen does have the right to critically analyse the doings and preaching of Ram, Krishna, Mahavir, Buddh, Christ, Muhammad and all such religious figures. And also has the right to express his/her opinion. If he/she finds something obnoxious in their behaviour or preaching, she has the right to say so openly and without fear. This does not mean asking believers to be critical about their religious figures or dogmas, it is not about forcing the believers to read or listen to such criticism. This is only about other citizens’ right to think and speak what they want to. Again, it can not wait till the communities themselves become wise enough to see that they should not try to control other people’s thinking. Citizens in a democracy need to understand and value this freedom.

This is about accepting others’ rights to live as they want, and not about wanting them to change their practices. If we want a multireligious and multicultural society to live in harmony, we have to get across these ideas and build commitment to them through education. That is where secular ideals are necessary in education.

This is true that these ideals can properly function in a society only when people accept them, and all the efforts about multicultural understanding and reflection within communities that Professor Santhakumar recommends are needed, and are very important. But that does not do away with emphasis on secular ideal in schools and in education.

In education and curriculum fair representation of all cultures and religious beliefs is another big issue. And that can not be avoided. I believe our education has been too shy (rather scared?) of critiquing cultural practices and religious dogmas in schools. If we want multiculturalism to flourish, we have to bring the critical understanding of religions in the curriculum and have to learn to call a spade a spade.

Professor Santhakumar is not correct when he claims that there is no evidence that ‘secular education’ makes people secular. Indian constitution is an example of people understanding the need to co-exist within the same country with multiple religious and cultural beliefs. And that was right after the country was divided on the basis of religion. And the education of the framers of constitution played a big role in that. His examples of educated Indians re-emphasizing their cultural roots do not negate this as long as they are not encroaching on others’ rights.

Another ideal that is necessary part of the secularism is using your own mind, being critical, being rational. The freedoms given to citizens and demand for responsible use of them necessarily requires development of critical thinking and demanding reasons and evidence for beliefs and actions. If education does not do it, democracy can not function. And that demands being fair in analysing all ideas religious or otherwise.

This also has to be done more seriously that the Draft National Education Policy recommends. It talks of the ‘skill’ of ‘critical thinking’ umpteen number of times, and even proclaims that “[T]extbooks will aim to contain only correct, relevant material; when unproven hypotheses or guesses are included, this will be explicitly stated.” Also talks of ‘evidence based’ thinking, again as a skill, many times. And then also makes claims like “India’s languages are … most scientific, and most expressive in the world”, and that “The concept of zero and its use in the place value system … also originated in India, over 2000 years ago”. (Emphasis added) By their own proclamation they should at the least have called them “hypotheses”. How do they defend the claim of Indian languages being most scientific and expressive? What is their evidence that zero was being used as a number 2000 years ago? One wonder how critically they have thought about these claims and what evidence they have for them. But then, when ‘critical thinking’ is taught as a ‘skill’ that is all you can expect. Our curriculum under secular ideals should have done better than that; and now will necessarily have to improve.

Calling secularism completely an alien ideal does gross injustice to Indian culture and its openness. It is true that the modern formulation of it as ‘separation of the state and the Church’ comes from Europe and is negatively inspired by Christianity due to its stranglehold on the state and people’s minds. But the ideals of people professing and practicing different faiths living together and state treating them equally—that does not necessarily mean treating ‘well’—is an age-old norm in India. A historian friend of mine told me that Ashok was fair to Buddhist monks and Brahmins in giving grants and donations, in spite of himself being a Buddhist. Ashok’s 12th Major edict gives an interesting peek into Indian mind in this regard, it is worth quoting in full here:

“The Beloved of the Gods, the king Piyadassi, honours all sects and both ascetics and laymen, with gifts and various forms of recognition. But the Beloved of the Gods does not consider gifts or honour to be as important as the advancement of the essential doctrine of all sects. This progress of the essential doctrine takes many forms, but its basis is the control of one’s speech, so as not to extoll one’s own sect or disparage another’s on unsuitable occasions, or at least to do so only mildly on certain occasions. On each occasion one should honour another man’s sect, for by doing so one increases the influence of one’s own sect and benefits that of the other man; while by doing otherwise one diminishes the influence of one’s own sect and harms the other man’s. Again, whosoever honours his own sect or disparages that of another man, wholly out of devotion to his own, with a view to showing it in a favourable light, harms his own sect even more seriously. Therefore, concord is to be commended, so that men may hear one another’s principles and obey them. This is the desire of the Beloved of the Gods, that all sects should be well-informed, and should teach that which is good, and that everywhere their adherents should be told, The Beloved of the Gods does not consider gifts or honour to be as important as the progress of the essential doctrine of all sects. Many are concerned with this matter – the officers of Dhamma, the women’s officers, the managers of the state farms, and other classes of officers. The result of this is the increased influence of one’s own sect and glory to Dhamma.”[2]

This is from an all-powerful emperor about 250 years before Christ was born, addressed to the general public as well as to the state officials. It may not be articulated in the exact terms as modern secularism quoted in the beginning, but comes as close to “a mode of political organization in which the state is neutral with reference to all established religions” as would have been possible at that time.

About openness and changes, yes, there is much resistance in changing practices in the society. There is also much injustice to sections of society and that is not giving way, often only changing form. But neither is it an absolutely ironclad rigidity. How the new age couples are changing Hindu marriage ceremony can be an example. I know at the least two couples personally who considered the practice of ‘kanyadan’ as demeaning to women and did not include that in their marriage. One couple used preamble of Constitution of India as ceremonial vow in their marriage. These changes have come about through secular ideals taught in the schools and colleges.  

Finally, there is no necessary dichotomy between emphasis on secular ideals and having one’s own religious or cultural identity. One can happily be a Hindu, a Muslim, a Jain, a Boddh, a Sikh, a Christian or an atheist; and be true to secular ideals as far as public behaviour is concerned. One has to compromise only on the religious beliefs and practices which restrict others’ freedoms. And that in any case has to be accepted if one is not living in a theological state. Those who want to force precepts of their own religions on others have to be prevented from doing so, even if they don’t like it. This much is necessary under any kind of modern state today, and is a necessary condition for existence of multireligious societies. If the future citizens of India are to understand all this appropriate emphasis on secular ideals in the school education is absolutely a must.

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[1] International Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences, Second Edition (2008), Volume 7, p277-378.

[2] Romila Thapar, Asoka and the decline of the Mauryas, OUP, 1997, p255


Sundry thoughts on political tirth-yatra

July 5, 2019

Rohit Dhankar

[The only things that can save our future as a proud democratic and secular nation are clear thinking and courage to act. Otherwise we will continue to be duped by various devices as our history of last 70 years has proved.]

During the elections the Prime Minister Narendra Modi was beckoned by his god to meditate in Kedarnath cave, in solitude. But since he is the PM the cameras in the cave did not violate his solitude. This was a confirmation to the voters that he is a Hindu before being the Prime Minister of India. Of course, he has the freedom to ‘practice’ his religion and no one has the right to question his religious beliefs. But one wonders if symbolic use of religious acts to remind the voters their shared faith is all that innocuous. One also wonders if the government paid for his private visit to Kedarnath, and if that is legitimate expenditure for a secular state.

The so-called secular parties which took pride in cosying up with Islamic practices like iftar parties and usually down played their Hindu practices are now catching up. It started with ‘secular to the core’ politicians flaunting their multicoloured pooja threads on their right wrists. The pooja thread works as a symbol to remind the public that the person bearing it is a Hindu or at the least respects Hindu practices. In the times gone by this thread used to be a thin single strand wrapped around the religious ceremony participants’ wrist in such a manner that it automatically unwrapped in the first bath or washing of hands. As per the custom one is not supposed to deliberately break or remove it. Now for some inexplicable reason it has become thick like a rope and tied with such care that is impossible to come untied by itself. And since it is not supposed to be deliberately removed and the politicians attend numerous religious occasions, the multiple coloured ropes around their writs proclaim their respect for the Hindu rituals as well as bread germs as they become quite dirty in a few days.

Now it seems a very very secular son of Dilli called Aravind Kejriwal has proclaimed “To all the elderly citizens of Delhi, I want to say, this son of yours will send you on at least one ‘tirth yatra’ in your lifetime” (The Hindu, 5th July 2019). By this time I am sure the images of Shravan Kumar taking his parents on pilgrimage on his shoulders are vivid in the minds of many of the devote Hindus of Delhi, or that is what this avatar of Shravan Kumar hopes. One wonders if a secular Delhi Government is within its legal bounds in spending hundreds of crores in such a flagrant act of luring voters on their religious sentiments.

Till 2014 all parties used Muslim religious sentiments to assure the Muslim community of their ‘secularism’. This was under the belief—true or not—that Muslims vote en-block and thus can act as a veto to making government at the centre, even if cannot by themselves ensure coming to power. In last two general elections the BJP has countered this ‘secular’ strategy by consolidating Hindu votes by the same trick played on the larger community; and Hindus being in overwhelming majority can actually ensure coming to power, as they did, over riding so-far believed Muslim veto.

The awakening of ‘secular’ parties to a need to dupe Hindus by playing with their religious sentiments started becoming visible through the thick pooja threads on political wrists. Now that gesture is being taken to the next level by Mr. Kejriwal through his Shravan Kumar act.

This act certainly is against the spirit of secular constitution, I am not sure if it is downright illegal and whether can be taken to the court.

Our politicians have proved themselves man and women without principles. We as voters so far have been easy to dupe, have proved ourselves excessively selfish, completely devoid of thinking of greater common good and myopic to the core. This has brought our democracy to a perilous situation. Every single retrograde practice of the society is being used to the hilt to capture power, be that caste or religion or any other kind of conflict in the society. The crude force that was used in a feudal setup to control populace has been replaced by chains in the mind, which are even more dangerous to humanity.

There is an all-round attack on clear thinking, rationally held convictions and courage to act. The tools come in all imaginable kinds of shapes and sizes. Ranging from blatant play on caste and religious sentiments, drawing people into cycle of consumerism and leaving no place to think by bombarding people with half-truths and dubious opinions. Sadly, this very post is likely to add to the last-mentioned tool of dumbing down clear thinking.

Caste and religious thinking charge our minds. The cycle of loan-buy-earn-pay-more-loan leaves us with no time to reflect. In such a situation reasoned convictions get no chance of forming, and if formed erode quickly. Bombardment of half-understood half-truths through social media serves in creating a false belief of being well-informed, knowledgeable and produces an illusion of thinking for ourselves. The only way to break free of the sinister web is to reflect. And reflect we don’t.

Gita warns against loss of clear thinking:

क्रोधाद्भवति सम्मोहः सम्मोहात्स्मृतिविभ्रमः | स्मृतिभ्रंशाद्बुद्धिनाशो बुद्धिनाशात्प्रणश्यति || २.६३ ||

“Anger produces confusion, confusion produces loss of memory, loss of memory produces destruction of the mind, and because the mind is destroyed, he perishes.”

The cycle does not need to start with anger, though that is being stocked through religion and caste. It can actually start directly with ‘sammoh’ (confusion or bewilderment). The politicians and mass media presently focus on this. The rest of the cycle progresses to logical end by itself.

Socrates declared unexamined life as unworthy of living. But was also aware that his audience is unlikely to believe him: “you will not believe that I am serious; and if I say again that daily to discourse about virtue, and of those other things about which you hear me examining myself and others, is the greatest good of man, and that the unexamined life is not worth living, you are still less likely to believe me. Yet I say what is true, although a thing of which it is hard for me to persuade you.” He was right, and he could not persuade his audience. Nor are we persuaded by him today, we do not examine our beliefs about what our politicians say and do seriously enough.

The only things that can save our future as a proud democratic and secular nation are clear thinking and courage to act. Otherwise we will continue to be duped by various devices as our history of last 70 years has proved.

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