Dialogue  January - March, 2009 , Volume 10  No. 3


Editorial Perspective


Remembering Gandhi, Hind Swaraj and Dr. Lohia

It is the centenary year of both Mahatma Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj and Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia. Both Gandhi and Lohia were original thinkers with deep commitment for the nation, its people, culture and the languages. Both had finest socio-political mind. Both had deep love for the humanity and were world citizens but their identities as Indian and world citizen did not create any conflict situation.                                                                                                 Hind Swaraj, as a critique of modern western civilization by Mahatma Gandhi, was published in weekly Indian Opinion. The small book with 20 chapters was published hundred years ago. The book continued to have its profound liberating impact on the Indian mind. It still does so.                                                                                     Lohia was a freedom fighter; spent 6 years in British jails in 6 stints. He participated in Nepalese struggle against the Ranas; launched a Goan civil disobedience movement against Portuguese rule. Even in America, as a world citizen, he was ready to fight injustice in Mississippi. Lohia was a brilliant intellectual, a Ph.D. from Berlin (1832). He was fluent in English, German, French, Hindi and Bengali. Often called a maverick socialist, his thoughts were always evolving. Like Nehru, he did not accept Marxism and capitalism as the only alternatives for the third world, and was for building “a just society by just means”. Lohia worked for bridging the rich-poor divide, elimination of caste, tackling man-women inequality and inequality based on colour. He was for preserving individual privacy against encroachment of the collective. He was against the incursions of the big machine and favoured appropriate technology. He fought for the poor in parliament and outside. The “Teen Anna Pandrah Anna” controversy in parliament is well known. Lohia strongly believed in popular action and taking up causes. He was for an Indian bomb and common civil code. As an honest, brilliant and profound man, Dr. Lohia was loved and regarded by his friends and foes alike.                                                                                                                                                                                                      Today, when Parliament election is fast approaching, opportunistic leader-centric politics is shamelessly showing its ugly face, the memory of Gandhi and Lohia arouses nostalgia. It is sad that the disciples of both have gone astray and are using their names for their narrow selfish ends. Whereas political followers of Gandhi have abandoned him, the disciples of Lohia have taken his revolutionary ideas to the perverse and absurd ends. Rather than empowering the deprived, they have successfully empowered their families, relatives and occasionally their castes. Sadly, tremendous gaps in the understanding of the mentors and the disciples have resulted in the fossilization of their wisdom.

Higher Education in Peril  

    It is an accepted fact that higher education in this country is in bad shape. There is unplanned haphazard directionless growth of the universities everywhere. Most of our universities suffer from acute financial, infrastructural and human.resources crunch. The establishment of new universities is declared every day to meet the populist demands without meeting the minimum needs of the earlier ones. The States and Centre are the players in the game. The Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry constituted Yash Pal  Committee criticized the Ministry for its ‘chaotic expansion in higher education’ and ‘nervous and hurried response in starting new central universities’.                                

It said that creation of a few institutions of excellence and some central universities, without addressing the issue of deprivation that the state-funded universities are suffering from, would only sharpen the existing inequalities. Mere numerical expansion, without an understanding of the symptoms of poor education would also not help.”           

Apart from criticizing the Ministry for establishment of new central universities across the nation and unsystematic expansion of higher education, it has further slammed the Ministry saying that its actions have putrefied undergraduate education. The panel report says that on one hand where ‘the traditional universities do not create any public confidence’; private institutes have been reduced to ‘commercial entities of very low quality’. As per the report, recent expansion in higher education has not looked at the “impoverished undergraduate education” that caters to the need of 6 million students who pass through a system which has “not renewed itself and has not provided opportunities to students”.

The panel has suggested structural change in the regulatory bodies. It has suggested the formation of a single apex body of higher education replacing the other regulatory outfits. As suggested, the all-encompassing Higher Education Commission, a central statutory body, should be free of all ministries and have complete autonomy. The proposed HEC will create a curricular framework based on the principles of mobility within a full range of curricular areas and integration of skills with academic depth. This will imply that a student of any stream can do a short course in an unrelated subject and get credits.

The HEC will initially consist of five divisions each headed by an eminent individual with tenure of five years. The chairperson of the HEC will be appointed by a search committee comprising the Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India.

The committee has suggested that all universities have full range of knowledge areas and that no single discipline or specialized university be created.                                                                                                               It recommended that “The practice of according status of deemed university be stopped forthwith. It would be mandatory for all existing deemed universities to submit to the new accreditation norms within three years failing which the status of university should be withdrawn,” A single accreditation window for all institutes of higher education has also been recommended.                                                                                                  

The panel further recommended that IITs and IIMs should be given university status to enable them to develop into pace-setting institutions.         

The panel, as reported, pointed out the weaknesses of the regulatory inspectors and held poor reforms mainly responsible for several wrong practices in higher education. As reported, the Ministry intimated the panel that its position had been whittled down to that of an advisory body, but the members stuck to their recommendations and the original terms of reference. The Yash Pal Committee has come out with excellent recommendations so far as structural changes in the institutions of higher education is concerned. But that is not enough. The parameter of excellence has no meaning if the universities continue to produce unemployed and unemployable. It should provide liberal education which liberates; it should free our youth from the bondage of colonial mindset. Our universities, today are producing consumers of obsolete ideas from the West; the University products are, mostly, culture and tradition illiterates incapable of original thinking and research.  It should have come out with enough input to bring basic change and an end to the malady.

Talibanisation of Pakistan

    Indian media, in the aftermath of the development in Malakand Division of the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, particularly Swat valley, is producing a lot of heat by projecting the possibility of Taliban take over of Pakistan and its consequences in India. The Awami National Party-led government of NWFP inked an agreement on Februaty 16, 2009 with pro-Taliban TNSM, allowing them to apply shariah in Swat valley. As a result of the agreement, the Taliban rule has virtually spread throughout the NWFP; operation of an autonomous Islamic criminal justice system excluding even the appellate jurisdiction of the High Court in Peshawar and the Pakistan Supreme Court in Islamabad has begun from March 16 in Swat valley. It has reportedly dispensed with regular judges and lawyers. The change is obviously visible; women are not permitted to go out of their houses alone; girls’ schools have been closed down or burnt; cinemas, television and video parlours have been banned; barbers’ shops have been closed; the men are forced to grow beards, and none is allowed to wear western clothes. Needless to say that the danger of Taliban take over of Pakistan is real due to Talibanization of the Pakistani mind through Islamised/radicalised education.

      There is enough coverage in Indian media and academia about the radicalization of Pakistani army; the pro-active Islamic agenda of the ISI promoting terror and terrorist outfits in neighbouring countries and the role of late President Zia-ul-Haq in promoting the same. The role of madrasas as jehad and hate factories is well-known. What is not so well-known is the introduction of jehadi rhetoric in the government sponsored social studies curriculum and the replacement of the social studies (history and geography) by Pakistan studies, a compulsory subject for class nine to the first year of the college, including medical and engineering ones, during General Zia’s regime. As a part of Gen. Zia’s Islamization programme, curriculum changes and systematic editing and re-writing of the textbooks were initiated; it was necessary for all the students to take a series of Islamiyat courses, study Islamic tenets and memorise Quranic verses. Separate Pakistan ideology was overemphasized through school and college textbooks. There was overdose of religious content in the Urdu and social sciences curriculum.

       A myth has been created in India that democracy in Pakistan is the panacea of many of the evils there. In reality that is not so. Here it may be mentioned that it was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, during his first term in office, and not Gen. Zia, who introduced the study of Islamiyat and Islamic study in Pakistani schools. The pre-Islamic South Asian History was obliterated only during his tenure.Similarly, contrary to the general belief, late Benazir Bhutto was not a valiant fighter against the rise of fundamentalism in the tribal areas of NWFP and Afghanistan. Rather she forged an electoral alliance with Deobandi-oriented fundamentalist organization, Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam of Maulana Fazlur Rahman in, 1994. Again, the Taliban were let loose on Afghanistan from Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s madrasas on her approval. Not only that, it was she who, as prime minister of Pakistan, agreed to the introduction of shariah in Swat valley for the first time due to her link with Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI). Similarly, her rival, Nawaz Sharif was not better on this count. Musharraf on one hand was claiming to fight against terrorism, on the other allied with JUI. Incidentally, it may be mentioned that a primer, published by the JUI, introduces Urdu alphabets with accompanying images: “Alif (A) for Allah, Bay (B) for bandooq (gun), Tay for takrar (collision), Jeem for jihad),…”. Takrar is colourfully depicted in that primer by the 9/11 planes crashing into the World Trade Centre.    

     It needs mention that the approach to link history with Islamic ideology was not adopted in Pakistan up to the 1960s. The distortion of facts and the endeavour to discover roots somewhere else away from the Indo-Gangetic civilization was vigorously pursued only during the 1970s and after. As an example of the kind of distinct and distorted history of Pakistan, with perfect ‘otherness from its cultural and historical roots’, a quote from M.D. Zafar’s A Textbook of Pakistan Studies (Lahore, pp. 4-23) may be cited:

       “…as a matter of fact, Pakistan came to be established for the first time when the Arabs led by Muhammad-bin-Qasim occupied Sindh and Multan…during the 11th century Ghaznavid Empire comprised what is now Pakistan and Afghanistan. During the 12th century the Ghaznavids lost Afghanistan and their rule came to be confined to Pakistan… By the 13th century, Pakistan has spread to include the whole of Northern India and Bengal… Under the Khiljis Pakistan moved further Southward to include a greater part of Central India and the Deccan…Many Mongols accepted Islam. As such Pakistan became safe for Islam… During the 16th century, ‘Hindustan’ disappeared and was completely absorbed in ‘Pakistan’… Under Aurangzeb the Pakistan spirit gathered in strength. This evoked opposition of the Hindus… After the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, the process of disintegration of Mughal rule set in, and weakened the Pakistan spirit… The shape of Pakistan in the 18th century was thus more or less the same as it was under the Ghaznavids in the 11th century… Shah Waliullah accordingly appealed to Ahmad Shah Durrani, the ruler of Afghanistan and ‘Pakistan’, to come to the rescue of the Muslims of Mughal India, and save them from the tyrenies of the Marathas… Ahmad Shah Durrani died in 1773 and with his death things became dark for the Muslims both in ‘Pakistan’ and Mughal India. In the ‘Pakistan’ territories the Sikhs raised their head in the Punjab and became a great headache for the successors of Ahmad Shah Durrani… In the ‘Pakistan’ territories, where a Sikh state had come to be established, the Muslims were denied the freedom of religion. The Mujahideen set up an Islamic state in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) which was a manifestation of Pakistan spirit… Thus by the middle of 19th century both Pakistan’ and Hindustan has ceased to exist; instead British India has come into existence… Although Pakistan was created in August 1947, yet except for its name, the present day Pakistan has existed, as a more or less single entity for centuries.”        

      A.H. Nayyar and Ahmed Salim (in The Subtle Subversion, the State of Curriculla and Textbooks in Pakistan, p.79) have explored how the teaching material glorify war and military, spread hate, falsify history. The curriculum directives by the Government of Pakistan ask for, and textbooks include: (i) Material creating hate and making enemy images; (ii) A glorification of war and the use of force; (iii) Incitement to militancy and violence; and (iv) Insensitivity to the actually existing religious diversity of the nation, and reinforcing perspectives that encourage prejudice and discrimination towards religious minorities; and (iv) The University Grants Commission of Pakistan also issued the directive on the similar lines.

    Various documents of National Curriculum of different classes and subjects –Urdu, social study, civics, history, English – of the Government of Pakistan and the provinces repeatedly emphasise Jehad and shahadat. There is very high religious course content in the syllabus of these subjects. Some of the prominent topics covered are: “Learning Outcome: Recognize the importance of Jehad in every sphere of life”; “Learning Outcome: Must be aware of the blessings of Jehad”; “Must be aware of the blessings of Jehad and must create yearning for Jehad in his heart.”; “Concept: Jehad; Affective objective: Aspiration for Jehad”; “Love and aspiration for Jehad, Tableegh (Prosyletization), Shahadat (martyrdom), sacrifice, ghazi (the victor in holy war), shaheed (martyr)…; simple stories to urge for Jehad”; “:Activity 4: To make speeches on Jehad and Shahadat”; “Evaluation: To judge their spirits while making speeches on Jehad, Muslim history and culture”, “Affective objective: Concepts of Ideology of Pakistan, Muslim Ummah and Jehad”; etc.

     The perusal of the government sponsored syllabi of Pakistan makes it clear that the teaching material is designed to motivate students towards jehad and shahadat and in this respect they run parallel to what the madrasas are doing

      The textbooks in Pakistan, accordingly, inject deep sense of hatred and enmity in the young men’s minds by such lessons:  “Hindu has always been an enemy of Islam”; “The religion of the Hindus did not teach them good things … Hindus did not respect women…”; “The people of the subcontinent used to live in dark and small houses before the arrival of the Muslim…”; “The Hindus treated the ancient population of the Indus valley very badly. They forcibly occupied their land. They set fire to their houses and butchered them…..”; “Muslims and Hindus are completely different in their way of life, eating habits and dress. We worship in mosques….”; “The Hindus who have always been opportunists cooperated with the British.”; “At the behest of the government (during Congress rule), Hindu “goondas” started killing Muslims and burning their property.”; “The Hindus always desired to crush the Muslims as a nation. Several attempts were made by the Hindus to erase the Muslim culture and civilization…”;  “The Muslims were not allowed to profess their religion freely.”; All India Congress turned into a pure Hindu organization.”; “While the Muslims provided all types of help to those wishing to leave Pakistan, the people of India committed cruelties against the Muslims (Refugees).”

       A story (The Enemy Pilot) from an Urdu textbook reads: “He had

only been taught never to have pity on Muslims, to always bother the neighbouring Muslims, to weaken them to the extent that they forget about freedom, and that it is better to finish off the enemy. He remembered that the Hindus tried to please their Devi Kali by slaughtering innocent people of other faith at her feet; that they regarded every body else as untouchables. He knew that his country India has attacked Pakistan in the dead of the night to bleed Pakistani Muslims and to dominate the entire Subcontinent.”

      Needless to mention that endless number of such passages may be cited from the Government sponsored School Textbooks of Pakistan. Naturally, due to radicalized education, Taliban has greater acceptability in the fast emerging urban centres in Pakistan. The following observation of Yvette Rosser summerises the matter:

     “From Government issued textbooks, students are taught that Hindus are backward, superstitious, they burn their widows and wives, and that Brahmins are inherently cruel, and if given a chance, would assert their power over the weak, especially Muslims and Shudras, depriving them of education by pouring molten lead in their ears. In their social studies classes, students are taught that Islam brought peace, equality, and justice to the subcontinent and only through Islam could the sinister ways of Hindus be held in check. In Pakistani textbooks “Hindu” rarely appears in a sentence without adjectives such as politically astute, sly, or manipulative.”

      Writing about the future implication of the Islamization in the field of education, Pervez Hoodbhoy and A.H. Nayyar, in a paper, Rewriting the History of Pakistan, prophetically indicated in 1985 that “the full impact of which will probably be felt by the turn of the century, when the present generation of the school children attains maturity.” Needless to say that the impact is already visible in the Talibanized mindset of the Pakistanis. Apart from politicization and creeping Islamisation of Pakistani army, this factor is also responsible for  Pakistan developing fast into a failed nation.

     Thus madrasas and every liberal educational institution of Pakistan promote jehadi and shahadat mentality and the Islamic radicalism is not confined only to the Malakand division/FATA region of Pakistan. Rather, Islamic radicalism is spreading over the entire Indian sub-continent. After all, we have our own home-grown terrorists and collaborators; the flow of funds from Arab countries for promoting Wahabi/fundamentalist ideology is not a hidden fact; religion-based mobilization of votes and demands for the Muslims to be tried under separate law is publicly made.

    The situation in Bangladesh is only slightly better than that in Pakistan. The enemy concept is very much alive; Hindus lost 26 lakh acres of land in that country.  The country remained a safe haven for the Indian terrorist. The continental cultural drift under the strong under-current of Tablighi-Wahabi fundamentalism continues. There was political liquidation of Jamaat-e-Islami in the recent Bangladesh election; Sheikh Hasina led Awami league came to power. Within fifty days, the conspiracy to dislodge her started. Islamist terrorist outfits –Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JuM) and Hizb-ut-Tahrir – suddenly got active; money came from the West Asia; disgruntled army and DGFI officers collaborated and there was Bangladesh Rifles mutiny. Of course, the apt-handling of the after-mutiny affair by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Army Chief Gen. Moeen U Ahmed is commendable. The latter, inspite of the grave provocation and murder of the senior army officers and their family members, could keep the cool and is modeling his army as a model professional army, rather than the political and Islamic army like Pakistan’s. 

                                                                                                                                                        –  B.B. Kumar


Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)

Astha Bharati