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How ‘Book Ban Man’ Dinanath Batra’s Book In Gujarat Schools Is A Dangerous Experiment In Education

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By Atharva Pandit:

On July 24th, “The Indian Express” reported that textbooks penned by Dina Nath Batra would now be included in the Gujarat school textbook curriculum, and eight of the nine books which the students would study would be authored by the man who is known across the media circles as theBan Man.’ Batra, an 85-year old retired school principal, is the member of the RSS and headed its education wing sometime back. Going by various profiles in newspapers, he comes across as a calm man, a man who knows what he is talking about, or to be precise, what he is trying to get banned. D. N. Batra became infamous after he managed to get Wendy Doniger’s book pulped, the book which was an account of Hinduism and the Hindu way of living through the passage of Gods, Myth and History. And sex, don’t forget sex (but more about that later).

dinanath batra

Doniger, who is currently Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at University of Chicago, wrote a tome named “The Hindus: An Alternative History”, for which she received several awards, relative fame and an egg, hurled at her while she was in the midst of an on-stage interview (the egg missed its mark, by the way). To be fair to Doniger, she is, in fact, a scholar on the religion and its complex facets of studies- indeed; she knows more about the Hindu way of life than a Hindu himself would, which is saying a lot. Her analysis and in-depth study of the Hindu culture is something which takes us into that period so that she can make her readers understand the community and culture Hindus find themselves living in. Not to mention her prose, which is brilliantly fluent and splendidly crafted, with enough contemporary examples and parallels to fill up a footnote. Her argument rings valid – a book is a form of free speech, and it cannot, under any circumstances, be banned or pulped. Not in the internet age anyway, where you can find a book uploaded in its entirety only hours after it is banned. But to ban it, in the first place, is a grave violation of the freedom of speech and expression. Penguin India fell under that spell, unfortunately, when they were forced to pulp all the copies of “The Hindus” after a four year court battle with the man in question, Dina Nath Batra, who argued that the book and/or its content violated Article 295a of the Indian Penal Code. This Act forbids the deliberate and malicious acts which are intended to outrage religious feelings of any class of the citizens. To be partially fair to Batra at this point of time, it can be said that Doniger is a pretty daring chronicler of the sexual lives of Hinduism’s Holy Gods. She does not shy away from calling Rama a suspicious husband, afraid of being cuckolded; and that too with his brother Laxaman. To read this of the three most revered deities of Hindu scripture and mythology is nothing short of shocking. Doniger doesn’t stop there, though, going on to debunk a lot many Hindu beliefs and myths, and obsessing about every single God’s sexual life. Her psychosexual analysis of Gods adorned in every Hindu family’s household is bound to invite a lot of wrath and anger.

And yet, this isn’t half an excuse to pulp a book and cease its publication. A book should always remain where it is supposed to be – on the shelf. Batra sought to do the exact opposite, and had his way with it. And the guy is an institution in the history of banning – he was also successful in getting Megha Kumar’s book on sexual violence against women during the 2002 Gujarat riots pulped; he played a role in banning of sex education in the Indian schools, Batra also campaigned against the inclusion of A.K. Ramanujan’s essay, ‘Three Hundred Ramayanas: five examples and three thoughts on translation’ in the Delhi University History syllabus, stopping its publisher OUP from printing the essay. To the Head of the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, an organization which is composed of some like-minded teachers and activists, all these campaigns are just some of his escapades in saving the Hindu culture. To be honest, if he wanted to save the Hindu culture, he would have done better than to go about banning books. But Batra, who has been a key adviser to Murli Manohar Joshi during the last NDA rule, has found out another way of rescuing the culture, that of penning little books for little children which would make way towards the saffronisation of education.

The books, which have been translated from Hindi to Gujarati and would be distributed amongst 42,000 primary and secondary government schools across the state, delve not only into the cultural aspects, but also the political one of the idea of Akhand Bharat, instructing children to “make sure to include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar” while drawing India’s map (he forgot to include Vietnam, for the record). Other gems include: “Include August 14th as the Akhand Bharat Smiriti Divas”, “Don’t blow candles on your birthdays. It’s a Western culture, and needs to be shunned. Wear Swadeshi clothes, do havan, feed Indian cows.” Another lesson emphasizes that “Undivided India is the truth, divided India is a lie.” He goes on to proclaim that “India can be united again.” That, in a nutshell, is the philosophy of Akhand Bharat, or Greater India.

Bharat Pandit, Director of Gujarat State School Textbook Board, claims that these books will “help students develop moral values, and are an integral part of education.” I don’t buy that. These books are nothing but texts intended to spread propaganda. A little bit of cultural education to our schoolchildren would certainly be of no harm, but to place such propaganda-worthy material in the hands of an innocent schoolchild is nothing short of a dangerous experiment in brain-washing and in politicizing the education.

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  1. ABHINABA

    Welcome to the 21st century hindu madrasa…

  2. Gaurav

    Dina Nath Batra is 85 yr old retired school teacher. he is saying three things. let us examine those three points.

    First, he wants that in indian schools we should teach indian way of life, by that he means that we should celebrate our festivals and teach about achievements of indian scientists, philosophers, writers, academics, mathematicians and freedom fighters and honour them as that helps foster a sense of pride in children and when these grow up they do not feel ashamed of their own heritage. I do not see anything wrong in the objective mentioned above. if there are any inaccuracies we should surely rectify but there is no reason to criticise Batra.

    Second, he wants that people should not offend hindu sensibilities. by that he means that people should not do anything or say anything that may hurt hindu sensibilities for example denigrating the hindu gods/goddesses.

    And finally he wants we should not hide the facts about islamic terrorism and hindu genocide from our children. our children deserve to know the truth about our brutal and dark islamic period and people like babur and aurangzeb. trying to brush the issues under the carpet is not the correct course of action.

    According to me Batra is entitled to voice his opinion or go to court on any issue. he is not threatening anyone. he is simply using his fundamental rights to put forward his point of view. why are so many people offended by his views. you do not have to follow him blindly. many writers are criticising him for no reason. if someone is opposed to his views they can go to court or debate with him. he has not threatened anyone or abused anyone personally.

    If you go to google.com and search for articles written by shobha de, pavan kumar, kiran nagarkar and many others you will see a pattern where some writers are hell bent on painting Dina Nath Batra as the devil for absolutely no reason. although I did some research and found out what the objections are. the objections can be categorised in two categories. first the writers want that truth about hindu genocide should not be taught to hindu children because muslim rule was a dark age and hindu children may start hating muslims. but that does not mean that truth should be forgotten. by not teaching the truth we are preparing our future generations for another slaughter and nothing else.

    second objection comes in the form of ridicule by writers for no reason. writers make fun of Batra simply because he wants hindu children should be taught indian way of life, i do not foresee any trouble if we teach our children ithe indian way of life.

    1. Damien Hanet

      I agree with you that people should not be ashamed of their way of life and the Hindu should celebrate Hindu festivals, respect traditions and such. But it cannot go to such extent has to forbid blowing candles on a cake… It is not protecting the Hindu culture, it’s just bs.

      As a westerner I ask as many question as I can to understand all your vast and brilliant culture, sometimes I shock Indians (all religions all casts) by my questions and sometimes I am shocked by the answers but it is always in a good proper way. But by saying that people should avoid hurting the sensibility of Hindus that is being very narrow-minded, so only Hindus can say things on Hindus? No, if that man can say western has to be shunned, it is because it is bad or he feels that it is bad (it is not perfect but not all bad). So he can criticize my culture, hurting my sensibility but not the other way around?

      I agree again with you that Historical facts should not be hidden to the children, but all facts have to reported. I am not greatly versed in Hindu religion but I am sure that they also committed a few massacre themselves. And you do have to stress to the children that it all happen long time ago and that now there are no reasons for hating someone for what his religious group/ethnic group/other did to his religious group/ethnic group/other. I come from Europe, I have two nationalities, in the history of my two countries I can hate the English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Austrians, Hungarians and Germans but why would I do that? I am not going to hate a German for the atrocities that happened 100 and 60 years ago.
      Not brushing the history under the carpet is important but explaining it is even more important.

      I do not agree with you on going to court. If you don’t agree with a statement of someone you debate you don’t go to court. Justice can’t be used for settling debates it is used for crimes. Writing a book about the Gods sexual life is not a crime. Plus I find that it is very coward of him to ask for a ban of the book and not debate and/or write a book establishing his views.

      I do not agree with that sentence “by not teaching the truth we are preparing our future generations for another slaughter and nothing else” it is a sentence of a scared person.

      On the topic now I find that man dangerous, a coward and living in the 16th century. He has so much power that he can ban books that he is not in agreement with, he decides what children have to learn and he is not open to debate. Things change, deal with it or step away. Change is inevitable, you cannot stop it just orient it.

    2. Voice of reason

      Dear Gaurav,I really do not want to say much, but do you really think what this man is doing is right. By teaching kids about “Akhand Bharat” and other such BS ( capital letters) what is he trying to prove. Do you want to teach your kids that Pakistan, Nepal ,Bhutan etc are a part of the country, when they are not. I mean what merit do these lessons have, and are they not insulting to those nations. Coming to specifically the points that you mentioned –
      The Indian way of life, by which you mean that we should be proud of our heritage, celebrate our festivals etc. Tell me honestly are we currently not celebrating the same. In Bengal Durga puja celebration does not depend on any book and the same goes for Ganpati celebrations in Maharashtra. As for knowing about our freedom fighters, we already do and appreciate them as well. So over emphasizing on the same is really not necessary. We are proud of our heritage and at the same time we are also ashamed of the negatives of our heritage. I am sure you are not ‘proud’ of Sati, Cast practices etc. Students should also be taught about the negatives of our heritage as well.
      Hindu Sensibilities – we are a secular nation what should be taught to students is that all religions should be respected and that there is one God. Students should be taught that no religion is superior and none inferior. I agree with you that in a country as volatile as ours, books which ridicule any religion (any of the religions, not Hinduism only) should be banned. It should be banned because our people are not matured enough, not for any other reason.
      Hindu Genocide – yes we need to teach kids the true history, we need to align them about the Islamic terrorism, but at the same time we need to teach them how great Akbar was ( why refer only to Babur and Aurangazeb), we need to teach them that it was our divided nature and attitude due to which we were ruled by foreigners ( not akhand bharat, but a secular and united INDIA ). Our student should know that Dr Abdul Kalam and A.R.Rehman, have won greater laurels for India then many Hindu Scientiests and musicians put together.
      Your response does not talk about the ridiculous ‘do not blow your candles and feed cows’ non sense that he is promoting. If you really want to shun western culture ban clothes, internet, computers and everything invented in west. Stop buying weapons from the west, start travelling in carts and horses shun cars and the list goes on.
      In reality education should talk about globalization, should aim at making kids tolerant, open to ideas and be creative. Instead of only glorifying our past, kids should know how and why we are a developing nation and how we can change the same. The fact that India belong to all religions should be taught. They should be taught about their culture but they should be able to cut cakes and blow candles in their birthdays as well.
      Let us plan and work for a developed and united India, not a Hindu India.

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