The move to rope in Batra, a controversial author and activist devoted to recasting India’s history from the perspective of the Hindu right, is the first sign of the role the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) may play in policy formulation in Haryana.
Education minister Ram Bilas Sharma said the committee comprising well-known educationists and experts, including retired teachers and professors from the state education department, and Jat and Hindu educational institutions, will advise to the state government on steps to improve the education system.
“I will constitute an advisory committee of educationists under the tutelage of Dinanathji Batra to give advice on education-related issues,” Sharma told HT in an exclusive interview.
Sharma said the government decided to choose Batra, national convenor of the RSS-backed Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, because he was a well-known educationist.
“He is a well-known educationist from Haryana. When he was principal of Gita School in Kurukshetra, I had worked with him as teacher,” said Sharma.
Batra, who was responsible for the pulping of American scholar Wendy Doniger’s book on Hinduism for allegedly causing religious offence, has been at the centre of controversy for his efforts to Indianise education.
A one-time RSS pracharak and president of the Shiskha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas, he was in the news recently for demanding the revamp of education, curriculum and textbooks to introduce concepts that promote “modernity with Indian values”.
Historians have dismissed his books, which have been recommended as secondary reading in Gujarat schools, as nothing but works of “fantasy”.
According to media reports, the books contain several moral and political prescriptions such as aproposal to redraw the map of India in line with the right-wing idea of an Akhand Bharat. They also suggest that birthdays should not be celebrated by blowing candles on the grounds that it is Western culture. Instead, they should be marked by wearing swadeshi clothes, having havans, reciting mantras such as the Gayatri mantra and feeding cows.
His Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti has also reportedly convened a national conference of academics and experts to examine the national education policy. The new Haryana government has already halted the ongoing revision of textbooks for government schools in the state.
On the role of the RSS in policy formulation in the state, Sharma said the organisation was working nation-wide and had played a big role in “character building and value education”.
“The RSS will definitely have a role. The chief minister (Manohar Lal Khattar) is an old pracharak. I have been a pracharak too,” he added.