Modi’s reign sees a transformation in Indian history and science textbooks through RSS influence | Education News

Kolkata, India – Every day at Sarada Shishu Vidya Mandir, a school in Uluberia, West Bengal, students gather in the prayer hall 15 minutes before classes start. The prayer hall is adorned with colourful posters of Hindu deities, saints, mythological figures, ancient Indian scholars, kings, and Hindu religious practices. The prayer begins with the Saraswati Vandana, a chant praising Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge. This routine is followed at Sarada Shishu Mandir, the preprimary school for children up to grade four located next to it.

After the prayers, students enter their classrooms and encounter ancient figures again in a series of books called Sanskriti Bodhmala, published in English, Hindi, and several other Indian languages. These books are mandatory for students in classes four to 12 and students also have to take an annual test based on these books.

Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, many ancient concepts have made their way into India’s formal schooling system, blurring the lines between religious Hindu beliefs and established history and science. The schools are run by Vidya Bharati, the educational wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which controls over 12,000 schools catering to nearly 32 million students across India.

Unsubstantiated historical and scientific claims from these Vidya Bharati schools have made their way into the formal syllabus of state-run schools, including the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS). The National Council of Educational Research and Training’s (NCERT) new module on India’s moon mission mentions the book Vymaanika Shaastra as well.

The Sanskriti Bodhmala books present history as if they have discovered “the final truth of the past,” but historians and scientists have criticized these claims as lacking proper historiographical methods. Critics have accused the Modi government of altering school syllabi to suit their Hindu nationalist agenda.

Vidya Bharati’s role in pushing a certain kind of history is part of a larger project of what critics have called the “saffronisation” of education, after the favoured colour of the Hindu right. The Sanskriti Bodhmala books are published by Vidya Bharati Sanskriti Shiksha Sansthan, and members of the organization have been involved in government education committees.

The schools are part of the RSS’s larger strategy of instilling the idea of ancient Hindu invincibility in young Hindu minds and restoring the ancient glory of Hindu superiority. Critics see this as an attempt to create a constant state of paranoia in Hindu minds about the entire world being a conspirator against Hindu supremacy.

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