A chapter on Hindu epic Ramayana in a compulsory sixth grade text book of a public school in Kolkata. Photo by Rudabah Simrah
A chapter on Hindu epic Ramayana in a compulsory sixth grade text book of a public school in Kolkata. Photo by Rudabah Simrah

Now that the BJP is in power in Delhi, the agenda to paint India saffron has begun in all earnest, beginning with the basics — text books 

By Rudabah Simrah

KOLKATAStem cell therapy was performed thousands of years ago, by an Indian Hindu sage called Rishi Vyas. The first aeroplane in the world was ‘Pushpak Viman’, a flying chariot used by Hindu God Rama. Prehistoric Indians had invented television for their use.

These are not excerpts from any fiction book, but some ‘pearls of wisdom’ picked up from a school text book called “Tejomay Bharat” (‘Glorious India’ in Hindi) which has recently been introduced in government schools in the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-run state of Gujarat.

“Indian students have made a mark in the world due to the excellent education system of this country which is secular, progressive and scientific,” Dr Sabbir Husain, a Muslim medical doctor from Aligarh in north India, told

Dr Husain added that by pushing through the Hindu agenda the “Hindu brigade” is doing a great disservice to the Hindu as well as the non-Muslim communities.

“Just when we are about to realize our dream of becoming a superpower, this saffron gang is hell-bent on pushing us back to the Stone Age,” Dr Husain, a retired government medical officer, added.

Published by Gujarat State School Textbook Board (GSSTB) 125-page Tejomay Bharat is in fact part of a series of nine new books which were all approved for use in Gujarat’s 42,000 elementary and secondary schools earlier this year when Narendra Modi was the chief minister of the state.

Each of the books which are being used in the state’s schools since June, carries a customized message from Modi, as the chief minister of the state, advising the children study diligently.

According to the GSSTB, the books are aimed to teach the children “facts” about history, science, geography, religion and other “basics” from a new perspective.

“Now, Indian students from all religious communities, who go to the west for higher study will surely be ridiculed if they tell their teachers that ancient Indian Hindu sages had performed human cloning by putting flesh in a pot of butter!” Dr Husain added.

Written by Hindu educationist Dina Nath Batra who is a member of the national executive of Vidya Bharti, the educational wing of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) group, the books will help “Indianize” the school curriculum of the state, a GSSTB statement said.

Tejomay Bharat will help the students know India better, the book’s content advisor Harshad Shah said to Indian Express.

“Tejomay Bharat gives an insight to students about our rich culture, heritage, spiritualism and patriotism. The language has been kept simple, which is apt for students. These are to be given free of cost to all schools,” Shah, who was Gujarat chairman of Vidya Bharti till 2006 and is now the vice-chancellor of Children’s University in Gandhinagar, told the Indian newspaper.

84-year-old former teacher Batra, who wrote the books originally in Hindi, told Indian Express that his books seek to redefine history, science, geography and redraw the map of India.

“The GSSTB had seen and read our books. They liked them and said, they wanted to translate them into Gujarati and introduce them in schools,” he said.

Contents of many of the other eight text books by Batra too would shock or outrage many around the world.

Racist Content

A chapter in one book called Prernadeep 2 (Lamp of inspiration, in Hindi), celebrates the thrashing by an Indian of a “very strongly built negro” who tried to open a door during a flight.

“An Indian grabbed the negro and he could not escape. The pilot and the Indian together thrashed the negro and tied him up with rope. Like a tied buffalo, he frantically tried to escape but could not. The plane landed safely in Chicago.” (as translated by Indian Express), it explained.

As someone who has deeply enjoyed reading Wendy Doniger's book, it does not bother me at all that some imbeciles might have one or several bones to pick with it. What bothers me is that they are using a language of threat to prevent other readers who might want to read the book from accessing it
Batra who was involved in the banning and pulping of Wendy Doniger’s book, The Hindus, An Alternative History, has been tasked with the onerous responsibility of saffronizing the school syllabi

Another book Prernadeep 1 tells the story of how Swami Vivekananda, an 18th century Indian Hindu monk “boldly” denigrated Western people during a speech.

“An Englishwoman said (to Vivekananda), ‘Swamiji! You are insisting on wearing Indian clothes but your shoes are foreign’. Vivekananda (showed his feet and) said, ‘In our view, the place of a foreigner is here’. The woman was dumbfounded.”(as translated by Indian Express), the story said.

After his books have been included in the schools in Gujarat and the Hindu BJP having formed the national government, Batra hopes that they would soon be introduced in the national school curriculum.

RSS has already set up a consultative body called Bharatiya Shiksha Niti Ayog (BSNA) to put pressure on Modi’s government to “correct” or “Indianize” the national education system. And, Batra, likely to head the BSNA, unidentified RSS leaders have told the local media.

BJP leader Narendra Modi performs rites at Kashi Vishwanath temple before addressing the victory rally in Varanasi on May 17. Image courtesy
Prime Minister Narendra Modi performs rites at Kashi Vishwanath temple before addressing the victory rally in Varanasi on May 17. Image courtesy

Campaign for Hinduism

Batra has a long history of campaigning against any material he deems has shown the Hindu religion in poor light.

Earlier this year, Batra and his supporters had forced Penguin India to recall and pulp all the copies of the book, The Hindus: An Alternative History’, written by respected American historian Wendy Doniger, because, they said, it carried disparaging portrayal of Hinduism.

Batra is known for having played key role in the Hinduization or saffronization of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) textbooks during 1998-2004 when in two consecutive terms BJP-led alliance of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) headed the national government.

NCERT is an autonomous organization which advises and assists the governments on policies and programs for qualitative improvement in national school curricula, apart from publishing books.

In 2001, as an NCERT advisor, Batra led a team that “corrected” history text books by eliminating or altering portions that glorified the Muslim rulers and also those which were derogatory and defamatory according to the view of the Hindu nationalists.

The passages in the textbooks which pointed out to any unsavory aspect of the Hindu faith like the oppressive caste system in ancient Hindu society, untouchability of the low-caste people and consumption of beef during Vedic ages were scrapped, and anyone who resisted or opposed the changes was dubbed as ‘anti-national’.

Deliberate attempts were made to glorify the Hindu faith and to vilify Islam and the Muslim rulers of India.

The RSS head K. Sudarshan said that those who opposed the overhauling of the NCERT texts do astonishing things like not believing that the sages in ancient India knew about nuclear energy and aeronautical sciences.

Then Batra defended his actions of altering the national syllabi in accordance with the perspective of the RSS, saying that “Jesus Christ was a “najayaz” (illegitimate, in Hindi) child of Mary but in Europe they don’t teach that. Instead they call her Mother Mary and say she is a virgin.”

RSS Agenda

The attempts of the BJP to propagate the communal agenda of the RSS in the name of inculcating Indianness in the minds of young students came to an abrupt halt when it lost power to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in 2004.

The UPA took adequate measures to “detoxify” the school curriculum by editing out the “saffronized contents” from the textbooks and revising the national school curriculum.

Following ten years of UPA rule, BJP is back at the helm of the federal government again. The victory of the BJP has now bolstered the confidence of Batra and his forces who have long demanded the national school curriculum be overhauled according to their wishes.

Last week Batra said that India’s Human Resources and Development minister Smriti Irani had assured him of an overhaul of the national curriculum.

“The government at the center has changed. Soon, the NCERT policies and curriculum- which are directionless and extensively promoting Westernization, will also change,” Batra said.

“I have convinced minister Irani that the Indianization of the curriculum should begin immediately, and she has assured that she would begin the process soon.”

However, voices of protests against the massive plan of saffronization of the school curriculum have begun brewing from some quarters.

Abdul Aziz, secretary of Milli Ittehad Parishad- an umbrella body of Muslim organizations in West Bengal, said that if the new government begins distorting the school curriculum by introducing mischievous changes the citizens should protest against the move.

“They should also include the Quran and Bible, if they are adamant to introduce Hindu scriptures to the curriculum because India is a secular country and equal rights should be given to all religions,” Aziz told

“And, they should not teach anything to any pupil which is untrue.”

Hafizullah Khan, a Urdu newspaper editor in Allahabad said that by saffronizing the education system the Hindu forces are in attempt to Hinduize India.

“We all know that RSS identifies India as a Hindu country.  The agenda of saffronization of the school curriculum is being pushed by the RSS. It aims to build a staunchly Hindu India where Muslims and Christians will be totally marginalized,” Khan said.

The agenda of saffronization of school curriculum is being opposed by many secular Hindus as well.

Ram Puniyani a well known peace activist said that communalization of the education system was the major agenda of the previous BJP-led NDA government.

“Now, BJP has a full majority in the national government. So, it is planning to change the school curriculum as per the modules of RSS, which wants a Hindu Rashtra. This RSS agenda is being spearheaded in the schools using Batra’s thouroughly communal books which present the history/social sciences in a biased manner, showing the primacy of Hindu-Brahaminical values,” Puniyani, a former professor of Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, told

“Education system and media are being used as major tools by the RSS to divide the society on communal lines and undermine the Indian Constitution’s secular values.”


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