आज का राहुकाल/ 10 दिसंबर-16 दिसंबर (दिल्ली)

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Predictions in Wall Street Journal
अनुवाद उपलब्ध नहीं है |
India's Ruling BJP Pushes Hindu Values in Nation's Curriculum --- Nationalism Is Eclipsing A Secular Tradition In Schools, Critics Say
By Eric Bellman, The Wall Street Journal, 780 words
Mar 4, 2002

LUCKNOW, India -- Mosquitoes hover around Indu Prakash Misra as he finishes his prayers to the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesh. "We must become antennae of cosmic energy," he tells his flock. "Astrology is the path to the purest truth."

A bearded guru in a Himalayan cave? Actually, a professor talking to his graduate students at a major public university. Astrology is the newest degree at Lucknow University, a state-run school in the ancient heart of northern India better known for its rigorous engineering and science programs. The university also offers classes on Hindu rituals that include on-the-job training and the coconuts and incense required to perform ceremonies.

The world has been riveted by Islamic extremism since Sept. 11, but the subtly shifting face of Indian education shows how a rival movement -- radical Hindu nationalism -- is trying to transform South Asia. In three years at the helm of India's government, the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies have been quietly but persistently pushing Hindu values, cutting against the grain of secular rule that runs through India's modern history.

The results range from the sobering to the bizarre. The government has named several of its nuclear missiles after weapons and animals taken from Hindu mythology. Meanwhile, Hindu groups burn Valentine's Day cards and vandalize McDonald's restaurants, aiming to push back what they describe as the West's cultural imperialism. Minority groups say attacks on Muslims and Christians have been rising.

The changing school curricula could have a particularly far-reaching impact. The BJP-led government says the new courses are part of its effort to get everyone from first-grade students to doctoral candidates better acquainted with India's ancient culture and sciences. Liberal scholars and members of India's minority groups say something more sinister is at work: a ploy by the government to whip up Hindu pride and marginalize India's minorities, who make up about a fifth of the population. In particular, using the education system to promulgate a Hindu perspective on science and history could upset the delicate coexistence between India's Hindus and its 140 million-strong Muslim population, which is second only to Indonesia's in size.

"Muslim families are pulling their boys out of school, deciding to teach them at home rather than expose them to public schools," says Syed Shahabudin, president of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, which tries to raise awareness about Muslim concerns.

The Congress Party, which governed India for almost all of its five decades of independence, was strictly secular. It set up quotas to ensure that the millions of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and other non-Hindus in India had jobs in government and slots in schools.

The BJP has different ideas. It has placed party people in top jobs in schools and government organizations that mold curricula, and they are beginning to get results. In addition to new diploma programs in Hindu birth, death and wedding rituals, some schools now offer "Vedic math," named after the Rig Vedas, the Hindu scripture upon which it is based. Among other tenets, Vedic math holds that calculus problems can be solved with the help of sutras, or Hindu religious precepts.

"We want an Indianization, nationalization and spiritualization of education in India," says R.K. Goel, president of Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal, a New Delhi-based group that makes education policy recommendations to the BJP. Mr. Goel points out that the new classes are optional for students.

In the newly whitewashed astrology building at Lucknow, Prof. Misra begins a lesson with a prayer. Students have to peek at their notes to keep up with his rapid-fire Sanskrit, the language of Hindu scriptures. He opens his eyes and rises to sketch a swastika on the chalkboard. The Hindu symbol of prosperity will focus positive energy in the cramped room, Prof. Misra says, launching into a lesson on how the position of the moon determines the proper way to build a house.

He says the astrology degree has nothing to do with politics or religion. "It's a science," he says, smiling through rectangle-rimmed glasses and waving an ancient book of astrological wisdom. "I don't criticize philosophy or literature. Why should they complain about astrology?"

Roop Rekha Verma, a Hindu professor at Lucknow University who teaches philosophy and women's studies, tried to block the new courses, but was outvoted. She and other teachers now speak at education conferences around the country, where they tell their audiences about the harm that could come to India's universities, renowned for producing world-class doctors, scientists and software engineers.

"We are making priests instead of professionals," she says. "It is against the basic guiding principles of our constitution."


Rasul Bailay contributed to this article.

Credit: Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal

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