Decades of propaganda in our school textbooks have brainwashed our youth into despising their own heritage.
‘Brainwashed Republic’ by Neeraj Atri and Muneishwar Sagar is a revelation, to say the least. The Government of India’s Ministry of Education set up the National Council of Educational Research and Training, by merging seven government institutions in 1961. NCERT had the major task of writing the textbooks for schools, which a majority of Indian states accepted as standard. Following independence, the history given to our school children was heavily controlled by the ruling party- the Congress led by Nehru. Political ideology, the left-liberal brand, completely distorted the historical narrative as least two generations consumed this history, internalising it. The writing suited the political heads and under their patronage, the historians played havoc with the truth. The country’s up and coming generation were totally confused, and the majority came to be ashamed of themselves.
What is the purpose of history? It might give many answers and lead to heated debates but for India after Independence, history should have served a specific purpose. At the time of independence, when we are at our lowest in confidence and self-respect, there was a need to look at our history and ancient heritage and tell the country something positive and uplifting about ourselves. That generation needed to be told that we were one of the richest and the most culturally advanced countries in the world. The teaching should have been about our ancient civilization and the wonderful achievements of the country in various secular and non-secular fields. The purpose of history, finally, for children is to instill a sense of pride and respect for the country. Alas, we lost an excellent opportunity.
The NCERT textbooks from a crucial period of class 6 to class 12, the most formative years of a child, abused its position to fill innocent minds with poison. It is one of the saddest chapters of our country when the academia in the post-Independent period simply continued with the colonial story about India. The discourse of shame continued with an addition of new-found principles of secularism, and a free run to propagate an ideology dear to the ruling party. A student, after going through the curriculum became a wreck, internalising every story serving a leftist propagandist cause.
Sanskrit became an exploitative language; Ramayana and Mahabharata were trivialised; and Indians, of course, became misogynistic, casteist, socially exploitative, and hostile. Indian kings were wicked if at all they get a mention. Of course, all this on a background of a popular liberal discourse that India did not ‘really exist’ before the colonials. The depiction of the evils of indigenous people or the benevolence of foreign invaders is finally projected through the prism of religion. This brainwashing used Hinduism as a template to show everything that was wrong in Indian culture and its heritage.
The authors clearly show how history writers achieved this by using every trick in the book for brainwashing: lies, appealing to authority, appealing to prejudice, cherry-picking, disinformation, euphemisms, exaggeration, glittering generalities, guilt by association, half-truths, intentional vagueness, labelling, loaded language, oversimplification, third-party technique, unstated assumption, thought terminating cliché, and so on. An innocent child going through these books, memorising ‘facts’ for examinations, happily and unknowingly internalises the depiction of our past culture as invariably true. This happened for a crucial period of two generations who entered colleges and built their lives believing sadly that nothing good came from our country. A few may learn the truth by their own effort; however, the majority stay clueless and misinformed.
India – A land for only invasions
The NCERT, filled with leftists and the twisted seculars, was more than willing to distort the narrative completely. The agenda filled history in a subtle and a not so subtle manner gave us a narrative which brainwashed growing generations into believing that we were a country meant for invasions. Our history became a history of invaders instead of the land and its people. The Islamic invasions, the European invasions, the British rulers, the story of select Indian leaders like Nehru and Gandhi became the only theme of the textbooks. It was funny that obscure rulers like Iltumush, Qutbuddin Aibak had full chapters sometimes devoted to them; and the student at the time of finishing school would have no clue about Lachit Borphukan or the Chola rulers of the South. There was a bare minimum touching of the Sikh Gurus.
The narrative here had a severe distortion too. The invaders became benign people who were very benevolent towards the people and their religion. The invasions were brutal; the rulers were brutal too. There was the extermination of a vast number of Hindus, and there was large-scale destruction of the temples. The facts were all very well-known at the time of Independence, but the purpose seemed to not offend the minorities in the name of secularism. The facts had a complete whitewashing. There was ignoring of the accounts of contemporary historians during the barbaric acts of destruction, loot, and killing; and the texts carried strangely references of 20th-century historians dominating the Indian history narrative.
The question never occurred to us during our growing years and neither was it asked why people needed to invade India. What was so special about the country which attracted the plunderers from across the world? It was never taught that we were the richest and the most prosperous country in the world. Angus Maddison came much later with clear numbers who showed that India and China were contributing more than 50% of the world GDP for 17 centuries from the start of the millennium. UK was contributing 2% of the world GDP when the East India Company landed in India and became 18% in a period of 150 years of sheer loot and plunder. India reduced from 30% to 2%. The exact numbers were not known for a long time but still, the facts were truly clear about the tremendous economic and scientific growth of India in the pre-invasion period of India.
Will Durant, in 1930, in his book, ‘The Case for India’, strips the colonial rule completely and starts in the introduction saying,
‘I came away resolved to study living India as well as the India with the brilliant past; to learn more of this unique Revolution that fought with suffering accepted but never returned; to read the Gandhi of today as well as the Buddha of long ago. And the more I read the more I was filled with astonishment and indignation at the apparently conscious and deliberate bleeding of India by England throughout a hundred and fifty years. I began to feel that I had come upon the greatest crime in all history….’
He continues in the next chapter,
‘I wish to speak, in this chapter, with unaccustomed partiality and passion. I am poorly qualified to write of India: I have merely crossed it twice between east and west, and once from north to south, and seen hardly a dozen of its cities. And though I have prepared myself with the careful study of a hundred volumes, this has all the more convinced me that my knowledge is trifling and fragmentary in the face of a civilization five thousand years old, endlessly rich in philosophy, literature, religion and art, and infinitely appealing in its ruined grandeur and its weaponless struggle for liberty. If I write at all it is not only because I feel deeply about India, but because life cannot wait till knowledge is complete’.
This book was very well known at the time of Independence, but none of this gets a mention in any of our textbooks. We just grew up being ashamed of our country, its religion, its culture, and its arts. Today, there is a disconnect in the youth with the idea of India. We have sunk into a state where there is no patriotism or nationalism. In fact, the twisted ideology is out to convince that any idea of patriotism is fanatical.Get monthly updates
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Brahmins and the caste system: The reason for our evils
Brahmin bashing was a favorite trick of the British rule to create fissures within Indian society. The missionary institutions combined with imperialistic designs to blame everything bad in India on Hinduism and its caste system. Despite all evidence to the contrary, caste being a social construct based on labour and occupation, it got a negative image. The NCERT authors simply continued the theme of the colonials. The colonials confused jati with Varna and projected their Christian theology to create a vicious caste-system. SN Balgangadhara, Prakash Shah, and others have wonderfully dealt with this in a book called ‘Western Foundations of the Caste System’. In textbooks of successive classes, the slow indoctrination happened that the caste system was one of the most horrible elements about Hinduism; and how Brahmins took the whole country down by their brutal system of exploitation. The result were beautiful- every caste including Brahmins themselves hate Brahmins.
Culture and civilization vanished when invading fanatics burnt or destroyed libraries holding entire knowledge bases. It was fortunate that nothing of that sort happened in India. The Vedic culture, firmly preserved in the oral tradition, allowed transmission of the knowledge base across thousands of years in its pristine form from father to son and from the teacher to his pupils. The preservation in the oral route is one of the most amazing features of Indian culture, philosophy, and religion. It allowed a huge resistance to invasions and prevented wholesale conversion to other religions despite gross violent acts. The tradition of oral transmission is one of the strongest factors which has allowed the majority to stay Hindu. The colonials realised this and hence held Brahmins responsible for all social evils. The British colonials along with the missionaries created villains out of the Brahmins, dividing the society, to perpetuate their own rule. The post-Independence NCERT books did not change this discourse. The exploiter-exploited theme fitted well with their ideology and hence happily continued the trend.
Continuing discourse of the social evils and a primitive society
The Britishers focussed on the social evils of those times- Sati, child marriages, dowry, and caste to create a great discourse that Hinduism is a religion with all kinds of primitive practices. The defining paradigm of the western concept of religion- one god, one book, severely came in the way of their understanding of Sanatana Dharma. The few who did realised that it was far beyond any other religion in terms of philosophy and a way of living. But their voice was highly submerged.
‘Brainwashed Republic’ shows clearly and convincingly by a number of examples how indoctrination and deracination came about. The agenda filled authors in post-independent India suffered the same biases and misunderstandings like the colonials. Using boxes, highlights, and suggestive questions right from early classes, the NCERT authors just continued the narrative to place the seeds of discontent and shame at our culture, heritage, religious traditions, spirituality, and philosophy. The secular achievements in the fields of science, arts, metallurgy, mathematics, astronomy, and medicine reduced to small footnotes. The Indian student grew up believing that everything wonderful in the secular fields originated in the West. The dark ages and Renaissance apply to the West, in fact. However, the theme wrongly transferred to the East.
The dubious Aryan theory and its strong interiorisation
The Aryan invasion theory was the construct of a fantasy of German Indologists; British colonials eagerly took it up to bring an artificial divide between the North and the South. The Aryan invasion theory has no proof in archaeological or historical records. In fact, Harappan and Mohenjo-Daro excavations flew in the face of the Aryan theory. The present genetic studies have been the proverbial last nail in the coffin. Yet, our textbooks kept harping about the theory for years together with no revisions of the readings at any time.
The exploiter-exploited narrative fitted very well with the Marxist ideology and that continued in our textbooks. The repercussions of this pernicious theory- a near permanent fissure in relations between the North and the South Indians. An educated medical representative very recently told me proudly that he is a ‘Dravidian’ and different from the rest of the country. The whole Aryan-Dravidian divide is a myth but has become a reason for some of the most bitter politics of Tamil Nadu. An average Tamilian believes that most of them are Dravidians and the Brahmins are the Aryan invaders from the North. The Aryans had exploited them large scale. The reverse backlash has resulted in many Brahmins of Tamil Nadu leaving the state.
Where did we go wrong
The Colonials had a purpose in demeaning us and dividing us. But they left in 1947. After that, for seven decades, we have only ourselves to blame for the deep fissures in Indian society. The sad thing is that even after 70 years of Independence, we are not wiser.
Sanatana Dharma accepts all routes with equal love, including atheism. This is the reason that no faith faced persecution in this country. Secularism was an unnecessary story for us. Science is never at war with this Dharma. As Sri Aurobindo insisted, we made a mistake in giving up on our past Dharmic principles as a philosophy to rule the country. We went for an odd mix of the East and the West; also, a mix of Capitalism and Communism; and the results are there for everyone to see.
We grew up ashamed of our history and have ended up even hating ourselves. Today, our country has deep divisions and fissures. There is no feeling of nationalism or a sense of genuine pride. Each religion, language, caste, culture, and region feels alienated. The North-East, Tamil Brahmins, Dalits, Muslims, Biharis- each group feels alienated. The list is long. This has been due to a deadly combination of a desperate desire to win elections by creating groups; political leaders becoming an epitome of mismanagement and corruption and a dominant political ideology ignoring the principles of Sanatana Dharma. Agenda filled history writers showing the country in poor light have a large share in the blame, of course.
There is an urgent need to tell the truth without trying to offend or please. History can have interesting packaging, and the basic purpose of history should be to instill a sense of pride in ourselves. However, there is no need for false stories. India does not need it either. However, ideologues have infiltrated every conceivable institution- the universities and the media mainly and any attempt to correct the truth meets with a wholesale abuse and shouting, accusing of ‘saffronisation’ or ‘militant revisionism.’
Only the Germans chose to clearly depict their Nazi past in the history books after the war. By not denying anything, Germans are at peace with their Nazi past. The Muslims of today are in no way concerned with the horrors of the Islamic invasions in the past. A truthful depiction would have led to a greater harmony today in the country and a sense of ‘Indianness’ in everyone. When the truth comes later in bits and pieces, many feel cheated at the narrative which was handed down during the formative years. The Hindus, when they come to realize the past, almost feel tricked at the gross falsification of history. The past needs telling as it is without ruffling the present feathers. It is an immense talent and art which was beyond the agenda filled immature minds of the NCERT and its textbook writers.
The Britishers of course went one step further. They completely obliterated their colonial history. The Americans did not stress too much on the atrocities perpetrated on the native American Indians. A positive spin of huge proportions allows a youth growing up in these countries to feel that his or her country is the best in the world. European countries like France, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark Spain, sparingly mention, if at all, the colonial invasions and brutalities inflicted on the non-white worlds in its history books. It is a different kind of white-washing, but the citizens believe that they are the best in the world. It gives them confidence. Contrast that to Indians who go abroad feeling that they belong to a poor race, a depraved country with nothing much to show by way of culture or history. The sense of shame hangs constantly. Only recently, Indians seem to be coming out of their shell.
There are neutral historians in our country who should have the task of re-writing our history. A history of course to unite and create a proud country; not to create hate, malice, and division. The internal wars have become more dangerous for the country. The wholesome damage has shamed us; we know the ideology behind this. The book explains clearly and with all references, how it happened. The undoing for the future of the country needs a massive effort. A study of this book would be a good starting point.