Karnataka’s NEP curriculum recommendations have not just looked favourably at Manusmriti and called Pythagoras theorem “fake news,” but have also erased caste from the annals of Indian history. The position paper, compiled by nine experts, has also foregrounded ‘Hindu genocides’ and traced the origin of many scientific and mathematical principles, including Fibonacci series and duration of lunar revolution, to ancient India.
Karnataka is the first state in the country where National Education Policy (NEP) will be implemented. This year, the NEP curriculum will be introduced at the pre-primary level in Anganwadis in the state. Recently, a textbook revision committee appointed by the state had to be dismantled owing to widespread protests against what was considered ‘saffronisation’ of textbooks.
Devalaya, Thinnai, and 'Genocide'
As per the position paper (a copy of which is with The Quint), which draws heavily from Knowledge Systems and Practices of India (KTPI) introduced as an elective subject by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), caste was not practised in ancient schooling system.
“Schools used to be conducted in Devālaya premises or in the courtyards (tiṇṇai) of influential people, and subjects such as arithmetic and language which had immediate practical value to everyone was taught to all…no discrimination based on caste was made…,” the paper read.
While Devalayas are places of worship or temples where Dalits and other historically marginalised castes were not allowed entry in pre-independence era, Thinnai are courtyards of homes, predominantly of Brahmins, where cultural exchanges between dominant castes used to take place. In Karnataka, as recently as May 2022, a Dalit family had to take police protection to enter a temple in Yadgir, indicating that untouchability is still practised in parts of the state.
Further, according to the paper, Manusmriti is a text which “contains lofty ideals of public and societal good.” The Manusmriti is being opposed only by “a section” despite it having “injunctions on prohibiting the spilling of pollutants, leftovers, blood or poison in water…,” the paper read.
The paper has also sought attention to “genocide of Hindus.” It read, “…In our country it is almost impossible to have a dispassionate narration about Hindu genocides that have happened in various centuries.” The paper further has made suggestions to “reminisce” alleged genocides of “Malabar Hindus, Maharashtrian Brahmins, and Kashmiri Hindus.”
The reference to Malabar “genocide” is an allusion to Mapila rebellion of 1921, which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Kerala had called the “first massacre of Hindus in Kerala.” Further, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has been claiming that after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, several Chitpavan Brahmins (the caste to which Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse belonged) were killed in retaliatory riots in Maharashtra.
Copious literature is available on the “Maharashtra genocide” on right-wing leaning sites including OpIndia. Recently, Kashmir Files (2022), which depicted the murders of Kashmiri Pandits had evoked widespread appreciation, with several BJP-ruled states allowing tax-free screenings of the film.
Invaders, Colonisers, Bharata, and the Moon
The position paper on Knowledge of India is unabashedly critical of “invaders and colonisers” whose narrative of history, culture, and philosophy Indian, particularly Karnataka, textbooks have been following. The paper, which lashes out against “woke culture,” read:
“For we have a group with critical power who obliterate all acts of evils perpetrated by the invaders and colonizers of Bhārata on one hand, and on the other we have a naïve group who think everything was hunky dory in the past and that all cases from the past are straightforward like an open-shut case.”
To make up for this lacunae, the authors have suggested that “Bharatiya” names of people and places be written in “international transliteration scheme” with “appropriate diacritic marks.” This would mean Rabindranath Tagore be spelt as Ravindranath Thakur, the position paper read. The paper has suggested that some words like Dharma should be used in its “original sense” and not as religion, which is a “truncated” form.
It is to be noted that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) follows a similar classification for words including Hindutva. Hinduism is not the right word to describe the Hindu religion but Hindutva is, the organisation has been maintaining.
While these could be called cosmetic changes, the paper has suggested that contributions of Indian kings, queens, philosophers, and mathematicians should figure copiously in textbooks.
“The history of great kingdoms like the Marāṭhas, Coḷas, and Vijayanagara as well as the early Kāśmīra dynasties, Kaliṅgas, Gaṅgas, Gajapatis, Kākatiyas, Ahoms, Ceras, Pallavas, Pāṇḍyas, Pālas, Senas, and Pratihāras either get a passing mention or not even that. The crucial role they played in our history must be elaborated," the paper read.
It is to be noted that the paper finds no mention of Mughal rulers, who, it seems, could fall under the category of “invaders.” The paper also derides, “British malevolence” for “distortions” of the “age-old civilisation” of Bharata.
While Indian history has no reference to a civilisation called “Bharata,” the paper has defined “Bharata” based on Vishnu Purana as “the land north of the oceans and south of the Himayalas.”
The paper has stated unequivocally that the “idea of Bharata” resonates in the utterance of “Sri Ramachandra” and is “reaffirmed” by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s Vandemataram and the idea of “Bharat Mata.”
Drawing from the need to define India based on what the paper calls “civilisational continuity,” the authors have suggested changes to the teaching of scientific and mathematical principles.
While the Pythagoras theorem is referred to as “fake news” in the paper, it has recommended “Bharatiya Mathematics” as an elective subject for Classes 11 and 12. Also recommending integration of Taittriya Samhita and its reference to “moon and his wives” into the study of astronomy.
“…The moon takes about 27.3 days to complete one apparent revolution round the earth. Then introduce the concept of 27 nakṣatrās to keep track of the position of the moon. This has also been encoded as a story in the Taittirīya Saṁhitā where the Moon is said to have 27 wives and that he spends each night with one wife.”
Based on these recommendations, the paper has suggested that teachers have to be trained and sections should be dedicated to books on Knowledge of India in school and college libraries.
Fibonacci Series, Teacher Training, and Libraries
The paper, which links several mathematical principles to ancient India, concludes that the Fibonacci series (an infinite series where each number is a sum of the previous two, eg: 0,1, 1, 2, 3…) is based on Kannada poems. According to the paper, the Fibonacci series arises from Kannada the metrical pattern of padas and “the short and long time taken for pronunciation.”
The paper read, “Making such connections would not only impart to our students the ‘Knowledge of India’ but also instill in them an inter-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary approach to knowledge acquisition.”
Such connections can be instilled by making Knowledge of India an integral part of the school and college curriculum, the paper has observed.
As per the recommendations, a ‘Knowledge of India’ cell or department should be created in every school, with “pictures and facts” displayed on the board. The schools should also allocate “defined learning period on the weekly timetable” for the subject. “Every school library is recommended to have a separate section titled ‘Knowledge of India’ that showcases books and reading materials on this specific topic.”
Schools could also arrange inter-class quiz competitions, debates, and recitation competition on the subject, the paper has recommended. “This could be considered in the months of August and January as the nation celebrates its Independence and Republic Day,” the paper read.
The paper has also recommended that schools form tie-ups for research with organisations “specialising in Indian knowledge systems.” As per the paper, these organisations could include the Minister of Education’s recommended list of institutions including Isha Foundation, Coimbatore and Vedic Vignan Kendra, Varanasi.
The position paper, which was submitted to Department of State Educational Research and Training (DSERT), is expected to be considered for implementation by the Karnataka government.