Dyal Singh College’s New Name Shows ‘Saffronisation’ of Education
State-driven measures of instilling patriotism deprives students of developing a sense of critical enquiry.
The political discourse in India is running in binaries – secular versus communal, with the latter competing to redefine the nation and national identity on narrow lines. One manifestation of this is the politics of ‘rechristening’.
Since the rechristening of a road named after Mughal ruler Aurangzeb (perceived to be a despot by the BJP), the communal narrative of the ‘saffron brigade’ has gained strength in legislative assemblies across India, thus, percolating into educational institutions.
This time, the saffron onslaught has been on Dyal Singh (Evening) College, which comes under the University of Delhi.
Undermining Dyal Singh’s Philosophy
The general body of Dyal Singh College (DSC) sparked controversy after they decided to change the evening college’s name to ‘Vande Mataram Mahavidyalaya’ at a meeting on 17 November. The college, which was set up in 1958, was named after Dyal Singh Majithia, who founded The Tribune (1881) and the Punjab National Bank (1894).
The name change undermines Majithia’s legacy and principle of ‘secular education’ that was the basis of the educational trust he had set up in 1895. Moreover, the college’s new name reflects the larger communal politics that dominate India today.
Tracing the tradition of the college to the life and thought of Majithia, who was secular, progressive, and inclusive, his philosophy of nationalism stands challenged by the politics that surrounds the late 19th century poem ‘Vande Mataram’ – a rallying cry of ‘true’ Indians who use it as an ideological basis for Hindu revivalism.
The Rise of Hindu Supremacy?
Flowing from the pen of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay – an avid Hindu nationalist – who was not only overly religious but also supremacist in his religious outlook, the poem ‘Vande Mataram’ helped him give form to his idea of nationalism that “only the love of religion can make a nation mighty and glorious.”
But in a country as diverse as India, is the proponent of Vande Mataram preaching the rise of Hinduism in politics? Therefore, the government’s move to rechristen colleges, universities, and streets speaks volumes about the political complacency among the Indian youth and the middle-class, which has made them comfortably accept the government’s every move – all in the name of nationalism.
While it is true that the majority of Indians continue to live in denial, it cannot be ruled out that irreparable damage has been done to the secular fabric of the country.
Unfortunately, such state-driven measures of implanting patriotism and invoking cultural nationalism not only deprives students of developing a sense of critical enquiry but also distances them from the traditions of public debate and intellectual pluralism that have always been a part of India’s history.
Distorting History, Wiping Out Mughal Past
There is a pattern – a deliberate design – in the events that have happened in the last three years, which symbolise the politics of saffronisation taking place within educational institutions and looming over extant historical monuments.
The current political dispensation aims at instilling valour and narcissistic pride in Indian culture, which, according to them, is limited to the ancient past. However, it must be noted that any glorification of India’s past cannot be divorced from its glorious medieval past.
Incidentally, the current government has had a tendency of distorting history and creating a demon out of the ‘other’ – the ‘other’ here primarily refers to the Indian Muslim and our Mughal past.
What remains to be seen is what India’s future holds. Will the saffronisation of India’s polity end here or will it walk the trajectory of a civilisation in decay?
(Adil Bhat is assistant editor with New York-based magazine Café Dissensus. His work has been published in Himal Southasian, The Hindu, Dawn, The Wire, Kindle, Kashmir Ink, Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Life. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same)
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