Saffronisation Creeping in Bengal Through Vanvasi Kalyan Kendra

Under the garb of education, Bengal’s right-wing schools are busy promoting Hindutva agenda, writes Eviane Leidig.

3 min read
Hindi Female

A month following TMC victory in West Bengal’s elections may easily give the façade that Indian politics is slowly shifting Left again. After all, a regional party committed to aiding the poor through redistributive measures, in the name of inclusive solidarity garnered landslide support. The BJP seems to have become an obsolete force despite its great efforts in the campaign.

Of course, West Bengal has a historical legacy of left-wing politics under the Communist Party’s thirty-year reign. But as I have suggested before, Indian politics is increasingly undergoing a massive shift—albeit one paralleling global trends.

Today, politics is no longer just about ideology. It is centred on identity. TMC appeals to a significant portion of the electorate as an alternative to strong incumbent parties, tarnished with a public image of corruption and bureaucracy.


Agenda in the Name of Education

Anti-establishment politics is the new norm. This international wave of populism—that is, politics for the people—demands a change to the status quo. Traditional avenues of representation have failed to produce transparent outcomes.

It should, therefore, come as no surprise that West Bengal is also a breeding ground for the right-wing Hindutva movement.

We are witnessing a growing number of right-wing schools in the state run by Vanvasi Kalyan Kendra (VKK) and Ekal Vidyalaya. These organisations operate under the BJP’s wider network of affiliates within the Sangh Parivar, promoting Hindutva through educational initiatives.

Such schools push an agenda that glorifies a nostalgic Vedic past, where Hindustan is an exemplar of superior civilisation. This amnestic reading neglects India’s rich pluralistic society that is otherwise categorised as an ‘invasion’, ‘barbarian’, or as the BJP euphemistically puts it, ‘a crisis’.


Manipulating Curriculum

With new appointments, including RSS members, to the Central Advisory Board of Education under Modi’s government, there has been a clear restructuring of curriculum favouring a Hindutva agenda. During the proceedings of the sixty-third meeting of CABE (Central Advisory Board of Education) in August 2015, it was recorded that:

Dr Neera Yadav, Education Minister, Jharkhand was of the view that inclusion of yoga and moral education as compulsory subjects would be of great help to children. She stressed the need of exams on quarterly/half-yearly/yearly basis in order to improve the decline in education standards.
Sixty-third meeting of CABE in August 2015

A leader of the BJP, Yadav’s push for ‘moral education’ reflects a greater movement opting to instill religio-cultural norms through ‘values’ driven curriculum. Morality ensues so-called discipline and spirituality within a secular, modern Indian society that has failed at ‘character building’.

Hindu nationalist groups such as VKK and Ekal Vidyalaya embrace Hindu identity and culture as authentic Indian embodiment. Anything otherwise is considered anti-national and thus, a threat to national security, i.e. Hindu security. Stigmatising Muslims as the enemy within and characterising them as ‘terrorists’ easily fits into a narrative of fear.

This rationale prompts Hindu nationalists to demand for the religious conversion of Christians and Muslims in West Bengal, often through violence-driven ghar vapsi. It likewise reinforces an Orientalist narrative that depicts Muslims engaged in ‘love jihad’ with Hindu women.


Under the Garb of National Integration

Right-wing schools are the hotbeds for developing these attitudes. The VKK and Ekal Vidyalaya dominate poor socio-economic areas inhabited by adivasis and tribes—prime targets of state negligence.

By appealing to the most vulnerable within society, Hindu nationalists are able to garner support in exchange for providing a public good. Corruption operates under the guise of national integration.

Ironically, Indian classrooms were previously spaces of indoctrination for British colonialism. There is a clear attempt to rewrite history at the source.

West Bengal continues to remain polarised as recent communal riots highlight a state of heightened tension. In order to understand this phenomenon, we need to look beyond party politics and towards grassroots Hindutva influence. Saffronisation of education has transgressed empty propaganda.

(The writer is the Social Media Editor for ‘Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism’, an online forum. She can be reached at @evianeleidig. 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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