[Published on dailyo.in Nov 19, 2015]
Our recent piece on the valedictory speech of the minister of HRD at a Kolkata workshop elicited many replies from the readers. Some found that we indulged in a personal attack, our piece lacked “logic” and “argumentation” and one of her secret admirers, in her defence, even sent us a link to a report by Saptadwipa Ghosal in The Echo of India. Such responses demand an adequate reply. Actually, we wanted to show how profound her new education policy is and we failed in demonstrating it. In this piece, through the use of sophisticated hermeneutics, we shall make our mistake good.
About personal attack, one of the authors has met Smriti twice so far and his impressions of her are very positive. Though rumours are rife about her abrasive and arrogant personality, she came across as a nice, pleasant and witty person in her conversations with him. Nothing in our article suggests anything about her personality, whether positive or negative. In this sense, we could not have indulged in a personal attack.
The second sense of personal attack involves impropriety, whether understood in terms of some vague notion of “good manners” that is prevalent among the fake intellectuals that populate the Indian academia or in the sense of being abusive. Only those who cannot read a text properly would see a sarcasm-laden text as either being abusive or lacking in good manners. We have no answer to give to those who cannot understand a text or know how to read it.
The third sense of personal attack involves the fallacy of ad hominem criticism. It is very well-known in India because it is the only kind of “criticism” that Ambedkarites and their sycophants use: challenge and reject some idea because it comes from the “Brahmins” and/or the “upper caste” members. This “radicalism” and “social justice” which they are taught in the Indian universities, especially in humanities and social science departments, as a heroic and valid criticism is an argumentative fallacy everywhere else in the world. One cannot reject an argument because of the person who says it; the truth and the validity of the argument do not depend on the nature of the person who puts the argument across. We did not reject anything that Smriti said in her speech because of who she is but because of what she said.
In all these three senses, our article cannot be seen as a personal attack on Smriti Irani by any reasonable person. However, it did attack her ideas, if she has any worth calling her own, because they are asinine, silly and dangerous. The hyperlink that her secret admirer sent us makes this fact even more painfully obvious. Surely, some salutary words are required about the HRD”s ground-breaking policy initiatives, as The Echo of India presents them, and also to meet the objection that we presented nothing of “substance” in our earlier piece.
Apparently, Dr Nagesh Thakur, a professor at Shimla University, introduced the “10 points” discussed at the Kolkata workshop that the HRD is going to implement. We begin with a crucial assumption that this man is not one of Smriti Irani”s favourites. She appears to favour people in terms of their degrees of incompetence, immorality and corruption: one of the blue-eyed boys in the servile entourage of the minister, for instance, has “the UGC in the palm of his hands”, as one of his erstwhile collaborators proudly and openly declares today. In any other country, this man would be languishing behind bars; in India, under the able guidance of Smriti Irani, this man occupies a whole series of plum positions and lords over multiple commissions with many more in the offing. Thus, assuming that Dr Thakur is a man of intellectual and moral integrity and, therefore, not one of the minister”s favourites, to read some of the “most potent points” that came up for discussion is to taste the “most potent” recipe for generating instant ulcers. Here, we will look at two such.
The first “potent” idea
One ingredient in that recipe is constituting a “national education commission in India” that “will run independently, in an autonomous manner with integrated thoughts“. The previous sentence is an exemplary instance, if there was ever one, of disintegrated “thoughts” coming from disintegrating minds.
What does “integration” mean in this context? This is not a word-quibble, when it is about a national education policy. One could speak of “physical”, “psychological” or “religious” or “spiritual” integration, for example, but none of these makes sense with respect to thoughts. One could speak of “logical”, “conceptual” or “cognitive” integration of thoughts in a sensible way, of course. However, this use of integration requires that one specifies the sets of thoughts with which any particular set of thought ought to be integrated. Should some set of thoughts, for instance, be integrated with “Vedic” or “Upanishadic” thoughts? Or, perhaps, to aim at the highest and the impossible, namely, “integrated” with Ambedkar’s non-existent thoughts? This is not an avenue worth exploring while interpreting the sentence here since we will come back to this towards the end; besides, the word “integration” in this context qualifies the word “thoughts” to tell us something about their nature. The thoughts of the commission should not be disjointed but “integrated”, suggests the sentence. Thus, we have to look elsewhere.
Probably, the HRD is vaguely thinking (even if in a “disintegrated” fashion) of the following two possibilities: (a) holistic thinking, or (b) inter- or multi- disciplinary thinking. Very frankly, we cannot imagine what it is to think “holistically” except in health care (“holistic medicine”) or in semantics (“meaning holism”). We doubt whether her blue-eyed boy that we spoke about or the current favourite person in her entourage would have even heard of “meaning holism”. Smriti could not have; nor could her advisor excelling in citing Sanskrit shlokas or those bureaucrats who are drafting the national educational policy with great care and concern. “Holistic medicine” cannot function as a paradigm for framing policies about teaching physics (unless her vernacular geniuses, unknown to the republic of letters but doing cutting-edge research in physics in Bhojpuri language, have come up with “holistic physics”) or Integral calculus. Thus, the only option is that the national commission has “integrated thoughts” in the sense that it thinks inter or multi-disciplinarily.
There are only two kinds of people who can undertake such a task in, to take an example, the domain of mathematics. The first are the multitudes doing research in social, cultural, psychological and cognitive foundations of mathematics; the second are unsung geniuses like the Infosys founder Narayan Murthy, one such typical individual, who can hold forth on any subject under the sun with a clarity and originality that would put an Einstein to shame. Clearly, choosing the first is not an option: if it is, the national education commission would swell in size to millions with most of them coming from Europe and the US (unless, of course, Smriti’s vernacular geniuses in Tulu have accomplished this wondrous task already). That is because of the number of people doing research in all scientific fields and disciplines in this manner is not in single digits nor are they to be found in India. That leaves only one other option: induct windbags and empty heads to sit on the national commission on education. Now, this option makes perfect sense: such an illustrious bunch of intellectuals will truly be “autonomous” from all constraints imposed by disciplined thinking and “will run independently” of all scientific knowledge. Given that they will have no thoughts of any kind, being the null set, the group is tightly “integrated” and well-structured. Indeed, this is a very “potent” idea as the reporter puts it but one capable of destroying whatever little education that is left in this country.
The second “potent” idea
Consider the next “potent idea” that the HRD is going to implement: “The new education policy must reflect Indian ethos and philosophies along with importance for all Indian languages in the higher education”. The italicised part of the previous sentence is a real humdinger. Let us reflect a bit on what it could possibly mean and what it will definitely entail.
The first question is: what is this “Indian” ethos? To use the language of the postcolonials in India, another pernicious group in the academia, this is a “contested concept”. That is to say, today there is a severe “power” struggle to determine the meaning of these two words. Once this question comes into existence, there arises their next favourite questions, which are inane everywhere else except among the postcolonials in India: (a) “who” represents the Indian “ethos”- the “Brahmins”, the “upper castes”, the “OBC”s” or “the Dalits”? (b) “who” speaks for these groups? Unless these two questions are “settled” to everyone’s satisfaction it is ridiculous to introduce it as the aim of a national education policy.
Let us sidestep this issue for a moment and say that “truth”, “knowledge” and “intellectual integrity”, etc. are being talked about here. Would this do? No, it would not, because these are not “Indian” ethos but of every kind of serious research. Consequently, this is not adequate either. Further, does the education policy intend to induce an “ethos” of a people, an “ethos” of a culture, an “ethos” of a society or an “ethos” of a civilisation, or, failing all these, an “ethos” of a group that shouts the loudest (like the Ambedkarites and their sycophants, for instance), the “chosen” or the “best”? Or, perhaps, the ethos of doing research? The talk of “Indian ethos” is so silly in this context that to propound it as a policy measure is to out-beat the most insane policy that the Congress party ever implemented. And most policies of the Congress party regarding education have been insane.
Consider the issue we sidestepped. Who represents whom and who should speak for whom? In India, this issue has taken proportions that defy even the insanity of lunatics. When, everywhere in the world, such people would be admitted to mental institutions, in India they become professors in the universities. The right caste certificate and the chanting the Ambedkar-naam with the right intensity and devotion will propel you to a state or central employment quicker than you can say “presto” or “abracadabra”.
Be it as that may, these questions have no reasonable answers. In principle, anyone can represent and speak for anyone else as long as we know what should be spoken about. This elementary idea in political philosophy has escaped the grasp of Indian intellectuals because they are more than mesmerized by something that paralyses the brain completely. The best way to indicate that state of affairs is to provide evidence about the paralysis first and then go on to talk about the nature of the paralysis and its relationship to the national education policy.
Evidences: People, especially the secularist intellectuals of India, are against “idol worship” and deny the causal efficacy of mantras in the real world. We are always doubly astounded by this phenomenon: how can people who are living proofs of what they deny, negate the reality of the foundation on which they stand?
Consider the innumerable (almost infinite) photographs, busts and statues of Ambedkar in both private and public places in India. We do not know of a single secular intellectual who does not piously bow down to these relics of Ambedkar: they take out processions of his images, celebrate his birthday and mourn his passing, chant his name in great fervour and piety, name children, schools, hospitals, streets and townships in his name, bow down to his images with great reverence… And the secular intellectuals who do all these are supposed to be against “idol worship”!
This is true not just of “secular” intellectuals. It is more pronounced in those who are called the “Hindu Fundamentalists”. In fact, the fortune of Ambedkarites is on the upswing under the rule of the BJP in India. While the almost bankrupt Maharashtra treasury groans under the weight of drought and decades of incompetent governments, its chief minister spent nearly 50 crores buying a house in London where Ambedkar apparently stayed once. In less than a decade, that government will have spent Rs 100 crores on that house to transform it into a religious shrine. Fadnavis even declared Ambedkar to be “the” greatest Buddhist scholar ever. That being the case, we wonder why the Dalai Lama and others talk about Nagarjuna or Chandra Kirthi. Surely, “the annihilation of the caste system” is indescribably superior to the mulamadhyamikakarika of Nagarjuna.
When Fadnavis waxes eloquent about Ambedkar and bows piously with eyes closed and hands folded before his bust, rumours abound that Modi is involved in serious diplomatic negotiations with the British government in order to allow extraordinary regulations to be observed in the Ambedkar Pilgrimage Centre in London: Modi apparently wants to forbid the devotees from walking in the pilgrimage house. They are supposed to crawl on their knees and lick the holy ground. We suspect that the British government is raising objections to such measures but, we are sure, Modi is heroically holding firm and affirming his Indianness and bhakti in this regard.
One wonders though why the entire “opposition” is silent about the Pilgrimage Centre and regarding such a conspicuous waste of tax payers’ money. Would they show the same revered attitude if Fadnavis celebrated the “teen murtis” or “three jewels” of Maharashtra, namely, Ambedkar, Hegdewar and Golwalkar, in an identical manner? If Ambedkar, till the late 70’s an insignificant “leader” of a small minority, can become God of the Nation today, why not a Golwalkar who is also, by all accounts, a “leader” of even a bigger group of Hindus? Would the Centre in Delhi create study centres in memory of Din Dayal Upadhyaya or Shyamprasad Mukherji with the tax payers’ money? To do so, it appears to us, requires acts of courage or foolishness, depending on where you are coming from; to do the same for Ambedkar merely requires servility, which Fadnavis and Modi appear to possess in abundance.
As far as those who deny that mantras have no efficacy in the real world, they seem to have no idea what the chanting of Ambedkar’s name causes: if you do it regularly, loudly, diligently and with the right amount of passion, worldly favours are granted, gates of power go open and promotions are guaranteed. How, then, can anyone deny the efficacy of the mantras when mere namasmarane of Ambedkar has these incredible effects?
Back to the argument: If these are evidences for the paralysis, what is the nature of paralysis? It has to do with the psychological effects of joining a cult or a religious sect. In the India of today, Ambedkarismhas become a cult: to join it, you have to renounce your past (say, of coming either from the “upper caste” or for being under the influence of “Brahmins”); you have to punish those who refuse to be converted (the terror tactics of excommunication, brow-beating, physical beating, threats, letters of complaint written to the SC/ST commission and the president of India, etc.); you have to intimidate your opponents and reward the faithful; you need prophets and divinity; a charismatic leader… Every single property of a cult can be discerned in Ambedkarism, the religion of the Ambedkarites.
A national education policy ought to set up research centres and institutes. It should not set up pilgrimage shrines and finance priests, Rabbis or imams to study their holy texts. The UGC and the ICSSR so far have mostly financed nothing except projects set up to study and propagate a cultic and sectarian theology. Under Smriti, this tendency has only been encouraged further. Her educational policy does not stimulate the emergence of science but the expansion of the Ambedkarian cult.
This being the case, we can now ask the question: Whose “ethos” is “the” Indian “ethos” then? Answer: those of Ambedkarism. Who represents that cult and can speak for it? Why, the Ambedkarites, to be sure. They do that in “the name” of the Dalits, of course. What is “the ethos” of these Ambedkarites? Look around you in the Indian universities and government institutions where they are in the majority, you will discover the facts of the matter. The second “potent” point transforms these old facts into the “New” and “national” education policy.
These facts are indicative of a process that confirms one of the oldest ideas about the origin of religion. That idea says that God (or gods) is/are human creations and that people transform some human beings into gods. That is the process that is occurring in India: in about 100 years, if things go the way they are going, Ambedkar will have become GOD and not just one of his avatars or reincarnations. Even if Ambedkarism always remains a cult, it will be soon recognised as a “major religion”, more important in India than, say, “Hinduism”. Indira Gandhi began this process in order to liquidate Jagjivan Ram and his influence on the Harijans. The successive governments since then have faithfully pursued her political strategy by transforming it into a national religious and educational policy. The current BJP government, under the charismatic and able Leader Modi, is accelerating that trend: never did Ambedkarites have such success as they have now. Ambedkarism is rapidly taking the visible shape of an institutionalised religious cult.
How exactly does this process work? As we have already shown, the namasmarane of Ambedkar has miraculous powers: it gives phala to those who chant it vigorously. To the individual, it gives worldly success; to the political parties, it yields them votes and brings them to power; to the Ambedkarites, it provides them the boon they desire, irrespective of which party is in power. This being the case, his texts obviously will have very mysterious and potent powers: if your read his “annihilation of the caste system”, your brain gets slowly but inexorably paralysed because the text takes over the critical centres of your brain first; if you read two of his books, your central nervous system succumbs next; if you go further, there occurs a total and irredeemable failure of both the brain and the central nervous system leaving most physiological processes intact. At that stage, you reach “Shunyata”: the highest state in the Buddhist tradition. However, Ambedkarism takes you one step higher: the world remains full and the entire Shunya remains only inside your head. If you persist, then you are elevated as a university professor and have a chance to become an acolyte. This religious profundity requires gospels written by prophets. Currently, many wannabes in Indian higher educational institutions are vying for the position of becoming one of His prophets by writing His biography. However, the competition is rather fierce, as Arundhati Roy discovered to her great discomfiture. Competition, we all know, brings out the best in people but Ambedkarism seems to embrace this principle only half-heartedly though.
However, there is something “new” in the BJP policy as it is expressed in the NEP that Smirti has choreographed. The “ethos” of the Indian society that it wants to cement is to be found in the gopsel: not in the gospel according to Ambedkar but in the Gospel of Ambedkar, the holy texts of Ambedkarism. The objectless thoughts of Ambedkar (the highest phase in Zen Buddhism is to think objectless thoughts) will be “integrated” by the “autonomous” and “independently” functioning national education commission to provide the children with the Ambedkarite ethos, which is also the “Indian Ethos”. What more do you want? Truly, this education policy is new and unprecedented deserving of applause from all and sundry. Surely, our hermeneutic exercise has revealed unanticipated depths and the matchless profundity of thoughts that swirl in the cranium of the HRD minister, Smriti Irani, by now.
There are more “potent” facts to speak about, where each has the potency to blow the Indian Education system to smithereens, and they can also be rendered hermeneutically profound. To do so would be an overkill in the context of this piece. But we promise to come back to this issue again. Surely, the current Indian scene generates pathos: it has tragic consequences for the future of India. Every single “potent point” made in that Kolkata conference is chilling in its implications in terms of what it holds for the Indian youth. If implemented, as it surely will be, it will accelerate the process of disintegration of India that Indira Gandhi initiated more than four decades ago. Every single government since then simply followed the same course; today, the BJP is accelerating that process. The secularists and the Ambedkarites should clap and cheer: their dream is coming true at last. The BJP should be voted back to power, in case they do not achieve their goal within the course of this term. Kapil Sibal, without a doubt, contributed enormously in his own incompetent way to the destruction of the Indian education system. But his success in doing so does not hold a candle to the realisations of the most competent minister of the HRD we have ever had: Smriti Irani. She will completely destroy and decimate Indian education. The only “development”, to chant that famous Modi’s Mantra again, that we see is the accelerated development of the disastrous process that Indira Gandhi initiated decades ago. Perhaps, this is what the HRD ministry has been aiming for all along. All power to Smriti.
- Why Smriti Irani as HRD minister was a terrible choice
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