Friday, April 12, 2024

Indian knowledge system and pseudo…


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By H. Srikanth

Introduction of Indian Knowledge System (IKS) at all levels of education is one of the avowed objectives of the New Education Policy (NEP 2020). In pursuit of the objective, the Ministry of Education and educational bodies like the UGC and AICTE have constituted different committees to draft the syllabi and suggest modes of executing its goal of promoting the IKS. The UGC is training hundreds of teachers to teach the courses at school levels which are declared as part of IKS. Free online courses are designed and the students are encouraged to opt for the courses. UGC has introduced IKS as one of the subjects for UGC-NET exams, and seeks to incentivize research on topics adjudged as IKS. Several conferences, workshops and seminars are financed and organized across the country to emphasize the need for introduction of the IKS at the school, college and university levels. As Meghalaya is embracing the NEP 2020, it is necessary for the policy makers, academicians, teachers and students in the state to understand what this IKS is and whether we should welcome the introduction of IKS.
There is no doubt that India had its own glorious past. We had our own scientists and scholars well-versed in the fields of mathematicians, astronomy, medicine, linguistics, arts and architecture. Mention may be made of stalwarts like Aryabhatta, Bhaskara, Kanad, Varahamitra, Susruta, Charaka, Pathanjali and others. It is necessary to make the students in our country aware of their intellectual contributions, and none would have any objection if the purpose of introducing the IKS is just that. But if one examines carefully the utterances and declarations of politicians and policymakers in the country, it is not difficult to understand that the IKS is a political project introduced in pursuit of the Hindutva ideology of the ruling regime.
What is the Indian Knowledge System (IKS) that the government is talking of? If one looks at it critically, the India that the IKS talks of is only ancient India, that too Hindu India. You rarely come across the advocates of IKS talking of the rich materialist and agnostic intellectual traditions such as by Charvaka, Buddhism and Jainism that were critical of Vedantic traditions in ancient India. They also ignore and denigrate the contributions of Muslim scholars and intellectuals who were the constitutive part of Indian heritage. Contributions of modern scientists like C.V Raman, Jagdish Chandran Bose, Vishweshwaraiah, etc., are also not their focus. In substance, what they seek to nurture in the name of IKS is the blind belief that all Indian knowledge is inscribed in the Vedas and Upanishads, and all that modern science says is already known to our ancient Munis and Rishis. Starting with the Prime Minister of the country, several other ministers, bureaucrats, so-called scientists and some Vice-Chancellors in the country are vying with one another to make us believe that our ancient scholars knew everything about the university, about atom, stem-cell and test tube technology, plastic surgery, aviation and war technologies. Secular academic forums like the Indian History Congress, the Indian Science Congress, etc., are used to promote such lies and half-truths. One Minister in the government openly declared Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution as nonsense and said that he does not believe that monkeys were his ancestors. Subsequently, the lesson on Darwin’s theory of evolution was removed from the CBSE syllabus from the Class 9 and 10 class text books. As part of the IKS, UGC is introducing courses such as ‘cow vignan’, astrology and yoga in different universities. The government is promoting research on ‘panchgavya’ which claims that the mixture of cow urine and cow dung can cure several diseases, including cancer. Systematic efforts are made to denigrate Allopathy and project that indigenous medicines are a panacea for all diseases. Taking advantage of such an anti-science environment, entrepreneurs like Baba Ramdev dared to heckle our scientists’ ability to produce the vaccines, and he promoted a cough and cold syrup produced in his Patanjali Ashram as an antidote to the Coronavirus. In the name of imparting ethical values, some state governments wedded to Hindutva ideology are trying to make the study of the Bhagavad Gita compulsory and writing books as if all the Hindu mythological characters are real men and women in history. The same governments oppose the convent schools and the madarasas for imparting religious education.
Can India become a Vishwa Guru by fostering such obscurantist and retrogressive ideas in the schools and colleges? Does the IKS guarantee jobs for our students in the highly competitive global markets? Let the defenders of the IKS honestly answer whether in times of medical emergencies, they and their family members worship the ‘spirits’ and consume cow urine, or rush to AIIMS or to America for medical treatment? If our ancestors knew everything about ‘Vimana Shastra’ and atom bombs, why is the Indian government spending thousands of crores of rupees to buy airplanes and war technologies from foreign countries? If all knowledge is in the Vedas and the Upanishads, what prevents the Indian government from using them to develop automobiles, computers, cell-phones, etc., using those technologies? Why are we begging the foreign companies to come and invest in India to manufacture different goods that the country needs?
The UGC, which is forced to cut allocations for the universities and colleges, is very liberal in financing conferences and academic courses on the so-called Indian Knowledge Systems. Several NGOs like Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, close to the RSS ideology, are devising the courses and organizing the conferences with the help of the government. One should only attend the government sponsored seminars, symposia and workshops on the IKS to understand who all are gathering in such congregations. The IKS has now become a launch pad for many aspiring mediocre academics to earn money and positions, to seek jobs and promotions, to receive invitations as speakers and discussants, and to come close to the power centers. The rewards are so high that many pragmatic teachers, principals, and Vice-Chancellor are competing with one another to prove how committed they are to introducing and teaching the so-called Indian Knowledge Systems in their educational institutions.
Every rational human being knows that knowledge is universal. It has no national boundaries. We all acknowledge and honour the scientists who have contributed to the treasure house of human knowledge and paved the way for human welfare. When we talk of the contributions of Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Edison, Einstein, etc., it makes little sense to know to which countries they belong. So is the case with our own scientists–from Arya Bhatta and Susruta to M.S. Swaminathan and Abdul Kalam. True, India had some of the greatest minds in the past. But such great minds were there in the Greek city states, Roman Empire, in Arabia, in the Chinese, Egyptian and other civilizations. To claim that only we knew everything and others were fools reminds us of our colonial masters who believed that only the white men are knowledgeable and the people living in other parts of the globe are all illiterate and ignorant. We need to fight against the colonization of knowledge by the west, but that should not make us frogs in the well who cannot think beyond the little spaces where they breed. It is foolish to assume that everything declared as Indian is good and great, and all that emanated from other places are foreign and bad. Harping on the past glory makes little sense.
Despite its economic backwardness, India has made tremendous progress in atomic energy, space technologies, agriculture and medicine. Today our doctors, scientists and technocrats are visible in every part of the globe. All these could happen because of modern sciences, not because of the Vedas and Vedanta. The manner in which and the purpose for which the government seeks to introduce the Indian Knowledge System in the education system are objectionable, as they are narrow and retrogressive in their vision. Far from fighting the colonial mindset, it promotes a communal mindset, instills false pride and fosters blind hatred against everything and everyone dubbed as ‘foreign’ and hence alien to ancient Indian traditions and heritage. Several progressive and democratic minded intellectuals, academicians, and scientists in the country, therefore, view this ideological project named the Indian Knowledge System as threats to secular and rational values enshrined in the Indian Constitution.


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