The state of Haryana, headed by a former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Pracharak, Manohar Lal Khattar, is fully invested in saffronising the state. Following setting up of RSS shakhas in public gyms, the State now will provide free land to the Gurukuls, which along with providing free education for children would impart “moral values, yoga, and patriotism.”
The Chief Minister was chief guest at an event on ‘relevance of the gurukul system in the present era’ organised by Panchnad Shodh Sansthan, Chandigarh on August 7, 2018. Mukul Kanitkar, who is the national organising secretary of the Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal(BSM), an outfit of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in the education sector, was the main speaker at the event. The speeches of both the CM and Kanitkar in the event espoused the beliefs of its host Panchnad Shodh Sansthan, that today “Bharatiya” values, heritage, way of life and products are scoffed at and this needs to be fixed.
The democratically elected CM does not see providing health and education facilities for free as a duty of the government. A report in the Indian Express noted the CM saying, “as per the ancient system, it was the moral responsibility of the society to provide facilities of health and education to the people free of cost, but ironically, today on one hand the common man lacks ample resources to get these facilities, the resourceful or rich people spent immense wealth on such facilities.”
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The CM, at the event which was a gathering of mainly associates of RSS, claimed that the State Government has allocated a major chunk of the state budget on providing free education to children. However, the education system in Haryana has been in news for increasing dropout rates and bad teacher-student ratio. In early July 2018, a report said, the number of students who opted out of formal education in the academic year 2016-17 was 5,87,722. They report also stated that 52,947 out of 1,49,947 posts of teachers in the primary and secondary education department still lay vacant. These figures are alarming.
The Union Budget of 2018-19 allocated less than 4 percent for education. The trend in the country, both at the central and the state levels has been that of privatisation and especially in the BJP ruled states, the emphasis has been on “changing” the education system. One has to be extremely conscious in understanding what is being referred to as “change.” This is not the first time that we are hearing noise about the Gurukul system in this country; before Haryana, it was Madhya Pradesh. RSS and BSM have been actively involved in propagating the idea of the Gurukul system. What comes as a danger here is, what the RSS, BSM and BJP envisions the Gurukul system as.
Gurukul, based on the ancient Guru-Shishya tradition, is a form of residential schooling system that was prevalent in ancient India. There are many Gurukuls functioning in the country even now; these are not regulated by any board or government body. These institutions mostly impart religious scripture based education. According to Kanitkar there are 4,000 such Gurukuls across the country.
Attending the Virat Gurukul Sammelan in Madhya Pradesh’s Ujjain city, the HRD minister Prakash Javadekar pointed at the need to change the current system of education. He also said, he plans to introduce a subject called ‘Bharat Bodh’ that will contain lessons on ancient India for class 11 and 12 students. The Sarsanghchalak of RSS, Mohan Bhagwat who was also present at the event stressed upon the need to do away with the modern education system and bring back the ancient education system in the form of Gurukuls. Bhagwat had said, “the traditional system of education should be brought back, with or without the help of the government.”
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For some time now, many BJP ruled states have endorsed the Gurukul School system. The Madhya Pradesh government for example organised the Viral Gurukul Sammelan in Ujjain from April 28 to 30, 2018. Government officials along with the BMS and Union Minister Javadekar brainstormed at the conference about the ways in which they could include the Gurukul system into the modern education system.
The RSS and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) have always opposed current, modern education systems in the country on the claims that these systems are based on ‘Western’ values. Thus the call for going back to the Gurukul system of the ancient vedic period according to them is to inculcate, what they call, lost morality, religious values, and culture. Ajay S Sekher, points that the ancient Gurukul system that the government is advocating for is“centralised patriarchal hegemonic exclusivist paradigm.”