RTE, Temples, Traditions And More: How The BJP Has Failed Hindu Causes

by Shreyas Bharadwaj - Dec 14, 2016 03:31 PM +05:30 IST
RTE, Temples, Traditions And More: How The BJP Has Failed Hindu CausesPrime Minister Narendra Modi at the Ganga aarti in Varanasi (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
  • The BJP should not forget that it is able to sell the slogan of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas only on the strength of the Hindu vote.

    The BJP needs to fight its own mental colonisation before it can fight for Hindus.

Robert Conquest, the British-American chronicler of communist crimes against humanity, once listed the three laws of politics.

1. Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.

2. Any organisation not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.

3. The simplest way to explain the behaviour of any bureaucratic organisation is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.

A version of the second law is applicable to the party this writer’s family has voted for, i.e., the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for as long as this writer can remember.

Please do hear me out before you head over to the comments section.

The Right to Education Act Is Jizya in secular India

The issue that reasonably informed Hindus have with the Right to Education Act (RTE) is simple. It is as anti-Hindu a legislation as it gets. That is quite a feat for any government to achieve in India given the sheer number of anti-Hindu laws we already have. The government that achieved this feat was the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). The UPA at the time even managed to secure the BJP’s support when Parliament passed this sectarian legislation in 2009.

One has to ask, how could a political party with eminent lawyers like Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad in their ranks miss the fact that the RTE together with the ninety-third amendment amounts to a targeted tax on Hindu schools? How could they miss the fact that it effectively forces Hindu educational institutions and entrepreneurs to compete with Christian- and Muslim-run schools with one hand tied behind the back and one leg amputated?

Here is what it does:

It forces up the cost structure for Hindu-run institutions, destroys any semblance of autonomy and, therefore, forces managements to raise fees. Hindu parents faced with rising fees slowly begin shifting their wards to minority institutions. Christian institutions facing lower competitive pressures will now be free to fulfil their stated objectives.

Here is an example of that:

From a magazine distributed to kids at the Infant Jesus School, North Paravoor, Ernakulam. (<a href="https://twitter.com/Indian2019">@Indian2019</a>)
From a magazine distributed to kids at the Infant Jesus School, North Paravoor, Ernakulam. (@Indian2019)

While Hindu children are taught that the Abrahamic monotheistic god is superior to their ancient gods, they might also be coerced into abandoning any symbols of their ancestral religion. Some might be expelled for fulfilling religious vows. Shouldn't the BJP consider this an existential threat? Will Hindu kids taught to think in such a manner about their own gods identify as Hindu in the future?

Now some may say that things will change now that we Narendra Modi as Prime Minister. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but on current record, the Prime Minister doesn’t appear motivated to protect the interests of Hindu educational institutions. In fact, the government is ‘effectively’ implementing the RTE. We have seen some tinkering, with HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar saying “learning outcomes will be a part of the RTE Act”. However, the government hasn't said anything on removing the onerous input requirements and costly mandates imposed exclusively on Hindu-run institutions. And this is a government pilloried by the mainstream media for being pro-Hindu.

It is not as if BJP governments in the states are doing any better. In a recent instance, the Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra preferred to force a Hindu-run educational institution to go to court over non-payment of RTE dues rather than do the right thing and pay up. This episode ended with the Bombay High Court preaching to the school management to not worry only about money and fulfil their ‘social obligations’. We have to ask, what prevented the Fadnavis government from paying those dues on time? Was it because he had no skin in the game, given that his own children study in convent schools?

Since education is in the concurrent list, many other state governments thankfully paid only lip service to implementing the RTE. The Maharashtra state government, however, implemented the RTE . This is the same government which would never fail to transfer government grants in aid to educational institutions, especially the minority ones, due to the fear of being branded communal.

What’s worth pointing out is that it’s not as if the current political scenario is against the states and they can't do anything to mitigate the impact of the RTE Act. The BJP-run states, for instance, can raise the compensation from the current minuscule amounts. For example, the reimbursement amount set by the government in Punjab for students from the economically weaker section admitted via RTE is Rs 1,370 per child for the year 2014-15. What prevents state governments from raising it to about Rs 20,000?

State governments can also make rules to relax teacher training requirements and to have teachers’ salaries in RTE schools match government school salaries. In fact, state governments should create a teacher subsidy fund to subsidise only the RTE schools (and therefore not subsidise RTE-exempt minority institutions). The payment cycles should be rationalised, and all reimbursements should be phased throughout the academic year. The state governments can strive to ensure there is no backlog in reimbursements. State governments or even the centre can expand the exemption list from only religious and linguistic minorities to scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward castes, women and atheists. States can also exempt RTE schools from the no-objection certificate and similar requirements for setting up new branches.

All this and more can be done, but the BJP needs to first realise that the RTE is a blatantly anti-Hindu legislation.

Temples, traditions and superstition laws

Over the past year, we saw two major ‘social justice’ movements aimed at securing entry for women at temples. While the first one was about allowing women to worship in the sanctum sanctorum of the Shani Shingnapur temple, the second one dealt with ending discrimination by the management of the Sabarimala Ayyappaswamy temple. As usual, the social justice groups blew the conch for such attacks on Hindu traditions and the ‘secular’ commentariat joined in. In a sign of the times, the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh sided with these groups over traditions. The argument was this: nothing in our holy books (of which we have many) mandated such a thing, and these rituals or traditions weren't an essential part of Hinduism.

Instead of questioning the ‘social justice’ groups and judges who sided with them on whether they had the authority to decide what is and what isn't an essential part of Hindu dharma, Hindu ‘leaders’ joined them in the name of ‘progress’. Never mind our ancient traditions, never mind the fact that we are not an Abrahamic religion with a book to guide our lives, never mind the fact that devout women worshippers came out with the campaign #ReadyToWait. Hindu ‘leaders’ jumped at the chance to be minor saints in the church of progressivism.

One could list other such instances as well – no significant measure against the demographic invasion from Bangladesh, the destabilising activities carried out by foreign-funded Christian missionaries and many more.

To show its voters that it retains a pro-Hindu tilt, the BJP used to resort to tokenism. Remember Yoga Day, for instance? And there too, they took out Om from the prayer because it would offend Muslims and Christians. The party now feels so sure of securing the Hindu vote in future elections that it doesn't even indulge the Hindus with these tokens.

The BJP should not forget that it is able to sell the slogan of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas only on the strength of the Hindu vote. That won't be the case when Prime Minister Modi leaves the arena though. To prevent such a disaster, the BJP should heed Swarajya’s R Jagannathan’s suggestion – accept that it gets insignificant amounts of the ‘secular’ vote and openly accept its pro-Hindu image. The BJP needs to fight its own mental colonisation before it can fight for Hindus.

P S – This writer leaves the applicability of Conquest’s third law on the BJP to the readers’ imagination.

With inputs from @yenkak. @mnshzz and @colonelgerard.

Shreyas Bharadwaj is a Hindutvawadi from Mysuru who is interested in writing about cities and public policy.

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