Historically, scientific revelations have challenged religious reasoning and dogmas. Unfortunately, it is the other way around in India with the BJP government revising NCERT science textbooks after erasing important chapters from history books.
Since the establishment of ‘WhatsApp University’, most Indians believe that science is what is largely accepted in society. What is primarily accepted is largely propagated— irrationality and dogmas.
For example, the “health benefits” of cow urine were widely propagated on TV channels, WhatsApp groups and social media platforms during the COVID-19 crisis. Several BJP members/workers organised cow urine-drinking parties projecting as a cure for coronavirus.
In another instance, an online national cow science exam, Kamdhenu Gau Vigyan Prachar Prasar Examination, was announced in 2021 with the UGC writing to vice-chancellors of 900 universities to encourage students to take the examination. More than 5 lakh students registered for the exam with the Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog preparing the study material.
The study material claimed that cow dung is used for protection against nuclear radiation and Russia and India use it in their laboratories. Besides, the Aayog claimed that the “solar panels in cow humps” convert sunlight into gold, which is responsible for the milk’s yellowish tinge. The exam was postponed after the study material sparked controversy with such unscientific claims.
A recent Indian Veterinary Research Institute report showed that cow urine contains 14 types of harmful bacteria. The report also revealed that directly consuming fresh cow urine could cause multiple problems in the stomach problems. However, several suppliers widely sell cow urine without the FSSAI trademark.
The government has even challenged Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. In 2018, then-minister of state for HRD Satyapal Singh said in Parliament that the theory is “scientifically wrong” since “nobody saw an ape turn into a man”. He suggested that the chapter should be removed from school and college curricula.
Shocked scientists shot off a letter to the HRD ministry criticising Singh. “On the contrary, every discovery adds support to Darwin’s insights. The statement claiming that the Vedas had answers to all questions is exaggerated and an insult to genuine research work on the history of Indian scientific traditions,” the letter read.
However, like the popularity of cow urine, Singh’s claim finally made its way to NCERT science books. Last month, the chapter on Darwin’s theory was deleted from class 9 and 10 textbooks in the name of “syllabus rationalisation”. Besides, the chapter on ‘Evolution and Heredity’ in class 11 and 12 books has been reduced to only ‘Heredity’ with the textbox on Darwin deleted.
The only challenge to this attack on science is a well-educated and well-informed public. However, the extremely low literacy rate has ensured that pseudoscience will now be propagated directly through textbooks and WhatsApp. The NCERT, formed to improve the quality of education, has reduced itself to making textbook changes.
Other than this, class 10 science and class 11 and 12 biology textbooks have omitted chapters and sections on reproduction—further depriving young minds and advancing the taboo on sexual interactions in society.
Besides, Pythagoras Theorem and Quadratic Equations have been removed from the class 10 math syllabus.
The attack on science via school textbooks takes away many elementary concepts that form the basic tenets of scientific understanding of society—and would further help the RSS and BJP to promote their propaganda as science
The idea of attacking science is not new. MS Golwalkar, the second and one of the most influential RSS sarsanghchalak (chief), laid out this design.
In his book Decoding RSS: Its Tradition and Politics, Raosaheb Kasbe quotes a part of Golwalkar’s speech to the
Vishwa Hindu Parishad during the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad in 1966: “On several occasions, people say that this age is the age of science. So they often argue that we have to bring about changes in religion in order to adapt to the age of science. I say exactly the opposite thing … If you go on changing religion with every research in science, then the religion will not remain religion … The entire mankind will then be disenchanted.”
Golwalkar further said, “Hence, I think that to bring changes in religion with every research in science is not an appropriate way”.
Kasbe writes that the RSS wants to saffronise modernity. Therefore, if we ask again, “What’s at stake here?”, the only answer is “Humanity itself”.