WHEN THE National Education Policy (NEP) was launched in 2020, it didn’t elicit much partisan attack. Largely insulated from ideological pull and push, it set the roadmap for reforms, some of which were rolled out recently: from a common entrance for admissions to universities to four-year undergraduate programmes.
In one area, though, a place for politics has been noted at the table: restructuring of the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) for schools — the first such exercise since the Modi Government came to power in 2014 and the fifth since independence.
From a national co-convenor of Swadeshi Jagran Manch to the chief of Vidya Bharati, 24 members with RSS links, some of them serving functions, figure in at least 17 of 25 NCF national focus groups working on curriculum changes, an investigation by The Indian Express has found.
The investigation also revealed, over the past three days, key deletions in social science textbooks, including references to Gujarat riots and the caste system, Mughals and contemporary protest movements, in a separate rationalisation exercise by the NCERT.
The NCF curriculum revision, meanwhile, is being led by a 12-member steering committee headed by the former ISRO chairman K Kasturirangan and appointed by the Union Ministry of Education.
The revised NCF will be the foundation for new NCERT textbooks. And the papers prepared by the NCF focus groups will provide a roadmap for the changes. These focus group members — 7-10 in each group — were appointed by the NCERT through a notification on December 28.
The terms of reference states that the groups are expected to “develop a clear understanding of the theme in the context of the perspectives and recommendations of the NEP-2020 specifically with regard to…curricular and pedagogical structure and to clearly specify implementation strategies for each stage “.
When contacted, Kasturirangan said he would not comment on any matter related to NCF. A senior member of the committee said: “We will do full justice to the task given to us and do everything possible to present a fair, objective and impartial document.”
Here are the focus group members with RSS links, and their response to queries — on the links and the groups:
Philosophy and Aims of Education
Dr Bhagawati Prakash Sharma: Ex-Vice-chancellor of Greater Noida-based Gautam Buddha University. National co-convenor of RSS-affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM).
Response: “I am with the SJM because it is a movement. SJM is a forum, which is about awakening people about economic patriotism. I am also in the central committee of SJM.”
Datta Bhikaji Naik: Committee member of Goa wing of RSS-affiliate Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram.
Response: “(I suggested that) ideological aspects of Indian philosophy should be conveyed to students through short stories…and Sanskrit be used as a link language. There is no clash between my association with RSS and being a part of this group.”
Education in Social Sciences
Prof (retd) CI Issac (group chairman): Member of Indian Council of Historical Research, former faculty at Department of History, CMS College, Kottayam. State working president of Kerala unit of RSS-linked Bharatiya Vichara Kendra and member of ABVP since 1975. In March, during an NCF consultation session, Prof Issac had said: “Nowadays, our history in school syllabus is subjective, not objective. The Indian defeat, Hindu defeat is the main theme of the school syllabus.”
Response: “I am a swayamsevak and a church-going Christian…I never allow my doctrine to be reflected in such forums. I work for national interest, irrespective of religion, caste, or regional differences.”
Prof Vandana Mishra: Assistant Professor with School of International Studies, JNU. Former national secretary of ABVP. She declined to comment.
Mamta Yadav: Sociology teacher at a Haryana government school. Former national vice president of ABVP, still a member.
Response: “I am not the vice president anymore, and there is no conflict between me being a part of the focus group and a member of ABVP.”
Holistic, Enjoyable & Engaging Curriculum & Pedagogy
D Ramakrishna Rao (group chairman): All-India president of RSS educational wing Vidya Bharati.
Response: “My connection with education is important, other aspects are not important.”
Prof Milind Sudhakar Marathe (group chairman): Retired associate professor at Mumbai’s KJ Somaiya College of Engineering. Former national president of RSS student wing ABVP.
Response: “I am not in the focus group because I am an ABVP member but because of my credentials as a teacher of science and technology.”
Kishore Chandra Mohanty: Odisha president of Vidya Bharati.
Response: “(I was chosen) based on a four-page note I had prepared on science education and my credentials of having worked in this area in the past.”
Prof Payal Mago: Principal of Delhi’s Shaheed Rajguru College of Applied Sciences, director of DU’s Campus of Open Learning. ABVP office-bearer till 2013.
Response: “I teach Botany and am working on an ICSSR study on ‘Ecological Feminism of Indian Women'”. I contested the student union election in 1984. Until 2013, I was a member of the (ABVP’s) core group, which is the academic council.”
Dr Shriram Muralidhar Chauthaiwale (group chairman): Retired maths professor, all-India convener of Department of Vedic Mathematics under Delhi-based Shiksha Sanskriti Uthan Nyas. Member of Vidya Bharati’s All India Vedic Mathematical Council.
Response: “I was nominated to the group by the NCERT director. And I have worked very rationally.”
Prof Mamta Singh: Associate professor of Visual Arts at MKP Girls Inter College in Dehradun. Associated with the ABVP “for the past three decades”, currently the Doon area president and member of the national executive.
Response: “We need to go beyond Islamic architecture and focus on Indian art forms and culture… The UN honored me in 2009 for my work on the role of art on women empowerment.”
Early Child Care & Education and Foundational Literacy & Numeracy
Dr Suresh Gohe: Educational consultant with Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). Area head of RSS-affiliated teachers’ forum Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal.
Response: “I have a specialisation in psychological and educational counseling…we need to ensure that India once again cements its position as jagatguru (world leader).”
Linkages Between School and Higher Education
Prof Ishwar Sharan Vishwakarma: Chief of UP Higher Education Commission, member of Indian Council of Historical Research, retired professor of Ancient History and Archeology at Deen Dayal Upadhyay university in Gorakhpur. General secretary of RSS-affiliate Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana.
Response: “We have been picked on qualification and expertise. My basic identity is that I have been a professor of ancient history and archeology.”
Raman Trivedi: Former professor and head of department of fisheries at Bihar Animal Science University, and currently its director (student welfare). Ex-national vice-president of ABVP.
Response: “I no longer hold any official post in ABVP.”
Publication of Quality Textual and Non-textual Materials
Prof Ashutosh Mandavi: President of ABVP Chhattisgarh unit, teaches in the advertising department of Kushabhau Thakre Journalism & Mass Communication University in Raipur. He declined to comment.
Prof Brij Kishore Kuthiala: Chairperson of Haryana State Higher Education Council, former VC of the Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism and Communication (MCNUJC). RSS ideologue. In 2019, the then Congress state government ordered a probe into his conduct as VC, including the alleged purchase of a liquor cabinet using university funds.
Response: “I am a swayamsevak. But I am an academic also and have been a vice-chancellor.” He did not respond to the claims during his VC stint.
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Guidance and Counseling
Prof (retd) Nilima Bhagabati (group chairman): Faculty member in education studies at Guwahati University, chairperson of the eastern regional committee of the National Council for Teacher Education. Executive member of RSS-affiliate Bharatiya Sikshan Mandal.
Response: “I specialise in adolescent psychology. I have done over 4,000 counseling sessions of students and parents in Assam. I am involved in the counseling of learners and parents through Students Wellness Society and Education Support Society.”
Alternative Ways for Schooling
Prof Ramachandra G Bhat: Former Vice-Chancellor of Karnataka-based Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana. Key member of All India Gurukulam Prakalpa of Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal, an RSS body.
Response: “Our focus group made recommendations on introducing Indianness in every aspect of education.”
Rashmi Das: Editor of magazines and news services TelecomLive and InfraLive, run by Live Media & Publishers Pvt Ltd; PhD in International Relations from JNU, member of executive council. Former president of ABVP’s JNU unit and former general secretary of JNU students’ union.
Response: “My work with ABVP is part of my identity. But where is the contradiction or conflict in that? I am not an office-bearer of ABVP anymore…I have been involved in capacity building of students pro bono…I also publish on awareness and rights campaigns for autistic children.”
Anjali Deshpande: Secretary of RSS-linked DRISHTI Stree Adhyayan Prabodhan Kendra, a study centre.
Response: DRISHTI represents the same school of thought as RSS. I started working with ABVP in 1976. I am among the first full-time women workers of the organisation.”
Adult education and value education
Govind Prasad Sharma: Chairman of National Book Trust, former president of Vidya Bharati, member of the 12-member national steering committee on NCF.
Response: “What matters is our contribution as members through extensive discussions over the months.”
J.P. Singhal: Former Vice Chancellor of University of Rajasthan, quit in 2017 following adverse remarks on his qualifications by Rajasthan High Court. National president of RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Rashtriya Shaikshik Mahasangh.
Response: “The position paper of our group is still being prepared.”
Emerging Role of Community in Education
Dr Bishnu Mohan Dash: Associate professor at IGNOU’s rural development department. General secretary of Bharatiya Samaj Karya Parishad which, he said, works under the patronage of Sangh’s Bhartiya Shikshan Mandal.
Response: Claimed expertise in “Indianisation of social work education”.
Prof (Retd) Chandkiran Saluja (group chairman): Retired from DU’s Central Institute of Education in 2013. Headed working committee of RSS-constituent Samskrita Bharati.
Response: “I support the NEP because it has the potential to infuse new energy in the student community and shape their ideas and imagination.”
NCERT director Dinesh Saklani declined to comment on the focus groups. School Education Secretary Anita Karwal did not respond to requests for comment. Former NCERT director in-charge Sridhar Srivastava, who had issued the notification on focus groups, declined to comment..