Ask who taught school students that Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination was justified
On Mahatma Gandhi’s 151st birth anniversary, it is worth asking who created a parallel stream of knowledge and why. It is also worth taking pledge to re-invent the wheel and reassert scientific temper
As Mahatma Gandhi’s Sesquicentenary draws to close on October 2, 2020, my thoughts go back to a High School in Bihar.
It was counted among the best schools in town. It was the middle of January and while we wanted to interact with students, we had not planned what to discuss with them. January 30 was just a fortnight away and we decided to speak to them about the martyrdom of Mahatma Gandhi.
What is the significance of January 30? Who assassinated the Mahatma and why? The replies were revealing.
- Mahatma Gandhi was responsible for Partition of the country
- He wanted to protect interests of only Muslims
- He wanted India to pay Pakistan from India’s treasury
- He wanted a road through India to connect West and East Pakistan
- He was in favour of Islamic Pakistan but against India to be made a Hindu Rashtra
- He was killed by Nehru and Jinnah because they wanted to grab power
- He supported ‘Reservation’
- He ignored Sardar Patel and made a younger Nehru the first Prime Minister
- He wanted Hindu-Muslim amity and was secular.
The replies were staggering. Needless to point out that none of the statements except the last one came anywhere close to Truth and facts. But the wrong perception was not derived from textbooks or in the classroom.
This is not accidental. Because even IAS and IPS officers today are among those who believe in such canards about Mahatma Gandhi. Some of them are vehement in spreading lies about the Mahatma through social media and WhatsApp and one can hardly blame the NCERT for furnishing incorrect information about the Father of the Nation to IAS and IPS aspirants.
They would have studied the textbooks to clears examinations. But their knowledge about society, history and politics were derived from somewhere else. Their beliefs were shaped outside the class and beyond the prescribed textbooks.
Even the Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur claimed in the Monsoon session of Parliament that Jawaharlal Nehru had created the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund to provide financial help to just one family, his own. One assumes the minister sincerely believed that his information was factual and correct. Once we accept that a minister in the Union Government is so brainwashed that he asserts the knowledge he has picked up from WhatsApp in Parliament, we would appreciate how deep has been the penetration of disinformation, innuendo and fake news.
This parallel stream of knowledge is clearly more powerful than our formal education system. When the privileged few who have been to schools and colleges can be swayed by disinformation spread by the parallel stream, imagine the impact on those who have never been to school.
The answers given by the school students were intended to justify the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. This body of justifications would not have come about overnight. Nor is it possible that such justifications could have been spread without any design or without sustained effort. It is safe to assume that these efforts would have taken a long time to poison the minds of the people.
Unless people of India display the same degree of patience and tenacity to disabuse the minds poisoned by disinformation, nobody can stop our society from becoming ill-informed, hateful and intolerant. We need to re-invent the wheel, re-assert scientific temper and a questioning spirit for Truth. That will be the most fitting tribute to the Father of the Nation.