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Mainstream, VOL LX No 21, New Delhi, May 14, 2022

Production of Saffron Pedagogy and Its Implications | Vidyasagar Sharma

Saturday 14 May 2022


The ongoing structural attacks through pedagogical changes will be catastrophic to the secular model of the Indian educational system. Recently, selected verses [1] of Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz from NCERT’s Class 10 and other contents such as chapters on “Democracy and Diversity”, chapter on “Central Islamic Lands” from the History book for Class 11 have been excluded in the 2022-23 curriculum of the Central Board of Secondary Education. These are the attempts made by saffron politics to dismantle educational institutions and their democratic traditions and pedagogical practices. The ideological driven pedagogical interventions are substantial enough to say that Hindutva is not merely controlling the socio-political spaces but strongly controlling the knowledge production. In this piece, I argued why the ruling government is proactive in changing the existing education model and what would be the future implication of these changes. Such issues should be examined in the context of a larger pedagogy framework and politics of pedagogy.

Pedagogy and Retreat of Secular State

Historically, India has adopted the secular and scientific model of education to produce a scientific temperament among future learners. Noted educationalist Krishna Kumar [2] argues that “if the attempt had succeeded, we would have seen the fragility of the state-centered policy of decision-making in the curriculum. Indeed, this fragility can surface anytime, and the day may not be so far off if Hindu revivalism comes to dominate the state apparatus of education.”

Kumar’s prediction about Hindu revivalist forces seems true because most state educational institutions have been dominated and controlled by the ideological state apparatus. The modality of the destruction of pedagogy is not merely coming from the ideological state but also the majoritarian social structure. The everyday social structure has been forced to incorporate communal and majoritarian tendencies. The ongoing Hindutva project focused to deconstruct the social consciousness. Therefore, education as an agency of socialization and training in thoughts has been very crucial for both RSS and BJP to inculcate their ideology and thoughts.

Pedagogy and Retrofitting Saffron Model

The saffron model of pedagogy has intervened in the existing secular ethos of educational practices. It has tempered the institutional structure and disciplinary configuration by retrofitting the communal and majoritarian ideology of Hindutva. The RSS has strongly advocated for a new pedagogy for education and as per their imagination of education [3], “Education should attempt towards inculcating, along with mandatory academic knowledge, discipline, patriotic outlook, love for mother tongue, high moral values and Hindu principles.” The New Educational Policy (NEP) 2020 reflects this vision in letter and spirit, and it is a radical departure from the secular traditions of Indian pedagogy.

The noted political philosopher Louis Althusser said, “Education is a dominant ideological state apparatus”. The ongoing retrofitting of the saffron model is a conscious act of RSS and BJP to produce the communal consciousness and majoritarian social system for their larger political interests. The RSS claims that the existing syllabus particularly the Indian textbook (NCERT) has misinterpreted the history of India, and so-called left-leaning scholars have never presented the actual vision of India and Indianess. Our children in classrooms are taught only one aspect of India; the colonial and western imagination of India. The so-called Vedic culture and Indian knowledge traditions have never been taught in the classrooms. According to the RSS, “the educational system initiated by Macaulay with the motive of producing an army of ‘brown-skinned Englishmen’, to serve the imperial administration as ‘the most obedient servants’ was another legacy of the British rule in Bharat. After Independence, there was a dire need to reshape the entire system.” [4]

The NEP-2020 is the structural intervention by RSS in this direction to reshape the secular and scientific discourses and impose the saffron pedagogies in the educational institutions. The emphasis on so-called Indian knowledge traditions is defining characteristic of saffron politics and ongoing pedagogical interventions will bring those traditions back. The new saffron-flavored syllabi and curricula are the beginning of the destruction of the critical knowledge system. The destruction of critical minds will lead to violence and hatred against each other, which is a prime objective of RSS-BJP led Hindutva politics.

The implications of such pedagogy are visible in the everyday production of hatred and violence on university campuses. The constant attacks on liberal-progressive and anti-Hindu institutions are the conspiracy of the state to dismantle the legacy of those institutions and create a state of fear among the learners and practitioners. The ideological commitment of the state has forced to implement the saffron model by taking control of the administration of universities, intervening through external representation in academic bodies, recruiting faculties and staff based on their ideological inclinations, student-faculty unions, and imposing new rules and code of conducts that control the institutional autonomy, censored the anti-state research, and academic freedom. As we have seen in the past months, violence between left-wing and right-wing student groups [5] on the issue of non-veg food in the hostel mess during Ram Navami was fully sponsored and planned by the political forces and ideologically inclined university administration.


The current pedagogy and its politics will lead the future of India towards the era of darkness. The progressive voices and collectives should take a serious call against the ongoing saffronisation. The fundamentals of India and Indianess are not true to what is defined by the RSS-BJP but the idea of India and Indianess is built on constitutional values and scientific temperaments. This question becomes pertinent here: ‘Can we save the Indian democracy without saving its secular and scientific-pedagogical practices.’

(Author: Vidyasagar Sharma is a Doctoral Fellow at Delhi University and currently working as a Research-Intern at Centre for Policy Research, Delhi)

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