India will soon be the world’s most populated country and its political development will shape the world of the 21st century. Yet Hindu Nationalism – at the helm of contemporary Indian politics – is not well understood outside of India, and its links to the global neoliberal trajectory have not been much explored.
This important book shows for the first time why it is education, not a failed political system, that led to the rise of Modi and the right-wing nationalist ideology of Hindutva. It provides in depth insight into contemporary Indian politics and wider societal acceptance of India’s Hindu nationalist trajectory, as well as examining the role of class.
The first five years of Modi rule failed to bring about the development that had been promised and have seen India’s rapid change from a largely inclusive society to one where minorities are denied their basic rights.
This chapter provides a backdrop to the rest of the book, showing how education became the vehicle that linked neoliberalism with Hindu nationalism and allowed to it permeate Indian society. It opens by explaining the origins of India’s national identity and how the Nehruvian doctrine (Lall, 2001) defined Indian citizens after independence in 1947. It engages with the inclusive nature of this approach, showing how India’s key policies and its Constitution embraced this vision and translated it into the education system. The chapter also engages with the Nehruvian vision for an educated India and the development of a higher education system, and briefly engages with the main education policies and reforms that took place between 1947 and the 1990s. The chapter then turns to the economic reforms of 1991 under the leadership of PM Narasimha Rao and Finance Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, which emerged in an increasingly neoliberal global economic climate. The chapter further examines how the increasingly neoliberal reality led to economic disaggregation and deregulation as well as decentralization, the rise of regional parties, and larger inequalities between India’s north and south.
This chapter opens by describing the rewriting of history in new textbooks as part of the BJP-led NDA government’s education policy, which was rolled out under the slogan ‘Indianise, nationalise, spiritualise’. It describes how the content is used to underpin Hindu pride and disparage India’s Muslim heritage, drawing battle lines between those who believe India is a secular country and those who want to redefine India on Hindu lines. The chapter goes on to look at how between 2004 and 2019 school textbooks became a political football, changing according to which party was in power across state governments (Lall, 2008), and how the new Congress-sponsored textbooks did not alter the Hindutva approach offered in many schools. The chapter turns to the effects of Hindu nationalism, including the Ghar Whapsi campaign, love jihad, and the cow slaughter ban, as the new Hinduized identity became increasingly acceptable amidst widespread anti-Muslim rhetoric across social media. The chapter then briefly reviews how specific Delhi education reforms have brought in the Happiness Curriculum and the EMC, both of which have direct links to Hindu traditions. It ends with an analysis of the NEP 2020, which also reflects some of the Hindutva discourses and approaches.
This chapter first discusses how government schools are affected by issues of access, quality, reforms in teaching approaches, and privatization. It then outlines the interventions led by Public Private Partnerships. The chapter goes on to review the neoliberal approach of NGOs in teacher education and training. It also provides evidence of the neoliberal and Hindu nationalist agenda ‘on the ground’ in government schools. The chapter then turns to the rise of private schools – both low cost and others serving the middle and aspiring middle classes, looking in detail at how this has increased access. The discussion briefly revisits the previous arguments about the rise of private schools around demand for ‘quality’ education and the neoliberal agenda of school choice. It subsequently discusses the impact of the neoliberal agenda on teacher agency to critically counter textbooks and government rituals that serve the Hindutva agenda. Even though private school teachers recognized the dangers of the new textbooks, the school system left them with no options. The last section of the chapter outlines the role played by the RSS and kindred organizations to fill particular education gaps at central and state levels. It shows how Hindutva has been spread using RSS-drafted textbooks alongside government textbooks in RSS-sponsored schools, highlighting how the rhetoric of these textbooks revolves around the creation of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’.
This chapter builds on the arguments presented in Chapter 3 to focus on teachers’ voices in order to show the impact of neoliberal and Hindu nationalist agendas on school education at six research sites. This chapter first provides a contextual background to school education in Delhi, Mumbai (Maharashtra), Jaipur (Rajasthan), Bengaluru (Karnataka), Guwahati (Assam), and Chandigarh (Punjab), and the state-led educational initiatives envisioned by their respective state governments. The research sites from across India (north, west, south, and north-east) showcase how different education is across the country by briefly highlighting how neoliberal politics shape discourse around the accountability of state governments. The next section highlights teachers’ voices to show the impact of the neoliberal agenda at the six research sites. It further presents their views of parental school choice based on the quality of education and English as the medium of instruction, reflecting the arguments about this aspect of the neoliberal agenda that are discussed in Chapter 3. The third section discusses the neoliberal agenda of the NEP 2020 and its impact on teacher agency and their pedagogical practices in schools. It also engages with the NEP 2020 recommendations on the use of mother tongue (home language or regional language) as the medium of instruction, and how this reflects the government’s Hindu nationalist agenda.
This chapter engages with the role of HE in the Hindu nationalist project and how a neoliberal trajectory was able to embed the Hindutva discourse across Indian HEIs. As Indian HE expanded rapidly after economic reforms, there was a parallel growth in the number of private institutions as well as new regulatory policies that encouraged competition between government-funded institutions. The NEP 2020 is taking this forward by moving towards a quasi-market model; this includes proposing increased technology for wider access and delivery, reflecting the wider neoliberal agenda across India. Although the NEP promises more autonomy for institutions and individual academics, the planned regulations and monitoring parameters actually make real autonomy in research and teaching impossible (Chattopadhyay, 2020). For the last 30 years, the focus of Indian HE has been on expansion and increasing access, rather than critical inquiry. As has been seen in previous chapters, and as also reflected in the wider literature on the links between neoliberalism and populism, the neoliberal trajectory increasingly attempts to stifle free speech and criticism of the government, which includes criticism of the marketization of HE and the government’s Hindutva agenda.
The changes described in Chapters 1 to 6 indicate how Indian society has been transformed both in terms of its political outlook, with Hindu nationalism taking centre stage, as well as in its economic trajectory – led by neoliberal policies. Education reforms across schools, universities, and teacher training have been embedded through new school textbooks, new courses, and new teaching approaches. Ordinary popular views of Muslims have changed, as illustrated in Chapter 1 by the support for the Ghar Whapsi campaign and the cow slaughter ban. There also seems to have been a resultant normalization of Islamophobia, with a negative characterization of Muslims in the mainstream public domain. This chapter engages with the question of Indian citizenship and how it has been altered in light of the government’s neoliberal Hindutva trajectory over the last two decades. It looks at the rising Islamophobia across society before engaging with four recent cases of changes in Indian citizenship that show how the neoliberal Hindutva approach has become mainstream: Kashmir’s changed status, the National Register of Citizens in Assam, the Citizenship Amendment Act (and how the Delhi protests were dealt with), and the farmers’ protest movement.
The Epilogue updates the volume shortly before publication, engaging with the effects of COVID-19 on both the central government as well as state elections, such as those held in May 2021 in Assam, Karnataka, Bengal, and Tamil Nadu, and engages with the question whether COVID-19 has weakened Modi’s grip on power.
The introduction introduces neoliberalism and the links between neoliberalism and the rise of populist national regimes, drawing parallels with the Indian experience that is explored in depth in this volume. It then turns to the role education plays in propagating the new hegemonic discourse of both neoliberal economics and populist religious nationalist political rhetoric. In linking these two policy concepts, education emerges as the third corner in a self-reinforcing triangle that is at the heart of contemporary Indian politics, underpinning Hindu nationalist power. The introduction goes on to explain the sources and fieldwork this volume is based on before summarizing each chapter.
India will soon be the world’s most populated country and its political development will shape the world of the 21st century. Yet Hindu Nationalism – at the helm of contemporary Indian politics – is not well understood outside of India, and its links to the global neoliberal trajectory have not been much explored. This important book provides in depth insight into contemporary Indian politics and wider societal acceptance of India’s Hindu nationalist trajectory. The authors show how education was the vehicle that linked neoliberalism with Hindu nationalism and allowed to it permeate through Indian society. Eight years of Modi rule have failed to bring about the development that had been promised yet they have seen India’s rapid change from a largely inclusive society to one where minorities are denied their basic rights.