Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas: Why Vajpayee would have given it off to this government

Good governance also means inclusive governance. Atal Bihari Vajpayee knew this. The RSS and Smriti Irani don't.

POLITICS  |   4-minute read |   15-12-2014

Aditya Menon @AdityaMenon22

Lal Krishna Advani seldom tires of narrating how the Bharatiya Janata Party, like Jesus Christ, was crucified on Good Friday but was resurrected on Easter Sunday. On April 4, 1980, which was Good Friday,  the Janata Party passed a resolution expelling all former Jana Sangh members from the party as they refused to give up membership of the RSS, an event that Advani compares to the crucifixion. Two days later, on Easter Sunday, the BJP was formed with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as its first president, which according to Advani was akin to Christ's resurrection.

Advani would be sad today as his party's government at the Centre seems to be keen on making students choose between Christ and Vajpayee.

On December 2, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that Vajpayee's birthday December 25 should be celebrated as Good Governance Day. More than eager to implement this order, the Commissioner of the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti, who is directly under the HRD ministry, issued a circular instructing all Navodaya Vidyalayas to hold quiz competitions, screen documentaries on best practices in good governance on December 24-25 to celebrate Good Governance Day.

The Navodaya Vidyalaya circular further reveals that CBSE will be organising an essay competition on December 24 and 25, the topics for which will be declared on December 23.

A newspaper report cited the circular to insinuate that the government wants to scrap Christmas as a holiday in government schools. An angry Smriti Irani tweeted her outrage at the report which she termed as "deliberate mischief by the reporter" and demanded a retraction by the newspaper.

The HRD ministry issued a rejoinder to the story stating that the "essay competition is voluntary" and that the quiz competitions, documentaries and other events were restricted to Navodaya Vidyalayas which were residential schools and had holiday cycles based on the seasons.

The minister also stated that the essay competition that the CBSE has instructed schools to organise, is purely an online one.

Now, while the newspaper report might have exaggerated the contents of the circular suggesting that Christmas might no longer be a holiday, the HRD ministry's explanation is far from satisfactory.

Firstly, Irani's assertion that the essay competition will be a purely online one is wrong as the instructions in the circular clearly state that "submissions will be accepted online and offline" on December 24 and 25. So how can students submit their essays offline on December 25 if the schools are closed for Christmas?

Secondly, the HRD ministry's argument that it is ok to hold the celebrations - quiz competitions, documentary screenings and essay writing competitions - at Navodaya Vidyalayas because their vacation cycle is different, is deeply problematic. How are the Christian students who study at Navodaya Vidyalayas expected to participate in these events? As per 2007 figures, Navodaya Vidyalayas have 1.89 lakh students. If even two per cent of them are Christian, it would mean that over 3,600 students would have to make a choice between celebrating their main festival and participating in Good Governance day celebrations. Surely, Christians are within the ambit of Modi's definition of good governance.

But the issue here isn't just the HRD ministry's overzealous implementation of Modi's plan. We must also examine Modi's intentions behind declaring December 25 as Good Governance Day. October 31, Sardar Patel's birthday, was declared as national unity day not just to celebrate Patel's legacy but also to overshadow the other event that took place on that day: Indira Gandhi's assassination. He also tried to delink Jawaharlal Nehru from Children's Day by declaring November 14 as Bal Swachhta Divas.

Perhaps, Modi is trying to do the same thing with December 25 as well. Till now, Christmas has never been a purely Christian festival, particularly for children. Christmas is still very central to the imagination of many non-Christian children, be it through the legend of Santa Claus or Christmas carols or the beautiful Christmas Tree that they enjoy decorating.

The Hindu Right has often frowned upon such celebrations which it believes are subtle ways Christians use to influence others. By making school children write on good governance instead of decorate Christmas trees could be a way of countering this.

But for the Sangh, December 25 will neither be Christmas Day nor Good Governance Day.

This December 25, the Sangh plans to convert at least 4,000 Christian and 1,000 Muslim families to Hinduism in a grand ceremony in Aligarh led by BJP leader Yogi Adityanath.  The Bajrang Dal, the sword arm of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, has been entrusted with the homecoming programme to be held at Maheshwari College in Aligarh. The neo-converts will be sprinkled with holy Ganga water and a havan (sacrificial fire) will be conducted. Needless to say, Vajpayee won't even find a mention in the ceremony, so much for the Sangh's commitment to honouring the former prime minister.

Good governance also means inclusive governance. Vajpayee knew this. The Sangh and Smriti Irani don't.

Source: dailyo


Read also: 

Smriti Irani denies report of school remaining open on Christmas

Updated: December 15, 2014 20:54 IST



 The issue was raised in the Lok Sabha by K.C. Venugopal (Congress) and, for the first time, the AIADMK also joined the Opposition in protesting the move. Mr. Venugopal read out from a letter sent by Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS) Commissioner G.S. Bothyal to all regional offices on December 10, listing the activities to be organised in Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs) on December 25.

The letter says: “This is with regard to celebration of the birthday of Atal Behari Vajpayee and Madan Mohan Malviya as ‘Good Governance Day’ on December 25’’ and lists declamation contest, quiz competition, screening of best practises on good governance and innovative programmes as the activities to be organised to “mark the occasion in its true spirit.”

Regional commissioners have been told to “encourage participation of students” and submit a “consolidated report specifying activities carried out in all JNVs,” with photographs/video recordings, to the Commissioner’s office on December 25 itself.

According to this letter, the Central Board of Secondary Education will also be organising competitions under the CBSE Expression Series on Good Governance on December 24 and 25. However, till date, the CBSE has not sent any separate circular to its affiliated schools.

School principals and parents point out that this is becoming a pattern with school education under the BJP government; earlier instances were Teachers’ Day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed children and the Swachch Bharat campaign on Gandhi Jayanti, October 2. “There seems to be a design to replace the original significance of the day by creating a new one,” noted one principal.

Source: The Hindu

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