Given recent political developments taking place in the country with regard to the government reading down Article 370, it appears that some schools have been curiously prompt to get their students to laud the prime minister for the move.
Yesterday, Twitter user @911jvs tweeted that her brother, who is in Class 6, was given a homework assignment to write a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, thanking him for “removing” Article 370.
Here’s a screenshot of the homework app. pic.twitter.com/iu5fNZHIUM
— 🕊️ (@911jvs) August 14, 2019
Notwithstanding that a Class 6 student probably won’t be able to grasp the legislative intricacies and political repercussions of the government’s decision, the assignment – on the face of it – is a propaganda tactic.
Let’s not even get into how ironic it is that students in Class 6 are being allowed to weigh in on the debate on Kashmir while Kashmiris themselves remain silenced.
This is not the first time that this, or for that matter any government, has tried to pat itself on the back for its policy decisions by including them in school curriculum. Many before have walked this line. We’ve all written essays on Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and many more.
But those essays were about historical matters. What sets this assignment apart is that students are being asked to write on a sensitive issue – while keeping a bias in mind towards the current regime – before the situation has even had time to play out.
Before curfew in many parts of Kashmir has even been lifted and barricades block the streets to prevent movement.
While families are still struggling to contact one another.
It’s clear to see what the objective of the assignment is: glorifying the prime minister and making a mark of it on impressionable young minds. Asking students to “thank the prime minister” is a far cry from being objective.
Other Twitter users were quick to retort with comparative recounts of how they were asked to write assignments on P. V. Narasimha Rao, Indira Gandhi, 1991 LPG policies and nationalism during their time in school.
The arguments have been tempered by assertions that schools have always run “subtle propaganda” campaigns for the party in power, and that parents are just more aware of the practice now in these polarised times.
Now, while being asked to write about former politicians and past events constitutes an exercise in addressing historical facts, doing so for current politicians and their policies is anything but “subtle”.
It’s more than believable that schools have “subtly” pushed one party or the other, but this doesn’t make for a particularly tenable counter-argument: “Well, if we had to undergo it, today’s students shouldn’t complain”.
In reality, wouldn’t it have been better if the students had been asked to write on the issue in an independent and critical manner – as all school assignments ought to encourage?
This may have been isolated incident where one teacher’s political biases informed the crafting of the assignment. Many might argue that this wasn’t an assignment mandated by the government, which is true.
But the whole episode is reflective of the malaise that has spread to nearly every institution in the country. The message is loud and clear: either endorse the government’s actions and be rewarded or oppose them and expect to be labelled “anti-national”.
Not even our schools have been spared. The students are being taught to venerate individuals in power without critically examining why.
As students, we’re not taught to examine the policies and policy-makers, instead we’re taught to toe the line and discard objectivity. We’re taught to counter others’ arguments with anaemic retorts which discard all nuance.
Featured image credit: PTI