Title

× Close
Culture Wars

The textbook vigilante: Meet the man who got Doniger’s book on Hinduism withdrawn

Dina Nath Batra believes he’s won a battle, but not the war. He plans to take another of Doniger’s books to court next week

Every few years, Dina Nath Batra manages to make his way into the news. Yesterday, after spearheading a three-year agitation and fighting a case in a Delhi Court, he got international publishing house Penguin to agree to withdraw ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’ by American scholar Wendy Doniger, published in 2010.

Succumbing to pressure from the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti – an organisation founded by Batra – Penguin agreed not only to stop publishing, distributing and selling Doniger’s book in India, but to also destroy all existing copies in stock.

The Samiti’s main grouse is that Doniger interprets Hinduism through a highly sexual lens. “This filth will no longer be sold, but for now, we have only won the battle, not the war,” said Batra. Next week, he plans to file a case in the Delhi High Court against another book by Doniger, 'On Hinduism', published by Aleph Book Company last year. “That book, too, has a lot of objectionable content.”

Although the Samiti is just six years old, Doniger is not Batra’s first target. Five years ago, the organisation took issue with an essay by eminent scholar AK Ramanujan, titled ‘Three Hundred Ramayanas’, which was included in Delhi University’s history syllabus. The essay explored different tellings of the Ramayana and dismissed the idea of an original version. In October 2011, the university’s academic council dropped the essay from the syllabus.

Before that, Batra had made headlines in 2001, when he edited a book titled ‘The Enemies of Indianisation: The Children of Marx, Macaulay and Madrasa’, which included a chapter on 41 “distorted facts” in the CBSE textbooks certified by the National Council of Educational Research and Training.

At the time, Batra was the general secretary of Vidya Bharati, the education wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, as well as a key advisor to the Bharatiya Janata Party's Murli Manohar Joshi, who was the union Human Resources Development minister at the time. Backed by Batra, Joshi pushed the NCERT to make a number of changes and deletions in its textbooks.

In each case – Doniger’s book, Ramanujan’s essay and the NCERT textbooks – Batra’s protests were premised on the old argument that they “hurt religious sentiments”. But Batra, who is still listed as a senior member on the RSS’s Vidya Bharati website, does not like to overtly associate his Shiksha Bachao Andolan with any Hindutva project.

“We stand for alternative forms of education to bring about a change in the country,” said Batra. “UNESCO has said that education should be related to a country’s culture, but in India, what we teach children has no connection to bhartiyata" or Indianness.

For Batra, “alternative education” implies stringing different subjects and disciplines together with the common thread of nationalism: economics should include the study of Chanakya, mathematics should include Vedic maths and so on. “We are for modernity, but we are against Westernisation,” Batra said. “Texts should be written in a way that will make children proud of India.”

So why ban Doniger's book, which isn't for children nor part of any syllabus? “The book would still be on the shelves of libraries," said Batra. "People would still be able to read them. If something hurts people’s sentiments, it is important to ban it. Freedom of speech does not give anyone the right to selectively talk about sexual references in religious texts.”

Batra has a long history of demanding curbs on free expression. In a 2001 interview with Outlook magazine, he defended censoring NCERT textbooks. "Jesus Christ was a najayaz (illegitimate) child of Mary but in Europe they don't teach that," he said. "Instead, they call her Mother Mary and say she is a virgin.”

 

 
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BULLETIN BY 

Making transportation more sustainable even with fuel-based automobiles

These innovations can reduce the pollution caused by vehicles.

According to the WHO’s Ambient Air Pollution Database released in 2016, ten of the twenty most polluted cities in the world are in India, with Gwalior and Ahmedabad occupying the second and third positions. Pollution levels are usually expressed in the levels of particulate matter (PM) in the air. This refers to microscopic matter that is a mixture of smoke, metals, chemicals and dust suspended in the atmosphere that can affect human health. Particulate matter is easily inhaled, and can cause allergies and diseases such as asthma, lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Indian cities have some of the highest levels of PM10 (particles smaller than 10 micrometres in diameter) and PM2.5 particles (particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter). The finer the particulate matter, the deeper into your lungs it can penetrate causing more adverse effects. According to WHO, the safe limits for PM2.5 is 10 micrograms per cubic meter.

Emissions resulting from transportation is regarded as one of the major contributors to pollution levels, especially particulate matter. A study conducted by the Centre for Ecological Sciences of the Indian Institute of Science estimated that the transport sector constitutes 32% of Delhi’s emissions. It makes up 43% of Chennai’s emissions, and around 17% of Mumbai’s emissions.

Controlling emissions is a major task for cities and auto companies. The Indian government, to this end, has set emission standards for automobiles called the Bharat Stage emission standard, which mirrors European standards. This emission standard was first instituted in 1991 and has been regularly updated to follow European developments with a time lag of about 5 years. Bharat Stage IV emission norms have been the standard in 2010 in 13 major cities. To tackle air pollution that has intensified since then, the Indian government announced that Bharat Stage V norms would be skipped completely, and Stage VI norms would be adopted directly in 2020.

But sustainability in transport requires not only finding techniques to reduce the emissions from public and private transport but also developing components that are environment friendly. Car and auto component manufacturers have begun optimising products to be gentler on the environment and require lesser resources to manufacture, operate and maintain.

There are two important aspects of reducing emissions. The first is designing vehicles to consume less fuel. The second is making the emissions cleaner by reducing the toxic elements.

In auto exteriors, the focus is on developing light-weight but strong composite materials to replace metal. A McKinsey study estimates that plastic and carbon fibre can reduce weight by about 20% and 50% respectively. A lighter body reduces the engine effort and results in better fuel economy. Additionally, fuel efficiency can be increased by reducing the need for air conditioning which puts additional load on the vehicle engine thereby increasing fuel consumption. Automotive coatings (paints) and sheets provide better insulation, keep the vehicle cool and reduce the use of air conditioning.

Most emissions are the result of inefficient engines. Perhaps the most significant innovations in making automobiles and mass transport systems more eco-friendly are being done in the engine. Innovations include products like fuel additives, which improve engine performance, resist corrosion and reduce fuel consumption while offering a great driving experience, and catalytic converters that reduce toxic emissions by converting them to less harmful output such as carbon dioxide, Nitrogen and water. Some of these catalytic converters are now capable of eliminating over 90 percent of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.

All of these are significant measures to bring the negative impacts of vehicular pollution under control. With over 2 million vehicles being produced in India in 2015 alone and the moving to BS VI emission standards, constant innovation is imperative.

Beyond this, in commercial as well as passenger vehicles, companies are innovating with components and processes to enable higher resource efficiency. Long-lasting paint coatings, made of eco-friendly materials that need to be refreshed less often are being developed. Companies are also innovating with an integrated coating process that enables carmakers to cut out an entire step of coating without compromising the colour result or the properties of the coating, saving time, materials and energy. Efforts are being made to make the interiors more sustainable. Parts like the instrument panel, dashboard, door side panels, seats, and locks can all be created with material like polyurethane plastic that is not only comfortable, durable and safe but also easily recyclable. Manufacturers are increasingly adopting polyurethane plastic like BASF’s Elastollan® for these very reasons.

From pioneering the development of catalytic converters in 1975 to innovating with integrated process technology for coatings, BASF has always been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to making transport solutions more sustainable. The company has already developed the technology to handle the move of emissions standards from BS IV to BS VI.

For the future, given the expected rise in the adoption of electric cars—an estimated 5~8 percent of car production is expected to be pure electric or plug-in electric vehicles by 2020—BASF is also developing materials that enable electric car batteries to last longer and achieve higher energy density, making electronic mobility more feasible. To learn more about how BASF is making transport more sustainable, see here.

Watch the video to see how automotive designers experimented with cutting edge materials from BASF to create an innovative concept car.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.

× Close