Dina Nath Batra, whose civil suit had led to the pulping of a book on Hinduism by scholar Wendy Doniger, is in news again. Out of the nine books, introduced in Gujarat’s schools and published by the Gujarat State School Textbook Board, eight are by him. No foreign collaborations for CBSE, ban on teaching of foreign languages in school and a call centre to inculcate “values and nationalism” in students and much more is on the wish-list of this controversial teacher. The 85-year-old retired school principal talks to HT about his books and more.
What is your connection with PM Narendra Modi? He has written the foreword for your books, and the Gujarat government has selected them.
I have no connection with the PM. People in the Pustak Prakashan Vibhag and the Gujarat school education department contacted him and showed him my books when he was the chief minister. He then wrote the foreword for the books.
But don’t you think including words like negroes is offensive, and racist?
This is just an anecdote which was made in an attempt to show that Indians are not inferior in any way. It should not be taken seriously. The teachers should also guide the students on how they should interpret these anecdotes.
You have written about English being ‘half-cooked rotis’ and the ‘negroes’ as being overcooked. You’ve described both as mistakes by God.
Please understand that I have not said this. This is part of an anecdote given by Dr Radhakrishnan. Once Dr Radhakrishnan went for dinner at the event and a Briton made some taunting remarks in an attempt to show his superiority. Dr Radhakrishnan replied jokingly, taking ‘roti’ as an example. But I assume that Dr Radhakrishnan was not serious on what he said as he was a great philosopher.
Do you like to be in the midst of a controversy?
Why should I want to be at the centre of a controversy? But I like people who criticise me. Not just me, even UNESCO says that one should be rooted to their culture and wedded to the growth of the country.
And how does blowing out candles on birthday cakes devalue culture?
A birthday should be celebrated as a ‘Daan Deep Diwas’. On this day, the candles should not be blown out. There should not be any darkness. The child should go with his parents to slums, spend time with needy people and distribute food and clothes.
How should the books of a school be like?
The books that are included in the curriculum should teach a child to live his/her life. They should help him/her imbibe positive values.
Do you feel that your books should be introduced in other states also?
My books talk about Indian culture. If any other state or educational organisation approaches me, I will be more than willing to give my assent.
What is your role in RSS?
I have no role in RSS. I don’t take part in any of their day-to-day activities. There is a body called the Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas — of which I am the national president.
Which book do you like the most? Do you like watching serials?
Bhagwad Gita. I try to watch Balika Badhu, Maharana Pratap and Mahabharat.
You had got Penguin India to pulp a book by Wendy Doniger. Have you also objected to her other book, ‘On Hinduism’?
Yes, we had sent a legal notice 4-5 months ago and we got a response from the publisher, Aleph. The publisher has assured us that the second round of books will not be published without my consent.
What legal cases are you fighting in court?
We are presently focusing on two cases: one is on the use of derogatory words in NCERT and the other pertains to teaching German instead of Sanskrit in central schools.
How is your normal day like?
I get up at 5.30am, go for a walk and read 12 newspapers. Then I do my office work and correspondence work, which I finish by lunch time. At 3pm, all my 15 office people assemble together, pray and spell out one good sentence of values… I especially liked one sentence… ‘Nirantar jalne wale deepak bijli ki chamak se achcha hain (A lamp which is constantly burning is better than the glow of lightning)’. Then we all discuss what we had done in the past 24 hours. In evenings, I generally watch some good serials.
How are you so active even at this age?
I like to keep myself busy. I also like to talk to myself more often. Then I read a lot. I try to read at least three books in a month. These things keep me healthy.