New Delhi: At a time when the Narendra Modi government is facing allegations of imposing the hidden agenda of the RSS, one of the NDA ministers, Dr Mahesh Sharma has made a controversial remark, saying lessons from 'Mahabharata', 'Ramayana' and 'Gita' should be taught in schools and colleges.
In an exclusive interview with Zee Media, Dr Sharma defended his remarks but categorically denied allegations that the attempt to include 'Mahabharata', 'Ramayana' and 'Gita' in educational curriculum is part of the NDA government's plan to free the country of "cultural pollution" and excessive westernisation.
During the interview, the Union Minister of State for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation stressed that there was nothing wrong in making lessons from 'Mahabharata', 'Ramayana' and 'Gita' part of educational curriculum as it would familiarise the students with India's cultural heritage and inculcate "values" among young minds.
Sharma also said that although he had deep respect for 'Bible' and 'Quran', he feels that the two holy books are not at par with Hindu epics of Ramayana and Gita.
"I deeply respect Bible and Quran but they are not central to the soul of India in same the way as Gita and Ramayana are," Sharma said.
Sharma further added that as culture minister, it is his duty to protect and preserve the rich cultural legacy of India.
He also hinted that the Ministries of Culture and HRD are working on a plan to teach students about India's "cultural values", following detailed deliberations at a meeting of Education and Culture Ministers of BJP-ruled states and the Centre, besides RSS affiliates.
Stressing on the importance of Gita, the Minister said that the ancient Hindu epic is recognised the world over and its lessons are part of several prestigious business management curriculum.
Sharma stressed that the rampant use of narcotics and old age homes are a few examples of western cultural pollution and such practices should not be allowed to mushroom in the country.
However, Sharma is facing the Opposition ire over his controversial remarks. Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP had attacked Sharma over his "irresponsible" remarks that lessons from the 'Mahabharata' and the 'Gita' may soon be taught in schools and colleges.
The Aam Aadmi Party further alleged that it was being done at the behest of RSS.
Senior Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Sanjay Singh said Sharma's remarks did not come as a "surprise" after senior ministers of the Narendra Modi cabinet attended the "RSS school", referring to the recent meeting between ministers and RSS functionaries to assess the performance of the central government.
"How can a minister give such an irresponsible statement? Today, they have said lessons should be taught from the 'Gita' and the 'Mahabharata'. Tomorrow, there will be a demand to teach lessons from 'Quran', 'Bible' and 'Granth Sahib'. What type of country do we want to create? This is against the basic principles of our Constitution," Singh said.