School Hindu scripture plan foiled in Kashmir
6:50 PM, October 28, 2018
India(Jammu and Kashmir):Abortive bid was aimed at ‘saffronization’ of education in the Muslim-majority state, claim critics.
Complaints from religious and political leaders have forced the scrapping of a requirement for Hindu scriptures to be made available to students in India’s Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The state administration, under the federal government run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on Oct. 23 ditched the bid only one day after it was announced.
The state education department wanted schools, colleges and public libraries to make available copies of Hinduism’s sacred books, the epic tales of the Bhagavat Gita and the Ramayana.
And these institutions were directed to have the texts available in the local Urdu language.
The National Conference, a political party, was first to protest, asserting that if Hindu texts were to be provided, the same should apply for other religions.
Archbishop John Moolachira of Guwahati, a member of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, described the directive as selective and bizarre.
He cited “saffronization” of education in Jammu and Kashmir, a reference to the saffron robes worn by Hindu priests.
Archbishop Moolachira said this agenda included an attempt to overhaul school and college curriculums to win support from grassroots Hindus.
The prelate said that the studying of religious texts was not bad in itself, but scriptures of all religions should be made available to students so they could learn values impartially.
Javaid Bhat, a social activist based in Kashmir, said the move was a violation of India’s Constitution barring promotion of religions through educational institutions. “Why drag religion into school curriculums?” he asked.
Bhat also believed the aborted move had been aimed at giving a “Hindu color” to education in line with the ruling BJP’s ideology of Hindu dominance.
Abid Ahmad, an educationalist, warned that doing so would lead to anarchy by undermining the majority-Hindu nation’s secular character. He noted that history books for schools had already been re-written to omit the reigns of Muslim kings.
One independent legislator from Kashmir termed the withdrawal of the controversial Hindu scripture requirement for students as a confession of guilt.
He said the government needed to explain why it issued a communally-oriented order only to withdraw it after realizing that the measure had not gone down well with most people in the state.
Jammu and Kashmir has some 12.5 million people, with nearly 70 percent of them Muslims and 29 percent Hindus. Most Hindus live in the Jammu region, while the majority in Kashmir — 96 percent — are Muslims. The state also has some 20,000 Christians, with Catholics the largest component.
Jammu and Kashmir has suffered violence since militant Islamic groups began resisting Indian rule 30-years ago.
An estimated 100,000 people have died in the conflict, including civilians, militants and security force personnel.
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