|Torz tankönyv rongálja a gyerekek jövőjét / “Distorted textbooks would destroy children\\\'s future”|
Introduction: “Distorted textbooks would destroy children's future”
The textbooks taught in Gujarat schools are filled with hatred and prejudice towards the religious minorities in India, Church leaders say. Jesuit Father Cedric Prakash, who runs Prashant, a human rights centre in Ahmedabad is leading the campaign against distorted schools textbooks in Gujarat. In an exclusive interview to The Indian Catholic, Father Prakash speaks out how the textbooks are spreading wrong impressions about Christians, Muslims and other minorities in the country.
You have demanded that the Gujarat government should withdraw school textbooks? What prompted you to put forward such a demand?
Yes, we have demanded that the Gujarat government should withdraw the Social Science Textbook, which they have just published for Std. IX (ninth class). Our demand comes after very serious research that has been done on the textbook. We looked at the textbook from several dimensions, which included historicity, factual accuracy, language and grammar, manipulations, distortions and above all, the right of a child to have an education that is objective, impartial, creative and wholesome.
Last year, 2004, we researched the newly published book on Social Science, which was published by the Gujarat government for Std. VIII (class eight) and found a whole variety of errors. At one stage, they agreed to change the textbook or at least send a corrigendum to the various schools but they did nothing about that. So ultimately, this year's demand is coupled with what we wanted last year too.
In the past, together with KHOJ, the Bombay-based organization headed with Teesta Setalvad, we have highlighted the state of the textbooks published in Gujarat and we have tried to be involved in a sustained campaign to promote better education for the children of Gujarat.
Can you tell us more about the distortions in the textbooks? What are they?
If I were to highlight the distortions in this particular textbook, I would necessarily have to replicate the whole textbook. Every single page is full of mistakes, historical inaccuracies and distortions.
I would like to cite just a couple of examples:
Hitler is almost deified. The word 'SWASTIK' and 'FUHRER' (Saviour) are spelt out in capitals. There is not a single mention of concentration camps, the holocaust and the extermination of several million Jews by Hitler (in spite of the fact that there is a whole para entitled "Factors Leading to World War II".)
Mahatma Gandhi does find a place in India's Freedom Struggle but there is no photo of him anywhere among other heroes like Veer Savarkar who find a place. Above all, there is absolutely no mention of Mahatma Gandhi being the Father of the Nation.
Statements like these are found in the textbook: "Also India suffered from communal secularism, communal riots, and migration of Hindu and Muslims as gift in heritage,”
"Wild animals are like our family members,” “Young is the age group of 10 – 19,” “the youth group is a non-productive part of the nation. They are simply the consumers of material goods and services. Youths are important human resources for a bright future of the nation.”
The above are just samplings of what lies in the book. It is in fact, part comedy, part tragedy but when one comes to think of it, one can only lament at what is happening to the children of Gujarat.
You have said that the textbooks are filled with prejudice and hatred towards religious minorities. Can you cite some examples?
Yes, I can highlight several examples where this particular textbook is with prejudice and hatred towards religious minorities. I quote some examples verbatim:
"Due to such religious rigidity of the Portuguese, the faith towards religious neutrality and impartiality of Pope in the European states started shaking.”
"The then Portugues Governor Albeirque inhumanity oppressed the local people with religious rigidity for making propaganda of Christian the religion.”
"Turkey was defeated in World War I so Indian Muslims were not happy.”
"Uniform Civil Code should be prepared and be implemented in the entire nation.”
Do the textbooks demonize Christians, Muslims and other minorities?
From the above quotes, it is very obvious that Christians and Muslims are demonized. There is also an anti-women bias with a very clear statement suggesting that one of the factors leading to a higher birth rate is "encouragement for widow remarriage.”
What has prompted the Gujarat government to come out with such textbooks?
The Gujarat government, for the last several years definitely follows an ideology, which is very fascist in nature and just does not care about human rights very specially those of the tribals, the dalits, women and minorities. A clear case in point is the Gujarat carnage of 2002, which saw communal brutality at its worst. Even today, those responsible for this violence are unpunished; they roam the streets and govern the state both with impunity and immunity. Naturally, they try to influence young minds with a distorted and prejudiced view of others so that they can continue with their agenda of hate and divide and rule.
This is not the first instance of distortion in school textbooks by various state governments led by the BJP? What does the BJP hope to achieve by distorting schools textbooks?
This is definitely not the first instance of the distortion of school textbooks by those in authority. History has shown that many groups who sit in governance try to tamper with the educational system so that they can perpetrate their ideology and their agenda on others. This strategy works immensely when regimes are fascist or totalitarian. We have seen it in several countries all over the world in the past and we still see it in several states here in India and in particular those run by the BJP.
It goes without saying that by distorting the school textbooks specially those dealing with history will pay dividence for the BJP. There will be more young men and women warming up to them very specially if they begin to see others (be in minorities or dalits) with coloured blinkers.
What is the impact such distortion has on students? Has your centre done any survey/study on it?
At this stage, it is extremely difficult to measure the impact of these textbooks on the minds of the students. Since these are government books, the children have no choice but to study them and literally "vomit" the answers in the examinations. Only time will tell whether it will be a totally negative impact or whether the students will be able to see through the game plan of a scheming and manipulative group of people who are hell bent on trying to destroy the careers and future of the children.
As I said earlier, we at Prashant have been the only group, which has been researching these textbooks. The campaign that we have launched has definitely made citizens all over the world aware of what is happening in Gujarat and we can truly say that in some small measure, through these efforts, we are working towards the establishment of a society which is more just, more humane, more loving and more peaceful.
You have demanded the withdrawal of these textbooks. Have you submitted a memorandum to the state government in this regard?
Yes, we have demanded the withdrawal of these textbooks. We did not see the need of submitting a memorandum to the government. We are at this stage planning a massive campaign both locally and on-line to get the government withdraw these textbooks. They should realize their folly and withdraw these books immediately and unconditionally. If not, we are definitely going to seek recourse to legal action.
What has been the state government’s response to your demand?
Since we have not given the government any memorandum, there is no official response to us but they have spoken to the media and have already said that they will not withdraw the textbook and if needed, they may make some minor corrections through a circular. We of course are not satisfied with this response because, as I said earlier, the whole book should be confined to the waste-paper-basket and the government has no other choice but to withdraw it immediately.
Geographical place: Gujarat (India)
Persons whom it is about: Prakash, Cedric SJ
Groups, movements whom it is about: Prashant
Date of creation or issue: 2005. 08. 03.
Author: Prakash, Cedric SJ
Target audience: teachers, trainers