The Harmony Foundation's press conference in Bhopal
Leaders from five religions in Madhya Pradesh have urged the state government to refrain from promoting only one religion through its various schemes.
“We want to promote peace and harmony for the development of the nation rather than divide people on communal lines,” Father Anand Muttungal, spokesman of the Catholic Church in the central Indian state, told a joint press conference in Bhopal yesterday.
Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh leaders also joined the Catholic priest to decry the government’s attempts to use educational and other schemes to promote Hinduism.
The pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian people’s party) has ruled the state since 2003.
Promoting only one religion, the religious leaders noted, was in “gross violation” of the country’s constitution that treats all religions as equal and upholds the principles of peace and harmony.
Father Muttungal said the government has given the names of people associated with one religion to its various welfare schemes.
The priest said he was surprised to see the government using education to promote “a particular religion”.
Such practices, he warned, posed a “serious threat” to the country’s unity.
According to him, the constitution’s secular values have held Indians together “despite our cultural, linguistic and religious differences.”
The leaders were brought together by the Harmony Foundation, a secular social forum in Bhopal, the state capital.
Its president L. S. Hardenia said the state government recently introduced teaching of Bhagwad Gita, a Hindu scripture, in its schools. For its proper implementation, it also conducted training programs for the teachers.
State Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan recently announced that the government would introduce Bhagawad Gita as part of the curriculum from the next academic session starting July.
The government should include summaries of all religions, if it is serious about students learning about religions, he asserted.
The religious leaders have agreed to take the lead in this, provided the government stops teaching only one particular religion.
The Harmony Foundation is also seeking legal options to challenge the government moves.
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