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India

Christians oppose India's draft education policy

The policy is seeking to instill Hindu nationalist values in the secular nation, critics say

Ritu Sharma, New Delhi

Ritu Sharma, New Delhi

Updated: November 22, 2016 06:33 AM GMT
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Christians oppose India's draft education policy

Christians and activists listening to their leaders speak against a draft education policy in New Delhi on Nov. 17. (ucanews.com photo)

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Christians are opposing a draft education policy introduced by India’s pro-Hindu government worried that it will tear the country’s secular fabric and prop up the caste system.

The federal government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), published a draft education policy in July seeking public opinion.  Church groups were the first to oppose it saying the policy attempts to implement the cultural, religious and political ideologies of the BJP.

"The government is trying to impose an anti-people policy on the whole country. If the draft is finalized it will disturb the secular and peaceful fabric of the country," Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi said.

Christians say that the draft wants to commercialize education, a move that will only produce brain-washed employees instead of enlightened citizens. They also say that the draft policy undermines the values of equality, secularism and socialism enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

 

"The government gradually wants to control and centralize the education sector by inviting investment from private bodies," said Father Joseph Manipadam, secretary of the Indian bishops’ office for education.

Poor children would not be able to afford school fees and the policy also indirectly supports the caste system because it allows students to be segregated based on their performance, Father Manipadam said.

The policy wants high performing students to take up studies in science and mathematics, while others should take up skill-based education. "This will naturally push poor students into caste-based jobs," the priest said.

Echoing the same views, Samuel Jaikumar of the National Council of Churches in India told ucanews.com that the Christian community is really worried about the "communalization and commercialization" of education.

"We want the government to withdraw the draft as it is not in everyone’s interest," he said.

The Catholic Church in India had criticized the draft policy in August for introducing Vedic mathematics, yoga and stressing ancient Hindu systems of knowledge.

On Nov. 17, over 50 social organizations, various political parties, Christian churches and students rallied near the Indian parliament in New Delhi to protest the draft.

Prominent Christian organizations who took part in the protest included: the All Indian Catholic Union, All India Catholic Minority Front, All India National Association of Catholic Schools, Church of North India, Church of South India, CBCI office for education and women and Chetnalaya, the social service wing of the Delhi archdiocese.

Senior politician Digvijay Singh from the Indian National Congress Party told that gathering that hard-line Hindu groups want to impose "their will and ideology" by changing the education policy.

"We want the government to remove the draft policy from its website. There should be an open dialogue with all stakeholders to bring in changes," he said.

 

Two Catholic nuns were among hundreds of people marching through New Delhi protesting a draft education policy on Nov. 17. (ucanews.com photo)

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