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Dismay at removal of religious figures from Karnataka syllabus

Archbishop Machado says the Indian state's government is interfering with the constitution's secular values

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Dismay at removal of religious figures from Karnataka syllabus

School students take part in a protest against the Indian government’s education policy in New Delhi on Nov. 18, 2016. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)

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Church and political leaders in India's southern state of Karnataka have expressed dismay over the state removing chapters on Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad from the school syllabus.

The state run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has also removed chapters on prominent leaders like Tipu Sultan and Hyder Ali who once ruled the state.

“It is very sad to know that our children who are the future of this country will miss important subjects such as Christianity and Islam and their contribution to building brotherhood among all humanity,” Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore told UCA News.

“India is known for unity in diversity around the world. The respect and communal harmony among us is the best example in this world and if that subject in disturbed we will lose the secular India which we all are proud of.

“What India can give to this world is the uniqueness of our communal harmony, but depriving our children of this subject is an injustice to our children. We should teach them about brotherhood and communal harmony, which all religions teach.” 

Archbishop Machado said the government is interfering with the constitution’s secular values and urged the state government “to take its decision back, if possible.”

Meanwhile, the state government said its decision to trim the 2020-21 syllabus was due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The government said it had taken the steps to ease the burden on students as working days had been reduced to 120.

The Karnataka Text Book Society website now shows that Chapter 5, which mentions Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan in the social sciences textbook for grade 7, has been removed.

It said the chapters on Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan were removed as the units do not require separate classes and can be introduced through assignments and presentations. 

Likewise, official sources said the government has dropped lessons on Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad in grade 6 as students will cover them in grade 9.

The textbook committee said the revisions were made to reduce the syllabus by 30 percent in view of the pandemic. It also plans to remove chapters on freedom fighters.

BJP leaders in the state have repeatedly demanded that sections on Tipu Sultan be removed from school textbooks. However, in December 2019, a state government-appointed committee suggested retaining these sections.

“It is impossible to teach the history of Mysore without the introduction to Tipu,” the panel said, according to The Wire. The ruling BJP of the state considers Sultan, a Muslim, a cruel oppressor who committed unspeakable atrocities against his Hindu subjects, but the Congress party regards him as a freedom fighter.

However, the opposition Congress party in the state has slammed the government for omitting chapters on the controversial figure.

“The BJP views everything from a political perspective. They want to push their personal agenda, which is unacceptable,” said D.K. Shivkumar, president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee.

“It is not right that the draft committee is trying to change the syllabus. It should be debated with all political parties. We can’t change history. History is history. I will set up a committee on this issue.” 

The Central Board of Secondary Education managed by the federal government this month dropped subjects like citizenship, nationalism, secularism and democratic rights from the syllabus for grades 9 to 12.

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