Updated: October 26, 2018 10:11 AM GMT
Artists dressed as characters from the epic Hindu poem Ramayana act out a scene of the mythical drama on Oct. 11. Jammu and Kashmir's government recently withdrew an order imposing Hindu scriptures in schools following protests. (Photo by IANS).
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.
….as we enter the last months of 2021, we are asking readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.
For the last 40 years, UCA News has remained the most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service from Asia. Every week, we publish nearly 100 news reports, feature stories, commentaries, podcasts and video broadcasts that are exclusive and in-depth, and developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes.
Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to – South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters who cover 23 countries in south, southeast, and east Asia. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.