THE Supreme Court has halted the government's attempt to revise the school syllabus after widespread protests from liberal educationists and politicians who accused it of trying to impose a Hindu nationalist agenda.
The government plans to challenge the court judgment, which came as many parts of India were caught up in sectarian violence.
The syllabus change will now have to be shelved until the hearing of a public interest litigation notice filed by media personalities and social activists. The notice accuses the government of revising the syllabus "towards promotion of the political and religious ideology in favour with some sections of the government".
It contends that children would be subjected to biased and incomplete knowledge. It also alleges that the revision was adopted without consulting the Central Advisory Board on Education (CABE). According to the 1986 National Policy on Education, the government cannot change the school syllabus without calling a meeting of the board, which includes experts from all fields and state education ministers. Individual states have to ratify and agree changes to education policy.
The government, led by the Bharatiya Janta Party, has been accused of trying to usher in the concept of Hindu supremacy in schools through changed textbooks, especially in history. Despite a bitter debate, the government decided to go ahead and schools have now been told to adopt the changed syllabus from the new session next month.
This has left school principals not knowing which order to follow. Publishers, too, have said that they do not know if they should print the new books, and fear losses.
Schools have been badly affected by sectarian violence in the past, particularly in the western state of Gujarat, where communal clashes early this month left more than 700 dead. Gujarat schools had only just started to recover from the devastation caused by a huge earthquake a year ago.