Militant Hindus under fire

28th April 2000 at 01:00

MILITANT HINDUS are laying siege to India's secular education system, the government has been warned.

The threat comes from the "saffronisation" movement, an attempt by Hindus to promote their religion and culture above all others.

There have beenattempts to "saffronise" academic institutions and textbooks. Responsibility is being laid at the door of the Rashtriya Sevak Sangh, the militant wing of the ruling Hindu Bhartiya Janta Party, according to report due to be discussed in Parliament later this month.

The report, by a committee of the human resource development ministry, says it fears that the liberal character of the country's education system, guaranteed by the constitution, is now under threat.

Eduardo Falerio, a member of the upper house of Parliament, and of the 42-strong committee, said there were major distortions and examples of bias against minorities in school and college textbooks in the BJP-ruled states.

A social studies textbook which referred to Muslims, Christiansand Parsees as "foreigners" is used in the state of Gujarat, he said.

The same book, he added, contained a chapter where the text denigrates the Catholic priesthood of the Middle Ages without singling out corrupt clergy of other faiths who are known to have been just as bad.

This might be legitimate, Mr Falerio added, but it becomes suspect when the same criticism is not levelled at the Brahmin religious minority.

"The priests of the Catholic church had accumulated plenty of wealth through unjust taxes, illegal fees, ownership of large tracts of land, selling miracles and indulgences. They spent this money on worldly pleasures and immoral behaviour," reads a passage from the offending text.

The committee also raised warnings of other unwelcome influences infiltrating state school textbooks.

Their report mentions the "glorification" of Nazism in some of history books and the openly inflammatory statements made about Islam in one of the history textbooks used in Maharashtra's colleges.

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