Storm over pro-Nazi text

8th October 2004 at 01:00

School pupils in India's most troubled state are to be taught to admire the achievements of the Nazis and dismiss those of Mahatma Gandhi.

A new history textbook issued by the Hindu nationalist government of Gujarat, scene of fierce communal rioting last year, portrays Hitler as a strong leader who brought order and stability to Germany, fostering national pride and instituting efficient administration, according to the Times of India.

Pupils are to be taught that Hitler brought economic prosperity and set in train the eradication of unemployment. The fact that he did this at the cost of a catastrophic war that destroyed his country is downplayed and victims of Hitler's regime barely merit a mention. There is nothing on the thousands of trade unionists and other opponents of the regime who were sent to concentration camps. Even the Holocaust gets a single grudging sentence. It is acknowledged as a "gruesome and inhuman act".

By contrast, Gandhi's non-violent campaign to get the British to quit India is criticised, with pupils even invited to question his significance in achieving independence. The book skates over Gandhi's assassination, without making it clear that he fell victim to Hindu extremists. Gujarat was Gandhi's home state.

Prashant, a human rights group based in the state capital, Ahmedabad, is calling for the withdrawal of the new textbook, which was issued by the Hindu nationalist BJP state government.

Prashant, a leading critic of the Gujarat government's role in the anti-Muslim riots of 2002, claims the social studies textbook is full of errors and will make students "more prejudiced". Father Cedric Prakash, director of Prashant, said the book fuels hatred against minority groups such as Muslims Christians and tribal peoples.

But the state government says the textbook will stay in use, with a new edition correcting grammatical and factual mistakes. It also announced positive references to Hitler would be withdrawn. Whether the Nazis'

negative aspects will finally make an appearance remains to be seen.

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