Karnataka Government Stoops to its Lowest

February 13, 2012 by  
Filed under Government, Karnataka, National, newsletter-lead, State

Meeting led by Freddy DsilvaKarnataka, February 13, 2012: The CSF protests communalising children, Jesuit priests being forced to tender apology and rise in communal attacks in coastal districts. For more info please read below write-ups that appeared in the Hindu newspaper on the subject.

Saffron slant in school textbooks


Karnataka, February 05, 2012: The new social studies textbooks of Standard 5 and Standard 8 — to be introduced in the next academic year — seem to present to children a version of history that has a strong saffron slant in several instances.

While the textbooks, the draft copy of which is available with The Hindu, present a few contestable historical facts, the bigger problem is one of omissions and commissions that lend the texts a slant typical of the Hindutva nationalist construction of Indian history.

For example, the book states in its fifth standard lesson, titled ‘Veda Kalada Bharata’, that cow slaughter was forbidden in the early Vedic period. The historical record, however, suggests otherwise. Historians such as D.N. Jha have shown how the Rigveda has references of beef being one of the most commonly consumed foods at the time. So indeed does K.T. Achaya in his scholarly dictionary of Indian food.

A chapter titled ‘Hosa Dharmagala Udaya’ (Birth of New Religions) in the Standard 8 textbook, has a highlighted box (Page 43) that makes a distinction between ‘dharma’ and ‘religion’. It makes the debatable claim that even Buddhism and Jainism, like Hinduism, cannot be categorised as religions, and that only Islam and Christianity in India fit into the category.

While presentation of such “facts” is one aspect, the overall tone of the textbooks, especially in the region-specific histories — introduced for the first time as separate textbooks for Bangalore, Mysore, Gulbarga and Belgaum divisions — needs closer examination.

For example, the rich syncretic traditions of the northern districts of Karnataka have been either glossed over or omitted altogether in the textbooks. Aspects of the pluralist culture of the region, like Bandenawaz Dargah, and poets like Shishunala Sharief, are dispensed with in brief and de-contextualised descriptions.

The Standard 5 textbook (page 106 of the draft copy) says that Bidar was originally called “Vidhura Nagara” and “Bidururu Pura”, a typical attempt to establish a Hindu past to cities and towns . The other popular explanation that Bidar has its roots in the Persian word meaning “Awakening” does not find a mention here. While the region is replete with evidence of the meeting of Sufi and Datta traditions — the shrine of Manikprabhu in Humnabad or the Savalagi Shivalingeshwara shrine near Gokak for example — these do not find a mention. The late Sham.Bha. Joshi and other scholars have established that their unique religious mix have given the Bombay-Karnataka and Hyderabad-Karnataka region a distinctly inclusive cultural character, simply not reflected in these textbooks, though they claim to present a flavour of every region to the children.

The delineation of the Hyderbad Liberation Movement in the Gulbarga division’s textbook is particularly striking for the manner in which it is constructed as a Hindu vs Muslim struggle. The role of the Andhra Maha Sabha in the movement, and its nationalist and anti-landlord content finds no mention. The same chapter describes the Vijayanagar kings as rulers who “protected, nurtured and upheld Hindu religion and culture” for over 200 years.

In its earlier draft, the Standard 5 textbook carried a map of “cultural India”, in the ‘Bharata, Namma Hemme’ (India, Our Pride) chapter, showing the country boundaries encompassing the Hindukush, parts of China, and large parts of south-east Asia — representing the nationalist Hindu notion of “Akhand Bharat”. This, it is learnt, was later dropped.

C.S. Dwarakanath, former chairperson of the Karnataka State Backward Classes Commission, described the draft copy as “a blatant attempt at filling children’s minds with ideological, religious and political biases at a tender age.”

Jesuit priests forced to apologise?

A group of Jesuit priests apologised at a peace committee meeting here on Thursday to those who allegedly attacked one of the priests on January 27.

The meeting was called by Anekal tahsildar S. Shive Gowda in connection with an incident on January 27 where ABVP activists allegedly barged into the St. Joseph’s Pre-University College in Bahadurpura and shut the institution down. They were agitated over the fact that the Jesuit priests who run the institution had not hoisted the national flag on Republic Day.

Television footage of the incident shows the activists manhandling and berating college principal Melwin Mendonca in the presence of the tahsildar and the police. Mr. Mendonca was then paraded in full public view and taken to the police station by the activists. This was not contested by the activists of various right wing groups who attended the meeting. When the priests tried to present this evidence to the tahsildar, one of the Hindutva leaders stood up and said, “Show all of this to your friends in America. Over here, we make the rules.”

Addressing the gathering, Mr. Shive Gowda said, “The Christians want to take out a rally and file a police case. I have called them here today to convince them that there is no need for anything like that. If they decide to withdraw their [proposed] protest and do not press charges, will you trouble them further?”

When the room, consisting largely of Hindutva ideologues, erupted in agreement, the tahsildar continued, “Then, let us end the matter here and leave the room as friends.”

He admonished the Jesuits for failing to hoist the national flag on Republic Day and advised them that they should do more to prove their allegiance to the flag and the nation.

Led by Freddy D’Silva, vice-president of the Karnataka Jesuit Educational Society, a group of priests tendered an unconditional apology at the meeting. “As citizens of India and as heads of educational institutions, we have made a mistake,” Mr. D’Silva told the gathering.

As he was leaving the meeting, Deputy Superintendent of Police A. Kumaraswamy told The Hindu, “The matter ends here. The ABVP activists have agreed to withdraw their complaint.” Asked about the “complaint” filed by the Jesuits, he said, “They have not filed anything. Anyway, there is no need for all that.”

However, Fr. Mendonca said that a complaint was filed with the police on February 4, but it was not accepted.

Later, Mr. D’Silva said, “The focus of the meeting should have been on the ‘illegal act’ where one of us was ‘harassed and detained’. I was pushed into a corner and I apologised. It is not illegal to not hoist the flag but it is illegal to attack and harass somebody.”

Fr. Mendonca has also written to the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission and the Governor seeking justice. “Our future course of action will be decided at the meeting of our governing council,” Mr. D’Silva said.

Protest against communal attacks

Writer Shivasundar said on Friday that Karnataka was well-known across the country for its literature and harmony, but it in the last three years it had become known for being “Reddy Republic” (a term used by the former Lokayukta N. Santosh Hegde in his report on the mining scam in the State). He also took pot-shots at the RSS.

Addressing a gathering at a protest organised by various organisations against communal attacks in the coastal districts, Mr. Shivasundar said if a Pakistan flag was hoisted by Muslims in Sindgi, the police would have thrashed them black and blue. He said the RSS spread hatred about Muslims and Christians and tried to equate proponents of Hindutva with Hindus. Efforts were on to change textbooks and “poison young minds” against Muslims and Christians by stating that Muslims were “invaders”.

Walter Cyril Pinto of Catholic Sabha, General secretary of Karnataka Komu Souharda Vedike K.L. Ashok, and Abdul Hassan of the Popular Front of India spoke.

– the hindu

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