Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Storm in a teacup...errr..textbook!

I seldom, if ever, use this blog to discuss scorecard and bookings table of India's most popular game - no, not cricket - politics. But there are some issues that goes to the root of one's beliefs, which need to be talked about without delay or ado.

I am a atheist and proudly so. It is very important to me that every individual have religious freedom just as any other fundamental rights. And religious freedom is not just the right to choose among religions but also the freedom to choose not to have a religion at all.

Yet, almost every child has its religion chosen for him or her. I am an atheist yet officially I am a Hindu. It took me 27 years of thought to finally work out what I thought about Gods & Demons, but no one waited that long, no one bothered to ask me what I believed in. I never asked for any religion but my parents indiscriminately filled it in all the myriad forms an individual encounters in this country. I suppose it never occured to them that their son would want to be anything other than a Hindu.

If I said that your political leaning would be chosen by your parents or they would decide that you would only drink Coke and not Pepsi for the rest of your, when you were just 21 days old or that you would marry only a girl called Kamalakshi, wouldn't you protest? Then, isn't strange that no one protests the fact that their religious orientation, one of the most important identifiers of a person in Indian society, is chosen at or before birth?

That's all what the Standard VII Text book published by the Kerala Govt. tries to explore in a simplistic manner. And it has sparked off a maelstrom of protest.

Whatever your religion or political leaning, I urge you to read exactly what the "offensive" page in the text book reads and what my friend Brahma has to say about it here. I am sure once you read what it is all about, you will be quite surprised.

Excuse this interlogue, but I am sure it will be worth your time.


  1. Alas! Sanity always takes a back seat, especially in Kerala.

  2. Thanks for the post Ajay!

    I was fretting in the BVN talkies over the lack of interest among our 'genius' blogfriends over this issue. I didnt have time myself to dig deep into this issue..And suddenly a few posts sprang up..There must be a people's movement against these fraudulent politicians and religious leaders who are campaigning against this innocuous chapter.

    Secularism, as per the dictionary means not pertaining to or connected with religion. And India boasts to be a no-religion state, meaning secular state. I think 'secularism' in India means 'treating all religions alike' instead of the original idea. Now how different are both!

    I wonder why the judiciary havn't been moved over this matter. Surely the political/religious tantrums wont hold water if challenged in people's court.

    Congrats for raising this issue here Ajay.. :)

  3. Would the protesters burn computers or take printouts of your post and burn them?

    Thanks for the post, there needs to be more people who support what they believe (or do not believe in), even when it is not in tune with the society that they live in.

  4. Rightly said Ajay. There is no problem in that book.
    The incident in the book about the admission to a child of an intercastely married couple is creating all this gimmick revolts by some people saying that the book is against religion. Actually that situation is faced by many parents at the time of the admission of their child.

    How it will become anti religious?
    That book just tries to cultivate the biggest asset of our country-"SECULARISM" among the children.

    For beleiving in God anyone needs the religion? I think no. For eg
    Iam a beleiver of God, but I don't like to get tagged with any religion. But the present social circumstances prevent me from doing so. for eg In any application, we cannot see an option for a person who is not belonging to any religion. Several times I wished for seeing such an option.

    Now who is this religous heads? They are the ones who thinks that the power should always remain in their hands. They collects money from the people, starts business, institutions etc and controls all this asetts for their personal interests and so. By using this power and money they are intimidating and challenging the government or any other people who speaks against their anti social approaches. They are the ones who is enjoying their life from the earnings of a normal man.

    A biggest plus for them is that they alwys won in tagging God with Religion . They teached the people that only through religion or them, they can reach to God. They made the perception among the public that, those who are not following any religion are anti-God.

  5. Dear Ajay
    Its not that simple issue
    There are many questions like
    1) do u think there is some dressing pattern for some religons
    2) do u know in the same religion there are different castes etc
    3)Channar agitation for breast covering
    4) Kayyur agitation Tholviraku samaram
    5) Malayalam text is full of comunist authors cherukad etc

    This is not now, I have seen the entire history is distorted in history books of VIII IX and X , earlier also did the same thing.
    You just go through Malayalam texts of VIII,IX,X and see who are authors of lessons and whats basically its content, baba these are all politised.
    Who gave Communist this freedom?
    It seems only P.Krishnapilla and EMS are the intellectuals of Kerala if u read history texts, thats bad no?

  6. I totally agree with you.. how come it is ok for parents to force religion on children but its not ok to give them another alternative...that of not having a religion.

  7. Thanks for the feedback, everyone. I am happy to see this much action, there is hope for us yet! Lol, I am equally rather sad that this is the first time I am getting such response to a post. And to a post whose subject is actually quite unimportant in the greater scheme of things than some of the other things I talk about. After all, the textbook hiatus will soon be replaced by some other. Just kidding, it is very heartening to see the response here and on blogs like Brahma's.

    The funny part is that the reason I delayed putting something up on this ruckus is because it took me quite some time to realise that these idiots were so serious about creating some much trouble on the issue! Kudos to Brahma and a lot of the other junta who responded quickly.

    Sanjukta, I read your post along similar lines and we agree on a lot of things. I was born into a background about which have very little to complain about. But one complaint definitely is that most of my identity, atleast as far as our society is concerned, was created without my consent. In fact, it took me 20-odd years to realize that that was what had happened. Guess that's why I feel so strongly about the issue.

    Leenu, I am very left leaning. Let's be clear about that. But I agree that there is some amount of bias being written into text books. However, history is always a perspective and never absolute. It is written by those who have the power to do so. 100 seats out of 140 in the LA won by the LDF last time can be seen as a sign of populist approval. Frankly, I don't think any mandate is enough to distort the truth, but is history the truth or the most popular interpretation of the truth? But what ticks me off most is that the debate is not about some of the topics which need to be debated like the prominence assigned to some protests over others but over the silliest issues. In India, the maximum bloodshed has been over religion, and even today, this debate is about why you or I should have the freedom to reject that tyranny.

    Thanks for your support, keep reading and letting me know your thoughts. Take care.

  8. @Ajay

    I went through the text book and here are my comments:

    Having an excerpt from AK Gopalan's (auto)biography is not expected. He is a well known communist leader of yester years. This is like bombarding commie thoughts in class 7.
    The style in which "Kudiyozhippikkal" and Karivellur Samaram are introduced indeed has a commie angle.
    Too much stress on Land Reforms, unwanted.
    Would a 7th standard kid understand Smt KR Gouriamma's response to a bill, as told in the assembly?? Why are they doing this?

    Pages on Human Devlopment Indices of Kerala, good, acceptable.
    I don't understand-what is being taught? Time line of the social changes?
    Why is there an excerpt on how lower caste women used to have food left over by Antarjanams(Namboodiri Brahmin women)??? What are the commies trying to convey?

    Channar Revolt-unwanted , again selling commie ideology.
    Vaikom and Guruvayoor Satyagrahams-These should have been the ONLY one to be included in the text book, rather worth including.

    Pratyaksha Rakshasabha-why get into every single point of social equality.
    Wouldn't the mention of Vaikom or Guruvayur be enough?
    Same with the mention of Muslim Ikyasangham.

    After going through all these portions, a 7th standard kid reaches a chapter that says, say no not only to caste, but religion. Should these things be taught in school, that too at this level?

    Having the lines from all holy books-accepted.

    But, I still haven't understood the relevance of a question that asks which religion would be affected the max by inflation, water scarcity, contagious diseases and earthquake..!!!
    May be they wanted the answer, people of all religions would be affected. sigh!

    Chapter 3
    Iniyum Muttott-the mention of Palm Oil rates was unwanted, rest accepted.
    The next page that mentions a "rich guy" who says he will do whatever with his land while a passerby comments why are people protesting? These two kinds of people are painted a shade of ENEMY;yes, the commies what more jobless people for DYFI , SFI whatever.

    The text says, "As discussed in a class, these were the meanings of Freedom"; instead this should have been an open discussion in every class. Shouldn't that been a better way to do it rather than already having 4 meanings for freedom.

    Parts of the British coming in-well, good! But comparing it with today's situation? Do they expect an answer of the lines of communism?? Please, gimme a break!!!

    Parts on Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries-acceptable.
    Throwing light on the revolt of 1857, Jalianwalla Bagh massacare-yes, much needed at this level. If not in class 7, when?

    Other parts on Indian History like pages on Khilafat,Dandi Satyagraha,Quit India-acceptable.

    This chapter ends with a note to start a discussion on Land grabbing, caste/gender based discrimination, accumulation of wealth--is this an NDTV debate?

    News clippings on Forest Guards/Excise attacked,or Sand/Liqour mafia attacking people-UNWANTED.
    Then why not include DYFI/SFI vandalising,killing people in Kannur??? HUH!

    Asking the students to compare the British discipline to India's prgress(ie Mukesh Ambani's wealth)-Weird, useless

    Portion on length of day/night-acceptable.
    Other geography portions, parts on civilizations and the rest of the book seem fine to me.

  9. there is much to this than being agitated about now. the text book is a clear attempt to instill communist thoughts int little minds. the queer fact is that i dont find any problem with the lesson(the principal-parents interview) in debate but a few other chapters in that text really have a sting attached to it...

    cheap tactics by commies..and even cheaper by the UDF and the religious leaders.

  10. What about the pledge on India? It says we should love all "Indians" as brothers and sisters... Why only Indians?
    “Patriotism is Like Racism”

  11. About the 7th std book.

    The very first move to eliminate the religion is appreciable. but that should not used as an equipment to inject the communism or their political agendas to the students.

    I strongly believe, "Matham illatha jeevan" doesn't harm the society, but it provokes serious thoughts about the relevance/irrelevance of the religion and all of its evils in society.

  12. Nehru's last will and testament changed in Kerala texts

    The 'Last Will and Testament' of India's first prime minister, a lawyer by profession, was in elegant English and stated simply: "I wish to declare with all earnestness that I do not want any religious ceremonies performed for me after my death. I do not believe in such ceremonies, and to submit to them, even as a matter of form, would be hypocrisy and an attempt to delude ourselves and others."

    It now reads: "I do sincerely desire to declare that no religions ceremony be performed for me after my death. I do not believe in any such ceremonies. To be forced to do them even as a formality is hipocracy and an attempt to scare us and others."

    This was reported in many national dailies.

  13. I feel political idealogies should be kept off school textbooks. May be in degree courses they can add these themes.

    If the opposition party insists that a particular text or chapter is trying to spread a political idealogy, Government should take it seriously and change the course material accordingly. That is the healthy way of upkeeping democratic traditions


Thanks for your comment, I will take a look at it and put it up at the earliest.