07/20/2011, 00.00
INDIA
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Karnataka: BJP threatens opponents to the teaching of Hindu sacred texts in public schools

A senior local Hindu nationalist party leader says Christians and Muslims are foreign to India. The archbishop of Bangalore warns the state is sliding towards extremism. The compulsory teaching of the Hindu sacred text Bhagvad Gita is an attack against India’s secular values.
Bangalore (AsiaNews) – The debate over a proposal to teach the Bhagvad Gita, Hindu sacred text, in Karnataka public schools, is heating up. The state government, which is run by the Hindu nationalist Bharathya Janatha Party (BJP), wants to add it to the curriculum despite opposition by local Christian and Muslims.

Dhananjay Kumar, a senior local BJP leader, recent said on TV that all religions born outside of India are Western and their followers cannot impose their will on public institutions. He also defended state Education Minister Vishveshwar Kaggeri who said that those who do not respect the Bhagvad Gita should leave the country.

The statement upset opposition parties and religious leaders who expressed concern about the state’s extremist policies.

The statement is “irresponsible”, Mgr Bernard Moras, archbishop of Bangalore, told AsiaNews. It violates the country’s secular values. “It could create divisions in the population and threaten the lives and traditions of Indian citizens.”

All Catholics respect the Hindu religion and traditions, but the public school system should not be used to spread a sectarian religious message in violation of the constitution.

“Why only the Bhagvad Gita should be taught in schools and not the Bible and the Qur‘an?” the prelate asked.

The archbishop said that he has already contacted Karnataka’s chief minister as well as the Indian prime minister. The state’s Bishops Commission has already petitioned the High Court.

In Karnataka, 83 per cent of the population is Hindu. Muslims represent 11 per cent and Christians, another 4 per cent.

Minorities have often been the victims of violence by radical Hindus who accuse Christians and Muslims of forced conversions.

On 6 July, 20 Hindu extremists attacked a Protestant clergyman accusing him of proselytising.

On 4 July, more than 50 extremists attacked the nuns of a Catholic school in Belgaum District (Bangalore). They wanted to force the sisters to admit the son of a local Hindu religious leader even though it was way past registration time. (N.C.)
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