Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Meat eaters "are cheaters, liars and sexual deviants." This is the claim of New Healthway, a controversial middle school science textbook used in India. Published by a major publishing house, the text has sparked controversy on the part of teaching staff and the public. For the moment, it is not known which and how many schools have adopted the book, defined as "poisonous for children" by Janaki Rajan, a professor at the Faculty of Education at Jamia Millia University in Delhi. Meanwhile, the world of education is urging the government to exercise more control, but the authorities have replied by saying that schools should examine the contents, because they were responsible for the selection of textbooks.
In the chapter "Do We Need Flesh Food?", the book's authors argue that "the creator of the universe did not include meat in the original diet for Adam and Eve. He gave them fruits, nuts and vegetables. This explains why meat is not an essential food." The chapter explains the "benefits" of a vegetarian diet, and lists some "typical characteristics" of those who eat meat: "They easily cheat, tell lies, forget promises, they are dishonest and tell bad words, steal, fight and turn to violence and commit sex crimes".
These are not the only "claims" under fire. The chapter, in fact, refers to Eskimos as "lazy, sluggish and short-lived," because their diet consists "largely of meat."
When questioned on the issue, M.M. Pallam Raju, State Minister for Human Resources Development, said: "sensitivities of communities have to be kept in mind. I think it's unfortunate, an occasional aberration happens. But what I would request is that the state body should always be on alert just like how NCERT [National Council of Educational Research Training] is on alert." For Professor Rajan instead, "the government has the power to do something, but it's washing its hands."
For Ram Puniyani, an intellectual and activist, what the text contains "is not only unscientific, but is also part of the divisive ideology that is currently dominating the 'social common sense' in India today. This is part of the propaganda, which is linked to the demonization of Muslims and also lately of Christians, who are supposed to be meat and beef eaters. As a matter of fact, a large section of Indian population cutting across religions is non vegetarian". According Puniyani, "putting such allegations in a schoolbook, and that to a CBSE [middle school] one, shows the infiltration of this ideology into different sections of society." (NC)