06/20/2006, 00.00
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Gujarat: Jesuits call for withdrawal of manipulative, error-ridden books

by Nirmala Carvalho

The incriminating passages – found in nearly every page – include descriptions of tribal minorities as "factors of insurgency" in the country. Hitler is a "nationalist" and the Holocaust is not mentioned.

Ahmedabad (AsiaNews) – Prashant, the Jesuit centre for justice and peace, has called for the immediate withdrawal of textbooks published for final year students in Gujarat high schools because they are "full of mistakes, manipulations and factual inaccuracies".

In a letter addressed to the to the director and the executive president of the State Board of School Textbooks, Fr Cedric Prakash, director of Prashant, said: "Anybody reading this textbook will recoil in horror at the mistakes on almost every single page."

The Jesuit listed "just a few" mistakes, which include bad grammar and use of language and erroneous content, other than phrases that simply do not make sense. The passages that give cause for most concern, however, "are those in which the truth about minorities is radically distorted."

Such phrases include "Christians [sic] missionaries of Portugal came to India to spread Christianity" and that "the right to religion, especially to minorities, assures them that they can undertake the propaganda for [sic] spread and encouragement of their religion. The law does not accept forceful religious conversion.  Any educational institution, taking government grant [sic], cannot preach religious teachings."  The same minorities are mentioned a few pages later as being among the main "factors which stimulate insurgency" in the country.

The centre submitted a formal request for the book's withdrawal to the High Court of Gujarat, which rejected it – despite a massive information campaign – and suggested that "if we approach the Board of Textbooks, they would do the necessary changes". To date, however, no office has taken any action at all.

Fr Prakash said: "In spite of the many mistakes, the books are in the hands of final year students who must study history from texts describing Hitler as a 'nationalist' and which make no mention of the Holocaust."

He told AsiaNews: "The impressionable minds of the children have to be given authentic information. The false propaganda in this book could permanently condition their minds with regard to minorities like, for example, the Christians in Goa." Since the academic year has started, the Jesuit said "most students are not likely to replace their textbooks. This is why we are calling for their immediate and unconditional withdrawal."

"The youth awareness" campaign by Hindu nationalists does not target only adult classes. In kindergartens of Madhya Pradesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP, India's largest political party with nationalist-fundamentalist leanings] has banned nursery rhymes in English – used to teach the alphabet to children – because they are "too western". State Education Minister, Narottam Mishra, said "anything that recalls Western culture will be removed from the school syllabus; we want our children to have value education with local colour."

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