Thiruvananthapuram: Religious groups in Kerala have warned the government they would start statewide protests if it doesn’t scrap references to atheism in a new social studies textbook for Class VII.
A chapter in the textbook for schools that follow the state government’s syllabus says atheism is a better principle to follow in life compared to religion. Leaders of the state’s three main religions allege the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government is propagating Marxism and twisting history through the textbook.
The Church and the Nair Service Society, a Hindu organisation, have threatened to launch a statewide agitation against the Left government if the controversial textbook was not withdrawn.
Representatives of 12 Muslim organisations, led by the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), met Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan and Education Minister M A Baby on Monday and demanded that the textbook be withdrawn.
Baby on Tuesday rejected the Opposition alliance United Democratic Front (UDF) allegation’s that the textbook was anti-religious. He agreed to have a debate in the Assembly but insisted that the textbook was prepared on the basis of guidelines prepared by the National Council for Education Research and Training.
The Minister insisted that the book promotes tolerance but religious groups disagree. Religious leaders take offence to a particular passage in the textbook in which a boy and his parents go for admission to a school and the headmaster questions them about their religion. The boy’s parents say he doesn’t have a religion because theirs was an inter-religious marriage.
The textbook says that Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in his will that he didn’t want religious customs at his cremation. Religious groups allege the Left government is misinterpreting Nehru’s writing to promote atheism.
A report by UNI says two photojournalists and two constables were injured in Malappuram district when a protest march by the pro-IUML Muslim Students Federation turned violent on Tuesday.
The protesters allegedly threw stones at the police when they were stopped from marching to the office of the Deputy Director of Education in Malappuram to press for their demand that the textbook be withdrawn.
(With reporting by CNN-IBN Correspondent Naveen Nair in Thiruvananthapuram.)