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A book in controversy in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram, Wed, 25 Jun 2008 NI Wire

A seventh-class social science book in Kerala has sparked political and religious controversy after a chapter in it found by the religious leaders and the Opposition parties as spreading communism and atheism.

The content of the chapter “Life without religion” has left religious leaders on the toe. The religious leaders and the oppositions have alleged that the chapter undermines the role of religion and the Leftist government has deliberately included the chapter to propagate the Marxist ideology. It is said in the chapter that 'atheism is a better principle to follow in life compared to religion.'

A Hindu organisation and The Church have threatened to launch a state-wide agitation if the government failed to withdraw not only the controversial chapter but the entire textbook.

Meanwhile, the Kerala Education Minister M A Baby had rejected on Tuesday the Congress-led UDF demand of withdrawing the controversial textbook as according to him the opposition's demand is factless. However, he agreed to the controversial portion be examined by the committee of expert.

He refuted the demand while replying to a discussion on an adjournment motion moved by Kerala Congress (M) leader K M Mani. Later the subsequent protest was carried out by various religious organisations and pro-opposition youth and student wing. Discontented with the minister's response the opposition leaders were took out of the house by their leader Oommen Chandy.

He said the content of the textbook was based on the national curriculum framework, prepared under the guidelines of NCERT and inculcates secular thoughts among students.

While the minister was to say the content spreads the tolerance among the students, the religious and opposition leaders were of the view that it propagates communism and distort the historical facts.

A passage in the chapter tells a story in which a boy, named Jeevan accompanied his parents went for admission to a school and the principal inquired them about their religion. Jeevan has inter-religious parents. The father says the boy has no religion as it is the product of inter-religious parents. The father in the story is Hindu and the mother is Muslim. The boy will choose his own religion after being matured. The controversy is whether such remarks reflect secularists’ idea or anti-religious sentiments.

The textbook also reflects that late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru didn’t want religious customs to be followed at his cremation. Religious groups blamed the Left government was misinterpreting Nehru’s writing to promote atheism.

''Well known people have married from other religions. This is the fact the new generation students should know,'' said M A Baby, Education Minister, Kerala.

The past week has been witnessing demonstration by the oppositions in the state demanding for withdrawal of textbook.

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