BENGALURU: The Karnataka government's decision to trim the introduction to a lesson on Jainism and Buddhism in Class 6 social science textbook has drawn criticism and been slammed by experts. The Karnataka Textbook Society recently had ordered the omission of the 'forward of the chapter, which pertains to the origins of Buddhism and Jainism. The circular directed that the chapter neither be taught nor used for evaluation for the current academic year.
The circular, sent by The Karnataka Textbook Society, a statutory body that is the primary publisher of textbooks for the state education board, on Febuary 17, reportedly two months after the Karnataka State Brahmin Development Board met Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa objecting to parts of the chapter titled 'The Rise of the New Religions'.
According to the lesson, it was a prominent belief that performing the rituals was the only way to achieve salvation and common people could not afford the expensive rituals and failed to understand the chants because they were in Sanskrit. Buddhism and Jainism taught simpler ways of salvation and hence people preferred these new religions, the chapter states.
Part of the foreword read -- "In Yagayajna, food items and milk and ghee are consumed. For the purpose farming (as rituals), animals were sacrificed, and this caused a scarcity of food...Those called Brahmins in the society had certain previleges. However, Kshatriyas came into prominence. Over the years, Khatriyas became an alternative to Brahmins and new religions arose due to them -- Jainism and Buddhism was thus born."
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Suresh Kumar S on Saturday said, "it was impertinent for sixth standard students to study this, and would be appropriate for discussion at a later stage," he said.
However this decision of the government drew flak from various quarters— for one, the government should have sought the advise of an expert committee before trimming the chapter, which had historical facts.
Recalling how the trimming of the foreword was arrived at, Suresh Kumar said that he received a call from Mantralaya Swami who asked if the content was appropriate for class 6 students. The minister said that after contemplation, he wondered if the content was appropriate for students who were 10-11 years of age.
"Sentiments of any community could not be hurt. More so, seeds of hate to another community should not be sown in the minds of students," he said.
"In the same class, lesson 6 teaches about Christianity and Islam and does not have a foreword that misinforms about another community or caste. Any such provocative writing will not help the society and instead causes hurt to a community or caste," he added.
He discussed with one expert when he was convinced that the text was unnecessary for young minds. Hence, the minister said that foreword was considered unnecessary and is planned to be trimmed from the syllabus and a circular was issued by the Karnataka Textbook Society in the regard on February 17.
"Other aspects of the lesson will remain untouched, " he affirmed.
Following the minister’s diktat, Swaraj Abhiyan Karnataka demanded the Government immediately withdraw the notification and stop its attempts to hide the truth from young minds.
"You cannot teach children history without telling the truth in the guise that it is hurting the sentiments of a section of the society. Young students have the right to know how animals were sacrificed in the name of Yaga-Yagnas. This along with burning of food grains, milk and ghee in Yaga-Yagnas resulted in severe shortage of food, and sacrificing animals that were used in farming affected the food production severely,'' said Elavathi Manohar, General Secretary of Swaraj Abhiyan.
For your convenience, you cannot change history even if it is to appease a section. At least, the matter should be referred to the Expert Committee that drafted the Text Books,'' added Manohar.
An official at the helm of relooking into the class 8-10 syllabi for revision, said that the government ought to have referred the matter to an expert committee. Sentiments of any community cannot be hurt, however, historical facts have to be upheld, he added.
Meanwhile, the department of public instruction has been instructed to form a committee including experts and teachers to identify any content in textbooks from class 1 to 10 which are hurtful to the sentiments of any community and take necessary action.