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ISSUE
The United States International Religious Freedom Reports on Hindutva Attempts to "Saffronize" Textbooks in India

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Excerpts from Reports: 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002

The attempts to impose Hindu Supremacist theory in school texts
are not new and have been carried out earlier in India.  Starting in 2002, when the Hindu Nationalist party BJP was in power, the government tried to change the school books to insert its particular sectarian and Hindu chauvinist ideology (popular media referred to it as "saffronizatoin of textbooks"), raising an international storm of protest from scholars, intellectuals and secular governments all over the world.

In the US, these attempts to alter the texts have been carefully documented by the International Religious Freedom reports on India that were submitted to Congress each year starting from 2002 till the most recent one in 2005. These reports are annual submissions to the Congress through which the Department of State provides additional detailed information regarding matters involving international religious freedom in compliance with Section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998.

These reports for the relevant years have been excerpted below.  Briefly, the US IRF reports on India for the years 2002, 2003 and 2004 tell the story of the Indian government's attempt to impose a sectarian view in the school texts and they also detail some of the controversies surrounding this move.  In 2004, new elections brought a new government to New Delhi with a deeper commitment to secularism.  The US IRF Reports for 2004 and 2005 describe efforts of the new government to remove inaccuracies from the textbooks.  However, as the latest report for 2005 shows, this is an onerous task and is still on-going.

From: International Religious Freedom Report 2005
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

URL for the full report:  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2005/51618.htm
"...
The previous NDA government, whose term ended in May 2004, prompted criticism when it attempted to "saffronize" public education (i.e., make lessons consonant with the Hindu world view) by raising the profile of Hindu cultural norms, views and historical personalities in school textbooks and portraying other religions in a negative light. The books are published by the Government's National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT), and are uniformly used in government and private schools and printed in various languages.
After the 2004 defeat of the NDA, the new UPA government pledged to "de-saffronize" textbooks and curricula nationwide and to restore the secular character of education. In March, the Government released new NCERT textbooks, based on the texts used prior to the controversial 2002 updates. The Ministry of Human Resource Development, which oversaw this project, stated that it had made only minor modifications to the books that predated the "saffronized" era.
In Delhi, the Directorate of Education, in collaboration with the State Council of Educational Research and Training, prepared 47 new textbooks, and other state governments are expected to do likewise. In June 2004, a panel constituted by NCERT reviewed the new textbooks and determined that they had poor content, shoddy presentation, and significant amounts of irrelevant information. The panel recommended to the Human Resource Development (HRD) minister that the new books not be used until the defects could be resolved. Therefore, Delhi students are now also using texts from the pre-"saffronized" period.

Excerpts from Reports: 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002. Back to Top

From: International Religious Freedom Report 2004
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

URL for the full report: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2004/35516.htm

"...
In late May, a new coalition, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), came to power and pledged to "take immediate steps to reverse the trend of communalization of education," which it said had occurred when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) governed India. Although the new UPA government retained the new NCERT books introduced by the NDA government for this academic year, they are currently being revised and new texts, with corrected information, will be introduced in the next academic year.
...
During the NDA government, which ended in May, some senior government officials advocated "saffronizing," or raising the profile of Hindu cultural norms and views in public education, which has prompted criticism from minority leaders, opposition politicians, academics, and advocates of secular values. The Government's National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) publishes textbooks that are uniformly used in government and private schools and are printed in various languages.
In 2002 the BJP Government announced its decision to rewrite existing NCERT history textbooks, asserting that, "history needs to be presented in a more refreshing and cogent manner." Secularists warned that the re-written "history" spread misinformation to support Hindu nationalist political aims, including false claims that the origins of Hinduism are purely within the country, and Indian Muslims and Christians are "foreigners." The BJP's decision was made without the input of the Central Advisory Board of Education, a panel of experts responsible for reviewing the quality of textbook and academic instruction. The board has not been convened in 5 years.
In January 2002,the National Human Rights Commission received a complaint asking the Commission to examine the printing of new history textbooks, which deleted references to Mahatma Gandhi's assassination in 1948 by a member of the Hindu Mahasabha, a Hindutva organization banned following the assassination. In May 2002, the education ministers of 16 states walked out of a conference to protest the Hindutva bias of the new curriculum, while 3 leading scholars filed a petition with the Supreme Court challenging the publication of the new textbooks. However, the petition was turned down, and the new textbooks appeared in November 2002. The imposition of examination boards reflecting the content of the new textbooks forced schools to use them.

The Congress-led government that came to power in May pledged to "de-saffronize" textbooks and curriculums nationwide and to restore the secular character of Indian education. In Delhi the Directorate of Education, in collaboration with the State Council of Educational Research and Training, prepared 47 new textbooks, stating they would be ready by June 30; other state governments are expected to do likewise. In June a panel constituted by NCERT reviewed these text books and recommended to the Human Resource Development (HRD) minister that they replace the current set, which the panel said had poor content, shoddy presentation, and significant amounts of irrelevant information. At the end of the period covered by this report, the HRD had not responded to the suggestion.

Excerpts from Reports: 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002. Back to Top

From: International Religious Freedom Report 2003
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

URL for the full report: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2003/24470.htm

Some government officials continue to advocate "saffronizing," or raising the profile of Hindu cultural norms and views in public education, which has prompted criticism from minority leaders, opposition politicians, academics, and advocates of secular values. The Government's National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) publishes textbooks that are uniformly used in government and private schools and are printed in various languages. In 2002 the Government announced its decision to rewrite existing NCERT history textbooks. The Government justified its decision by asserting that "history needs to be presented in a more refreshing and cogent manner." Secularists warned the re-written "history" spreads misinformation to support Hindu nationalist political aims, including false claims that the origins of Hinduism are purely in India and that Indian Muslims and Christians are "foreigners." The Central Advisory Board of Education, a panel of experts responsible for reviewing the quality of textbook and academic instruction, has not been convened in 5 years. In January 2002, the National Human Rights Commission received a complaint asking the Commission to examine the printing of new history textbooks, which deleted references to Mahatma Gandhi's assassination by a member of the Hindu Mahasabha, a Hindutva organization that was banned following the assassination. In May 2002, the education ministers of 16 states walked out of a conference to protest the Hindutva bias of the new curriculum, while three leading scholars filed a petition with the Supreme Court challenging the publication of the new textbooks. The petition was turned down, however, and the new textbooks made their appearance in November 2002. The imposition of examination boards in line with the new textbooks forces schools to use the new syllabi. On January 31, the Ministry of Human Resources Development (HRD), headed by Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, passed strict academic guidelines to regulate academic partnerships between Indian and western universities and academics, in line with Hindutva philosophy. The new guidelines issued to all central universities require HRD permission for "all forms of foreign collaborations and other international academic exchange activities," including seminars, conferences, workshops, guest lectures, research, etc. The Government maintains a list of banned books that may not be imported or sold in the country, including books such as Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses," which contain material that governmental censors have deemed inflammatory. In March and April, the Indian Central Board of Film Certification denied a censor certificate to "Aakrosh," a film about the Gujarat riot victims.

Excerpts from Reports: 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002. Back to Top

From: International Religious Freedom Report 2002
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

URL for the full report:  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2002/14023.htm

Some Government officials continue to advocate "saffronizing," or raising the profile of Hindu cultural norms and views in public education, which has prompted criticism from minority leaders, opposition politicians, academics, and advocates of secular values. During the period covered by this report, the Government announced its decision to rewrite existing National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) history textbooks. The Government justified its decision by asserting that "history needs to be presented in a more refreshing and cogent manner." In December 2001, the Human Resource Development Ministry made changes to chapters on Jainism in a textbook on ancient India without previously informing the author.

Excerpts from Reports: 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002. Back to Top
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