MUMBAI - In all the state institutions and madrassas in Madhya Pradesh the study of the Bhagavad Gita, the poem considered one of the pillars of Hinduism, is now mandatory, report AsiaNews abd Hindustan Times.
This was established by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu ultra-nationalist party in the State government, with a norm issued on August 1 last.
The new rule requires - starting from the academic year 2013/2014 - the reading of a chapter of the Gita in the study hour dedicated to “general hindi”, in particular for the 3rd and 4th class in English (8-10 years) and the 1st and 2nd class in Urdu (6-8 years).
The state government’s decision to include chapters on the Bhagavad Gita in Urdu medium schools, starting from Class 1 and 2, from this academic session has sparked a new controversy. The decision has earned the ire of Muslim organisations.
Several such organisations have come out against the government’s decision and have said if required they would seek court intervention in the matter.
“The decision to include chapters on Gita in government schools itself is wrong and unconstitutional. Now, by including Gita in the syllabus of Urdu medium schools and in Urdu books is like adding insult to injury,” said member of Muslim personal law board Arif Masood.
He termed the government’s decision as interference in religion.
Those who wish to study Gita can go ahead but others should be provided with an alternative.
Muslims would protest this decision tooth and nail and would knock on court’s door if the government does not reconsider its decision, said Masood.
MP unit of Coordination Committee for Indian Muslims has also opposed and condemned the decision. Secretary of the committee, Javed Akhtar asks why the government has chosen only the Bhagavad Gita to impart moral lessons.
India is a secular country and such decisions are against the spirit of communal harmony. “We would definitely take legal recourse,” said Akhtar.
“Such decisions go against the spirit of a secular state. I remember before 1970s, the state government had a book in schools where chapters on Guru Govind Singh, Bible and Islam were incorporated in some form or another. That book disappeared gradually,” said Mohammad Mahir, president of Muslim Vikas Parishad.
If government’s intention is really to teach moral lessons then teachings from all religions should be included, said Mahir. Social activist Abdul Jabbar said it is really ironical that Urdu has now been associated with a religion.
Earlier, it was considered only as a language that everybody studied; now it has been confined to Muslims alone.
Moreover, the decision of teaching Gita in Urdu medium is another attempt to relate it exclusively to Muslims.
The government should try to teach Islamic preaching as well especially misconceptions spread about Islam.
According to Msgr. Leo Cornelio SVD, Archbishop of the Diocese of Bhopal, the move is primarily political: “With the state elections [October 2013, ed] and General elections [July 2014] closer and closer, the BJP is doing everything to appease the most radical Hindu elements, so as to ensure an electorate more solid”.
The amendment to the anti-conversion law, pending signature, also fits this framework. In theory, similar measures should prohibit the conversions obtained by force or money. “The Church - the prelate tells AsiaNews - has repeatedly stated that a transition from one religion to another is not valid if it comes about through coercion or corruption.” However, he adds, these laws “are exploited to persecute minorities,” producing false accusations of forced conversions.