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Friday, June 20, 2008

Cong wants Kerala to withdraw textbook "promoting atheism"

Saturday, June 21, 2008 at 2350 hrs

by Shaju Philip

Thiruvananthapuram, June 20: The CPI(M)-led Left Government in Kerala is facing widespread protest from the Congress and various minority organisations over some controversial portions in a latest Class VII textbook. The textbook, they say, has been designed to propagate atheism.

While the agitation launched by the Congress and its students’ wing, Kerala Students’ Union, during the past three days have turned violent in several parts of the state, leaders of several Muslim organisations, including the Indian Union Muslim League, have sought immediate withdrawal of the textbook. Kerala Catholic Bishops Council will observe June 30 as protest day.

The row over the textbook began after the Education Department, managed by CPI(M) central committee member M A Baby, was forced to withdraw a handbook meant for Class VIII. In the handbook, a page referring to Gandhi Jayanti carried a frog’s picture.

This academic year, the Class VII textbooks for schools in the state were revised. A chapter titled Life without religion in the Social Science book had a question-answer session between a school headmaster and the parents of a student. As the parents hailed from different religions, the headmaster asked what should be written in the column specified for describing the student’s religion. The parents replied that the student should be free to choose his religion “when he attains maturity”.
KSU state president Hybee Eden said, “The Left Government is trying to foist atheism on an entire generation. The book should be immediately withdrawn.”

Director of Public Instructions A P M Muhammed Haneesh said the textbook takes a broader view of secularism. “An atheist should have the freedom to live as an atheist. That is what the textbook conveys. Children born to inter-religious couples have the freedom to leave the religion column blank when they join school. This practice has been in Kerala for long time and the textbook has been prepared in tune with this custom. As of now, there is no question of withdrawing the book,” he said.

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