The calmest part of a storm is said to be the eye, and the adjective is easily adorned to the center of the present controversy: Page 24 in the History textbook, Class VII, Kerala Syllabus.
Ok, so before I go on about what I feel in this case, here are some excerpts from some of the social bloggers I take seriously...I've long back ceded relying on print & visual media to catch a glimpse of the true state of affairs, and blogosphere is the last arena where you can see some honest and open opinions.
Just as I was fretting over the vacuum in the versatile Kerala blogspace about this affair, Talkies guru Brahmaprakash Narayanan detailed out the matter, for the first time for me to understand what the turmoil was all about.
Insights into the matter were given by Kerala Tips, in a revealing mirror image twin posts. Make sure you read the corrected second post before the original opinion. Ajay Prasad, who seldom writes anything without "Trivandrum" in it, has his say here, and is surprised himself by the response he received for an off-topic. I've gone through the posts of Kenny Jacob and a few other related ones and found them all supporting the chapter.
Now here is the eye of the tempest, anglicized.
The setting is the principals office, where the kid, Jeevan appears with his parents.
Principal: “What is your name?”
Principal: “Good name...father’s name?”
Principal: "Mother’s name?”
The Principal raises his chin & looks at the parents
Principal: “What should I fill in for the kid’s religion?”
Parents : “Keep it blank…or else add No Religion”
Principal: “What about Caste?”
Parents : “not needed”
The Principal leans back on his chair and asks seriously.
Principal: “What if he wants a religion when he grows up?”
Parents : “If he feels he needs a religion, he is free to choose the one he likes then”
I'm damn sure about my feelings in this case.. This lesson needs to be taught... Taught in such a way that the kids never lose the lesson in it.
Now back to the outburst itself. This seemingly innocuous prose managed to kick up such vehement hostility among a large section of the public. All the religious organisations and political parties joined hands against the Govt accusing this as a definite attempt to instill Communism and atheism in juvenile thoughts.
The Education Ministry, though boldly rubbishing the allegations, stands in deep waters. The interests of all the players in this drama are temporarily aligned. It turned out that there was a well-disguised backup to this chapter in a series of sessions & workouts in the textbook, which brings the intentions of the Govt under scrutiny. Check out the following excerpts from the same text book:
This time the setting is an agitation against a typo landlord, who has a car and a big bungalow. There is a group shown as agitating against him. A motorist is watching the scene.
The group: Stop letting the fields remain without harvest.
Landlaord: I'll do whatever I like in my paddyfield...may fill it...leave it barren or will construct a building. I'm a free citizen of India.
The Motorist:(at the agitators) don't these people have any other job?
The textbook asks the students: How will you respond to social situations like these?
Here is a very evident attempt to promote the commie ideas of ''vettinirathal'' and ''anti-feudalism protests''. But for Gods sake where does feudal landlords exist in Kerala now? And it is a dangerous attempt to create more futile citizens like we have in DYFI and the likes now. Please allow at least the next generation of Keralites to come out of the hole???
There is another instance in the textbook when a guy apparently hails India's present day economic development, but immediately it is compared to India's progress under the British regime...
Guy 1: Whatever, British rule was a class in itself. Everything had a proper arrangement.
Guy 2: What are you telling? Even if it was for 2 days, didn't Mukesh Ambani become the wealthiest man in the world?
Now how vicious is that appearing to be?? This essentially provides opportunity for interpretations as a deliberate way to turn young minds against big-gun Industrialists..
Throughout the textbook there are passages about ''social equality'' and ''freedom''. We know where this water flows to...I'm not arguing that there shouldn't be social equality and freedom, but Communism is the last thing you'd need to create that.
Nowhere in the 4.6 billion years of Mother Earth's history has a Communist setting provided the above social qualities.. As a contrary check out the major red-zones of the world; you will clearly see what is meant by anarchism. Just look at China, North Korea and co...
The textbook also hails Gowri Amma's historic speech in the Assembly(oops...Gowri Amma, of all people!), Channar & Kayyur rebellions(have a clue what it is?) , land reforms, liquor and land mafia and other touchwood communist ideologies. Compare to the Gandhiji & Nehru speeches, Freedom struggles and other historic rebellions we were taught as kids. Now perhaps we could teach them Geography of Cuba and Chinese language in schools, eh?
And at the end of it all the lesson in page 24 appears. Innoxious, as it is in itself, but read it with the whole script...you will find a well-written story unfolding.
No wonder the Congress is on strike. They are the only guys who are desperate to get this textbook out of the schools, and they got strong and effective allies: their traditional strongholds, the Church & the Muslim League. Sadly, the 2 latter groups doesn't know what they are fighting for, because the chapter in itself doesn't proclaim atheism or communism.
In other words, the chapter must be taught! No confusions about that. Let the children learn what is the true meaning of ''secularism''. Let them understand that India is a secular state, meaning a no-religion state; and not a state where all religions are considered equally. Many of the most secular nations of the world provide a 'No Religion' option for their citizens, and its high time that we adopt such forward ideologies. C'mon, we don't need a brand to trust in God, do we? And did someone tell that social rot occurs if one doesn't have religion? mmmm... Santhosh Madhavan, Osama Bin Laden & George Bush did so much on behalf of their own religions. Are they doing the world a whole lot of good?
Allow the individual to have a say about his religion, let it be one of his personal rights. But in a country where parents & society decide what the child studies, whom to become, how, when and whom to marry and when to reproduce, this thought will take some time to go in...
So what about the landlord, Ambani, Gowri Amma and Kayyur saga in that book? Well, press that 'delete' button please...quick!