Secularism is not a concession, says Cyriac Thomas

“This is intellectual terrorism. The Karnataka government should be made more minority-friendly, more secular. The Chief Minister should take this as the writing on the wall.” This was the declaration made by Cyriac Thomas, member of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, here on Saturday.

Speaking at a State-level seminar organised by the Karnataka Regional Commission for Education (KRCE) on ‘Combating saffronisation of education and suppression of the subaltern voice’, he said it is “not a compliment to the government that under its administration, a section is made to feel harassed”. “Secularism is not a concession, nor the rights of the minorities; it is part of the Indian social fabric,” he said.

Critical perspective

Rajendra Chenni, Professor of English, Kuvempu University, emphasised the need for a critical perspective on textbooks and it was the need of the hour. “We should be aware of the politics behind creating textbooks. It (creation of textbooks) has become a bureaucratic procedure. Teachers treat the books as sacrosanct and place them before the students. By doing so, they are participating in propagating the beliefs,” he said.

Saying that the saffronisation system creates a hierarchy and a wedge between “we” and “the others”, ultimately aimed at creating hatred for the latter, he urged teachers to look at “what is not in the book”.

Research scholar Francis D’ Souza, whose book Right wing ideology in the textbooks of Karnataka – A critical appraisal was released on the occasion, said the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) should have a regulatory mechanism to check adherence to the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) once textbooks are created.

The blips

Instances of saffronisation found in the Karnataka State syllabus textbooks include elaborate descriptions of certain temples, reinforcing the concept of patriarchy by emphasising on gender stereotypes (the portrayal of a poor, indebted, illiterate women vs. wealthy and successful man in a village), and the lack of representation to minorities and tribal community.

Memorandum

A memorandum has been submitted to Governor H.R. Bhardwaj to withdraw the draft of social science and language textbooks of classes five and eight and use the syllabi followed till 2011 until relevant deletions are made. The KRCE has also asked for a review of the new syllabi of classes six, seven, nine and 10 before implementing it.