Staff Reporter

KOCHI: Education Minister M.A. Baby said here on Sunday that the fact that many religious heads had joined hands with the United Democratic Front (UDF) in demanding the withdrawal of the social science textbook of Class VII (alleging that some references promoted atheism and anti-religious feelings) showed that they had become spokesmen of the UDF.

Addressing mediapersons, he said the government was willing to change the references in the textbook if anybody could prove that they were aimed at promoting atheism. “We are willing to hold talks with the Opposition and religious heads, but the UDF says it will attend the talks only after the book is withdrawn. Their agitation has to be viewed in the light of recent political developments at the Centre,” Mr. Baby said.

He read out the references in question and said that they were intended to put across the message that parents (who married inter-religion) would teach their children both religions and allow them to choose their religion. The lesson speaks about the need for a peaceful and tolerant society. It says all religions stood for the welfare of human beings. The State Council for Educational Research and Training (SCERT) has been attempting to make timely changes in the syllabus, Mr. Baby said.

A sizeable section of people and students say that they do not have any problems with the references in the textbook. But, Kerala Students Union (KSU) and Youth Congress activists are burning copies of books which have lessons on Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. They have unleashed large-scale violence even in girls schools. The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) too has opposed the references in the text. Mr. Baby said that many books of the NCERT taught at the national level speak of Nehru as a non-believer and have references to intolerance creeping in when religions become organised and the unequal treatment given to women. “The Congress must take offence to that first, if they are earnest in their agitation.”

SCERT director M.A. Khader too was present.

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