Indian Council for Cultural Relations president Karan Singh has underlined the need to promote value-oriented education for school children across the country.
Addressing the inaugural function of the New Delhi World Book Fair at Pragati Maidan here, Dr. Singh said: “We need value-based education in the curriculum. Our Constitution does not allow us to teach religion but what we have done is thrown the baby out with the bathwater. We are worried about the Fundamental Rights, but how many of you sitting here know your Fundamental Duties?”
Earlier, the eminent scholar said there was no better place than the World Book Fair for anyone who loves books as it represents different dimensions. “I started collecting books when I was five and in my library in Jammu I have a collection of 25,000 books. Books epitomise the heart of civilisation. Unfortunately there have been terrible incidents like the burning of books at Timbuktu. Even Nalanda University was destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khilji.”
Shedding light on the book publishing scene in the country, Dr. Singh said: “I do not think there is any country other than India which publishes books in so many languages. These books represent extraordinary diversity and plurality of our heritage.”
Referring to this year’s theme, “Indigenous Voices: Mapping India’s Folk and Tribal Literature”, Dr. Singh said the use of the word indigenous represents a colonial hangover as the imperialists thought their language was superior to the natives. “We have to be careful not to fall into this trap. Every language is a vehicle of sanskriti. ”
Revealing his French connection, the ICCR president said many would not be aware that he was born in that country. He described France, which is the guest of honour country at the book fair, as a powerful intellectual centre.
French Ambassador Francois Richier said the French did not invent writing, printing and the Internet but they take a little pride in producing books dealing with history and science. Pointing out that India and France shared the same democratic values, he expressed annoyance over the fact that dictators and barbarians had burnt books of beauty and knowledge in the past. “This was against the freedom of speech and expression. In Mali, terrorist organisation Al-Qaeda recently burnt ancient manuscripts because they considered them to be non-Islamic. Books which were part of the world heritage have now disappeared.”
Expressing concern over the growth of intolerance, Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor said if people get offended over a book, film or work of art then they have the right to protest and argue but they cannot deny others the right to have access to them.
“Whether it is literature or cinema, we have the right to choose. Let us not be cowed down. A group cannot tell us what we can or cannot read,” he added.