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Irfan Habib criticises failure to reverse `saffronisation'

NEW DELHI, JULY 13. Historian Irfan Habib believes that the present United Progressive Alliance-Government is more afraid of its opponents than concerned about its constituents, who had voted it to power. This is more so in the case of its failure to reverse the "saffronisation" process, initiated by the previous regime.

Speaking at a convention on education organised by the Students Federation of India (SFI) here today, Prof. Habib asked: "If we were to agree with what our predecessors said, why did we vote for a change?" According to him, the priority should have been reversal of the "saffronisation" and "communalisation" of history textbooks, which, unfortunately, figured lower on the list of priorities of the Human Resource Development Minister, Arjun Singh.

"De-saffronisation" was a major issue on the Common Minimum Programme agenda and the old textbooks should have been totally rejected by now. "There appears to be a curious nervousness about the matter in the Ministry and it appears that by not changing the curriculum, the Ministry has approved the deeds of the previous regime," he said and demanded reinstatement of the textbooks used before the "saffronisation."

According to Prof. Habib, all that had been achieved in the field of education in the past 50 years had been altered by the BJP Government; they needed to be replaced urgently. The fact that the BJP Government had been voted out of power meant that the people had rejected all their policies. The HRD Minister's statement that he would continue some courses such as astrology if the people so wanted suggested that he had little understanding of the people's mandate.

"The changes by the new Government appear superficial because the HRD Ministry's priorities were admissions to the management schools and finalising its fee and not de-saffronisation," he said. Drawing the attention of the audience to the drawbacks in the higher education system, Prof. Habib wanted more funds and better utilisation of these funds to improve the content.

The SFI general secretary, Kallol Roy, said a lot of damage had been done to education by the previous Government; it had tried to introduce the Sangh Parivar's ideology. Some academically-unqualified people had "infiltrated" into various committees and caused "immense damage."

The CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, Sitaram Yechury, was present on the occasion.

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