Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Thursday warned Union Human Resource Development Minister Dr Murli Manohar Joshi that the government could not substitute 'a national agenda for a hidden agenda' and her party would oppose the saffronisation of education both inside and outside Parliament.
Participating in the debate in the house on saffronisation of education in the country, the Congress chief asserted that 'to mix communal ideology with historical and scientific facts is like playing with fire'.
"The saffronisation will be resisted by the Congress party and all secular forces. I say this with everything at my command," Sonia said, eliciting loud applause from the opposition benches.
The debate, which consistently witnessed acrimonious exchanges and repeated interruptions between two sections of the house, tested the patience of Lok Sabha speaker G M C Balyogi.
He had to repeatedly warn the warring sections to maintain the dignity and decorum of the house.
Sonia also warned Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to ensure that his Bharatiya Janata Party-led government did not bring its 'hidden agenda (saffronisation of education) through the back door in the mistaken belief that we are not watching'.
"We are watching," she said as the opposition benches loudly thumped the table in appreciation.
"We cannot and must not accommodate the idiosyncrasies of a particular (Hindutva) persuasion," the Congress chief pointed out.
She added, "The core educational values must be preserved."
"It is only with the consent of this Parliament that the national policy on education can be changed. These values are derived from the Constitution itself and the Constitution says that we are a secular republic," she pointed out.
She said the opposition parties led by the Congress should prevent the people of a particular ideology from continuing their agenda of the saffronisation of education, which went against the interests of the country as a whole.
She said, "Secularism is the bedrock of our nation. It is this continuing synthesis that has imparted our civilisation a unique, diverse character."
She asserted, "Education should foster universal, eternal values and it must eliminate obscurantism and religious fanaticism."
According to the Congress chief, the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1986 had ensured that India's educational values were harmonious with the secular credentials of the people.
"It is a matter of great regret that the government is adopting the non-consensual approach (in framing national educational policy) according to the whims and fancies of the Hindutva forces," she pointed out.
She alleged that the NCERT was being 'marginalised'.
Earlier, initiating the debate, Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Somnath Chatterjee launched a broadside against the government and pointed out that the University Grants Commission under the HRD ministry 'is doling out funds to universities to carry its (government's) saffron curriculum."
"We cannot tolerate politics in the name of education. The UGC is doling out money to study astrology and Vedic rituals," Chatterjee pointed out.
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