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'Introducing religion in school syllabus is UNTHINKABLE'

Last updated on: January 9, 2012 14:37 IST

'Introducing religion in school syllabus is UNTHINKABLE'

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Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru

The Bharatiya Janata Party in Karnataka appears to be readying itself for a big fight, and this time it is over the Bhagavad Gita. A statement by Karnataka Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda, in which he said that the government was considering introducing the Gita in primary and secondary standards in school has drawn appreciation as well as flak in the state. Vicky Nanjappa reports.

The issue had come up a couple of months ago when Karntaka Secondary Education Minister Visveshwara Hegde Kageri announced that the Gita would be taught in schools in Kolar district.

There was a hue and cry, and the matter went up to the Karnataka high court. Kageri, however, stuck to his ground and said that those who did not want to learn the Gita should leave the country.

Barely a few hours after the chief minister made the statement; there is already a group which has decided to fight it tooth and nail.

The group led by senior advocate Professor Ravi Varma Kumar says that under no circumstance can religion be introduced in schools set up in a secular atmosphere.

"I don't know what they are thinking, but introducing religion is unthinkable," he said.

The chief minister, however, stated that it would not be an immediate decision, and would be taken only after proper consultation.

"It is about introducing moral values, and once we have a proper debate with a cross section of the society, will we take a decision. We do not want any problem," he told reporters in Bengaluru.

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The Gita is about morals: Gowda

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"The Gita does not belong to any particular religion, and its teachings are universal. The secondary education minister who was the first to rake up this issue a couple of months too shared the same view. It is about morals, and there is no harm in letting children study it," the chief minister added.

Legal experts say that the government will need to tread very carefully on the issue and any wrong move would mean that they would be pulled up by the court.

"The CM is not clear yet as to whether he would like to introduce it in government schools or public ones. Going by his statement it appears that he wants to introduce it as a syllabus in the schools," says an expert.

The Opposition is however training its guns against the government on this issue. The opposition leaders say that they would not let this go through as it is an attempt to saffronise education and this is the handiwork of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh lobby. 

Kumar adds that they would do everything under the sun to ensure that this does not become part of the syllabus.

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Image: Karnataka Chief Minister D Sadananda Gowda


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'According to Godse, Gandhi was violating religion'

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"The government cannot impose religion on anyone. Under the Education Act and also the Constitution, they have no right to do so. The Constitution ensures the Right to Religion and what the government is trying to do is contrary to what the Constitution says," he says.

"A religious book cannot be a text book under any circumstance. The law of the land is very clear and that there cannot be religious education in schools as it violates the secular fabric of the country. The government is attempting to propagate religion and this is wrong," he adds.

"The reason why I am against introducing the Gita in schools is because if propagates violence and also preaches the same. According to me, it is a book of homicide. In fact, I would like to draw your attention to the trial against Nathuram Godse," he says.

"While agreeing that Godse killed Mahathma Gandhi, he justified it by saying that it was a message that was conveyed through the Gita. He stated that the Gita gave the message that if someone was found to be violating the religion then one must act against them, and according to him, Gandhi was violating the religion," he says.

"If an educated man like Godse can be motivated by this, I don't see how children wouldn't do the same and take to violence in classrooms," he retorts.

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Image: Mahatma Gandhi


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Gita helps in instilling moral values: Govt

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The government, however, negates this argument.

Even while replying to the Public Interest Litigation which was filed a couple of months before the Karnataka high court, it had termed it as a private initiative. Moreover it also stated that it would not be made compulsory and children who wished to study it could do so in their own time after class hours.

However, today it is yet to be seen how the government would move forward on this issue. It states that the Gita helps in instilling moral values. There are some schools run by the mutts (religious institutions) which teach the Gita.

"If children could take it up as an optional subject, that it something we would like to look into," says a government source.


Image: Karnataka Secondary Education minister Visveshwara Hegde Kageri


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