India’s schools contending over influence of Hindu nationalism

India’s schools are becoming the latest battleground over the influence of Hindu nationalism. The web magazine, The Revealer (May 8), reports that in April, India’s top educational body, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), made changes to textbooks that removed references to the Babri mosque, a medieval mosque destroyed by Hindu nationalists because of their belief that it was a former Hindu temple. “Educators across the country are taking note and voicing concerns” as schools are becoming targets of curricula revisions, particularly in history and science (including challenging evolution), under an increasingly Hindu majoritarian polity, Sabah Gurmat and Kaushik Raj write. It’s now a routine in thousands of schools across the country to start the school day with 30 minutes of Sanskrit prayers worshipping Hindu gods. A segment of these schools are run by RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), the Hindu ideological organization that was a precursor to the BJP Party now ruling the country.

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“Across India, there is a growing sense of segregation in the classrooms, where once-secular institutions now find themselves teaching texts replete with omissions and revisions. Meanwhile, schools run by Christians and Muslims now find themselves under overt attack. Authorities have cracked down upon missionary and convent-run schools that are otherwise popularly sought after for an English-style education. Elsewhere, school teachers and staff have faced suspension and threats based on allegations of ‘forced conversions,’” Gurmat and Raj report. They add that more than 12 Indian states have legislation that criminalizes such supposed forced conversions. The Catholic Bishops Conference of India has recently issued guidelines about the “emerging challenges due to the current socio-cultural, religious, and political situation” in the country. These include urging schools to strictly avoid any appearance of proselytism and encouraging them to have students recite the preamble to the Indian constitution to show their national loyalty.

(The Revealer,