Victory for Hindu fundamentalists
Education council unhappy with move
Jun. 20, 2006. 01:00 AM
SHAIKH AZIZUR RAHMAN
SPECIAL TO THE STAR
Calcutta—References to the beef-eating past of ancient Hindus have been deleted from Indian school textbooks following a three-year campaign by Hindu hardliners.
For almost a century, history books for primary and middle schools told how in ancient India, beef was considered a great delicacy among Hindus — especially among the highest caste — and how veal was offered to Hindu deities during special rituals.
"Our past" chapters in the texts also detailed how cows used to be slaughtered by the Brahmins, or upper caste Hindus, during festivals and while welcoming guests to the home.
The passages that offended the Hindus, who now shun beef, have been deleted from new versions of the books delivered to schoolchildren last week.
However, the National Council of Educational Research and Training, which is responsible for the texts, now seems unhappy with the changes that were agreed to by a former council director.
Council lawyer Prashant Bhushan said ancient Hindus were indeed beef-eaters, and the council should not have distorted historical facts by deleting the chapters.
Noted Calcutta historian Ashish Bose added: "NCERT has committed a mistake by dropping those facts from the textbooks. It is a victory for Hindu fundamentalists who have lodged a misinformation campaign. Historians should unite against this cowardly move by the council."
Hardline Hindu activists, who consider cattle holy and have been seeking a ban on slaughter by Muslims and Christians, said the beef-eating references were meant to insult Hindus.
In 2003, when the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party held federal power, the educational council decided to delete the references. Congress and leftist opposition parties protested, but the move was approved by Jagmohan Singh Rajput, then council director.
The process took longer than expected, however, and Hindu fundamentalists alleged last year that the council was dragging its feet.
Two activists asked the Delhi High Court to order the immediate deletion of the chapters from new textbooks, but the court has not ruled on the suit.
When the litigation was filed, firebrand Hindu leader Praveen Togadia, general secretary of the World Hindu Council, declared: "Most of the facts in the chapters are not true. Some low-caste dalit (untouchable) Hindus used to eat beef. Brahmins never ate it."
Accusing textbook author Ram Sharan Sharma of shoddy research, Togadia said: "The chapter is poisoning the minds of little children. They will not respect their own religion in future. They will not turn out to be good Hindus and it will cause harm to the nation."
Dwijendra Narayan Jha, a history professor at Delhi University, says there is plenty of evidence showing ancient Hindus, including the Brahmins, slaughtered cows and ate beef.
"There are clear evidences in the Rig Veda, the most sacred Hindu scripture (from the second millennium BC), that the cow used to be sacrificed by Hindus during religious rituals. Ancient Hindu text Manusmriti lists the cow as one of several animals whose meat can be eaten by Hindus. The great epic, the Mahabharata, too speaks of beef being a delicacy served to esteemed guests," he said.
Jha's 2002 book, The Myth of the Holy Cow, presented historical evidence that Hindus ate beef long before the Muslim invasions in the 10th century, and provoked such a furor it was banned. The professor, himself a Hindu, feared attacks by fundamentalists and was given police protection.
The slaughter of cattle is banned in most Indian states, but not in Kerala, West Bengal and seven northeastern states. However, Muslims — the largest minority in the country — sometimes ignore state bans and slaughter cattle, which can spark communal tension.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Hindus in India have deleted references in textbooks which show that Hindus used to eat beef: