Two months after the Karnataka State Brahmin Development Board met Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa objecting to parts of a chapter in Class 6 social science textbooks, Karnataka government has issued a circular on February 17 directing that the chapter neither be taught nor used for evaluation for the current academic year. The Karnataka Textbook Society, which is a statutory body that is primary publisher of textbooks for the state education board, has ordered the omission of the part of the chapter, which pertains to the origins of Buddhism and Jainism, after the Brahmin Board had said that it “hurts religious sentiments”.
“All field educators and key stakeholders are advised to refrain from teaching lesson 7 of the Social Sciences Part I for Class 6, 'The Rise of the New Religions', paragraphs 82 and 83, for 2020-21 academic year,” read the circular issued by the Society.
The omitted portion is on the birth of new religions, especially, Buddhism and Jainism. It mentions food scarcity during the Vedic period (1500 BC to 600 BC) because of rituals like homa and havana performed by offering large quantities of food grains, milk, clarified butter (ghee) and other materials. It also refers to the rituals of sacrifice of animals for yagnas.
According to the lesson, it was a prominent belief that performing the rituals was the only way to achieve salvation and common people could not afford the expensive rituals, and that the common person could not understand the chants because they were in Sanskrit. Buddhism and Jainism taught simpler ways of salvation and hence people preferred these new religions, the chapter states.
Education experts in the city have raised objections to the move saying that it is “arbitrary and undemocratic”. Niranjanaradhya VP, senior fellow, Centre for Child and Law, NLSIU argued that the portion was included in the syllabus by experts to facilitate critical thinking among children.
“Experts have done extensive research, and the topics were introduced with a specific objective. Children have the right to know the socio-cultural history, think critically and analyse as to what has happened in the past and why has it happened to develop reasoning. The omission of the lesson from the syllabus takes that opportunity away from the children,” he said. He also said that the experts should have been allowed to offer an explanation and the denial of the same goes against the natural order of justice.
"Moreover, this omission will similarly hurt the sentiments of those belonging to other communities. [The omission] becomes a one-sided decision. Since [Buddhists and Jains] are minority groups, it becomes a responsibility to safeguard their interests too,” he added.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister S Suresh Kumar had written to the Commissioner for Public Instruction (CPI), after a delegation of Brahmin Board met him in December, to drop the portions from the Class 6 Social Science textbook. The paragraphs were “irrelevant and not suitable for young age” he wrote in order and asked the society to drop them with immediate effect.