Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Insertion of Muslim icons in social science text book creates storm in Maharashtra

Mumbai: A controversy has been brewing in Maharashtra over the inclusion of images of Muslim educationists in Urdu text BOOKS FORgovernment run schools used in on replacement with some Marathi icons. This move has brought the wrath of Marathi hardliners, who are describing it as an attack on Marathi pride. Meanwhile state Urdu department and teachers are up in arm calling it a first bold ‘inclusive’ step.

Bal Bharati Maharashtra State Bureau of Text BOOKS, under state education ministry has the monopoly over management of syllabus and publication of primary classes Government text books. In this annual summer vacation as the process goes, Bal Bharati designed the syllabus in Marathi which then has to be translated in English, Urdu, Hindi and Gujarati mediums by respective departments.

Cover page of the text book.
Cover page of the text BOOK.
As the new draft was moved in for publication in the Urdu department, a third standard book titled ‘Mahaul ka Mutalaa’ (Environment Studies) a compilation of several social subjects, caught the attention of Khan Naved Ulhaq, a special officer and in fact the sole staff working in the primary classes’ Urdu department.

This text book has a chapter on personalities who did great work for the promotion of education; it also gave an exercise to pupils to find out with their TEACHERS more about the given icons and their contribution to society.

To Naved ul Haq’s surprise not even a single personality in the text book draft was a Muslim. He decided to include some in Urdu copied translation. He added the images of Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad a freedom fighter and first education minister of India, former President of India Zakir Hussain, an educationist who was awarded Bharat Ratana for his services, Badruddin Tayabji former president of Indian National Congress and first Indian Solicitor and first Indian chief justice of Bombay High Court, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, founder of Aligarh Muslim University, Fatima Sheikh, first Muslim women TEACHER who along with Savitri Phule started first girls school in India, Hakeem Abudl Hameed the founder of Hamdard University.

Special Urdu officer of Bal Bharati facilitated Muslim icons in the text book chapter by removing the images of Maharaja of Baroda Sayyajirao Gaikwad, Shaho Maharaj of Kholapur, women emancipation and education activists Pandita Ramabai, Maharishi Dhundu Karve, Karamveer Bahurao Patil, and Punjabrao Deshmukh.

Somehow this move caught the eye of the history department of MSBT and subsequently passed on to Maharashtra’s leading Marathi news daily Lok Satta. In its 19th July edition Lok Satta carried a front page news report presenting swapping of images as a communal act and made it an issue of Marathi pride.

Speaking with TwoCircles.net, Urdu Special Officer Khan Navedul Haq said his intention was never to create a controversy but to enlighten Muslim children about their community leaders’ contributions. Mr. Khan said, “Primary school is the place where children develop their outlook towards the society. My intention was to acquaint children about the contribution of Muslim icons for Indian society. I knew that if Muslim children can’t learn about their leader’s contribution from at least Urdu text BOOKS then it cannot be done through any other medium.”

“I took a bold step”, Mr. Naved said without any hesitation, even accepted that officially he had no authority to amend the material of text books, and risked his job while doing so, “I took the risk only to wake my community from a reckless sleep,” he assert and adds “but I failed.”

He has complains that even after taking personal risk to do justice with Muslim community in historical perspective, no community leader in Maharashtra is taking up the issue. Even though history committee is giving clear signals of calling back all amended text books from all Urdu schools for reprinting, to remove the images of Muslims educationists earlier inserted.

Amended chapter with images of Muslim educationists.
Amended chapter with images of Muslim educationists.
However pulping of text BOOK FOR republication didn’t go down as easy task as Bal Bharati expected as the Urdu department’s action is now slowly generating support from state Urdu teacher’s organizations and from some corners of Urdu media.

Akhil Maharashtra Urdu Prathamik Shikshat Sangathan an influential Urdu teacher’s organization has already started holding public meetings in support of Urdu department and inclusion of Muslim contributions for country in the Government text BOOKS.

Mr. Asif Iqbal, general secretary of the Sangathan (organization) who himself is a principal in an Urdu school, told TCN, “Those images should have been included long time ago. It’s a welcome step. But not just in Urdu medium books, those Muslim icons should also be included in Hindi and Marathi text books, from Urdu medium there cannot be any question of removing it.”

Explaining the logic behind their contention Mr. Asif said, “Every community and their contributions to the society should be represented, Muslims are completely neglected in Marathi education system. This inclusiveness will help in two ways, first it will create a sense of motivation and belonging to society for Muslim children and second it will bring up secularism among every pupil since childhood.”

Urdu special officer also revealed to TCN that both Academic DIRECTOR and secretary in a meeting with him and history department officials found it improper to completely remove the images of Muslim educationist after they are being published. So they preferred a middle path, they proposed to keep the status quo of text BOOK FOR this academic year and in the next year history committee can take out only some images of Muslims icons inserted by some Marathi icons to make it more balance.

But the history committee was not ready to give the nod; they are in no way conceding insertion of any new images as it wants text books to be published with only original content of Marathi medium. Mr. Naved ul Haq alleged that history committee with its fierce lobbying with bureaucracy and Marathi media is soon close to call back Urdu text book for reprinting.

Lok Satta news.
Lok Satta news
On their part, state Urdu teachers have already made representations to every GOVERNMENT EDUCATION department and even had a one-on-one meeting with education minister Rajendra Drada, who is in fact de facto in charge of Bal Bharati.

M. A. Gaffar state president of Maharashtra Rajya Urdu Shikshat Sanghtan who was also the part of the meeting told TwoCircles.net that education minister though appreciated the move of Urdu department, but he didn’t give any assurance to the delegation on keeping those images intact in text BOOKS, giving clear signs to the delegation that the Marathi lobby working to pull down those images is more powerful than state education minister himself.

Mr. Gaffar said that the state Urdu teachers are willing to take this struggle to next level as he believed they understood the significance of the matter. “If we failed to deter Bal Bharati from recalling text BOOKS FOR reprinting we will not just lose five or six images of Muslims from a history book, but a long cherished hope for secular inclusiveness of text book education will be closed.”


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