Barely four months ahead of the state assembly elections, the state government has decided to teach the Bhagavad Gita to students of Class 1 and 2 in its Urdu-medium schools from the current academic session 2013-14. The decision is likely to kick off a fresh row over inclusion of the Bhagavad Gita teachings in school syllabus.
The school education department's order (F-46-3-2013-XX-3) dated August 1, 2013 says, "State government, hereby in exercise of powers conferred by sub-section (1) of Section 4 of Madhya Pradesh Prathmik, Middle School Tatha Madhyamik Shiksha (Pathya Pustakon Sambandhi Vyavasatha) Adhiniyam, 1973 (No. 13 of 1973) permits to add one chapter each based on incidents enumerated in the Bhagavad Gita in the textbooks of General Hindi prescribed to Class 3 to 8, Special English and Special Urdu in Class 1 & 2 for the academic session 2013-14."
The order is subsequent to an order passed by the school education department on July 4, 2013 whereby chapters based on 'incidents enumerated in the Bhagavad Gita' are supposed to be included in the textbooks of Special Hindi from Class 9 to 12 and Special English in Class 11 and 12.
The state government made the announcement in the year 2011 to introduce Bhagavad Gita teachings in the school syllabus which was later opposed by minority communities. So far, the decision has been implemented in parts. This would be the first time when the teachings would be added as a part of Special Urdu textbooks in Class I and 2.
The Jabalpur bench of high court dismissed a petition last year filed against the government's decision by the then spokesperson of Catholic Bishop Council Fr Anand Mutungal.
"Gita teachings in Urdu textbooks mean the state government intends to introduce the teachings as part of the syllabus in Madarasas. We have been opposing mixing of religion with education. It would have adverse impact on the tender hearts and minds of students in their formative years of life," said Javed Anis, secretary, Madhya Pradesh Lok Sangharsh Sajha Manch who has been opposing Gita teachings in schools for a long time.
Javed said those who were averse to Gita teachings in schools would sit together soon to chalk out their further course of action.
"We would oppose blatant saffronisation of education in Madhya Pradesh," he added.
However, school education minister Archna Chitnis dismisses such apprehensions that Bhagavad Gita teachings would affect the personality of the students adversely or that it would be a part of Madarsa syllabus. In fact, she says, it would have a positive impact.
"This would be introduced in the state government's Urdu-medium schools only," she said,
She said, "What we are teaching is not exactly Bhagavad Gita in any religious form. We have picked up some threads from Gita to instill a sense of duty and responsibility, obedience, love for nature and environment etc into the students. It is wrong to say that we are trying to saffronise education. These teachings are a part of school syllabus for the past two years but there has been no controversy at all."