Maharashtra school textbook should not call Bhindranwale a terrorist: Sikh groups | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Maharashtra school textbook should not call Bhindranwale a terrorist: Sikh groups

Sikh groups have asked the government to amend the paragraphs on page 6 and 10 that mention Bhindranwale and his followers as ‘terrorists’.

mumbai Updated: Jul 25, 2017 13:06 IST
Puja Pednekar
Under a chapter titled ‘India’s Internal Challenges, Operation Bluestar’, conducted by the army in Amritsar, where militants supporting the Khalistan movement were hiding, is described as ‘an operation to evict terrorists hiding in the Golden Temple.’
Under a chapter titled ‘India’s Internal Challenges, Operation Bluestar’, conducted by the army in Amritsar, where militants supporting the Khalistan movement were hiding, is described as ‘an operation to evict terrorists hiding in the Golden Temple.’ (HT File)

Sikh organisations in Maharashtra have written to education minister Vinod Tawde to remove references to Jarnailsingh Bhindranwale, a militant preacher who was killed in the military operation at Amritsar’s Golden Temple in June 1984, as a ‘terrorist’ in the Maharashtra state education board’s class 9 history textbook.

The textbook based on the new syllabus was released in the market earlier this month. The Sikh groups have asked the government to amend the paragraphs on page 6 and 10 that mention Bhindranwale and his followers as ‘terrorists’.

Under a chapter titled ‘India’s Internal Challenges, Operation Bluestar’, conducted by the army in Amritsar, where militants supporting the Khalistan movement were hiding, is described as ‘an operation to evict terrorists hiding in the Golden Temple.’

On page 6, it further states, “The Sikhs in Punjab demanded an independent state of Khalistan and began a movement which went onto become violent and destructive. Pakistan lent it support.’ More ‘objectionable’ references are made to Bhindranwale and other militants throughout the page. “The main task of getting the terrorists out of the Golden Temple was entrusted to…” and “The operation ended with the death of Bhindranwale and other terrorists.”

The issue was first highlighted in Punjab by Damdami Taksal, a Sikh seminary, which was headed by Bhindranwale before he was killed in Operation Bluestar. In a letter to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, Taksal complained against “disseminating sensitive information to impressionable minds of school students that would put the Sikh community in a poor light.”

Following this, Sikh community groups in Mumbai have also written to Tawde to rephrase the paragraphs on Bhindranwale. “He was not a terrorist, he was a saint,” said Puran Singh Banga, general secretary, Sat Sri Akaal Charitable Trust and president of Sri Guru Nanak Darbar, Chembur. “The government should have consulted with Sikh groups and other academicians before printing the text.”

Refusing to comment on this, Sunil Magar, director of state’s textbook publishing bureau, Balbharti, said, “The matter is in the Bombay high court. We are preparing our reply to the court.” Magar added, “We had published the information in the book on the basis of historical evidence and proof.”

On the other hand, history teachers in Mumbai argued that the information is historically accurate. “Bhindranwale’s activities endangered several Indians, many people were killed,” said a history teacher from Bhandup on the condition of anonymity. “Tilak and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose can be considered as ‘extremists’, but from the point of view of the British, they too can be called ‘terrorists’,” the teacher added.

A similar controversy had emerged in 2006 when the NCERT was forced to amend lessons on Sikhism after protests by Sikh organisations against ‘objectionable’ references to Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of the Sikhs, in class 12 textbooks.