Gita in Tamil Nadu university curriculum sparks row
Anna University in Chennai has courted controversy over its decision to make the learning of Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads and Sanskrit compulsory for B.Tech and postgraduate engineering students, as per the “Model Curriculum” prescribed by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).
Coming close on the heels of the controversy over Union home minister Amit Shah’s remark about Hindi being a unifier, the development has provided a handle for the opposition to target the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government.
The opposition, including the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the Left parties and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam decried the move, calling it yet another instance of saffronisation of education. Educationists too have joined the chorus against the new course regulations.
Though the AICTE, the technical education regulator , has released the “Model Curriculum” in 2018, it was to be implemented from this year onwards. It was on Tuesday that students of information science and technology department of Anna University learnt about the move to implement the AICTE curriculum, triggering a huge backlash. The department had made Sanskrit mandatory.
Among the 32 courses prescribed by AICTE, ranging from language and communication, film appreciation, law and engineering,values and ethics for students, Anna University chose 12.
“Students are free to opt any three of the 12 electives offered in the Humanities, Social Sciences and Management Courses. As the subjects were mandated by AICTE, we could not remove them,” said Anna University vice chancellor, Dr MK Surappa.
“Though the AICTE has recommended 32 subjects, ranging from film appreciation to Sanskrit, we have taken only 12. And the decision was left to individual departments. Only Information Science and Technology department had offered Philosophy. It is left to the choice of the students,” he added.
“Studying Gita will help in students developing their personality and achieving highest goals in his/her life,” says the programme manual. For the philosophy paper, Bhagavad Gita by Swami Tapasyanada, Upanishads by Swami Nikhilananda were among the texts recommended.
Meanwhile, DMK president MK Stalin demanded the intervention of Governor Banwarilal Purohit, who is the chancellor of the varsity, in the matter.
“It is condemnable to attempt imposition of Sanskrit by making philosophy a compulsory paper in the syllabus of Anna University’s CEG (College of Engineering Guindy),” tweeted Stalin, who is also the leader of the opposition in the Tamil Nadu assembly.
Questioning the relevance of such texts in engineering courses, MDMK general secretary and lawmaker Vaiko, said, “The Centre is persisting with its efforts to impose Sanskrit-Hindi to saffronise every domain. The explanation that these are electives is unacceptable. This should be completely withdrawn.”
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) too flayed the decision terming as “anti-secular” and called for its reversal.
“The curriculum and syllabus packed with teachings of a particular religion is unacceptable for the students are drawn from all faiths. The state government should step in and the new courses should be scrapped,” party state secretary K Balakrishnan said.
Voicing the concerns of the academic community, former Anna University VC, Dr E Balagurusamy questioned the need for students to technology learning the Vedas and Sanskrit.
“Though the AICTE has prescribed these course structures, Anna University has complete autonomy not to implement them. We need to apply our mind,” he said.