In printing error, Gujarat board book refers to ‘demon’ Christ, triggers uproar
A class IX Hindi language textbook published by the Gujarat board mistakenly used the word ‘haivaan’ (devil) before Jesus Christ instead of the intended word ‘bhagwan’ (God) in a chapter, triggering protests from the Christian community that demanded withdrawal of the book.
The executive president of the Gujarat State School Textbook Board (GSSTB), Nitin Pethani, said it was a “printing mistake”, and assured of an internal inquiry into the matter.
“Instead of word ‘Bhagwan’, the word ‘haivaan’ got printed. We have already made the correction in the online version. Since books have already been distributed among students, it is not possible to withdraw them now,” Pethani said.
To ensure that students are educated properly despite the printing error, Pethani added, “To make sure that the corrected version is taught to students, we will issue a written advisory to all the teachers, asking them to take into account this correction while teaching this subject”.
The controversial reference appears on page 16 in the chapter ‘Teacher-student relationship in Indian culture’, and reads as follows: “Is sambandh me ‘haivaan Issa’ ka ek kathan sada smaraniya hai. (In this context, a statement by ‘demon Jesus’ is always memorable).”
Several members of the Christian community gathered outside the office of the District Education Officer (DEO) in Ahmedabad and demanded withdrawal of the book.
“The textbook has depicted our God in a bad light. We condemn the word used for Jesus Christ. It has hurt our religious sentiments. We want the government to withdraw the book immediately,” an agitator said.
The Indian Christian Voice, an organisation representing the larger interests of the Christian community in India, also took umbrage to the incident, and released a statement saying the reference deeply hurt their religious sentiments.
“We demand criminal action against the perpetrators and an unconditional apology from the state government... Such wild and reckless statements have the potential to spark off a conflagration that could seriously jeopardise communal harmony. In the larger interest of peace, this particular edition of the book must be withdrawn and banned immediately,” ICV president Abraham Mathai told IANS.