Saffron agenda for Kashmir, book by book

Published : October 25, 2018 16:54 IST

In the Kashmir Valley, the State government’s hasty revocation of a controversial circular, which had ordered the introduction of Hindu religious texts in educational institutions, has done little to allay people’s misgivings.


For most of them, the latest development confirms the fear that under Governor’s rule, the  Bharatiya Janata Party may use Jammu and Kashmir as a chessboard in its politics of polarisation that it believes will help it to return to power in 2019. 


“Nothing happens in Kashmir accidentally” was how a senior editor based in Srinagar described the now-withheld circular. The communique, issued on October 22 by the State Education Department, had directed the Director Colleges, Director Libraries, the School Education Department, the Higher Education Department and the Culture Department to “consider purchasing sufficient copies” of the Bhagwat Gita in Urdu besides the Koshur Ramayan.


Before long, a raging debate snowballed on social media. The National Conference’s working president and former Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, asked in a tweet,  “Why just the Gita and the Ramayana? If religious texts are to be placed in schools, colleges and government libraries (and I’m not convinced that they need/should be) then why is it being done selectively? Why are other religions being ignored?” 


An informed source told Frontline that a number of seminaries belonging to another religion had made their displeasure known to the Raj Bhavan. The very next day, the State government revoked the order. It said in a statement issued on October 23: “Circular issued by the Education Department stands withdrawn ab-initio on the directions of the Chief Secretary, B.V.R. Subrahmanyam.” 


During off-the-record conversations with local reporters, the Raj Bhavan dropped the hint that the Education Department was to blame for the goof-up. But the controversy refused to die down, given the people’s deep-rooted distrust of the government, a consequence of New Delhi’s unrelenting efforts to undermine J&K’s special status and its refusal to engage with all stakeholders to the conflict.


A source in the Raj Bhavan, however, clarified to this correspondent that Governor Satya Pal Malik was unaware of the Education Department’s communique. “These are small decisions which are not monitored by the Governor himself. The general disposition of the Governor has been to avoid controversies at all cost. In keeping with that spirit, he personally saw that the order was revoked as soon as he came to learn of it.”


An independent political commentator, based in Srinagar, told Frontline that if the Governor’s office was not behind the move, there is a possibility that “certain elements, presumably at the behest of New Delhi”, are trying to influence the administration. He added that most Kashmiris have a strong feeling that the months leading up to the 2019 general election portend more violence in the Valley. 


"Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked of “embracing the people of Kashmir' in his Independence day speech, but what we see in the ground is the use of brute force to contain dissent, and a belligerent, “kill all” approach to militancy, which in the absence of talks, has led to even the educated youths take up the gun. With elections nearing, any move aimed at institutionalising a particular religion in the education sector, even if it has been aborted, leaves much to speculate on the agendas of the government of the day,” summed up the commentator, who writes for multiple national and international news portals, requesting anonymity.

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