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Gujarat

Print edition : Oct 25, 2002 T+T-

Your Cover Story on the Hindutva crusade (October 25) was a timely warning to the voters of India, particularly those of Gujarat, against the traps set by Narendra Modi and his troops. The Kashmir poll verdict must have taught the lesson to Hindu chauvinists and Muslim fundamentalists alike that they cannot intimidate their own respective community for too long and they must pay a heavy price for the atrocities committed in the name of religion.

R. RamasamiTiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu

I have been a reader of your magazine for quite some time and am sorry to say that you have become very predictable. You have the same set of people with the same ideology who analyse the same issue over and over (for examples, in the last issue, a Supreme Court judgment was discussed in the same way by Praful Bidwai and Jayati Ghosh). And whenever an editorial crops up, the content can be guessed from the mere heading. There is nothing wrong in a magazine having a certain viewpoint — in fact, it is welcome. Give room to both sides of the argument. For example, let the Supreme Court order be discussed by a member of the Right and one of the Left, and let the reader come to a conclusion.

Let Frontline become a level playing field. Give a chance to every group concerned to express itself while as a magazine you hold on to your views.

Vinoo RamakrishnanNew Jersey, U.S.

Cauvery dispute

India and Bangladesh, two independent countries, solved years ago the Farakka Barrage issue and the agreement holds. Sworn enemies India and Pakistan worked out the Indus Waters Treaty even earlier, and it holds despite two wars. But States that are integral parts of India have been at each other's throat for generations, over one issue or the other.

Jayalalithaa hails from Mandya in Karnataka, S.M. Krishna's home district. This ought to have helped the two find an amicable solution. But the hallmark of her attitude is "only my solution is the right solution," which has evoked war cries from the farmers of Mandya. These are developments that threaten the very integrity of India. Politics, rather than issues relating to water, is playing a bigger role in the crisis this time.

N. NarasimhanBangalore

Water has become a matter of contention in India. Fighting started at the State government level, and now there is no easy solution as the common people too have joined it.

Earlier there was the proposal for the Ganga-Cauvery link project as a total and permanent solution for water-related problems faced in India. It was formulated as a lasting solution for the floods in certain parts of the country and the drought situations in some others. It was claimed that parts of the deserts could be converted into agricultural lands if the project was completed. Citizens of India do not know what exactly happened to the project. We only know one thing — people, particularly political leaders and bureaucrats, are moving away from serious matters.

P.V. AnthonyThrissur, Kerala

Army's rebuttal

Please refer to the article "Zones of incursion" by Praveen Swami, published on Page 24 of Frontline dated September 27. The article is factually inaccurate and misleading. It is a case of incorrect and insensitive reporting without verifying the facts.

Lt. Co. S.P.K. SinghPublic Relations OfficerC/O 56 APO

T.S. Satyan's clarification

This has reference to the review of my book In Love With Life (pages 78-79 and 80) in your issue dated October 25 by Mr. Theodore Baskaran, who has wrongly mentioned that after my stint with The Illustrated Weekly of India, I joined the Photo Division of the Government of India which gave me the opportunity to travel and that I made the most of it. I would like to emphasise that I have never in my life served any government. I have always been a freelancer except for my short stints with a daily newspaper for two years and the Weekly for nine months. Therefore, Mr. Baskaran's observation that my "career with the government seems to have narrowed my viewpoint" is unwarranted.

T.S. SatyanMysore

K.K. BaksiKolkata

RESPONSEA supreme judgment

The Supreme Court's judgment on September 12, 2002 on the "saffronisation petition'' marked an important landmark in the progress of educational reform in India. Justices M.B. Shah, D.M. Dharmadhikari and H.K. Sema had, after lengthy deliberations, ruled in favour of the recommendations of the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) to include Value Education in the new school education format. In their individual rulings, their lordships unambiguously held that the fact that the Central Advisory Board on Education (CABE) was not consulted (as it was not in existence since 1994) does not render the National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCFSE) invalid. Frontline's report on the judgment by T.K. Rajalakshmi (October 11, 2002) was silent on the core of Justice Sema's "differing'' judgment. Though he had stated that CABE's importance cannot be diluted, he pointed out: "This would not, however, mean that NCFSE-2000 is illegal for non-consultation with CABE. With this view on CABE, I concur with the view on CABE, I concur with the view taken by Brother Shah (J) in all other respects.''

Whether traditions have the force of law or not has been the subject of countless legal debates since time immemorial. There appears to be no end to this dispute. The problem stems largely from the fact that those who argue for legal recognition of traditions, do so only selectively. CABE is not a statutory body. It has been in existence since 1935 for coordination between the Centre and the States for implementation of education policies. Significantly, no moves were ever made to formalise its position. A wonderful opportunity to do so was given the pass by the national Opposition when the Constitution (93rd) Amendment came up in Parliament. Praful Bidwai (`A judicial letdown', Frontline, October 11) also overlooks the fact that even when the Congress and United Front governments were in power, this body had been alleged to have been packed with nominees of the Central government so as to stymie dissent voiced by Opposition-ruled States.

Unpalatable though this may be to the people who moved court, it cannot be denied that the highest traditions of jurisprudence were upheld by the country's apex court while ruling on this writ petition. They did not allow individual views or political choices to cloud their vision. Some intellectuals would, however, have preferred that they did. Bidwai betrays this sentiment — "This verdict will go down as a starkly negative landmark in independent India's judicial history. It is internally inconsistent, logically inadequate in its treatment of issues... '' It is not difficult to gauge the sense of frustration carried in those words. Along with his peers, Bidwai had drunk the heady brew of their own rhetoric and are today left shocked at its ineffectiveness on the denizens of the country's most respected institution.

"Saffronisation'' had become the leitmotif of such individuals to stall the publication of new books based on NCFSE. They had moved the Delhi High Court, the National Human Rights Commission and, finally, the apex court. Now, like bad losers, they have resorted to judgment-bashing in the most disgusting fashion, resorting even to misreporting on it in order to widen their support base. The fundamental point, which all patriotic Indians will ask, is why did the petitioners go to the Supreme Court if they have no basic respect for the institution? The NCERT had bowed to the stay order issued initially on publishing some of its textbooks. Thousands of students, their parents and teachers, were thrown into uncertainty for almost half the current academic year, but not a word was hissed in protest against the court's dictate. Cannot the nation expect even basic decency, leave alone political discipline, from the likes of Bidwai? It is sad to note that "secularism'', the most cherished Indian tradition for the ages, should be used as a fig leaf by persons who have shed all other values.

The murder of two schoolgirls in the United Kingdom (``A crime beyond belief'', September 13 ) caused a great deal of havoc in the minds of parents. The quick action by the British police in such situations, with extreme sensitivity to the victims of crimes, could be emulated by our policemen.

It is precisely to address this value-starvation that the NCERT had proposed Value Education, not as a separate subject bringing in marks and grades to students, but as an underpinning to all academic and extra-academic disciplines. It must be pointed out that the NCERT did nothing novel. Recommendations on Value Education made by the Founding Fathers of our Constitution and nationhood, reputed educationists like Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and D.S. Kothari had been filed away in the dusty shelves of the government for the past four decades.

The National Policy on Education (1986) emphasised the need for equity and social justice in education to promote the country's unique socio-cultural identity and to contribute to national cohesion, promotion of tolerance, scientific temper and the concerns enshrined in the Indian Constitution. The School Curriculum developed by the NCERT in 1988 proposed to equip the child-learner with the ability to grasp concepts and inculcate values commensurate with the social, cultural, economic and environmental realities. The social values aimed at were friendliness, cooperativeness, compassion, self-discipline, courage, love for social justice, and so on. Simultaneously, we see constant reminders on our failing to implement the successive recommendations in favour of Value Education — the latest being the Parliamentary Standing Committee in 1999 headed by S.B. Chavan. So, we see everything headed, as if in natural progression, towards the eventual inclusion of Value Education. However, when the NCERT included the proposal in the Draft stage, we were emphatic that it should not be one of those "subjects" with prescribed textbooks and exercise copies. That would only add weight to the already heavy bags our children had to carry to school thanks to the blind indifference to progressive trends world-wide which even Indian experts like Professor Yash Pal (1990) subscribed to. At the numerous seminars, workshops and consultations that the NCERT held all over India to collect views on the Draft, this proposal was lauded as something long awaited.

Now comes the question of religion. Bidwai, in his selective best, referred to "a number of cases" which allegedly said that "religion cannot be mixed with any secular activity of the state". Since he has chosen ambiguity over detail with the (wearisomely) familiar intent of creating confusion, it is difficult to help him. But, at least in the matter of the "saffronisation petition", the Supreme Court has been quite clear. The petitioners had relied heavily upon Article 28 of the Constitution for contending that the NCFSE was against the Constitution. In substance, Article 28 prohibits the imparting of religious instruction in any school, which is wholly maintained by the state's funds. Justice Shah ruled: "The NCFSE nowhere talks of imparting religious instructions as prohibited under Article 28. What is sought is to have value based education and for `religion' it is stated that students be given the awareness that the essence of every religion is common. Only practices differ. There is a specific caution that all steps should be taken in advance to ensure that no personal prejudices or narrow-minded perceptions are allowed to distort the real purpose. Dogmas and superstitions should not be propagated in the name of education about religions. What is sought to be imparted is incorporated in Article 51 (A)(e) which provides to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religions, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women and to see that universal values such as truth, righteous conduct, peace, love and non-violence be the foundation of education."

So, it is not religious education, but education about religions which the NCFSE recommended, or rather proposed, to implement as our leaders had already prescribed it. It ended decades of ignorance about the power of religion not as a straitjacket but as an empowering tool. As Justice Dharmadhikari pointed out, "the English word religion does not convey the Indian concept of religion... . The word Dharma has a very wide meaning. One meaning of it is the moral values or ethics on which life is naturally regulated... in this concept of religion or Dharma, different faiths, sects and schools of thought merely are different ways of knowing truth which is one. In Western world, particularly in Britain, religious education has been understood as nearly identical with the religious instructions. In India, which is wedded to secular philosophy by its Constitution, religious education to distinguish it from religious instructions can mean approaching the many religions of the world with an attitude of understanding and trying to convey that attitude to children."

For all their hype, the "progressive intellectuals" who now run to evoke a sense of irreverence of the institutions that India cherishes and the world community recognises beyond blemish, miss an essential point. Education is a matter best left to educationists. It is a specialisation which calls for balancing factors and equipping future generations with the skills, physical and mental, to make themselves and their nation competitive. The NCFSE, the Supreme Court held, was also in consonance with the fundamental duties enshrined under Article 51 A of the Constitution which call for the promotion of harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood among all the people of India transcending religion, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities. Perhaps the biggest challenge before India today has therefore been addressed. Now is the time to implement it in a non-partisan way.

J.S. RajputDirector, NCERT.