J&K: U-turn on Ramayana, Gita in schools, colleges

Jammu and Kashmir government on Tuesday withdrew a circular that copies of religious scriptures Ramayana and Bhagwad Gita should be made available at all educational institutions hours after it evoked a controversy in the Muslim majority state.

“Circular issued by the education department regarding the introduction of some religious books stands withdrawn ab initio under the orders of the chief secretary,” Jammu and Kashmir Police said in a tweet today. 

The order to introduce Urdu version of Ramayana and Bhagwad Gita in schools/colleges and public libraries had been issued after the decision was taken in a meeting chaired by advisor to Governor B B Vyas on October 4. In wake of the meeting, the administrative department of education has shot a letter to the directors of the school education department in both Kashmir and Jammu divisions. 

“The school education department will consider purchasing a sufficient number of copies each of Urdu version of ‘Shrimad Bhagavad Gita’ and ‘Koshur Ramayan’ authored by Shri Sarwanand Premi for making these available in schools/colleges and public libraries etc,” reads an official communiqué dated 22.10.2018 signed by the under-secretary school education department.

The officers have been asked to initiate further process after following all codal formalities required as per rules. Director Colleges Zahoor Ahmad Chatt and Director School Education Kashmir, G N Itoo feigned ignorance about the matter saying they have not received any such order. 

The order triggered a storm on social media with former chief minister Omar Abdullah questioning why only selective religious books are to be placed in schools colleges and government libraries.

“Why just the Gita and 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 (sic),” he tweeted.

Raja Muzafar Bhat, an RTI activist, lambasted the government for issuing such order. “When the local Government is controlled by RSS lead Modi, Rajnath and Yogi new disasters are bound to take place. Now Kashmiri Muslim students will have to read Ramayana and Bhagwad Gita , but no mention of Quraan? Why this religious divide? Inspite of Muslims being in majority local Governments never in Past enforced teaching of Quran for minorities in Kashmir (sic)?” he wrote on his Facebook timeline.

Earlier the education department had decided to introduce Vedic and Buddhist studies at the higher secondary level in the state. According to the 2011 Census, Muslims form around 68%m of the population in Jammu and Kashmir and Hindus are a little over 28 per cent. Sikhs and Buddhists form 1.9 per cent and 0.9 per cent of the state's population respectively.

The order to purchase the Gita and Ramayan was bound to evoke sharp reactions from separatists as they would have deemed the move as an attempt by the BJP to 'saffronise' education in the Muslim-majority state.

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J&K: U-turn on Ramayana, Gita in schools, colleges

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