Catholic school teachers in India have warned against “subtle attempts” by the government to “saffronise” – or make more Hindu – the education system.
Dr. George Thadathil, a headteacher moderating an event in Kolkata last week titled ‘Future of Christian Higher Education and Contemporary Transitions in India’, said Christians “have a right to be present and that very right is being challenged”.
Kolkata headteacher Sister Christine Coutinho said Christians’ constitutional rights are being “breached” by not allowing them the “right to establish and administer educational institutions”, as enshrined by Article 30 of the Constitution.
Another former headteacher, Dr. Valson Thampu, added: “The situation is changing very fast…. In the last three years, we have come across certain changes which we could never think of before.
“We are passing through a stage when we need to be extremely circumspect. We can’t afford to stay static. We have to be cautious about the challenges. And we must understand our greatest challenge is to survive.”
‘Land of the Hindus’
In September, an Indian bishop voiced concern at an edict from a state education minister that schoolchildren should be forced to adopt a slogan praising India as the “land of the Hindus”.
Kunwar Vijay Shah, education minister of the central state of Madhya Pradesh, ordered pupils at state schools in Satna district to replace “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am” with the phrase “Jai Hind” (hail, India) when their names were called out to mark their attendance.
“Jai Hind” is commonly used at the end of renditions of India’s national anthem, and politicians use it to end their speeches. However, “Hind” is a shortened form of Hindustan (land of the Hindus), which Indian Christians and Muslims say implicitly excludes them. The official Hindi word for “India” is not “Hind” or “Hindustan”, but “Bharat”.
The instruction came into effect on 1 October and Mr. Shah warned that schools that did not adhere to it would face serious repercussions.