Maharashtra’s educators have lambasted the politicisation of education after Pune-based Brahman Mahasangh, (estb.2019) a Hindu right-wing fringe group raised objections to the inclusion of celebrated Indian writer, Premchand’s short story, ‘Idgah’ in the state board’s class IV Marathi text. Responding to the objections, the Maharashtra State Bureau of Textbook Production and Curriculum Research, popularly known as Balbharti issued a clarification (dated January 6) saying the story’s inclusion does not aim to promote any particular religion.
“Content included in the syllabus always aims to showcase characters with integrity and Premchand’s Hamid is a little boy who shows great strength of character and high emotional understanding. The story is a perfect lesson for class four children who at that age are developing their sense of empathy for others. I believe there was no need for Balbharti to issue the clarification. We should not be giving unnecessary importance to trouble makers. The government needs to take a tough stand against them,” said Vasant Kalpande, ex-director of education, Maharashtra.
Munshi Premchand (Dhanpat Rai Srivastav) is considered the pioneer of Hindi and Urdu social fiction literature in the country. Originally published in 1933, Idgah is an Urdu short story that is a touching tale of the emotional bond four-year-old orphan Hamid shares with his grandmother, Amina. In the story, remembering how his grandmother burns her hands while cooking for him, little Hamid shows great maturity overcoming his temptations to buy toys for himself and instead buys metal tongs for his grandmother. The popular story has been part of school curriculums across several states and has been adapted for stage and television too.
However, on January 3, the Brahman Mahasangh that claims to have 40,000 Facebook members, wrote to the Balbharti Director objecting to the translated version of ‘Idgah’ being included in class four Marathi text. Taking the cue, other pro-Hindu organisations too raised the issue of ‘Islamisation of education’ in the state. The organisations have questioned Balbharti’s objective in including the story instead of relegating it to the state’s Urdu language education. The groups want a change in the syllabus with the story removed.
Responding to the erroneous online reports and social media posts, Krishna Kumar Patil, director, Balbharti issued a clarification letter dated January 6. “Idgah has been part of the syllabus since 2014, but we have never had a complaint of such nature against it. The curriculums are prepared keeping in mind the objectives of national and religious equality. The story was part of the Mansarovar collection of short stories and was translated into Marathi by Sanjivani Kher. There has been no deceptive intention to promote any particular religion by including the story (Idgah) as part of the syllabus.” stated the letter.
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