Church groups have joined secular protests against the southern Karnataka state government for promoting the teaching of Hindu scripture in state-run schools - writes Anto Akkara.
About 100 students and social activists demonstrated on 14 July at the Gandhi statute in Bangalore, Karnataka's capital, demanding end to the teaching of the Hindu Bhagavad Gita scripture. The state is ruled by the Hindu nationalist BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party).
The protests followed a declaration by Vishweshawara Hegde Kageri, Karnataka's education minister, that the teaching of the Hindu scripture would be extended to women's self help groups at the village level, in addition to schools and colleges.
Kageri has said previously that the governemnt supports the teaching of Gita as it will help students learn "good values" for life. "The argument between the various communities will be futile since anyone from any religion can learn good things from the Bhagavad Gita or other religious books," he said.
The Democratic Youth Federation of India criticised the government for "indulging in religious proselytisation ... [and] endangering communal harmony."
The Rev Manohar Chandra Prasad, a prominent activist of the Church of South India, objected to the teaching of the scripture of "one religion alone," telling a news conference on 13 July in Bangalore that "this should apply to the Bible and the Qur'an since all religions have values." Prasad told ENInews on 14 July that "There is a hidden agenda behind teaching the Gita in the schools. It is to impose the orthodox Hindu system and strengthen the Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) ideology."
Meanwhile Muslim groups have asked the Karnataka high court to halt the sectarian move.
[With acknowledgements to ENInews. ENInews, formerly Ecumenical News International, is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]