Textbook controversy snowballs in Kerala

July 16th, 2008 - 9:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Thiruvananthapuram, July 16 (IANS) The controversy over a class VII social science textbook in Kerala snowballed further Wednesday with rival political fronts in the state strongly justifying their positions on the issue. The state capital witnessed street battles between the police and the agitating Youth Congress workers amid hectic political activities by the government and the opposition to resolve the issue. Seeking a solution to the crisis, Leader of Opposition Oommen Chandy met Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, and other top opposition leaders met state Education Minister M. A. Baby.

However, the discussions were not fruitful as the state government rejected the Congress-led opposition’s allegations that the textbook injects communist ideology and propagates atheism among the young students. The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, which received a report from an expert committee appointed to study it, said there was nothing wrong with the textbook.

Baby also ruled out the withdrawal of the textbook.

Now, all the eyes are on the curriculum committee, which would meet here Thursday to discuss the recommendations of the experts committee headed by noted historian K.N. Panicker.

Things got worse Wednesday when the police baton-charged angry Youth Congress workers who came to express solidarity to their leader T.Sidique as his fast entered the eighth day Wednesday. The police also used water canons to disperse Youth Congress workers gathered in front of the state secretariat here.

The police arrested Sidique and admitted him to the Medical College Hospital here as his condition worsened. Later, on the request of Chandy and Chennithala, he concluded his fast in the hospital.

State Congress President Ramesh Chennithala strongly condemned the police action. “I was there when the police attacked our workers. I also tried to pacify the police, but they were brutal towards our activists.” Calling for a judicial probe into the incident, Chennithala said, “The only solution to resolve the crisis is the withdrawal of the textbook.”

He also said that the opposition would not accept any window-dressing of the textbook. Meanwhile, the opposition has decided to intensify the agitation as the state Assembly session is on. The opposition legislators are likely to begin an indefinite fast in front of the assembly.

Convenor of the United Democratic Front (UDF) P.P. Thankachen said, “The UDF parliamentary committee would take a final decision in this regard.”

The Kerala Catholic Bishops Council has also decided to intensify their protests against the textbook.

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