Hours after several Christian organisations submitted a memorandum to Ahmedabad District Education Office (DEO), demanding withdrawal of state board’s Class IX Hindi textbooks for using a derogatory word for Jesus, the state government on Friday replaced the word with ‘bhagwaan’ in the online version of the book on the official website of Gujarat State School Textbook Board (GSSTB).
The government also launched an inquiry into the matter. In the memorandum, the Christian outfits demanded “withdrawal of textbooks from the market with immediate effect and rectify it in the new textbooks that are yet to be printed”. They also demanded legal action against those involved in “hurting the sentiments of Christians”. “If recalling of books is not possible then at least delete the chapter and issue an apology,” said Rv Franklin F Junior, Ahmedabad Pastor Association chairman and the state representative of Christian and Missionary Alliance of India.
The memorandum also demanded cancellation of licence of the publication and a public apology. “We are also planning to approach the High Court if action is not taken immediately,” said Major Ramesh Pandav, divisional youth secretary of Salvation Army Church, Ahmedabad. Meanwhile, GSSTB chairman Nitin Pethani said that recalling the books was not feasible as they were published in 2016.
“The board or the education department did not intend to hurt any community’s sentiments. If that was the case, other facts in the chapter would also be the same and ‘bhagwaan Isa’ would not have been mentioned in the exercise at the end of the chapter,” he said. Members of the Christian community have planned a silent protest rally in Vadodara on Monday. Aldrian Thomas, a member of the Methodist Church in Vadodara, said, “We have contacted members of the other Christian communities in Vadodara and also the Catholic church to join us in a united protest march on Monday afternoon. We will submit a memorandum seeking correction and apology as it is a matter of religious sentiments and education as well.”
Thomas said that while the issue is making news for the last few days, the error went unnoticed last year. “On May 5, our community forum pointed out the error to the state government and was waiting for its reply,” he said.