An allegation made by Union Human Resources Development (HRD) Minister Smriti Irani during attacks and counter attacks between Congress and BJP leaders in Lok Sabha on Wednesday has been refuted. In her statement in the Lok Sabha, Irani had criticised Don Bosco School, Matunga, for using a handbook for Class IV history teachers authored by activist Teesta Setalvad.
According to the administration of Don Bosco Boys School, the controversial handbook was discontinued way back on 2001.
After being criticised by opposition leaders for the manner in which the BJP government treated students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) for “anti-national” activities, Irani flashed the handbook and quoted from it, claiming it created differences between students on religious and caste grounds.
Father Bernard Fernandes, principal of the school, claimed the handbook was discontinued in 2001. “These were no textbooks but handbooks. These books were used by some of our schools on an experimental basis for a year and were meant for teachers,” said Fernandes.
He added, “But they were discontinued immediately after a year they were introduced. Today, none of our teachers use these handbooks.”
There are two Don Bosco schools in Mumbai — one in Borivli and one in Matunga.
In September 2001, a series of protests by Shiv Sena over the handbook authored by Teesta Setalvad was staged. The said handbook talked about Shivaji Maharaj being born as a shudra (untouchable) and his rise to fame and glory because he represented toiling peasants, spoke against injustice and battled against caste barriers.
The then principal of the school Father Bonny Borges justified the move to introduce the handbook citing that the idea was to provide progressive information about history.
Meanwhile, an official from the school said, “The matter is being discussed among school administration and we are contemplating writing to the HRD ministry informing that the book has been discontinued.”
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