Education must promote a secular spirit
Close on the heels of the Karnataka High Court hijab verdict upholding the ban on wearing hijab on the premises of educational institutions, the Karnataka government has made a decision to introduce the Bhagavad Gita in the school syllabus in the next academic year. The government’s decision has sparked off another controversy in the state after the ban on wearing hijab.
True, the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita have enormous significance. On the other hand, it cannot be included as a subject in the school syllabus. It is a sacred book of the Hindus like the Mahabharata or Ramayana. What is the logic of introducing it in schools where students belonging to other religions also study? Is it right to force them to study the teachings of the Gita against their will ? Education must not be mixed with religion. Education must inculcate secularism in students, not communalism. India is a country of religious pluralism. When the Gita becomes a part of school syllabus, what about the Koran and the Bible ? Do the students belonging to Islam and Christian religions have to study the Gita instead of their sacred books ? This is another case of religious discrimination and segregation.
Education is imparted for character formation and personality development. It widens students’ outlook and develops positive attitudes in them. While people have the right to follow religions of their choice, it must not become a part of studies in schools. Religion and holy books are meant for making people morally good whereas education transcends beyond that. It is not meant for developing faith in students. It develops a scientific temper in students and enables them to perceive things rationally and develop clear perceptions. Invoking religious feelings among school children is dangerous. Sanctity of educational institutions must be preserved; they must never become centres of communalism.
Freedom of religion is a right
Shillong, and Meghalaya as a whole, has a Christian majority population. Sentiments regarding religion are strong in the country, and the same can be said about our state. While it’s best to have a secular view on issues, it’s difficult to avoid certain things. Not everything advocated by religious communities can be deemed right, or even ignored. Only recently, the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Shillong have had their members and leaders “visit” houses of particular members. These members are specifically those that have not attended the church for a while, so the church decided to take up the responsibility and make the people know their sins! Several of them, in groups, visit these homes and stand outside the houses, singing aloud— songs of repentance and forgiveness. Isn’t this, in a way, shaming the people? Is not religion, and church-going as well, a choice? Must such a promulgation be allowed by the church leaders?
Where is the thin line between breach of peace, trespassing, harassment and religious advocacy?
Name withheld on request
Hard earned academic excellence compromised
The year 1972 began with the inauguration of Meghalaya State but not without two Himalayan blunders – the boundary issues and the Reservation Policy which till date haunt the government and the people of Meghalaya, who see no hope of the blunders getting resolved any time soon. We lost the Kupli river to Assam as no leader knew the riverine law by which the three tributaries viz Myntang, Mynriang and Umiurem are our birthright. For this, Assam wittingly claimed the low ground for power generation and we managed to get just 6% power for our 3 rivers. And with HSPDP confessing that there was stealing and plundering in the bygone days by us over Assam and the reconciliation policy of give and take, our people at the borders have lost all hope from the MDA govt.
The second blunder is the 40-40-20 % reservation policy, raked up by the Khnam MLA of Shillong North Constituency, Adelbert Nongrum. It was an emotional plea with his ‘no intention to create divide among brothers and sisters or ill feelings,” clarification. He was right as all of us who happened to be part of the Hill State Movement, agreed on grounds that academically there is no denial that the Khasi- Pnar people then had an edge over Garos. Sadly, our leaders who have never tasted victory, and were too joyous had forgotten to put a timeline on such reservations, say, till 1980.
I joined as a college teacher in 1974 and retired in 2011. 37 years gave me plenty of opportunities to study the impact of the blunder. During admissions to PU Sc (2 year course) the perception was that the 20% reservation for non-tribals had made the state lose many deserving non-tribal students, and I thank them for their silent sacrifices.
By 1972 the Higher Secondary School performance was the platform for all our doctor aspirants. And competition was at its peak. Those days Classes 11 and 12 were taught by experienced teachers purposely planted by principals as these are the years of conceptual science teaching to cope with the challenges of the scientific world.
Fresh teachers had to reconcile to teaching pure science at the undergraduate level. Of course many who did not want to study medicine studied B.Sc. The results were fantastic and those doctors from the 1970s to 2018 had proven their worth. But what pained us the teachers was that in selection of students to different medical colleges through the Directorate of Health Services the reservation policy was found to suffer from great flaws. Many Khasi- Pnar students with much higher scores were deprived by Garo students of far lower scores. So the Khasi-Pnar students had to opt for Veterinary or BPharm.
Had the students lost out to others in Engineering or Agriculture it would have not been such a great loss. But Medicine is about treating patients. It is a critical course which requires academic excellence in Physics (like theory of blood pressure, clinical thermometers, qualitative explanations of Spygmamanometer, Endoscopy, PET), Chemistry and Biology.
It is sheer waste of a medical seat when selected students that are unable to cope with Medicine surrender their seats but not after depriving the deserving Khasi Pnar students. It is unfortunate that the DHS never bothers to check the progress of the students who are deputed to study Medicine. Some take more than 5 years to complete, and some even up to 8 years because they fail in between the semesters!
Adelbert Nongrum in his pleading in the House did not dwell only on medical seats but for government employment as well. That such a critical matter should be defeated by voice vote without even a discussion is a matter of great serious concern. What did our so-called “ieid jaitbynriew,” MLAs do? And for our Garo MLAs not humbly accepting that the 1972 reservation policy is a Himalayan blunder goes to show that reason and the humble arguments by the Shillong North MLA have no place in today’s democracy. And worst these same lawmakers would return in 2023!