Christian Leaders Meet the MHRD Minister

Abdul Bari Masoud | Caravan News

NEW DELHI — Prominent Christian leaders met the Union Human Resource Development Minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ on Tuesday, to apprise him of the issues and objections raised by the religious minorities on the draft of the New Education Policy (DNEP), and said the central government may constitute a committee to consider the same.

The government also extended the date for submission of comments on the DNEP by another fortnight till August 15 as July 31 was the last date earlier after one-month extension.

At the end of a two-day National Christian consultation on the Draft National Education Policy, a delegation of senior Christian leaders called on the minister last night who assured them that the government would consider their demand and a special committee would be set up to consider objections and suggestions given by various religious minorities.

Speaking to Caravan Daily, noted journalist and convenor of All India Catholic Union and United Christian Action, Dr. John Dayal said, the minister has positively responded to their demands and assured that he would take all suggestions and objection into account.

Dayal said the minister told the delegation that his ministry had set up ten groups of experts to study over 70,000 suggestions that had been made and the groups will look into specific issues.

The delegation told the Minister that the specific demands of religious minorities, specially Christians and Muslims, were numerous and ought to be considered by a special committee and the community offered to cooperate with the group looking into their suggestions. The policy should be forward-looking and consider the state of knowledge, economy, and employment forty to fifty years ahead and not just for a short ten or fifteen years, he added.

The minister also told the delegation that state governments had been directed to translate the massive draft into regional languages and brief summaries have already been published by the central government, he said.

The delegation reminded the minister that the Christian community exists across the country, has schools covering all regional languages and mother tongues, it is, therefore, necessary for them to have an equal opportunity to study the draft policy in its entirety and not a summary. They submitted a 12-point charter of demands to the minister which stated that “policy must be prospective and not retrospective, must be mindful and not callous, must be enabling and not hobbling. Therefore, the DNEP 2019 definitely requires deeper examination and reconsideration on several counts.

The delegation of Christian leades consisted of Dr. John Dayal, Fr. Sunny Jacob SJ, Dr Michael Williams, Advocate Bibhu Dutta Das, Mr. Greg Mann (MLA Uttarakhand), and Rev. Vijayesh Lal.

Earlier, in response to the HRD ministry’s invite for feedback and comments on the DNEP 2019, the All India Catholic Union, Evangelical Fellowship of India, Baptist Church Trust Association, Utkal Christian Council, United Christian Forum and the United Christian Action, had organized a two-day consultation on July 29- 30, 2019 for an in-depth study and  analysis of the voluminous report .

In his the keynote address, former vice-chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, Lt. General (retd) Zamiruddin Shah cautioned the people, not just minorities, to be wary of anything in the draft education policy that mitigated against the secular fabric of the country, the federal structure that had ensured the health of regional languages, to seek guarantees that allowed every child to fulfill her or his dreams.  Shah also cautioned against insidious efforts to smuggle in ideologies that divided people and impacted the scientific temper.

During the deliberations, Dr John Varghese, the principal of St Stephen’s College, Delhi, senior editor and educationist AJ Philip, JNU Professor and activist Dr. Atul Sood, National Federation of Indian women leader Dr Rushda Siddiqui and student activist Kawaljeet Kaur, of the All India Students Union, Dr John Dayal, Bishop Mandal, Dr Michael Williams, academic dean of the Mount Carmel Schools, and Muslim Personal Law Board member Kamal Farooqui also put forth their  views on  the draft education policy.

The consultations endorsed the submissions already made by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, the Jesuits Association for Education in South Asia, Forum for Minority Schools, All India Association of Christian Higher Education, Xavier Board of Education, Evangelical Fellowship of India, and Utkal Christian Council.

The meet also discussed that the one overarching concern is that the DNEP 2019 must be conforming to the Constitution of India and all Articles related to the protection and rights of minorities. The DNEP 2019 must not contravene or transgress the precedents of established law especially the several Supreme Court judgments relating to education.

The consultation also reiterated some important points that are as follow:

* The proposed formula of 5+3+3+4 could be counterproductive and detrimental to the intellectual growth of the child who is barely out of his infancy.

* The three-language policy, while well-intentioned, must be forward-looking and have a lifespan of at least two generations (2070) and we recommend that among the three languages that a child is taught, English would be compulsory across the nation and the state language should be the second language, which should be followed by one optional language which may include the oral local tongue of the child’s ethnic community.

* In providing for the needs of a nation as diversified as India, it may perhaps befitting to distinguish between urban and rural schools as one standardized policy many not serve the special needs of both.

* For a healthy federal polity, it is important that education remains a state subject with some aspects of the concurrent list and there be no attempt to centralize it further as it is proposed in the Rastriya Shiksha Aayog. The consultation believes that there is no scope for such an Aayog.

* The DNEP 2019, has incorrectly interpreted the establishment of minority schools as primarily and perhaps exclusively, serving the needs of minority groups (on page 194). It further aggravates this by presuming that school managements have misused the provision. Such misinterpretation and misquoting malign centuries of good work by minority communities in the service of the nation. It is always open to the government to take legal action on the rare offender.

* We oppose the concept of a National Research Foundation and its constituent bodies as envisaged in Chapter 14 and elsewhere in the document. We believe this will result in the quelling/crushing of original thought, independent analysis, and honest data collection.

* The requirement of the SMC as envisaged in the DNEP 2019 is contrary to the settled position of law by the honorable Supreme Court and several High Courts on its applicability to minority educational institutions.

* Section 4.6 and its subsections must reflect the plurality and complexity of Indian history, its culture and the evolution of reforms leading up to the Indian renaissance. P4.6.8.1 must not overreach in its categorization of values but must limit itself to the values enshrined in the preamble of the constitution of India.

* We are troubled by the misuse of the word “Missionary” after the word Christian on pages 34 and 413. The policy attempts to marginalize and countermine Christians as outsiders, as a community with hidden agendas.

The consultations, inaugurated by Delhi Archbishop Anil J T Couto, was attended by Bishop S Mandal of the Methodist Church in India, Church of North India Bishop of Cuttack Nanda, BCTA president and ex-MP  S A Sangtham and general secretary Sumeet Nath, United Christian Action general secretary Ashok Solomon, All India Catholic Union general secretary  A Chinnappan and Adv BD Das of the Utkal Christian Council.