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Where Is Bigotry?

Vigilant critics of the Kerala Government religiously devoted to detecting diabolic designs in their administrative acts or policy would for once seem to be disappointed over the new educational policy explained by a spokesman last week. It was stated that the intention was no to nationalise the educational structure of the State nor bring all schools under Government management, ownership or control; but “anyone who wished to run a denominational school for the specific purpose of promoting the culture on religious interests of a section of the people would be free to do so, but would not be justified in claiming aid from the Government’. Further, there was no proposal to interfere with the right of minorities to run their institutions, even though the course of studies was not the one prescribed by the schools run directly by the Government or by private schools aided by the Government. Lest any misapprehension be fostered, the Government declared: “It will indeed be contrary to the spirit of the Constitution and the concept of the Secular State, if the Government funds, to which all citizens contributed irrespective of caste or creed, are spent on institutions which sought exclusively to promote the cultural or other rights of any one community, class or sect.”

It seems significant that two days after this announcement four Archbishops and thirteen Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church issued a statement taking umbrage at the policy of the Government. They maintain that “the Directive Principles of State Policy in the Constitution imposed upon the State the duty to foster and aid schools conducted by private agencies.” Obviously Article 45 is under reference; but it only says that “the State shall endeavour” to provided free and compulsory education to children up to 14 years of age. Apparently, the Roman Catholic prelates resent the denial of grant to their schools which foster and seek to propagate what according to the Roman Catholic Church are “the fundamental ideas and immutable values of life which formed the basis of education”. A secular State cannot be expected to have a special or secret bias for any particular brand of “fundamental and immutable values” forming the basis of education. Indeed, it would be wrong on the part of the State to divert funds contributed by all denominations of the population for the propagation of “values” of any particular denomination. It must be noted that the Kerala Government have not banned any denominational schools, though zealous secularists might feel entitled to know why their continuance should be countenanced at all. The Constitution undoubtedly enshrines the rights of citizens freely to profess, practice and propagate any religion of their choice, but it does not provide for public funds to be utilized for that purpose. The misconceived controversy raised by the Catholic Church, disturbingly recalls to one’s mind the revelations and affirmations made in the Niyogi Report. Perhaps the stalwart personality of the Education Minister, himself a Roman Catholic, is a factor influencing interested opinions in Kerala. The Education policy now enunciated by the Kerala Government with regard to denominational schools faithfully reflects the secular spirit, a fact which raised the question why the pervious Governments never took up such clear and reasonable stand; and an answer is hard to find unless the explanation lies in strong political considerations. There is no doubt that a powerful section of the population is antagonised by the secular policy of the State Government, but then their decision marks the triumph of principle over expediency, which is worthy of healthy emulation elsewhere.

(The Deccan Herald –8th June, 1957)