A new school curriculum set to go into effect in India in 2002 has drawn protest from churches who see it as an attempt by the pro-Hindu coalition government to "tamper" with history in order to promote Hinduism at the expense of minority religions.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) in a statement on December 7 expressed "serious concern over tampering with historical data" and cautioned education policy makers "not to deprive the coming generations of the possibility to know the truth in its integrity, an essential ingredient for any civil society."

Earlier, the executive committee of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) decried attempts by the government "to promote Hindutva [Hindu nationalism] through education."

Supporting Hinduism "will only perpetuate religious fundamentalism and further the marginalization of minorities," cautioned the NCCI, which represents 29 Orthodox and Protestant churches in India.

Christian education officials declared that in spite of government claims to the contrary, secular scholars and Christian educators had been left out of the drafting of the new curriculum.

"All five members of the drafting committee belonged to one community, [Hindu]," said Sister Celine Xavier, general secretary of the All India National Association of Catholic Schools (AINACS), which represents 15,000 schools.

So far, the proposals for the new curriculum exist only in a document called the National Curriculum Framework for School Education. But church leaders fear that once the curriculum goes into effect, school textbooks will follow.

"The outcome will be more biased texts than those that are already taught in some of the states," said Valson Thampu, a Church of North India pastor and a professor ...

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