Monday, January 31, 2005

Religious Questionnaire In India's Gujarat State Raises Suspicions

A controversial decision to make primary students in rural areas complete a religion-based questionnaire has raised suspicions about a "hidden agenda" by the government of western India's Gujarat state.

The Opposition Congress has dubbed the census in rural areas as an "attempt to disturb communal harmony" by India's radical Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Education Minister Anandiben Patel denied any "religion-based" survey in village schools. However, she admitted that students were being asked to participate in a survey to make them better aware of their social and cultural surroundings and to sharpen their writing skills.

The four-page questionnaire seeks to find out how many people belong to which religion in a village, the festivals that are celebrated, the number of religious places, and their historical importance. The survey is being conducted as part of the government's district primary education project's documentation exercise in each of the state's 18,000 villages.

Believers are concerned that the information will be used to create a religion- based databank in rural areas. A similar exercise was secretly undertaken by Gujarat police in the Dangs district shortly before the anti-Christian attacks in 1998.

(WorldWide Religious News/The Telegraph)