01-Feb-2023  Srinagar booked.net

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How Controversial Content Exposes ‘Textbook Review’ in Kashmir

“We have not ordered any such book although it may have come from any marketing person as a sample. I believe it’s the responsibility of the government and authors to keep a check on the content.”

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Days after his bookstore’s name surfaced in an official communiqué, the Srinagar-based bookseller sounded petrified — partly due to some resounding sermons, and partly due to some roused sentiments shadowing his shop.

In a measured tone and voice, he said that his name is being dragged into controversy.

“After being labelled as kafir by local molvis, I am being hounded now,” said the book distributor. “I am myself against this blasphemy as a Muslim. The company in question has an open-market sale and I am not a single distributor of it.”

This concern as well as the controversy surfaced after a New Delhi based publisher namely Jay Cee Publications Limited depicted the blasphemous representation in the Class 7 textbook of Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) History and Civics Forever. ICSE is ruled by the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE), one of the top education boards in India.

The controversial illustration shows a painting of Archangel Gabriel (AS) bringing revelations to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in Islam.

“Depiction of the Prophet Mohammad [PBUH] is blasphemous in Islam,” said Mufti Sheikh Abdul Qayoom Qasmi, Secretary J&K Jamat- e-Ulooma.

“The world knows about it. Muslim countries around the world protested over the caricatures of the prophet Muhammad [PBUH] republished by French Magazine Charlie Hebdo last year- it’s not something that they don’t know. We cannot bear such acts especially when our beloved Prophet is involved. Even if people don’t protest about it on roads, it’s still paining our hearts.”

The blasphemous content was first flagged by Additional Divisional Commissioner, Srinagar, Dr. Syed Haneef Balkhi, when he requested Senior Superintendent of Police, Srinagar, to take stern action under First Information Report (FIR) against the publishing house and the distributor as per law.

Following the order, Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education (JKBOSE) directed all the schools in the Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh to not use the controversial textbook.

But while Mufti Qasmi is urging all the book distributors across Kashmir to destroy the controversial text, GN Var, Chairman of Private School Association of Jammu and Kashmir (PSAJK) told The Himalayan Post that this book has not been prescribed in any of the schools in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Our findings suggest that not a single school in Jammu and Kashmir has ordered this book,” Var said. “The company has sent this book as a sample to publishers because no school here has ICSE Board. Having said that, the government must keep an eye on such contentious content. An expert should be appointed who can review and blacklist any controversial author or publication.”

However, to ensure that no new book is introduced in schools without the checking-tier, PSAJK constituted an autonomous academic committee with three members from Kashmir, two from Jammu and one each from Pirpanjal and Chenab valley.

Meanwhile, the director of the Jay Cee Publication House, Rajeev Goyal said they had no intentions to hurt anyone’s sentiments and it happened because of the lack of Islamic knowledge.

“Due to lack of knowledge about the prohibition of picturization in Islam, we made an unintentional mistake in our book,” Goyal said. “We as a whole team of Jay-Cee Publications Pvt. Ltd apologise and highly regret this. We also promise and assure all our brothers and friends that the mistake will not be repeated in future editions.”

But while the ADC’s complaint to SSP Srinagar says the book is stocked and distributed by a Srinagar-based bookseller, the store owner denies it.

 

“We have not ordered any such book although it may have come from any marketing person as a sample,” he said. “I believe it’s the responsibility of the government and authors to keep a check on the content.”