Kolkata (AsiaNews/SCMP) Any references to the beef-eating past of ancient Hindus have finally been deleted from Indian school textbooks, after a three-year campaign by religious hardliners.
For almost a century history books for primary and middle schools told how in ancient India beef was considered a great delicacy among Hindusespecially among the highest casteand how veal was offered to Hindu deities during special rituals.
The offending chapters have been deleted from new versions of the books which were delivered to schoolchildren last week. However, the National Council of Educational Research and Training [NCERT], which bears responsibility for the texts, now seems to be unhappy with the changes, which were agreed to by a former NCERT director.
NCERT counsel Prashant Bhushan said that ancient Hindus were indeed beef-eaters and the council should not have distorted historical facts by deleting the chapters.
"NCERT has committed a mistake by dropping those facts from the textbooks. It is a victory for Hindu fundamentalists who have lodged a misinformation campaign. Historians should unite against this cowardice by the council [NCERT]," said noted Kolkata historian Ashish Bos.
But hard-line Hindu activists, who consider cattle holy and have been seeking a ban on their slaughter by Muslims and Christians, said the beef-eating references were aimed only at insulting Hindus.
In 2003, when the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] held federal power, Jagmohan Singh Rajput, then NCERT director, decided to delete the references. The process, however, took longer than expected.
Hindu fundamentalists last year alleged NCERT was dragging its feet in implementing the decision, and two activists filed public interest litigation with the Delhi High Court seeking the chapters' immediate deletion.
"Some low-caste Dalit [untouchable] Hindus used to eat beef [but] Brahmins [high caste Hindus] never ate it. Mr Sharma [Ram Sharan Sharma, author of the textbook chapters] had not researched well before writing the piece," said firebrand Hindu leader Praveen Togadia.
"The chapter is poisoning the minds of little [Hindu] children. They will not respect their own religion in future. They will not turn out to be good Hindus and it will cause harm to the nation," Mr Togadia said.