Telangana’s government has sparked controversy over its supplementary study materials that depict an image of a masked man with the holy book of Islam, posing as a ‘terrorist’ in an image of a Muslim surnamed Quran. The issue was brought to light by Twitter user Shaik Aslam Saturday, who posted an image of a page in a book called ‘Real Life Beyond Text Book’, a social studies help book for eighth-graders.
Muslim students, teachers, and the community are humiliated in this book, which leads to the destruction of unity and integrity in the country. Therefore, I demand action against those responsible for writing and approving the book. ‘This humiliates Muslim students, teachers and the community, and also lead (sic) to destroy the unity and integrity of the country,’ he tweeted.
Another user Gani Kateeb shared the same photo from another supplementary book for Class 8 students published by VGS Publishers in response to Aslam’s tweet. ‘A number of publishers have published this. For instance, VGS Publishers of Hyderabad. I have taken this from my sister’s material,’ he tweeted. Several publishers have published this. VGS Publishers from Hyderabad is an example. Publishers should apologize, delete the offensive content, and reprint the new edition. Through phone calls and emails, ThePrint has reached out to VGS Publishers regarding this matter but has not received a response. The publisher of the ‘Real Life’ book series is yet to be identified.
Question banks or guides
Telangana’s official textbooks are not included in the study materials, question banks or guides published by the state board. Private companies publish them according to the state board syllabus and students in Telangana use them as supplementary materials. In Telangana, while government schools must use state-approved textbooks, private schools are free to use any textbook.
In both states (Andhra Pradesh and Telangana), the use of these study materials is not official. Since there are no regulations for them, they cannot be considered illegal. According to Venkat Reddy, convener of MV Foundation, an independent organization fighting for children’s rights to education, these publishers employ their own experts and publish material. The books can also be found online and in stationery shops across the state. Millions of these copies are available from different publishers, and many students use them. ‘Despite being unofficial, teachers from government schools use these materials,’ a senior official from Telangana’s education department told ThePrint.
‘Discriminatory, full of hatred’
Several people called out the publishers after the pictures surfaced on social media, including prominent activist Khalida Parveen, who called on the government to take action. ‘Why Social Studies book misguiding the students in #Telangana? How come someone can design a man who was named as a #Terrorist holding #Quran in hand and gun on shoulder? Stop this immediately (sic),’ Parveen tweeted Sunday. According to the Telangana branch of the Students Islamic Organization of India, the students’ wing of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, the photograph depicts an ‘Islamophobic terrorist’ and the government should take action immediately. According to Amjed Ullah Khan, a leader of the political party Majlis Bachao Tehreek, the government should seize all the data and investigate the incident.
‘TelanganaDGP Sir, take note of or book a case against the publisher of a class VIIIth social studies work book that depicts a person carrying a holy book as a terrorist. Seize all material (sic),’ Khan tweeted Sunday. The Telangana government had also prohibited schools in 2018 from providing guides and study materials to students, stating that ready-made answers harm children’s ability to think. Approximately 23 lakh students attend 26,800 government schools out of 41,000 in the state. Over 32 lakh students are enrolled in the 11,000 private schools.