Christians outraged over India textbook reference to Jesus Christ as 'demon'

The Christian community in India was outraged after it was revealed that the class 9 Hindi textbook that the Gujarat State School Textbook Board published used the term "hevaan" or demon to describe Jesus Christ.

(REUTERS / Paul Hanna)The three-metre high painting 'El Expolio', or 'The Disrobing of Christ', by Spanish Renaissance painter El Greco, is seen in the the sacristy of the Cathedral of Toledo during a ceremony marking its return following restoration January 22, 2014.

The controversial reference was found in chapter 16 of the textbook "Bharatiya sanskriti mein guru-shishya sambandh," which means teacher-student relationship in Indian culture. The book featured a quote from Jesus Christ and a description which said the statement of "demon Jesus is always memorable," Times of India detailed.

According to Fr. Vinayak Jhadav, the spokesman for the Catholic Church of Gujarat, the controversial reference has already been pointed out to GSSTB's chairman, the National Commission for Minority Educational Institution's chairman, and the principal secretary of education. He considered the possibility that the inclusion of the word "hevaan" was simply an error, but they did not receive a response from the board.

"Prima facie it appears that the word 'hevaan', which is demon or beast or devil, may be a typo and we had requested an immediate correction," said Fr. Jhadav. "When we did not hear from the textbook board, we took the matter to the Gujarat United Christian Forum and decided to represent the case before the state education minister for an explanation, correction and disciplinary action against those responsible for the error. This is not about religion, it is about quality of education."

Advocate Subramaniam Iyer was the first to notice the erroneous reference. He described the error as a deliberate act which intended to hurt religious sentiment, as stipulated in the IPC's section 295 (a), News 18 reported.

Iyer acknowledged that the inclusion of the word "hevaan" in Jesus' description may have been unintentional. However, he said it can still bring about strife between communities and insisted that it should be taken out soon.

Meanwhile, the GSSTB chairman and the education minister have already promised to correct the error soon. Chairman Nitin Pethani said the description was supposed to say "haiva" (disciple of Jesus Christ) instead of "haivan" (demon).