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HOLOCAUST EDUCATION AND GENOCIDE PREVENTION

India

India

India is part of the Asia group which also includes China, Mongolia, Japan, the Korean peninsula, Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands. Australia and New Zealand, though geographically close, are treated separately because their history as European settler societies has led to unique implications with regard to understandings of the Holocaust.

INDIA  represents one of the countries in which many people have misconceptions about the Holocaust. In recent years, events in the latter two countries have highlighted distorted popular views of the Holocaust.

Vocal members of the Indian National Congress during World War II, including Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi, spoke out against the Nazis and offered their support for Jewish victims. The situation was complicated by Hindu attempts to maintain solidarity with Indian Muslims. These efforts led India to restrict postwar Jewish immigration to the subcontinent. read more

Partially as a result of the Muslim influence in Indian politics and partly because of India’s attempts to distance itself from the West, “ignorance about Jews is widespread” in India. In the words of Navras Jaat Aafreedi, a university professor at Gautam Buddha University:

Few Indian followers of non-Semitic religions know much about Judaism, and the knowledge they have comes mainly through various secondary sources. They rely on English literature, media reports on the Arab-Israeli conflict, the accusation of deicide, and the lessons they received in European history at the school or university level with half-hearted passing references to the Jews. An example of which is the University of Lucknow [the university where Prof. Aafreedi took the Ph.D.] which never asked its students any question about the Holocaust in its examination history in spite of the fact that it teaches courses on European history. It is noteworthy considering the tendency of students to give more attention to the topics on which questions are likely to be asked in the examination. The Holocaust isn’t even a footnote.

Aafreedi further points to a growing wave of Holocaust denial on the sub-continent as books on the subject have found their way to India. “The anti-Jewish posture of the Muslim press … negatively affects the Indian Muslim perception of Jews in general. A large section of South Asian Muslims denies that the Holocaust ever took place, or raises doubts about its magnitude and scale.”  As a university professor, he is attempting to change this culture. In 2009, he offered a two-week-long “Holocaust Films Retrospective” in addition to forming a Facebook group titled “Holocaust Education in South Asia.”  Yad Vashem has encouraged Holocaust education in India, hosting 20 educators from India as well as Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea in December 2012 and January 2013.  This encouragement has inspired grassroots projects, including the Art of Living Foundation’s Holocaust-related exhibition.

RESOURCES

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES ON HOLOCAUST EDUCATION: Trends, Patterns, and Practices,  a publication of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and  the Salzburg Global Seminar, 2013
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GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES ON HOLOCAUST EDUCATION: Country updates 2014, published ahead of the Salzburg Global Seminar session Holocaust and Genocide Education: Sharing Experience Across Borders

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LINKS

UNESCO:  Why Teach About the Holocaust?, 2013

FURTHER READING

Aafreedi, Navras Jaat. “Paradox of the Popularity of Hitler in India.” Asian Jewish Life. 14 (2014): 31-34. 

Aafreedi, Navras Jaat. “The Impact of Domestic Politics on India’s Attitudes towards Israel & Jews” in Priya Singh and Susmita Bhattacharya, eds., Perspectives on West Asia: The Evolving Geopolitical Discourses. Delhi: Shipra Publications, 2012. 

Aafreedi, Navras Jaat. “The Absence of Jewish Studies in India.” Asian Jewish Life. 10 (2010): 14-16. 

Sareen, Tilak Raj. “Indian Response to the Holocaust.” Anil Bhatti and Johannes Voigt (eds.). Jewish Exile in India, 1933-1945. New Dehli: Max Muellar Bhavan, 1999.

 

FELLOW UPDATES

Navras Aafreedi, Professor, Presidency University, Kolkata

The NGO Navras works with, Society for Social Regeneration and Equity (SSRE), awarded six-month internships to six post-graduate students who screened films on the Holocaust to small audiences, stimulating discussions on communalism, racism and hatred, as well as on how racism and hatred can be eliminated and how to prevent these feelings from leading to mass violence. One of these interns wrote, directed and staged the first Holocaust-themed Hindi play at his university, Gautam Buddha University in India, where Navras teaches. Navras also published the article “Paradox of the Popularity of Hitler in India,” and as of 2014, was in the process of writing a paper on the Holocaust’s place in Indian-Jewish fiction, and an additional paper on India’s response to the Holocaust. He has designed a syllabus for a master’s in Indo-Judaic studies, which includes material on the Holocaust. He intends to submit this syllabus to the Minister of Human Resource Development in India for its introduction into academia. 

Navras’ article:  http://www.isrageo.com/2014/07/17/navrasaafredy/ 

More recently: He co-convened the first international multidisciplinary conference on creating additional Indian scholarly interest in the Holocaust in May 2016 at O P Jindal Global University in Sonipat, India. He is also author of Jews, Judaizing Movements and the Traditions of Israelite Descent in South Asia, published in 2016. https://sites.google.com/site/aafreedi/  

Convened the international multi-disciplinary conference “Prevention of Mass Violence and Promotion of Tolerance: Lessons from History” in Kolkata, India on February 27-28, 2017. Details on the conference: http://holocaust.salzburgglobal.org/overview/article/kolkata-mass-violence-and-tolerance-conference-draws-on-salzburg-global-expertise.html 

Srimanti Sarkar, who attended Learning from the Past: Sharing Experiences across Borders to Combat Extremism in 2017, has joined the West Bengal State University, Kolkata, India, as assistant professor of political science. She said, "I feel happy and blessed for being able to join a university as a young faculty member and see this as an opportunity to initiate programs on Holocaust and Genocide Studies. For this... Salzburg Global Seminar will be the source of my inspiration and motivation."

 

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