A nationwide exam based on a special curriculum about cows promoted by India’s Hindu nationalist government was scrapped in February in the wake of charges that it undercut secularism and science.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government established a National Cow Commission in 2019 and formulated the exam, which all Indian students were urged to take. Critics said the test promoted pseudo-scientific ideas in an attempt to elevate the place of Indian cows, also known as zebus, which are sacred in Hinduism.

“This is very weird, this exam,” Komal Srivastava, an official for an Indian educational group called the India Knowledge and Science Society, told The New York Times. “They can say anything about cows: that radiation is reduced by its dung, which is unscientific. If we want to teach kids about cows, it has to be scientific knowledge and not mythology.”

India’s constitution mandates secularism, but critics charge that under Modi, who has been in power since 2014, that principle is being eroded. They say, for example, that textbooks have been rewritten to remove important Muslim figures, and that references to non-Hindus are being erased from public spaces.

India is estimated to be 80 percent Hindu, but the country includes Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and secularists.

An American Original

Is the separation of church and state in the Constitution?

Absolutely. The separation of church and state is baked into our founding documents and our system of government.

The “wall of separation between church and state” is an American original. It’s an American invention. We should be proud of that fact. And we should fight any disinformation that threatens this ideal.

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