The Madras High Court, presided by the Justice N. Anand Venkatesh, has come down hard on the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) for removing the transgender children inclusion guideline, “owing to pressure that was exerted from some quarters.”
On 4 November 2021, the NCERT pulled down its exclusive 115-page report “Inclusion of Transgender Children in School and Education: Concerns and Roadmap” prepared by its Department of Gender Studies after facing social media outrage (read an organised campaign by the right-wing) and a formal complaint to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) by an erstwhile Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) pracharak Vinay Joshi.
The NCPCR’s chairperson Priyank Kanoongo took immediate action after Joshi’s complaint. He wrote to the NCERT Director Prof. Sridhar Srivastava to “take appropriate action in rectifying the anomalies in the document.” The ‘anomalies’ it referred to were having a conversation with children regarding puberty, puberty blockers, and instilling a gender-neutral upbringing and discarding gender binaries in processes in schools, which according to Joshi will inevitably invite an “unnecessary psychological trauma”to children.
Following this complaint, couple with a targeted campaign by RW media house OpIndia, which published stories after stories maligning the image of the committee’s external team members, especially Vqueeram Aditya Sahai, the NCERT not only removed the guidelines from its website but also “transferred two of the three senior faculty members of its Department of Gender Studies,” a Quint report notes.
Court bashes NCERT
Taking cognisance of these matter at hand, the Madras HC submits that it is “unable to understand the need for such a knee jerk (sic) reaction within hours of the material getting uploaded on the website. If someone really had a grievance, the same should have been addressed in a proper manner through proper consultation and meetings.”
Noting that “no one can be allowed to arm twist a State-run council into forcibly withdrawing a material that came out after a long study by the committee,” it mentions that it “is quite unfortunate that such an important development was nipped in the bud. This development only reminds this Court that a continuous follow-up is required to bring changes in the prevailing education system.”
Not only this, the court also concluded by saying that it “hopes that the NCERT understands the concern expressed by this Court” and “come up with their recommendation based on the report submitted by the Committee.”
It also noted that the report by an expert body “cannot be dumped just because a handful of persons are opposed to this very idea of recognising persons belonging to the [LGBQTIA+] Community.” Advising the NCERT to “come up with a status report on this issue before the next date of hearing,” the court also expressed its displeasure as to how “pressure tactics” are “allowed to shut down any policy,” which it noted that “if such an attitude is encouraged, it poses a great danger to the fabric of this nation.”