Karnataka

Conversion charge: Karnataka government orders closure of school, later withdraws order

St. Paul Higher Primary School in Ilkal in Bagalkot district, Karnataka.

St. Paul Higher Primary School in Ilkal in Bagalkot district, Karnataka.

 

Education Department officials closed St. Paul Higher Primary School in Ilkal near Hungund in Bagalkot district on the charge of 'trying to convert students and their parents'.

Block Education Officer (BEO) of Hungund issued an order on December 26 following a complaint by some right-wing organisations and an inspection by an official.

But, the Karnataka government is yet to enact a law against conversion by force or fraud. The Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, was passed by the Assembly during the winter session in Belagavi, but the government did not introduce the Bill in the Legislative Council . The legislation is better known as the anti conversion bill.

In Bagalkot district, officials withdrew the order after news of the closure of the school became public through the media on December 31. The school effectively remained closed for four days, as the order was issued on December 26, which was a school holiday.

Shreeshail Biradar, Deputy Director of Public Instruction, Bagalkot, confirmed that the order was withdrawn by the BEO. "The school reopened on December 31," he said.

In his order, the BEO had said that the school was being closed indefinitely for 'celebrating Christmas in violation of rules’. However, he did not cite the rules in the order. "You have served meat in classrooms during Christmas celebrations on December 25. This has led to embarrassment to the public and the department. You have to keep the school closed till further orders. Legal action will be taken if you reopen the school without permission,’’ he had stated.

 

Earlier, Pradeep Amarannanavar, convenor of 'pro- Hindu organisations' gave a complaint to tahsildar K. Rathna alleging that the school was trying convert students and parents. "The school management invited students and parents to school on Christmas Day, and offered them lunch with meat, wine and 'Satya Veda', a Kannada translation of the Bible. This is nothing but an attempt to convert Hindus into Christianity by allurement and force,’’ he claimed.

 

Principal Silvia D Marck, and school management committee members Jackson D Marck and Umesh Nayak Harapanahalli were among those named in the complaint. "Since inception of the school, these persons have been converting members of poor and backward communities like Banjara, Ambiger and other groups. They are insulting Hindu gods and converting vulnerable groups. Once they are converted, they force the converted persons to throw out statues and images of Hindu gods from their homes. This is against the law. What is more, the school’s licence is getting renewed annually, as the school management bribes some officials of the Education Department. The authorities should close down the school and cancel its licence,’’ according to the complaint.

 

On receiving the complaint, Education Department’s Block Resource Centre Coordinator I.M. Angadi inspected the school and submitted a report. The BEO acted on the report and issued the order of closure.

 

Jackson D Marc told journalists in Ilkal on December 29 that the allegations were baseless.

"We are not converting anyone. First of all, the school is not run by Christian missionaries. It is run by some residents of Ilkal. The school committee includes members of all faiths. The school has students of all religions. The lunch (mentioned in the complaint) was not held in the school. The school is run in a rented premises,’’ he said.


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Printable version | May 22, 2022 2:36:08 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/school-closed-on-conversion-charge/article38076547.ece