The Madhya Pradesh government on Friday suspended the recognition of the Damoh school that is at the centre of a controversy over allegations of non-Muslim students wearing hijab.
In a late development, an order was issued by the joint director of School Education of the Sagar division saying that the Ganga Jamuna School had violated recognition rules. However, it made no mention of the hijab controversy and said that upon inspection, it was established that several facilities meant for students were inadequate or unavailable.
The order came hours after the school issued an order making a “dupatta” or “scarf” an optional part of the school uniform.
Right wing groups had alleged that the Centrally-funded senior secondary school was making female students wear hijab, after a picture of a poster congratulating topper students went viral earlier this week. The school had so far maintained that the students were wearing scarves, and not hijab in the picture.
In a letter to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the school’s manager Haji Mohammad Idris conveyed the clarification and expressed regret if anyone’s sentiments had been hurt.
Scarf vs hijab
National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson Priyank Kanoongo joined the debate, tweeting the manager’s letter and claiming that Mr. Idris was lying.
“It was not a scarf, it was a hijab, don’t spread lies, Haji Idris! The investigation is going on, today the team of the State Children’s Commission will reach Damoh, tell them whatever you have to say, the drama of influencing the media and inciting public sentiments and gaining sympathy is not going to work,” he tweeted.
A related issue that has cropped up is the school’s recital of Urdu poet Muhammad Iqbal’s over-a-century-old poem, titled Lab pe aati hai dua ban ke tamanna meri.
The issue came to light during the protests over the poster, when one of the students reportedly told the media that the prayer was sung before the national anthem. On Friday, Damoh Collector Mayank Agrawal said that from now on, only the national anthem Jan Gan Man would be recited in the school.
The poem was in the news last December, when a government primary school principal in Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly was suspended and booked after activists belonging to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad objected to its recital. An FIR had also been registered in that case. The Hindu had earlier reported that the song has been sung in schools in north India despite Iqbal’s adoption as Pakistan’s national poet.
‘Such acts won’t work in MP’
Without naming anyone, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan told a gathering at Chhattarpur that a poem by a man who divided India was being taught at the Ganga Jamuna School.
“Yesterday I came to know that girls were told to wear something on their head in a school in Damoh. Such a rule was made. And a poem of a person who got India partitioned was being taught. I want to caution, such acts will not work in the land of Madhya Pradesh,” he said.
“The new education policy which has been implemented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, only that will be implemented. And if someone teaches something wrong in school that goes against it, or forces a girl to wear scarf or other thing on her head, then such a school cannot run in Madhya Pradesh,” he added.