U.P. school administration booked over recital of Islamic verses

Sections of anti-conversion law invoked after parents object to children being forced to recite the ‘Kalma’ during morning assembly

August 02, 2022 10:59 pm | Updated September 22, 2022 09:26 pm IST - Kanpur

The police on August 2 booked the administration of a private school in Kanpur district under Sections of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act after some parents and Hindu right-wing groups objected to children “being forced” to recite the Kalma (Islamic verses) during the morning prayers.

Enraged parents had on Monday staged protests outside the institution.

The school, which says it holds Sarva Dharma Prarthna (all-religion prayers), has been shut since the incident took place to ensure that no harm happens to the students.

Sumeet Makhija, secretary of the school, told The Hindu that the recitation of prayers was stopped immediately after the protest by parents and right-wing groups, but the situation escalated.

“The school has been reciting the Gayatri Mantra, the Gurubani along with the Islamic verses during the morning assembly for 18 years of its existence. No parent has ever complained. One fine day, even those whose children have been studying here for six or seven years started making a fuss about it,” he added.

The school, which has been directed to submit its affiliation-related documents to the District Education Department, has now decided to go with only the National Anthem during the assembly.

The matter came to light last week when the parents of a student studying in the junior kindergarten contacted Krishna Tiwari, district coordinator of the Bajrang Dal, with a video of his toddler reciting the Kalma.

“They were teaching my child that ‘Allah is the only one who should be worshipped’. You tell me, how I can tolerate this,” said Rohit Pandey, a parent.

Mr. Tiwari then approached Jassi Shukla of the Rashtriya Yuva Hindu Wahini, another right-wing group. The two later got in touch with a couple of parents who had similar issues with Islamic verses being recited during the morning prayers. They staged a protest outside the school on Monday. The police was also called on the spot along with senior district administration officials.

“Hindu is awakening now. Earlier, Hindu use to just bear all this to please the ‘secular brigade’. Now, we know what is good and what is bad for us. We will not let our children being converted,” Mr. Tiwari said.

Atul Kumar, additional district magistrate, city, who met the enraged parents and the school administration, said the district administration had initiated verification of the school documents.

Kailash Dubey, station house officer of the Sisamau police station, said that based on the complaint of the parents, the school administration had been booked under Sections 295 (a) and 5(1) the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021.

“The complaint stated that forcing children to recite the Kalma was an attempt towards religious conversion of the students,” he added.

The Hindu tried to contact the Kanpur Private School Association for its reaction on the issue apart from various schools, separately, but the authorities refrained from speaking on the matter. “We don’t have any stand on this,” they said.

Office-bearers of the Association said that the school should not have included any kind of religious prayers in the assembly without any government order.

Shreela Sen, whose child is studying in the school for eight years, is worried about his future as no school would give him admission mid-session in case the current school is shut down due to the ongoing fiasco.

“What is wrong in making children learn to respect all religions? If someone had objection to it, he or she could have moved their wards to another school,” she said.

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