Sunday, June 2, 2024

MP School Principal’s Bail Dismissed, Lawyer cries Foul

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Not allowing Hindu students to wear a tilak or tie a kalava; making Urdu a compulsory subject; singing poet-philosopher Mohammad Iqbal’s Lab pe aati hai dua – these are some of the allegations in the FIR against the administration of Ganga Jamuna Senior Secondary School in MP Damoh district.

According to MP police, the FIR is based on the statement of three students.

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On June 7, the police filed a case against 11 members of the school management committee. (Express photo)

Late last month, a poster celebrating the school’s success in class 10 Board exams was put up outside the premises, featuring some non-Muslim students in headscarves. This set off protests by right-wing groups, who raised allegations of religious conversion, even as the school insisted the headscarf was part of its uniform. The issue snowballed as the Home Minister sought a probe and MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan too criticised the school.

On Wednesday, Special Judge Rajni Prakash Botam dismissed the bail applications of the three arrested accused – Afsha Sheikh, the school principal; Anas Atahar, a mathematics teacher; and Rustam Ali, the security guard.

The defence lawyer, Anunay Shrivastav, told the court that complainants’ statements in the police FIR “did not feel like it was written by a child, rather it was dictated by adults to implicate the accused”.

The defence lawyers also told the court that there are several hundred Hindu students at the school, but none of them or their parents levelled allegations of religious conversion until the issue was politicised.

The main complainant in the case has claimed that from class 6 onward, “we are given a dupatta, salwar, hijab in a class of 56 girls comprising students from Hindu, Muslim and Jain religions”.

“It is compulsory to wear the hijab with our uniform. If we don’t wear it, our teachers scold us. We don’t wear the hijab and leave our home, but used to wear it when we reached the school gates,” the FIR reads.

The complainant alleged that Urdu was taught since class 1 without giving any other option and making the subject compulsory.

“In the morning, we sing the Muslim prayer, Lab pe aati hai dua, and the national anthem. It is forbidden to wear a tika, kalava; the teachers scold us… The school administration makes us do things against our religion by threatening us. My religious sentiments have been hurt, I am mentally disturbed because of this,” the complaint alleged.

The school administration denied the allegations. Said a senior committee member, “Urdu is a third subject and since this is a minority school, it is taught. Nobody forces the students to not wear their tilak or kalava. The students have been part of our school since they were in nursery. Why are these allegations being made ahead of elections?”

On Tuesday, a bulldozer had arrived near the now-derecognised school as the process began to demolish the first floor, which the local civic body deemed unauthorised.

The municipal authorities Wednesday decided to not use the bulldozer following protests by school children. CMO B L Singh told The Indian Express, “People gathered outside the school because of the bulldozer and this created huge law and order problems. The bulldozer could also not enter the premises properly, so we decided against it. We are manually removing the illegal encroachments. It will take several days.”

On June 7, MP police had filed a case against 11 members of the school management committee under IPC sections 295 (damaging or defiling any object held as sacred by any class of persons), 506 (criminal intimidation), 120B (punishment of criminal conspiracy), as well as provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act and the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021.

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