MP: Christian School Guna Under Scrutiny After Row over ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ Slogan
Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Bhopal: Two days after a dispute over the shouting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ at the end of the national anthem sparked controversy, a Christian missionary school in Madhya Pradesh's Guna district has found itself in hot water.
Within 48 hours of the incident, the police have lodged an FIR against two school teachers of the Christ Senior Secondary School; the Municipal Council has slapped the school with a tax notice for the payment of Rs 89 lakh, and has initiated an inquiry on the land usage. In addition, the Revenue Department has launched an inquiry into the land owned by the school, claiming to have retrieved 16,000 sq ft of encroached land.
According to the FIR, a class VII student, Shivanshu Jain, chanted Bharat Mata Ki Jai after the national anthem in the morning school assembly on November 2. A teacher, Justin, objected to it and allegedly pulled him up with his collar and asked to see the principal. The student and his parents further alleged that his class teacher, Jasmina Khatoon, kept him out of the class for hours in a bid to punish him.
Jain narrated the story to their parents who sought support from RSS's student wing – Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.
"We found that the school has encroached on over 16000 sq ft revenue land, which is part of the playground. The encroached land is part of the school's playground but is surrounded by a boundary wall. The officials have decided to take back the revenue land by demolishing the boundary wall," said Sidharth Sharma, a senior official of the Revenue Department, while speaking to NewsClick.
Similarly, the Municipal Council has handed over a tax notice asking the school to pay Rs 89 lakh within 60 days. It has also launched an inquiry over the commercial use of the land which was reportedly granted for residential purposes. "After the row over Bharat Mata Ki Jai, we began looking into the other aspects of the school. We found that the school has not only been evading taxes (sewa kar) since 1997 but also has been using residential land for commercial purposes," said Arvind Gupta, husband of Savita Gupta, the chairperson of Guna Municipal Council.
The ABVP held an aggressive protest outside the school on November 3 seeking action against the teachers. Seeing no way out, the school administration complied with their demands and issued a one-page apology. The school was also asked to raise the ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogan every day after the national anthem in the morning assembly.
Subsequently, Guna police booked two teachers – Justin and Jasmina Khatoon – under Section 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), Section 506 (for criminal intimidation) of the IPC along with section 75 of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015.
School officials claimed that they have been receiving the notice regarding the tax payment for the past two years, but this time, “it's intimidating”.
Two days after the controversy, the Christ Senior Secondary School administration issued a two-page clarification letter over the ongoing controversy and institutional targeting.
The letter reads, "After the assembly where the students were proceeding back to their classes, a student raised the slogan of Bharat Mata ki Jai in a manner which was more insulting rather than being patriotic. He was scolded to (make him) understand the seriousness of the slogan. Subsequently, during the class, it was because of his misbehaviour that he was made to sit on the floor for two classes. The punishment had nothing to do with the morning episode but more about his unruly behaviour.
“The next day when the parents of the student came to complain, they were briefed about the matter and asked to meet the principal for the same. But instead of meeting the principal, it was politicised and made into a big issue. Within an hour, a crowd gathered at the school's entrance gate to protest. Moreover, when the teachers tried to take initiative and speak to the crowd to resolve the issue, they were mishandled, abused and threatened,” read the statement.
The letter said that it has tendered a written apology and assured that such an incident will not happen in the future. “Yet, it was made into an issue and spoiled the name of the institution by fabricating lies. Over the past 44 years since the school was established, the slogan of Bharat Mata ki Jai has been raised with pride. […] Using this, the issue of encroachment on government land was brought up. The land which was given to the school by the district administration for the playground of the school is now termed as 'encroachment'.”
It has been alleged in the letter that it appears to be a “well-thought-out plan against the institution” as “baseless allegations have been levied against the school with ulterior motives”. The school has also demanded an independent inquiry into the incident.
Speaking to NewsClick, the school's principal, father Thomas, said, "It's a matter of indiscipline, not (about) Bharat Mata Ki Jai. He raised the slogan to poke fun when students were returning back to classes after the morning assembly."
He further said, "Parents send children to schools to provide quality education and teach discipline. How can we ignore such indiscipline? Or can be targeted for punishing a student for making fun of Bharat Mata Ki Jai?"
"The entire issue has been politicised and now attempts are being made to shut our four decades old school," he added.
(This story has been updated to include the principal's response.)
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