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UP: 2 Teachers Booked After Students Recite Iqbal's Poem During School Assembly

The FIR was filed after a Hindutva organisation alleged that the teacher made students recite noted Urdu poet Allama Iqbal's "Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua" poem during the morning assembly instead of the national anthem.

Representational use only.Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Lucknow: The district administration of Uttar Pradesh's Bareilly booked a principal of a government school and Shiksha Mitra after a Hindutva organisation alleged that the teacher made students recite noted Urdu poet Muhammad Iqbal's "Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua" poem during the morning assembly instead of the national anthem.

The action was taken by the district administration (Bareilly) on a complaint by a local Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader. In his complaint, VHP leader Sompal Singh Rathore has alleged that the prayer -- penned by Iqbal -- is not meant for the government school but madrasas (Islamic seminaries)

Taking cognisance of the complaint, police have slapped a First Information Report (FIR) under Sections sections 298 (deliberate intention to wound religious sentiments) and 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against the two teachers.

As per FIR, accessed by NewsClick, the complainant said that children of all communities study in that school and teachers could not impose their religious beliefs on others.

According to Rathore, 'Saraswati Vandana' and National Anthem should be recited as prayer. But the headmaster was making school children sing 'Mere Allah Burai Se Bachana Mujhko (O Allah, protect me from evil)'. The lines are part of the poem 'Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua'. He alleged that by forcing Hindu students to sing 'religious prayer' at government schools in a bid to convert the students.

The poem, Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua, was penned by noted Urdu poet Iqbal in 1902. He also wrote the famous patriotic song "Saare Jahan Se Achha Hindusta Hamara." Incidentally, it is also part of the primary school syllabus.

Meanwhile, the state Education Department also suspended school principal Nahid Siddiqui and ordered a probe against Shiksha Mitra Wazeeruddin for "hurting religious sentiments".

One of the teachers booked by the police termed his suspension "arbitrary and unconstitutional."

"School children are made to sing both the songs- 'Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua Ban Ke Tamanna Meri' and the National Anthem. I have been doing this for many years, but nobody objected to it," he told NewsClick.

The alleged incident occurred at Kamla Nehru Composite Vidyalaya in Faridpur of Bareilly district. The school has around 265 students, most of whom, according to the school teacher, are Muslims.

"Some political activists are trying to give a communal colour to this, but we will approach the court as we did not commit any crime or against our constitution," he alleged.

NewsClick also spoke with Basic Shiksha Adhikari (BSA) in-charge Bareilly, who justified the suspension.

"Religious prayers are prohibited in government schools according to the Constitution. The suspended teachers were found flouting the guidelines. Therefore, the action was taken against them," he said, adding, "a departmental inquiry has been initiated against them."

When asked why no action had been taken before or if it was pressure from VHP, he said, "The matter came to our notice yesterday, and we took action immediately."

Siddiqui, one of the teachers booked for hurting "religious sentiments", said that she was not present at the school when the alleged incident occurred.

"I have been on leave since December 12 due to medical reasons. When I was in charge, students recited Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua and Itni Shakti Hamein Dena Data along with the National Anthem. I never taught any religious content to any of my students which is not part of the syllabus," Nahid (62), who is set to retire on March 31, told NewsClick.

She added, "I have served as a government teacher for more than three decades, and not a single complaint against me has been made. The claim that we are trying to convert students into Islam is very painful."

Meanwhile, after circulating the video of the morning prayer, the VHP activists had gathered at the police station, threatening to organise a protest outside the premises if no action was taken against the school teachers within 24 hours.

In 2019, a headmaster in the state's Pilibhit district was also suspended after the students were heard singing the same song. Following a complaint by the local unit of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the authorities took action.

The Pilibhit District Magistrate had claimed the headmaster was suspended because he was not making the students sing the national anthem.

Commenting over the action, Syed Murtuza Ali, an activist in Bareilly, told NewsClick, "If the song written by Iqbal is hurting sentiment and people are being labelled as "anti-national". Then Saare Jahan Se Accha, which is performed routinely at Independence Day and Republic Day parades, should also hurt the religious sentiments of these Hindutva organisations. This is a tactic to be in the limelight and harass poor Muslims. It is unfortunate that the government is encouraging such fringe elements."

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