Hindu Children's Tuition Classes Turn Into Islamic Indoctrination Scandal In New Delhi

Swati Goel Sharma

Jul 08, 2024, 12:00 PM | Updated Jul 09, 2024, 02:33 PM IST

Quran (Representative image)
Quran (Representative image)

Two months ago, Manoj Kumar's two school-going sons joined him in New Delhi during their summer vacation. Manoj, who works in the transportation sector, resides in the national capital, while his wife, sons, and parents live in his native village in Jaunpur district, Uttar Pradesh.

Believing that two months away from studies was too long, Manoj decided to enrol his sons in a nearby coaching institute to brush up on their English and Math skills. The children are 13 and 12 years of age, respectively.

After a quick inquiry with neighbours, he learned about a centre called 'Jai Mata Di'.

Manoj visited the address with his sons, and found a banner with the name Jai Mata Di, alongside pictures of Ma Saraswati. Inside, he met a man named Sanjay.

Satisfied with the brief meeting, Manoj paid a small advance and instructed his sons to attend the centre regularly.

However, two weeks ago, Manoj was taken aback when his sons started asking about the Quran and requested a copy of the Islamic religious text. Initially, he dismissed it as childish curiosity. But when the requests persisted, he decided to investigate further.

During a discussion with his elder son, who is a Class 6 student, Manoj was shocked by what he heard. The child revealed that a teacher named Rizwan would discuss religion with them after classes.

Rizwan allegedly disparaged Hindu gods, calling them weak and powerless, and promoted Allah as the one true God. He encouraged the children to follow the Quran.

Disturbed, Manoj immediately called up a teacher at the centre, after taking the number from his son, to confront him. To his dismay, the person on the other side responded with a barrage of expletives and threats.

Manoj told Swarajya, "He claimed to be the 'father' of Dawood Ibrahim and threatened to harm me and my family. I was aghast. Is that the language of a teacher? What were my sons being exposed to?"

The same evening, Manoj visited the centre, demanding to see Rizwan and get answers. He was met with evasive responses and reassurances that it was all a misunderstanding.

According to Manoj, he attempted to record the confrontation but was hindered by the staff. Nevertheless, he managed to capture some footage.

Back home, Manoj showed the video to his elder son, who immediately identified Rizwan as the man standing beside Manoj in the recording. This revelation left Manoj even more stunned. "Rizwan was right there beside me the whole time, and no one pointed him out," he says, still in disbelief.

Living in Srinagar Colony in the Shakurpur area, a community populated by migrant workers from his caste, Manoj sought support from local leaders. As the news spread, it reached activists from Hindu organisations.

When these activists visited the centre on 4 July, they found it locked and were informed by neighbours that the classes had shifted online.

The centre no longer had any signage.

One of the activists, an IT professional, told Swarajya that he learned from locals that the centre was run by five teachers — three Muslims and two Hindus — and some helping staff. The locals did not know any Sanjay.

The activists then took the issue to the Subhash Place police station. As per the activist Swarajya spoke to, the police were initially reluctant to file a complaint, deeming the allegations insufficient for a criminal case. However, after persistent pressure, they accepted a written complaint from Manoj on 4 July and assured an investigation.

"The police have assured us they will get back to us by Monday [8 July] evening," the activist told Swarajya.

The same evening, Manoj and his elder son gave a statement on video to a journalist, which can be watched here.

A portion of the written complaint by Manoj. The highlighting is by Swarajya
A portion of the written complaint by Manoj. The highlighting is by Swarajya

Another activist shared with this correspondent a picture of the centre he received from locals.

The picture shows a banner outside the centre, on which is written JMD, followed by its full form — 'Join Mentors of Discipline'.

There are two pictures of Ma Saraswati, along with the names and phone numbers of five teachers at the centre, namely Ibrar, Rizwan, Ajay, Vikram and Irfan.

When shown this banner, Manoj said he didn't read the board that carefully when he enrolled his sons two months ago, although he remembers 'Jai Mata Di' written on it.

The board. We have removed the phone numbers for privacy
The board. We have removed the phone numbers for privacy

The coaching centre's perspective

This correspondent contacted one of the teachers at the centre, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity.

He said that the allegations of Islamic indoctrination were fabricated by the boys' father, Manoj, to settle a personal vendetta with Rizwan, following a heated argument over the phone.

According to the teacher, Manoj called the coaching centre on the morning of July 4 to inquire about fees. A female staff member handed the phone to Rizwan. "The two men exchanged abuses during the call," the teacher said, declining to specify the cause of the argument.

"I don't know the exact reason, perhaps Manoj didn't want to pay the fees, though I doubt that since it's not very high," the teacher speculated, adding, "It seems to be a matter of ego." The monthly fee was about Rs 750 for both sons, he said.

The teacher said that Manoj barged into the centre with a group of "20-25 men" and began demanding to see Rizwan, accusing him of forcing his children to convert to Islam. "He started making baseless allegations against Rizwan," the teacher stated.

The coaching centre has submitted videos and phone recordings to the police to support Rizwan, he said.

Regarding the coaching centre's background, the teacher explained that it is an offshoot of a centre named 'Jai Mata Di,' established about 30 years ago. "We studied at that centre, and then some of us opened our own about 12-13 years ago," he said.

To leverage the main centre's popularity, they named their centre 'JMD’, which appears to be an abbreviation for ‘Jai Mata Di’ but is short for ‘Join Mentors of Discipline.' He acknowledged that locals refer to both centres as Jai Mata Di, distinguishing them only by their addresses.

Both centres are a few hundred metres apart.

When asked about 'Sanjay,' the teacher explained that Sanjay is the coordinator for the main centre. "It might be that Manoj initially inquired with Sanjay but ended up sending his sons to a different centre. Whether that was intentional or accidental, I don't know," he said.

Addressing the removal of the banner, the teacher said that the centre is in the process of relocating, which prompted the banner's removal a week ago. "Our classes are currently running online. It has nothing to do with the controversy," he said.

'I am a devout Hindu', says Manoj

Manoj, meanwhile, has stopped his sons' classes at the centre. He said he plans to send his children back to Jaunpur within a week, as their school is about to reopen.

Asked about the counter-allegations made by the coaching centre, Manoj dismissed those and said that he has submitted his side of evidence to the police, and it was up to the police to unearth the truth.

He expressed his dismay over the incident, stating, "I am a devout Hindu and never expected something like this to happen. I have no issues with people following their religion, but I am firm in my own beliefs. I also know the plight of Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

When asked if his children still inquire about Islamic texts, Manoj replied, "No. As a devout Hindu, I have addressed all their questions about our religion."

Manoj speculates that the teachers targeted his children knowing they would soon return to Jaunpur, avoiding immediate repercussions. "My elder son is very curious and loves to delve deeper into subjects he encounters. If he had taken these ideas back to Jaunpur, he might have been influenced in a different direction," Manoj said.

Update: Subhash Palace police filed a first information report (FIR) - number 492/24 - on 7 July under Sections 299 and 302 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita.

Swati Goel Sharma is a senior editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @swati_gs.

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