In a troubling display of religious intolerance, a Christian missionary school in Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly district compelled Hindu students to cut off their rakhis, allegedly with the words, "Hinduism will not be practiced in the school".
This incident, which took place yesterday on the revered Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan, provoked a wave of indignation among parents and Hindu organisations, who perceived it as an insult to their religious customs and beliefs.
Raksha Bandhan commemorates the special bond shared between brothers and sisters. During the celebration, sisters tie a rakhi around their brothers' wrists as a gesture of love and affection. In return, the brothers pledge to safeguard their sisters.
The school's action to cut the rakhis not only dishonoured the sacred ritual but also instilled feelings of humiliation in the students, protesters said.
As per various reports, Holy Family Convent School, a private school run by a Christian missionary situated at Bhamora Road, first stopped students from celebrating the festival and the next day, when they turned up in the school wearing rakhis on their wrists, the school chopped them off.
The students revealed this to their parents after returning home. Enraged, several parents reached the school along with leaders of various Hindu organisations such as Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh’s student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.
The school management informed the police after which cops from the Aonla police station turned up. The protesters were reportedly pacified when the school principal offered a written apology in the presence of the police. Some students were made to tie rakhis at the wrists of classmates as a token of a compromise.
Incidentally, the case emerged only a day after chairperson Priyank Kanoongo of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) issued a direction to schools across India to not punish students who choose to wear rakhi, tilak, or mehendi on Raksha Bandhan.
The NCPCR notice, addressed to Principal Secretaries of School Education Departments in all states and union territories, highlighted the trend of harassing of students for celebrating their festivals.
The notice said, “Over the years, it has been observed by the Commission through various news reports that children are subject to harassment and discrimination by the school teachers and other staff on account of celebration of festivals. It has been noticed that schools do not allow children to wear rakhi or tilak or mehendi in schools during the festival of Raksha Bandhan and subject them to harassment, both physical and mental.’
The notice asked the concerned authorities to “ensure that schools do not observe any such practice that may expose children to corporal punishment or discrimination”.
Here is a brief list of cases compiled by Swarajya of such cases:
-A minor Hindu student was thrashed for writing ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogan on the blackboard in Jammu and Kashmir earlier this week. The teacher, Farooq Ahmed, was arrested by the police
-A minor Hindu girl student committed suicide after being subjected to humiliation through beating by her teachers at a Christian-run school for wearng a bindi to school. The incident was reported in July this year from Jharkhand’ Dhanbad district,
-A minor boy student was beaten up for wearing kalawa to school, and the sacred thread was cut by scissors. The incident was reported from a Christian-run school in Jharkhand’s Borako district in July this year.
-A school teacher from Tamil Nadu, Udaya Lakshmi, boasted about forcefully removing kalawas from the wrists of Hindu students in a Facebook post, which she later deleted after public anger. However, the post was shared by one of her Facebook friends and it continues to be public.
-A Hindu student was beaten by two teachers at Ujra Government School in the Chhatarpur region of Madhya Pradesh for wearing kalawa to the school. The incident was reported last week.
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