Gujarat: Circular to hold 'Saraswati Vandana' stirs controversy; Muslims express displeasure

New Delhi, Jan 23: Modi Government which has recently been under fire for wrong reasons may have to face heat from the Opposition again.

In yet another controversial decision by the BJP Government, all municipality schools in the Gujarat have been told to observe Saraswati puja on Saturday.

Now controversy over Saraswati puja

Reportedly, through a government circular, hundreds of schools in Ahmedabad have been directed to perform prayers and chants on Vasant Panchami which is considered to be a religious festival of the Hindus.

A circular issued by Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation School Board reads as quoted by a english daily, " "This is to inform all municipality schools that Mahasud Pancham also known as Vasant Panchami is a festival that worships Ma Saraswati, the goddess of education, art, knowledge and music. On this day, Goddess Saraswati is worshipped to spread the light of knowledge. Without education, life is worthless. To enable students to understand that knowledge can make them achieve great heights, schools should ensure Saraswati Puja is performed and Saraswati Vandana recited.

Also, explain to students how Vasant Panchami is celebrated in other states."

According to report, more than 300 Gujarati medium schools having around 10,000 Muslim students will also have to follow the diktat. Reportedly Proncipals of many of the these schools have expressed their displeasure.

"We will recite the prayer since we cannot go against the circular. However, we are doing away with the puja because it may hurt the religious feelings of students from other communities", Principal of one of the schools said.

The Congress reacted sharply with its councillors dubbing the move as an attack on the fundamental rights of minorities.

According to Congress Councillor from Sarkhej ward, Haji Mirza Baig, the circular is yet another attempt of promoting Hindutva agenda by the BJP-led AMC as well as state government. "In democracy, everyone is given rights to follow their religion and related rituals. This circular is an attack on freedom of not only Muslims, but also of other religions. Why they want Muslim students to perform Puja ? It should not be made compulsory in Urdu medium schools," Baig said. He further warned the municipal corporation of wide spread protests across the city.

"Congress councillors will stage protest against such dictatorial approach of AMC. Urdu schools, where majority students are Muslims, must be kept away from this order. Otherwise, we will take up legal action and knock the doors of court," he added.

The School Board administration, however, defended their move by claiming that it is not a religious program. "Saraswati Devi is the goddess of education and schools are temples of education for all the students of all the religions. Thus we just want students to understand the importance of education by remembering the goddess through prayer on that day," said AMC School Board administrator L D Desai. "This is an educational program, not a religious one. Thus, all the schools are asked to follow the circular.

There is absolutely no controversy, as none of the Urdu medium school has approached us against this program," Desai said.
AMC School Board runs around 450 primary schools in the city, including 64 Urdu medium schools, most of them located in Muslim-dominated areas like Shahpur, Jamalpur, Gomtipur, Kalupur Juhapura, etc. As per the School Board, around 16,000 Muslim students study in these schools. 

Shree Panchami, or the Basant Festival of Kites is a Sikh and Hindu festival held on the fifth day of Magha (in early February) marking the start of spring and the Holi season. On this day Hindus worship Saraswati Devi, the goddess of knowledge, music, art and culture.

OneIndia News

(with inputs from PTI)

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