Lucknow: The Kanpur school at the centre of the ‘kalma‘ row has apologised for the controversy but, left shaken by protests this week, has a request for Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Florets International School is set to reopen Thursday after protests disrupted classes for two days.
“The future of children is being spoiled. We had to shut operations because we didn’t want our children to get disturbed. Several parents have come out in our support and written on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Our conscience is clear,” said Sumeet Makhija, managing director of Florets International School.
“We are planning to write to the CM and the DM and ask for guidelines on what to do and what not. What will happen to special assemblies when, on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi, Saraswati Pooja and Eid, children dress up as Ganeshji and other godly figures? We have given a written apology to the administration and the media that we did not intend to hurt anyone’s sentiments,” he said.
The morning assembly at the school involved students reciting prayers for four faiths, but a controversy over the practice — which stoked protests by members of the BJP and the VHP — is believed to have led the authorities to restrict the recitation to the national anthem.
The ongoing row first erupted Sunday after a parent uploaded a video on social media, claiming that her daughter was made to recite the ‘kalma (Muslim confession of faith)’ in school and knew the entire recitation by heart.
The issue was brought to the attention of Kanpur Police by a Twitter user, and a team of police personnel and local administration officials visited the school early Monday to verify the allegations.
Makhija, who called the protests a “shameful act”, said some demonstrators even accused the school of indulging in forceful conversion. He has been booked for allegedly outraging religious feelings and the state’s anti-conversion law.
Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Sisamau, Nishank Sharma, who was part of the team that visited the school, said Monday that they found students reciting only the national anthem during the morning assembly.
“They informed us that it [recitation of prayers of four faiths] was going on for the past 12-13 years and no one had ever objected to it,” he added.
“About two-three days back, someone objected when school authorities informed them that, if they want, the practice will be stopped. On Saturday, the school authorities had ordered that it be stopped and only the national anthem be sung,” the ACP said.
‘Will get school locked up’
BJP corporator Mahendra Shukla, who led the protest at the institute this week with members of the VHP and its youth wing Bajrang Dal, said they will get the “school locked up”.
The protesters have alleged that the practice of making students recite the ‘kalma’ was “wrong” and against “natural justice”.
Some demonstrators were even seen sprinkling gangajal on the school building.
Madhuram, organisation secretary of the VHP’s Kanpur chapter, confirmed to ThePrint that some members of the Bajrang Dal, which is the VHP’s youth wing, were part of the demonstration outside the private school Monday.
Accompanied by a few parents, the demonstrators lodged a police complaint against the school management. Sharma told ThePrint that the complainant in the case is one Ravi Rajput, a parent.
“We took the complaint and lodged an FIR against the school owner Sumeet Makhija under IPC sections 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings) and the UP Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021,” he said.
Shukla added that the demonstrators forced the school to shut down because students were being made to recite the ‘kalma’ but not the national anthem — a claim school authorities refute.
An inquiry was also launched into the matter by Kanpur DM Vishak G., after which a team led by an officer of the Basic Education Department reached the private school Tuesday and was given a written apology by the management.
‘Students were scared to step out’
Makhija told ThePrint that while the branch of the school at the centre of the row has been operating for the past 12-13 years, the main branch was opened in 2003.
“A few days ago, I received a call from an anonymous person. He said that his child was studying in the school for the past seven years and he objected to the recital of ‘kalma’ as part of morning prayers,” Makhija said.
He reiterated that students were made to recite prayers of four different faiths during the morning assembly for the past 19 years.
“I asked him [the caller] to identify himself and give a written complaint from four-five parents if they did not like it, and it [recital of four prayers] will be stopped. I later got a call from the local police asking me about the issue. They, too, had not received any written complaint at the time,” he added.
Makhija said the school management finally decided to stop the practice of making students recite the prayers of four different faiths because “there are students from all religions studying” in the school and “tomorrow, someone might object to the prayer of another religion”.
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)