By: Babu Thomas
Tuesday, 1 September 2009, 17:09 (IST)
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan (left) performs `surya namaskar' during the inauguration of a programme for school children in Bhopal. (PTI)
The BJP-ruled government in Madhya Pradesh was Friday ordered to not make 'surya namaskar' and 'pranayam' mandatory for students in schools.
Responding to a petition filed by the Catholic Church, the Madhya Pradesh High Court in an interim order directed the state government to not force surya namaskar (worship of sun, the Hindu solar deity) and pranayam (yogic breathing exercise) on students as part of extra curricular activities.
Two years ago, the BJP had made surya namaskar compulsory for students in all schools and colleges. Understandably, the move brought in strong protests from Christian-run minority institutions. The Muslims also opposed the same.
Appearing for the Catholic Church, Adovcate Rajesh Chand informed the High Court that the state government directive was in violation of the Section 25 to 30 of the Fundamental Rights of the Constitution under which the minority institutions are governed.
He also pointed out that it has gone against the interim order of the High Court passed in the same matter in 2007.
Chand demanded that state government immediately stop exerting pressure on students and also action be taken against officials who violated the earlier court order.
The division bench headed by Chief Justice A.K. Patnaik has issued notices to the chief secretary, principal secretary education, education commissioner, and district education officer in Jhabua and Rajgarh region. They were ordered to respond within four weeks.
The petitioner, Fr Anand Muttungal, said: "We think that the Court has indirectly asked the Government to uphold the secular values of the Indian Constitution." Archbishop Dr. Leo Cornelio, the Chairman of the Catholic Bishops Council, also welcomed the court order.
Meanwhile, there is valid speculation that the BJP government is to make 'bhojan mantra' compulsory before government-sponsored midday meals at schools from September 5, this year.
"The schoolchildren in the state will have to recite the bhojan mantra (Hindu prayers) before their midday meals. This will come into force from Sep 5 - Teachers Day this year," says a notice from state School Education Minister Archana Chitnis.
Minister Chitnis said, "The mantra would be recited in all schools without any discrimination on grounds of caste and creed. It will be made mandatory for all wards availing themselves of government-run midday meals."
She denied the charge that the mantra had a 'saffron' agenda.
Several Muslim organisations and leaders, including Hafiz Saghir Jilani Chishti of Jamiat Ulema Chishtia, Maulana Javed of Jamiat Ahle Quraish and Muslim Raeen Panchayat's Noorul Islam, have opposed the move.
"The Muslim community recites 'Bismillah' before having meals and under no circumstances would recite the 'bhojan mantra' as directed by the minister," said Madhya Pradesh Jamaat-e-Islami Hind spokesman Anwar Shafi.
The opposition Congress has also criticized the move. "India is a secular country where every individual has the right to live as per his/her religious beliefs," Congress spokesman Arvind Malviya said.
"The midday meal is a central scheme and the state government has no right to implement its agenda on it by asking teachers and students to recite bhojan mantra," media quoted him saying.
"Instead of dividing the community, the government should focus on providing quality and nutritious food to children and check malnutrition deaths in the state," he added.
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Ban on beard ridiculous: Apex court
Pioneer News Service | New Delhi
A schoolboy of a particular community stood vindicated in his fight to keep a beard as an article of his faith, after the SC on Friday stepped in by restoring his admission to the school. The institute had asked the student to trim his beard or quit, prompting the SC to term the demand as ridiculous.
Issuing notice on the plea filed by 16-year-old Mohammad Salim, Bench of Justices BN Agrawal and GS Singhvi sought a response from Nirmala Convent Higher Secondary School in Madhya Pradesh.
Commenting on the schools action, the bench observed, "Its not the question of any particular community, but its prima facie ridiculous for any person." Giving a deeper thought to the rule imposed by the Catholic convent, the Bench wondered, "No Sikh student can then be permitted."
Arguing for the student, senior advocate BA Khan told the Bench that Salim had already lost one year of studies. Salim had challenged the regulation of the school that required all students to be clean-shaven. Seeking protection of his religious beliefs under Article 25, Salims lawyers argued that growing a beard was an indispensable part of Muslim religion. Terming the regulations of the Catholic school unconstitutional, Salim sought an express order from the court to allow him keep his beard.
Interestingly, another bench headed by Justice Markandey Katju had on a previous occasion dismissed the case at the threshold without issuing notice. The famous comments by the judge We cannot permit Talibanisation in this country had created a sensation. Later, however, the judge recalled the order after offering apology and placed the matter on board for fresh consideration. This fact too weighed with the Bench, which asked the counsel for the petitioner, "Was there no stay granted?" On learning that the continuance of the writ plea could adversely affect the career of the student, the Court said, "Till further orders, it is directed that the petitioner shall be allowed to proceed with his studies in the respondent institution."