A school in Haryana has been fined Rs 5 lakh by a panchayat for organising a special assembly marking Eid, which led to protests and threats. The panchayat also ordered Green Dales Public School to get rid of Muslim staff and students, make its girl students switch to salwar kameez, and banned it from hiking fees for two years.
Residents of Hindu-majority Tauru town in Mewat district, 39km from Gurgaon, accused the school management of “propagating Islam” and forcing its students, mostly Hindus, to follow Islamic rituals during the event on July 6. A mob armed with sticks and bricks was at the school’s gates the day after the assembly.
The panchayat order has forced the lone Muslim teacher to quit her job and move to Delhi, said school manager Hema Sharma.
The police and the local MLA, however, said the panchayat’s diktat held no meaning as Tauru is governed by a municipal committee. “No panchayat is recognised by the government. The local body does not support any activity by the group,” said tehsildar Poonam Babbar.
The police said the area was peaceful.
“The school is trying to convert our children… They were made to offer namaz and recite verses from the Quran. How else can you explain their intention?” said Tek Chand Saini, a member of the panchayat. “The parents came to us and we, the elders, confronted the school authorities.”
A parent who didn’t want to be named said, “My son studies there. My husband and his friends rushed to the school. We come from a small town and religion is an important aspect of our lives.”
The school denied the allegations. “The children sang, performed plays and prayed. We just wanted them to know and respect each other’s religions. It is absurd to give the issue a communal colour,” said Sharma.
A student of Class 4 said “we sang a famous song from a Bollywood movie and the prayer was in Hindi”, while a Class 8 student said the protesters were about to attack the school but were stopped by some parents.
Chaudhary Zakir Hussain, the Indian National Lok Dal MLA from Nuh, said “no namaz was offered and it was just a celebration to mark the day”. He rejected the panchayat’s demands, saying Tauru was under the municipal body.
“An issue over offering namaz did arise but it was sorted out. The tehsildar conducted a meeting between the two parties. We have not received any formal complaint after that,” said deputy commissioner Mani Ram Sharma.
“There is no communal tension in the area,” said station house officer Jay Prakash Yadav.
Several parents and members of right-wing groups who are backing the school said a rumour was blown out of proportion.
“My children studied there and now my grandchild too. We have never faced any such issue. The incident is untrue,” said Pawan Bhardwaj of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
The school accused an electrician of spreading lies. “He had come to fix some wiring. The guards did not allow him inside as the assembly was on. While leaving, he was heard saying, ‘namaz padha rahe he (they are teaching them to offer namaz)’,” said Sharma.