School students ‘forcibly baptised’ at Dera
Students of a government school in Punjab’s Mansa district were “forcibly” taken to the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters in Sirsa, Haryana, on a school trip and “baptised” there, the children’s parents have alleged. Harjinder Sidhu and Bharat Khanna report.india Updated: Feb 26, 2012 01:08 IST
Students of a government school in Punjab’s Mansa district were “forcibly” taken to the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters in Sirsa, Haryana, on a school trip and “baptised” there, the children’s parents have alleged.
The students, many of them Sikhs, of Gobind Singh Adarsh Senior Secondary School at Sahnewala village in Mansa’s Jhunir block, were also made to drink the “Jaam-e-Insan” at the dera, signifying their “conversion” to the controversial sect.
Insan is the “religion” of the dera.
The February 19 trip has erupted into a major row, with parents slamming the principal for organising the trip.
School principal Sunita Taneja and 49 students reportedly went to the Sirsa dera early in the morning and came back in the evening.
The students were also allegedly asked to shout the sect’s slogans like “dhan dhan satguru tera hi aasara”.
Taneja apologised for taking the students to the dera. “I apologise for what I have done and I’m sorry that parents of students have been hurt by this,” she said. On Saturday, dera followers prevented mediapersons from talking with the families of the students.
“The children were forced to raise slogans in the bus,” the bus driver Gurjant Singh said. He claimed that Taneja “scolded” the children who showed unwillingness to shout the sect’s slogans.
“The school principal took the students in the Sirsa-based dera and forced the children to adopt and profess Insan religion and become followers of dera,” Kapur Singh, sarpanch of Ghudduwala village in Jhunir block said. “We will appeal to Sikh organisations and the government to look into the matter and take necessary action.”
A Class 7 student said she was she was forced by the principal to “drink a liquid” and hang a locket having a sign and photographs of all gurus of the dera. “The dera is trying its best to increase its followers and this action of the school principal has made us want to remove our children from the school,” the grandmother of a student said.
Mansa deputy commissioner CS Talwar said nothing had come to his notice in this regard so far. “If anyone lodges a written complaint, the matter will be thoroughly investigated,” he said, adding he would ask the district education officer about the incident and seek a report on this matter on receiving a complaint. Contacted on phone, Dera Sacha Sauda spokesperson Aditya Insan said, “We never force anyone to adopt our philosophy or become a follower of the dera; rather each and every one comes here of his or her own will and (on account of) reverence.”
He said he was not aware of any incident about school students being forcibly brought to the dera. “But if parents of students have made any allegations, then it is a matter between the school principal and students,” he said.