Sanskrit verses are part of the daily prayer for Mantasha Khan (class IX), Inayat Ali (class VIII), Jofisha Khan (class IV) and 30 other Muslim students who study at the Shaishvika Vidyalaya, a high school with 269 students run by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
It’s not just the Medha Suktam (a Vedic hymn recited to strengthen the intellect) that they recite with perfect diction but they also chant the Gayatri mantra, Surya mantra and shlokas (hymns) from the Bhagvad Gita with equal ease, besides the Ramcharitmanas and the Hanumanchalisa.
“Afsha Sultana Khokhar who passed from the school three years ago, excelled in recitation of Sanskrit hymns, including Ganesh Atharvashirsha (recited to invoke Lord Ganesh) and won prizes,” the school’s Sanskrit teacher Jagrati Shrivastava recalled.
And their parents never objected. One of the parents —Shakil Khan —has been encouraging his community members to send their children to this school, founded in 1975. And the results are encouraging. In 1996, it had four Muslim students. This year, out of 50 students who got admission, 25 were from minority community.
“None from our community has problems sending children to the RSS school. They are gaining knowledge. The school fee is reasonable (Rs 400 a month). And teachers impart good values. Students there are cultured,” remarked ex-student and cloth merchant Lal Ali, 38, whose sons Fashil and Kamran study in the school.
Another ex-student and award-winning painter Riyazuddin Patel says, “My ideology has matured after studying there. What I learned is discipline, which is akin to the RSS.”
Not that city’s other RSS-run schools don’t have minority students but Shaishvika Vidyalaya has the most. The management didn’t face any problems from parents even though the school is surrounded by Muslim-dominant localities.
“Parents are very cooperative. We’re an educational institution and don’t promote communalism,” said school principal Aparna Modak.
It was only when girls were asked to put on bindis that Muslim parents requested they do so only during school hours. “But then we dropped the regulation,” said Modak, proud of the students the school has produced.