December 11, 2022

Communal Targeting in Education

WHAT has happened in the Government New Law College in Indore and some other places is a disturbing pointer as to how the deep communalisation and polarisation in society is now affecting the educational system.  

The worst incident has taken place in the Government New Law College, Indore  in what can only be called as a communal cleansing of Muslims in the teaching faculty.  The RSS affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) unit in the college began protesting against the alleged “religious fundamentalist thought being promoted by four Muslim teachers of the college”. They also questioned the “high number of Muslim” faculty members in the college.  Actually, out of the 28 teachers, only four are Muslims. 

In a memorandum submitted by the president of the ABVP unit, the Muslim teachers were charged with “promoting Muslim and Islamic culture inside the campus”. They were accused of promoting “love jihad” with the absurd claim that these teachers took female students to restaurants and pubs. 

The principal of the college, Prof Inamur Rahman, who also happens to be a Muslim, responded by taking off the four Muslim teachers and two others against whom also complaints were made, from their teaching duties for five days and asked for an enquiry by a retired district judge. 

Not satisfied with this action, the ABVP students hurled new charges.  They accused the principal of keeping a book, Collective Violence and Criminal Justice System, written by one Dr Farhat Khan in the college library.  They claimed that the book contained remarks against the RSS and the Hindu community. Though the principal clarified that this book was acquired by the library in 2014, well before he took up the principalship in 2019, the protestors targeted him and continued their protests forcing him to ultimately resign. 

It is significant that the complaints and the agitation by the ABVP students were supported by the state home minister, Narottam Mishra, who directed the police to take action.  The local police have filed cases against the principal, another teacher Mirza Mojij and the author and publisher of the book under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including sections 153A (promoting enmity against two groups) and 295A (making deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage the religious feeling of a group).

The police are looking for the author Dr Farhat Khan to arrest him and the other three, including the former principal may follow since the district court has refused to grant them anticipatory bail.

Thus, within a few days, all the Muslim teachers, including the principal, have been effectively removed from their positions in the faculty and this has been accomplished with the tacit approval of the state government.  Based on the complaints raised by the ABVP unit, a seven-member committee has been constituted by the directorate of higher education to probe into the allegations of religious extremism and similar charges. 

There have been other instances in the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh of minority teachers being targeted. A Muslim principal of a school in Vidisha, Shaina Firdous, was removed in October this year after Bajrang Dal members  made various allegations against her.  In another Christian missionary school in Guna district, two teachers – Justin and Jasmina Khatoon – were booked under sections of the IPC on some alleged complaint by a student.

Bigotry against Muslim students or teachers has surfaced in other states too.  Recently, a Muslim student in the Manipal Institute of Technology in Karnataka was singled out and mocked at by the teacher for having a “Kasab-like name”.  In a government college in Barmer, Rajasthan, a teacher in a class rounded on the sole Muslim girl student and hurled vicious anti-Muslim remarks at her.  No action has been taken against the concerned teacher despite the student making a complaint.

One of the goals of the Modi government through the New Education Policy is to bring in communalisation of the educational system under the guise of a value-based education drawing upon India’s ancient knowledge systems.  But a fall out of this saffronisation drive is the targeting of minority Muslim teachers and students.  That this is officially sponsored in BJP-ruled states is clear from how girl students wearing hijab have been prohibited from entering government-run inter-colleges in Karnataka and Muslim teachers in a government-run law college debarred from teaching and being booked under criminal charges in Madhya Pradesh.  The reduction of Muslims into second class citizens is being reflected in the public educational system too. 

India assuming the presidentship of G20 in 2023 is being officially observed with the slogan of ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’. Prime Minister Modi has pompously remarked that “India stands for promoting harmony within the human family” while within the country everything is being done to divide the Indian family on sectarian and communal lines. 

The government has announced a series of meetings and events connected with the G20 to be held in various cities in all parts of the country. One of the G20 events is to be held in Indore.  This is the Indore where Munavar Faruqui, a stand-up comedian, was arrested before a performance because of a complaint by a Hindutva outfit that his shows offend the religious sensibilities of Hindus.  This is the same Indore where last year a bangle seller, Taslim Ali, was badly beaten up for selling his wares in a Hindu locality.  He was arrested and spent 107 days in jail.  This is the city now where respected legal scholars and teachers are being hounded because they are Muslims. 

The true face of the Hindutva regime and the hypocritical declamation of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam will be exposed when the G20 event takes place in Indore. 

(December 7, 2022)