Imparting religious faith in students made news twice in two days. The first was on Tuesday and created a furore, with Shia Central Wakf Board chairman Wasim Rizvi urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to shut down madrasas, saying that madrassas produce terrorists and should be merged into mainstream schools.
Then, on Wednesday, the Supreme Court issued notice to the Centre seeking its response to a public interest litigation (PIL) which alleged that school prayers in Kendriya Vidyalayas propagate Hinduism. The PIL questioned if public institutes could promote a particular religion and said the prayers should be discontinued since the schools are run by the government.
Noting that the issue is important, a bench of Justices RF Nariman and Navin Sinha issued notices to Centre and the Kendriya Vidyalaya management seeking a response.
The plea, filed by Madhya Pradesh resident Veenayak Shah, said that students irrespective of their faith and belief were asked to compulsorily recite a prayer based on Hindu religion at the morning assembly.
It also pleaded that the practise created obstacles in development scientific temperament among students. “Students as a result learn to develop an inclination towards seeking refuge from the almighty instead of developing a practical outcome towards the obstacles and hurdles faced in everyday life, and the spirit of enquiry and reform seems to be lost somewhere,” the plea said.
Moreover, said the petition, since the prayer is being enforced, the parents and children of the minority communities, atheists and others find the imposition constitutionally impermissible.
The petitioner also submitted that the common prayer is a “religious instruction” within the meaning of Article 28 of the Constitution and should therefore be prohibited. Article 28(1) of the Constitution says that no religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of state funds.
“A perusal of the prayer shows that it is based on Hindu religion and it is very different both in substance and form from the prayers of the other religious/non-religious orientations mentioned above. The issue that arises therefore is whether the state may impose the above mentioned “common prayer” on students and teachers throughout the country,” the plea said as per PTI. Shah requested for a direction to discontinue the morning prayer in Kendriya Vidyalaya schools.
Earlier, on Tuesday, a row erupted over Shia Central Waqf Board writing to PM Narendra Modi urging him to shut down madrassas in the country, saying that the education imparted in these Islamic schools encouraged students to join terrorist ranks.
The Board, in its letter to PM Modi, said madrassas should be replaced by schools affiliated to the CBSE or the ICSE. It said the Islamic education should be made optional for the enrolled students.
The Board’s chairman Waseem Rizvi claimed that most of the madrasas are providing “misplaced and misconceived religious education”. Rizvi said in a tweet: “These schools should be affiliated to CBSE, ICSE, and allow non-Muslim students. Religious education should be made optional. I have written to the PM and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in this regard.”
“The madrasas are only producing unemployable Muslim youth, who have no option but to join terror groups. Madrasas have failed to improve literacy level among Muslims and time has come for us to do some introspection on this,” he said.
According to a Times of India report, Rizvi said, “In the last 70 years of independence, there are only a handful people who have studied at madrasas and have cleared civil services examinations. These too have however gained modern education after studying in madrasas. But the number of terrorists coming out of madrasas is much higher.”
Raising a finger at Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama, Rizvi said, “I surveyed madrassas and found that they had no standardised syllabus. Visit Nadwa and ask for the syllabus and you shall get none. What are they teaching young minds, no one knows.”
When contacted by ToI, UP Board of Madrassa Education registrar Rahul Gupta, countered Rizvi, saying, “In 15 years of my service, I have seen thousands of madrassas but never came across one where students were radicalised. Modern education is being imparted under the Central government’s scheme to provide quality education in madrassas.” Gupta said it was not compulsory for madrassas to register with the board.
All India Muslim Personal Law Board spokesman Khalilur Rehman Sajjad Nomani dismissed Rizvi’s allegations saying madrassas had played a key role in the freedom movement and by raising questions on these schools, Rizvi was insulting them.
However, BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said the BJP governments at the Centre and in Uttar Pradesh had no plans to shut down the madrassas. He said BJP is focusing on working towards the modernisation of education imparted in these institutes.
AIMIM President and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi called Shia Central Waqf Board chairman Wasim Rizvi a ‘buffoon’ and an opportunist for claiming that Madrasas bred terrorists. Speaking to ANI, Owaisi added Rizvi had sold his soul to the RSS. “Wasim Rizvi is the biggest joker, an opportunist person. He has sold his soul to RSS. I challenge this buffoon to show one Shia or Sunni or Madrasa where such teachings are imparted. If he has proof then he should go and show it to the home minister,” he added.