Just a month back we had reported about communal tensions that Tehatta High School in Uluberia, West Bengal had witnessed after some students and outsiders had forcibly entered the school premises and celebrated Nabi Diwas (Birthday of Prophet Mohammed). They had also proceeded to vandalize the school property.
Their chief point of protest was that ‘if Saraswati Puja could be celebrated in the school, why not Nabi Diwas?’ The other side contended that Saraswati Puja was an age old tradition where goddess of learning is worshiped in educational institutes. It was more of a cultural celebration than religious (any other Hindu festival isn’t celebrated in govt schools). In our report, we had wondered if:
Now this could open up a Pandora’s Box with Islamic groups all over the state, especially in the areas with considerable Muslim population, demanding such religious celebrations on government school campuses. Not just that, other religious groups may also demand similar provisions to celebrate their festivals on school premises. Or will it lead to Saraswati Puja being banned from government schools to preserve communal harmony?
Well the last line seems to have come true as Saraswati Puja reportedly couldn’t be celebrated in the Tehatta High School.
The school has been forced to close after Muslim groups kept demanding that Nabi Diwas be celebrated officially. After violent protests, the school had earlier agreed to celebrate Prophet’s Birthday, but the permission was denied after state education department directed the school not to hold it. As per reports quoting school officials, almost 10000 people had turned up, set up a stage and made religious speeches in the school premises. This ensued further escalations and the school was indefinitely shut after 29th December.
As the date of Saraswati Puja neared, some students backed by local Muslim leaders demanded to celebrate Nabi Diwas again on 28th Jan. The new headmaster or teacher-in-charge (the last one resigned owing to all the pressure and controversy) begged the Uluberia police to take some preventive steps as the school could see another forcible gathering and protests.
Following this action by the headmaster, the school property was allegedly vandalized leading to section 144 being imposed in the area.
The district inspector of schools, on 29th Jan, ordered the school to remain shut until further notice, thereby ensuring that the 65 years old tradition of Saraswati Puja celebrations stand cancelled.
This prompted the Hindu students and their parents to take to the streets along with a small Saraswati idol. They proceeded to block NH 6 as a protest against the lockdown which would prevent them from celebrating Saraswati puja. The protest though wasn’t without its cost and students got grievously hurt after being allegedly lathi-charged by the police.
This is how brutally police attacked innocent students for their demand for permission to hold Saraswati Puja in Tehatta High School. pic.twitter.com/zeLkvoyTDM
— Prasun Maitra (@prasunmaitra) January 31, 2017
With communal tensions rising, the school could remain closed for coming days, which has worried the Class X students as board exams are approaching.