Schools are not Battlegrounds for Religions!

Written by March 8, 2014 11:23 pm 7 comments

I received today a communication on Facebook, shrieking that it was unjust for the authorities to consider suspension of a teacher who made students shout ‘Jai Shri Ram’ or Hail Lord Rama! in school. Was it Shri Ram or Jesus Christ that was born in India, it demands angrily. Can I not praise my Lord Rama in my own country, it wails. Does Bharat i.e. India belong to Hindus or to the westerners, it asks mindlessly. How dare they make Hindu children sing Christian prayers in Missionary Schools, it asks correctly. Pointing out that almost all Missionary schools in India ban girl pupils from wearing the bindi on the forehead and bangles on hands, it asks for banning of Christian Missionary Schools for violation of children’s rights.

Education is preparation for society

A school must be a place where freedoms are nourished. Children in school must be allowed to grow by learning about everything appropriate to their age; they must be taught to develop their critical thinking and they must be prepared for future responsible roles in a complex society. Education is preparation for society and for improving the self and society.

Children should be taught about religion in social studies and history classes, just as they are taught other subjects. This means knowledge about religion, and does not mean that they have to pray or follow any religious rituals. They should not be forced to practice any religion. No one should preach any religion in any school, nor should atheism be preached or taught. These are really adult matters. Nor should the subjects being taught be influenced by religion or atheism. Neither biology, nor moral science.

Schools are for education, not indoctrination

Schools are institutions where knowledge is acquired, and where children learn to collaborate with each other. Schools are for education, not indoctrination. Here is where pupils should learn about Human Rights. Here is where they should understand civilisation and its achievements. The modern school is one of them and the foundation for a healthy society.

Please stay off the schools, and do not send messages like this which make people misunderstand the purpose of education. Schools are not battle grounds for religions.

No Saraswati puja, no Namaaz, No Hosannas in school!

Even though religion is too serious and complex a subject for children, if it has to be introduced to them at all, then it should be at home, not at school, and by parents and not by teachers.

This applies to Christian prayers as well as to Hindu prayers or any other religion’s prayer. No teacher should be promoting any religion! It is not their job, and would even be against their service rules!

If praising Jesus Christ in the class room is wrong, then praising Lord Rama is equally wrong! There should not be either Saraswati Puja nor should there be Christian prayers or Namaaz in schools. It is not about religious liberty – it is just that religion does not belong in the class room.

The law does not allow that at all in any government or fully government- aided schools in any case. Private schools could also adopt this best practice.

Minority schools cannot coerce anyone to participate in prayer or in ritual. It is immoral and illegal.

India does not belong to the Hindus

But of one thing we must be very clear – India does NOT belong to the Hindus or to other communities. She belongs to ALL her citizens who are individuals. Those of faith and those of none: citizens could be Hindus, Christians, Muslims or Humanists or Atheists. Our India also belongs to the world which has high expectations of high standards of democracy from her.

India has an ancient culture, but is also a new country which became an independent entity in 1947. The Republican Constitution came in 1950 – it is the supreme law of the land. India was formed as a secular country, not as a Hindu country. It is blessed Pakistan which was created on the basis of religion. India was untainted by a religious identity even after half a million Hindus and Muslims died in religious clashes during partition. Why are we losing our secularism in these more peaceful times?

A teacher is not a priest. A Hindu teacher cannot and should not teach Hinduism in school unless the subject of study is Hinduism, and that too that teaching should be academic.

Propagating one’s religion can be done in the Temple or Church or Mosque without any interference from anyone.

Secularism and minority rights

Appeasement of any section of society is against Secularism and damages the secular character of our country. In any case, Secularism is an integral part of the basic structure of India and cannot be changed. The Supreme Court of India is clear. You cannot say ‘Jai Shri Ram’ in the class room. You cannot sing praises to Jesus Christ in the class room in the US or in France or Belgium etc. either.

Minority rights are needed for groups to retain their identity and to conduct their activities. There are international standards for protecting the rights of minorities. These rights are precious and are a test of that country’s democracy and are not really special rights for Muslims or Christians. Even language communities can be minorities – for example you can have a Telugu educational institution with minority status in New Delhi or a Marathi educational institution in Hyderabad. As an aside, do you know that many years ago Ramakrishna Math, established by the well-known Hindu Swami Vivekananda, claimed Minority status saying Vivekananda established a separate religion? In 1995 the Supreme Court of India rejected their peculiar claims which were aimed at avoiding government control of their educational institutions. No body wants government interference, but minority rights are really about protection of identity.

All this does not mean that missionary schools should make children wear or not wear a particular style of dress. They have no right to do so. Any restrictions or dress codes should be within the guidelines of the Education department. In many countries, children may not wear obviously religious dresses to school – the Islamic scarf or the Jewish kepi or the Christian cross. This is indeed tricky territory and not without controversy.

Why prayer at all?

Now, why do we need any religious prayer when children are anyway singing the National Anthem in school assemblies? In an important case, the teacher Sanjay Salve approached the High Court of Mumbai that he cannot sing a particular prayer because the prayer said all were children of God whereas he was the child of his parents! The court recently accepted he had a right not to say the prayer at school. See here for full details.

In any case, why not discuss the lives and thoughts of famous and important thinkers both religious and non religious in assemblies and in moral science classes? That would contribute more to social well being and nation building than bringing in devotional, organised religion which continues to divide people in the country.

(This article is available in Polish here.)

This post was written by:

- who has written 5 posts on Nirmukta.

7 Comments

  • Is it high time now that we the middle-class Indians who call themselves Hindus , should stop calling ourselves by that name that gives us a false notion of Identity.??…..Being a Hindu am I not related to my Buddhist & Jain ancestors…..Being a North-Indian even if non-Punjabi can I say that Sikhism did not contribute to whatever I call my North- Indian culture..??……………..Moreover is it not the Hindu identity & Hinduism modern day distortion caused unconsciously by Western Orientalists , accepted by (Culturally Hindu) Indian nationalists & something that we middle-class uselessly gloat about ???

  • Captain Mandrake

    **As an aside, do you know that many years ago Ramakrishna Math, established by the well-known Hindu Swami Vivekananda, claimed Minority status saying Vivekananda established a separate religion? **

    Interesting. Goes to show how shameless our Hindu friends are.

    **Now, why do we need any religious prayer when children are anyway singing the National Anthem in school assemblies?**

    National anthems are just as harmful as prayers. Nationalism is just another kind of a religion.

    • First understand clearly, kindly
      Some are thinking in strange hindu
      Concepts. hindus are not damaging real atheism.

    • Savitri Sadagopalan

      The Communist WB Govt. wished to take over the schools run by the Ramakrishna Mission (as they were churning out better students). The only way you could fight the CPM Govt. was if you were a school run by the minority. It was either that or hand over schools/lands/infrastructure built over decades. So they claimed minority status for legal benefits. They were overruled by the courts. The Govt. was piqued at the levels RKM went to protect themselves and backed off.
      Know some facts about ‘our Hindu friends’!

    • re: national anthems, I think that they cannot be equated with religion. especially for new states, imagine how hard it was for nehru to build national solidarity in a time when people had various allegiances to religions, castes, and old kingdoms? we now have the luxury of saying national anthems to build solidarity are useless, but one must realize that they have pragmatic use as well. thanks for the information savitri. D, your cunning acrostic poem is trolling and should be deleted.

  • >>India was formed as a secular country, not as a Hindu country>>> still we shy away from enacting a UCC despite the Directive Principles of our Constitution enjoining the same on the Citizens of our Country. Why a Secular Country should have Laws based on Religions?

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