Taj Mahal and games of divisive politics

Apart from natural beauty with which India has been bestowed with, it also has manmade marvels. And these are attracting not only Indians but people from World over. One of such structures is the Taj Mahal built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtazmahal. It has been voted among the seven wonders of the World and is a UNESCO heritage site. Poet Guru Rabindranath described it emotionally by calling it a ‘drop of tear on the cheek’. It has been attracting tourists all over the World and is undoubted tourist attraction number one in India.

But that is of no concern for the Yogi Government of UP. Just weeks ago,on completion of six months in power, it brought out a brochure related to the tourism development, ‘Uttar Pradesh Paryatan-Apaar Sambhavanaayein’ which when translated in English will mean ‘Uttar Pradesh Tourism – Unlimited Possibilities’.  The booklet has focus on tourist sites of UP and includes places like Gorakhmath Peeth, headed by the Chief minister Yogi Adityanath himself, and has many other places from UP, religious tourism seems to be the focus of the booklet. What it bypasses is the most famous tourist attraction, Taj Mahal.

Earlier after becoming CM. Yogi had asserted that Taj Mahal is not part of Indian culture and that the practice of giving the replica of Taj to the visiting dignitaries should be changed and they should be given Gita or Ramayana, which are symbols of Indian culture, according to him. The communal bias of Yogi and UP administration in turn is very visible in the matter of Taj. When the matter came up for criticism in the media the concerned ministers started saying that Taj is a part of Indian heritage but the booklet was mentioning only sites which needed promotion. They also asserted that separate funds have been allocated for Taj and the plan for international airport at Agra is also being mooted.

Multiple voices are coming forward from BJP camp. It was a Hindu temple, it is a monument of no consequence, it is reflective of India’s slavery etc.!One of BJP leaders Sangit Som reflected the current change in strategy of BJP about the monuments built by Muslim kings. Reacting to the Taj issue he said that “Many people were sad the Taj Mahal was removed from the tourism booklet of the State government. What history are we talking about? The history that the builder of the Taj Mahal had imprisoned his father?… The history that the builder of the monument eliminated Hindus from U.P. and from India? It is quite sad and unfortunate that such tyrants are still part of our history,”

Incidentally the tourist traffic to Taj has been declining over last few years and there is an urgent need to promote the site as tourist destination. Question is why the mention of Taj has been left out in the first place? In the background of what Yogi has been saying about Taj earlier, it does smack a discomfort with a structure which was built by Mughal ruler, whom Hindutva-Yogi’s ideology regards as invader. The definition of Indian culture by Indian nationalists like Gandhi is in total variance from what ruling Yogi-Hindutva ideology asserts. For them only elite Hindu culture is Indian culture.

It is not surprising that RSS-Hindutva propaganda so far had been asserting that Taj is a Hindu temple, that of Shiva, Tejo Mahalay! This is contrary to the historical knowledge and the evidences. Shahjahan’s *Badshahnama* makes it abundantly clear that the structure was built by Shahjahan. A European traveller Peter Mundy writes that the emperor Shahjahan is in deep grief due to the death of his favourite wife and is building an impressive mausoleum in her memory. A French jeweller Tavernier who visited India at that time corroborates this. The daily account books of Shahjahan do give the detailed record of the expenses incurred, like the money spent for marble and the wages for the workers etc. The only base of this misconception of it being Shiv Temple (Tejo Mahalay) is the mention that the land was bought from Raja Jaisingh for a compensation. It is also to be noted that Jaisingh to whom this Shaiva temple is attributed was a Vaishnav and it is not possible that a Viashnav king would build a Shaiv temple.

Undermining Taj is also a part of the broader Hindutva project to rewrite Indian history, where the communal interpretation of history is being promoted and events are also being given a twist to suit the communal mindset. The most horrific such twist is to say that in the battle of Haldi Ghati between Akbar and Rana Pratap, it was Rana Pratap who won the battle. As such the battle was for power not for religion. One knows both Akbar and Rana Pratap had associates who belonged to the ‘other’ religion. The affiliations were not along religious lines.

It seems Taj and other structures built during the rule of Muslim kings are a thorn in the communal thinking. So, the attempt so far has been to present it as a Hindu temple, now in the seats of power the communal forces want to undermine it, erase it from being a part of Indian culture and to undermine its place in Indian culture. The multipronged Hindutva strategy aims to further marginalize the Muslim community by giving it a miss the way it was done in case of UP brochure. Will it be the turn of Delhi’s Red fort, from where the Prime Ministers of the Country have been giving the speech on day of Independence!

In the light of criticism all around some UP ministers have tried to save their face that Taj is a part of Indian heritage, while the one’s like Sangget Som are more blunt and forthright. As such all these places of historical and archeological importance need not only to be protected but also promoted as a part of Indian syncretic culture.

Ram Puniyani




Rajnath Singh to participate in festivities at Itanagar as Arunachal celebrates its 31st Statehoood Day today

It was a little more than 3 decades back, on 20th February 1987, that Arunachal Pradesh attained statehood to become the 24th state of Federal India. The British had given formal recognition to this areas as the North East Frontier Tracts (NEFT) with a separate administrative unit. Post Independence in 1954, a full scale administration of the area was inaugurated and NEFT came to be known as North East Frontier Agency (NEFA). Late in 1971, NEFA was renamed as Arunachal Pradesh and subsequently in 1972, it became the Union Territory of the Republic of India. Thereafter, Arunachal Pradesh became a full-fledged State with a Legislative Assembly and a government on the pattern of popular governments in other states.

The State is known as a home to numerous tribes. A mega biodiversity hot-spot, the State has been blessed with some of the most enchanting natural beauty. From Tawang in the west to Anjaw in the east, the mighty rivers and waterfalls, the rare orchids, the diverse fauna, the dense forests, all go on to prove that the State is Mother Nature’s favourite child – a tag through which the state is commonly referred to.

Today, the State is developing leaps and bounds, though a lot still needs to be done. It is a major produce of Kiwi, Apple, Cardamom and Orange in the country and is aptly referred to as the Organic Hub and the Fruit Bowl of India. It also has the highest number of rare medicinal plants.

Under the stewardship of Chief Minister Pema Khandu, the State is on the threshold of unfolding mega development oriented initiatives like the two lane Trans Arunachal highway, the 500 bedded Tomo Riba Hospital, Medical College, six upgraded Advance Landing Grounds ready to be used for both defence and civilian purposes, a University and lot more. The Infrastructure is coming up in a big way with roads health and educational services, agriculture and horticulture facilities, power, tourism growing manifold by the day. The State is soon set to become the Hydro Capital of India, with a hydropoer potential of about 50000 MW, of which 710 MW will be generated by the end of 2017.

Chief Minister Pema Khandu is today leading a series of events to mark the auspicious celebrations of the 31st Statehood Day. ‘Purvottar’ wishes the State Government and all its citizens great future of development ahead.

Courtesy ‘Purvottar’




‘Unite India’ App to promote Indian nationalism practiced by Mahatma Gandhi, Moulana Azad, Bhagat Singh, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Subhash Chandra Bose

Noted historian Ram Puniyani at the launch of Unite India App

An all new ‘Unite India’ App will be promoting Indian nationalism practiced by Mahatma Gandhi, Moulana Azad, Bhagat Singh, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Subhash Chandra Bose.  The App, launched by noted scholar Ram Puniyani seeks to provide a diploma course in communal harmony, has been designed by Syed Khalid, member of All India Secular Forum.

Speaking after launching the App, Ram Puniyani said that ‘Unite India’ App would clear many misconceptions which are creating hatred within various communities in India. Stating that most of the misconceptions on the religion and history were created by vested interests for political gains, he said those completing Diploma in Communal Harmony could easily defeat such hate mongers. He said it were the British who first linked kings with their religion to pursue the politics of ‘Divide & Rule’. Later, the medieval history was distorted which unleashed a series of misconceptions
which consequently resulted in created hatred among Hindus, Muslims and Christians. It often led to violent riots and none of them were spontaneous, but organised.

He said that the ‘Unite India’ App aims to promote Indian nationalism practiced by Mahatma Gandhi, Moulana Azad, Bhagat Singh, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Subhash Chandra Bose. It will also counter the religion-based nationalism which was practiced people like Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Sarvarkar.

Syed Khalid, the AISF member and App Developer said that “The course is primarily divided into 11 chapters including Communal Violence, Misconceptions About Minorities, Alliances Amongst Kings, Islam In India,
India’s Mixed Culture, Colonial Period, Indian Nationalism, Kashmir Issue, Global Terrorism Today and Communalism Today. The chapters are sub-divided into 68 topics with each giving clear and precise answer to one popular myth. The candidates will have to write exam after the end of each topic. Each topic is of about 200 words and the candidates need to give correct answers for at least three out of five questions to pass the test. After
the completion of entire course, the candidates will be awarded a Certificate.

On an average, a person will be able to complete the entire course in a span of 10 hours.

The topics covered in this course touch upon widely discussed issues like origin of Islam in India, Babri Masjid, Mumbai riots, Godhra carnage, etc., to current topics like RSS concept of nationalism, terrorism in Kashmir, Love Jihad.”

“A majority of people in India are ignorant of historical facts and therefore, they fall prey to the false propaganda carried out by some communal elements who spread hatred by distorting truth. It is quite possible to pollute minds using wrong information, but it is impossible to spoil the hearts who always respond positively to the call of truth.
Through ‘Unite India’ App, All India Secular Forum (AISF) will be trying to touch the hearts of all peace-loving Indians by making them study and understand the rational history, which would clear most of their misconceptions and answer myths” said Amina Mirza the AISF member.

The ‘Unite India’ App is available for free download for Android platforms on Google Play Store @ https://play.google.com/store/  apps/details?id=com.raylabs.harmony&hl=en




Communal Construction of the Past: Attack on Unit Filming Padmavati

Ranveer, Deepika with Bhansali in centre

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s (SLB) unit filming the period film, Padmavati was attacked recently (January 2017) near Jaipur in Rajasthan <http://indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/bollywood/sanjay-leela-bhansali-attacked-rishi-kapoor-advises-to-sue-padmavati-set-destroyers-4496831/>. The pretext was that there is a dream sequence in the film which depicts Alauddin Khilji, the Muslim King and the Rajput Princess Padmavati. The attack was organized by one Karni Sena which claims to be working for preservation of Rajput honor and which felt that the film is an insult on the community honor of Rajputs. Interestingly the film is at the shooting stage and the Karni Sena has no access to the script of the film. The rumor about the dream sequence made them launch the attack against the film unit. It was not surprising that the state sat back, no condemnation of the attack by the state leadership was there. SLB also decided to pack off and not to do the shooting in Rajasthan. He has been threatened by BJP-VHP
leaders <http://www.newsnation.in/india-news/vhp-objects-to-padmavati-warns-sanjay-leela-bhansali-of-serious-consequences-article-159540.html> daring him to shoot the film anywhere in India. The same Karni Sena had earlier
vandalized the cinema theaters showing the film Jodha Akbar, depicting another Rajput princess.

The Allauddin Khilji-Padmavati story is from the annals of fiction, while some unauthenticated sources claim that since Khilji was for real; the tale about him must also be true. As such the reality is that the popular narrative of Padmavati and her Jauhar (immolation) are based on the work of fiction by a Sufi saint, Malik Mohammad Jayasi, in sixteenth century, two centuries after reign of Khilji. The narration of Padmavat, a classic of sorts, revolves around the love story of Ratan Singh, the king of Chittor and Padmavati, the princess of imaginary Simhala Island <https://scroll.in/article/828168/the-epic-padmavat-leaves-space-for-interpretation-those-who-attacked-the-films-sets-dont-get-this>. Ratan Singh came to know about the beauty of the princess from her parrot,
Hiraman. Guided by Hiraman; Ratan Singh pursues the princess and the lovers unite. As per this fictional tale Ratan Singh is betrayed by some Raghav Pandit, is attacked by the King of Kumbhalner and dies. King of Kumbhalner
has also an eye on Padmavati. Meanwhile Khilji, who has seen the beauty of princess and is smitten by that also attacks Ratan Singh’s kingdom, just to find that Padmavati along with other women have committed jauhar, mass self
immolation. The Sufi mystic who has written this immortal classic presents the tale as a metaphor for human soul seeking out and futility of power.

Over a period of time the narration has just been reduced to Padmavati as a symbol of Rajput honor and Khilji as the Islamic invader; full of lust. The construction of the past by the communities has been greatly influenced by the present political scenario. This narrative revolves around the communal view of history where Kings are presented as the vehicles of their religion. The aspect of power as the central motive of kings is bypassed in this view of history. In contemporary times this is the orientation which forms the core of community memory, which has been constructed over a period of time. The aim of this narration is to present the valor of Rajput kings. As per this they defended valiantly against the Muslim rulers and protected the honor of ‘their women’. In turn women also committed
immolation rather than being defiled by the Muslim kings. This narrative is totally in opposition to the reality of the long historical stretch where the Mughal-Rajput interaction was the fulcrum around which political alliances were forged and Rajput daughters married the Muslim-Mughal kings <https://scroll.in/article/827966/persistence-of-memory-never-mind-history-padmavati-is-as-real-for-rajputs-as-their-famed-valour> in
particular.

Few years ago when the film Jodha Akbar was vandalized. This film also has the theme of Muslim King-Hindu princess. Presentation of many an incident of the past has also been heavily colored by the part of fiction as well. As such what was witnessed in the subcontinent was the attempt by Mughal kings to build an Empire, which involved battles and alliances both. Akbar and Rana Pratap had a battle but later Rana Pratap’s son Amar Singh enters into alliance with Akbar’s son Jahangir. Rajput kings also adorned high positions in Mughal administration. Mughal Rajput syncretism <http://www.insafbulletin.net/archives/297> in particular was the important factor of medieval period at social and political level.

There are two sets of presentations about the Rajput Princesses. The powerful and more gripping one, which captures the mass imagination, is the one which glorifies the self immolation to save the community honor. The
second one is that of the inter-marrying of princely families revolving around power. The prevalent patriarchal notions do see “giving away daughters” as a sort of community defeat and so these narrations are being erased from memory and the notions of jauhar are being put forward as the badge of honor. Film Jodha Akbar presented the matter of fact marriage of a Rajput princess with a Mughal king as a political pact between two ruling families. Today the attempt is to wipe away such memories which are uncomfortable in prevalent constructions of community honor. So the discomfort with the presentations in Jodha Akbar was there.

With Padmavati, the matters are being taken one step further. The vigilantes of ‘community honor’ have attacked merely on the basis of a rumor. One does not know what the film director has in mind, but the dream sequence of a Muslim man with a Hindu girl is creating the discomfort in the minds of the likes of Karni Sena. Surely such attitudes have gone up during last three decades and seem to be growing unchecked over a period of time. The artistic freedom is being controlled by those belonging to right wing nationalism and their wings are becoming stronger and going unchecked as the Hindutva politics is getting legitimacy and strength. Film makers have felt the wrath of these groups with increasing intensity. The political system which should be committed to the values of freedom of
expression is mostly a bystander, underlining the fact that this ideology of Hindutva has no place for diverse presentation of the past, neither for the creative freedom of the artists. The state is failing the ‘democracy test’ time and over again.

Ram Puniyani




Azamgarh: From The Ruins Of Intellectual Landscape

AzamgarhLie detectors, truth serums and brain mapping are some of the synonyms of torture as defined in this scientifically advanced society and its lexical, which has its own revelations of brutalities on human captives. Those who’re “picked up” and detained under the legal system are made to go through these tests which are the violations of Article 20 (3) of the Indian Constitution. Under the Clause (3) of the Article 20, it is stated that no person accused of an offence shall be forced to be a witness against himself. And these tests are meant to force detainees so that they can be recorded and presented as an evidence for the crime for which they are accused. These are some of the faces of brutalities which can be traced in the texts of the book ‘Kafkaland’ by activist Manisha Sethi and inscribed in the hearts and minds of the people of Azamgarh.

From the denial of basic welfare rights and freedom to the denial of fair and equal opportunities in not just the social, cultural, political and economic matters but also the legal matters have pushed Azamgarh actively to face discrimination and exclusion. When stepping out of homes, mothers come to the gates to see off their sons as any journey can bring any kind of news to them about their wards. Eyes and ears of the mothers of Azamgarh are evident to some of the blunt and brutal news in the name of encounters, arrests and detentions of those who stepped out but never returned. The complaining eyes of the mothers of Azamgarh reveal the sense of insecurity and fear because of the events taken place in the name of national security.

Those who’re picked up from their homes in front of their mother’s eyes were shown to be waiting outside any transit station laden with explosives, arms and ammunition to handover them to their immediate bosses but picked up by the alarmed special force which is made to unravel anti-terror activities in the nation. But the reality is that by the series of illegal arrests and detentions, these forces have themselves terrorized the innocent, law-abiding citizens of Azamgarh. Kafkaland reveals the fact that at many incidences these ‘special men’ of the Indian Police system have implicated youths in false terror cases. From the breeding ground of terror to the nursery of terrorism in India, media too has played a pivotal role in demonizing Azamgarh while appeasing its political bosses and playing stories scripted by the special cell of the Indian Police. Media has portrayed Azamgarh as the land which belongs to some notorious, gangsters, mafia dons and terrorists and the region as the hub of terrorist activities.

Situated on the banks of River Tamsa and a land of prominent religious, social and political figures and an important centre during the freedom struggle in the eastern part of the United Province, Azamgarh has always been considered as a seat of learning. Allama Shibli, a progressive thinker was one such figure who emerged as the facilitator of research in Islamic studies and Oriental learning in Azamgarh. Ayodhya Prasad ‘Hari Oudh’, once the chairman of Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, was a prominent writer of Hindi literature from the region. Rahul Sankrityayan is the architect who gave travelogue a Hindi literature form and a prominent figure of Marxist Socialism in the region. Kaifi Azmi was a renowned Urdu poet of the contemporary time from Azamgarh.Azamgarh2

A home of talented artisans who developed an indigenous art of producing black pottery and the weaving industry in Azamgarh, which provides fiscal support to a large number of households who trade their products in the eastern part of the state and the adjoining regions of the neighbouring state. But what appeases the media house today is just the names of Haji Mastan, Dawood Ibrahim and Abu Salem, overlooking and ignoring the contributions Azamgarh made in the field of research and literature. Haji Mastan married two of his daughters in Azamgarh, one of the daughters of Azamgarh got married to Dawood’s brother and Abu Salem belongs to Azamgarh. These are the only story lines which a certain section of media talks about Azamgarh and for any youth picked up from this region, media studio itself becomes the courtroom.

Even if there is something bad happening in the region, Azamgarh has a history of correcting itself. An MLA in the UP assembly (1984-89) from Utraula, Fazlul Bari, a native of Azamgarh and a Shibli College educated raised the issue of Hawala for the first time in the nation as a network of illegal transaction of money. With his revelations, the kingpins of Hawala were nabbed from Azamgarh and a whole module was busted at that time. It came in media as well, but media didn’t call the whole region as the facilitator of Hawala, yet it responsibly reported the incident while taking care of the constructive side of journalism. By the efforts of media, it was widely propagated and accepted among the masses of Azamgarh that Hawala is a curse which has degraded human values and cultural ethos of the households involved in the activity though minimally present on the geographical setting of Azamgarh.

But the current political dispensation uses Azamgarh as a case to polarise the communally divided society. A right wing BJP MP Yogi Adityanath once said during his political speech in Azamgarh, “UP bhi Gujarat banega, Azamgarh shuruaat karega (UP will become Gujarat and it will be initiated from Azamgarh).  This statement reminds of the book Gujarat Files, a book which is an undercover story by one of the journalists who belongs to Azamgarh, Rana Ayyub. In that book she writes that when Amit Shah gave orders during the 2002 Gujarat riots to police officers to ‘take care’ of certain area, he actually meant it otherwise and as police too was a party in that state sponsored killings, arson and lootings, officers knew what Amit Shah actually meant by the statement. Since assembly elections in UP are around, BJP will try to communalise and divide the society and in that process of communalising the whole state, apart from Babri, Dadri and Muzaffarnagar, the witch hunt stories from Azamgarh will play a lead role in spreading the communal inferno with the help of ‘loud and shout’ media houses.

“Aaj ki raat bahut garam hawa chalti hai
Aaj ki raat na neend aayegi
Hum sub uthein, main bhi uthun, tum bhi utho
Koi khidki isi deewar mein khul jayegi”

– Kaifi Azmi

By Sadiq Zafar

 




From DELHI to DILI

Iram Saeed

Iram Saeed

Timor-LesteHave you ever heard of Timor-Leste? For those unaware, Timor-Leste is one of the world’s newest countries and also one of the poorest. Situated in South Asia between Indonesia and Australia, the half-island nation is home to a young and culturally diverse population of just over 1 million. The long fight for freedom that people of the region undertook resulted in nearly one-third of the population perishing. Nearly each family of the newly made country has seen near and dear ones killed during the struggle period.

Bella Galhos with colleagues

Bella Galhos with colleagues

Timor Leste has significant petroleum resources, but owing to the fact that most institutions are young and inexperienced, having limited human resource capacity, and poor infrastructure, the country is facing severe health challenges, particularly those affecting women and children. The country’s capital Dili is remotely connected to the Indian capital Delhi (interestingly, Delhi too in Hindi is written as Dilli). Despite the challenges, Timor-Leste has worked with diligence and courage since independence to establish its democratic institutions and a viable economy.

There is also a great need to improve agricultural capacity and performance; encouraging private sector competitiveness; building democratic institutions and good governance mechanisms, including anti-corruption systems; protecting the natural environment; and helping populations adapt to climate change. Due to great need for social work, USAID is working closely with Timor-Leste to cope up with the challenges that this new country is facing.

Bella with students

Bella with students

Most people in Delhi (Dilli) may not be aware about this new capital Dili, but there are unsung heroes from Delhi who continue to work selflessly even in as far and remote a country as Timor-Leste. One such hero is Iram Saeed, a Jamia Millia pass out social worker, and now an international development professional with expertise in empowerment of women and youth as well as community development. Having earlier worked for organisations such as Marie Stopes International, United Nations and other international NGOs, Iram moved to Timor-Leste to initiate and execute a social welfare project Santana Unipessoal.

Iram is a co-founder and Chief Development Officer of the project Santana Unipessoal, along with Bella Galhos, founder and a freedom fighter. Since moving to this new country, Iram is working among young Timorese children (along with youth and women), endeavouring to make leaders who will go on to rebuild Timor-Leste, which has only recently come out of the ashes of a brutal occupation and bloody struggle, and is still struggling with hunger, poverty, poor access to education and inefficient agricultural practices. Timorese, says Iram, are still scared of expressing themselves and a lot need to be done to bring them out from the trauma of brutal suppression that these people have been subjected to in the past.

Ambassador Gurjit Singh calling on H.E. Mr. Kay Rala Xanana of Timor-Leste during his visit to Timor-Leste

Ambassador Gurjit Singh calling on H.E. Mr. Kay Rala Xanana of Timor-Leste during his visit to Timor-Leste

In Bella Galhos, Iram has found an able leader and co-worker, who herself suffered dearly during the occupation period. During the 1975 invasion of her country by Indonesian forces led by regional strongman Suharto, Bella’s two brothers, aged four and six, were beaten to death by rifle butts. Her father was jailed for two years, placed in solitary confinement where he lived in his own filth on a ration of rotten food, occasionally having fingernails and toenails removed with pliers during interrogations. During the years of occupation, there was frequent gunfire in the tiny island country, the constant threat of rape and the mysterious deaths or disappearances of friends and family.

Bella was merely 13-year-old in 1985, when Indonesian soldiers caught her from a small East Timorese schoolhouse and forcefully injected Depo Provera, a contraceptive drug the Indonesian government used in its forced contraception and sterilization program, an injection that was again given to her during the two succeeding years. These atrocities suffered during the early years made Bella Galhos a strong woman with a strong drive to work for the liberation of her country and to experience for the first time life without military occupation. As a teenager, she got involved with the underground resistance, risking imprisonment, torture or death.

In fact, after each wave of violence, Galhos stepped up efforts to free East Timor from Indonesia’s grip. When a young political organizer was killed in 1991, Galhos helped organize a massive funeral procession and demonstration in Dili. When that event erupted into a mass killing, Galhos enlisted in the Indonesian military while secretly supporting the resistance. And when she endured the constant sexual assault at the hands of soldiers in Jakarta, she resolved to win the trust of the Indonesian government to represent East Timor in the Canada World Youth exchange program as an example of a compliant, pro-integration East Timorese youth.

Years later, Galhos along with her equally resolute co-worker Iram, are working to rebuild Timor-Leste through their untiring efforts. Iram is closely involved with Leublora Green School, the signature project of Santana, and the only educational institution in the country dedicated to teaching about and promoting economically and environmentally sustainable growth and development for the people of Timor-Leste.  It offers courses free of charge to school children, as well as other Timorese people (with a focus on youth and women), to build leadership, encourage environmental stewardship, promote sustainable and efficient agricultural practices and inculcate the value of respect for oneself, other people and the world.  Leublora Green School aims to become a source of inspiration for the country to protect and promote its unique natural heritage.

Leublora Green School is a unique concept in itself not providing classroom education alone but practical education as well into farming, rearing and other essential needs that the growing up Timorese children will face in future. And Iram does not only have to carry chalk and duster to teach but even sickle and spade, seeds and dung. Courses provide beneficiaries with: practical skills to engage with those around them and their natural environment in a productive and sustainable way; knowledge to lead their country towards sustainable development in an ethically and environmentally responsible manner; and, wisdom to understand the importance of respectful human resource and environmental management to the future of Timor-Leste and the world.

Interestingly, India’s ambassador to ASEAN and Timor-Leste, Gurjit Singh, visited Timor-Leste sometime back, to meet the then Prime Minister H.E. Mr. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, to discuss ways and means of increasing bilateral cooperation between the two countries. Ambassador conveyed the offer of Government of India to establish Centre of Excellence in Information Technology (CEIT) at Timor-Leste. In this regard a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been handed over by Ambassador to the Prime Minister. Welcoming the offer, Prime Minister H.E. Mr. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao appreciated the initiative of Government of India in the field of Human Resource Development. To enhance economic cooperation, Ambassador offered to bring delegation of business people from India Business Forum (IBF), Jakarta which warmly accepted by the Prime Minister. Prime Minister also conveyed that Timor-Leste values its friendship with India greatly. India has also announced scholarship to teach 10 Timorese students in India each year.

India will surely do its bit to improve the lot of Timorese population but it is always heartening to note that there is an Indian, belonging to our own Delhi (Dilli), who is working a little distance away from Timorese capital Dili, with a resolve to change Timor-Leste, one life at a time.




Growing intolerance

intoleranceRecently in an interview at an award function, Amir Khan, mentioned that his wife, Kiran asked him whether they should leave the country. To Amir Khan, the statement of his wife was disastrous and indicated growing intolerance in the country. Though we condemn any such sweeping statement coming from a celebrity idolized by millions in the country, one must without politicizing the statement, reflect over the context it was made in. The Indian Prime Minister in London rightly pointed out, “India is full of diversity. This diversity is our pride and it is our strength. Diversity is the specialty of India.” (Indian Express, Nov 14, 2015).

The lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri on mere rumors of consuming beef sent shock waves in the country. Along with this incidence, the murders of prominent writers/rationalists and lack of thorough investigation in these cases are a cause of concern. These acts are a window to the growing intolerance in the country and shouldn’t be dismissed as stray incidences. Similarly, something that can’t be overlooked is the series of statements made by very highly placed personalities like Members of Parliaments, MLAs, Governors and party chiefs which are outrageously shocking and not in resonance with the values and principles enshrined in the Constitution. Such instances compel one to question if diversity in India can thrive in such vicious environment of hatred intolerance.

Some of the statements made so far are the following:

Woh log Narendra Modi ko rokna chahate hain, woh Pakistan dekh rahe hain. Aane wale dino mein aise logon ke liye jagah Hindustan mein nahi, Jharkhand mein nahi, parantu Pakistan mein hoga, Pakistan mein hoga” (Those who want to stop Narendra Modi are looking to Pakistan for support. In the coming days, there won’t be place for such people in India, in Jharkhand because their place will be in Pakistan, Pakistan),” said Giriraj Singh during the general election campaign. He is now the Union Minister.

Aapko tay karna hai ki Dilli mein sarkar Ramzadon ki banegi ya haramzadon ki. Yeh aapka faisla hai” (You must decide whether you want a government of those born of Ram or of those born illegitimately).” Union Minister for State, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti said during campaigning in Delhi got Delhi elections.

“We won’t remain silent if somebody tries to kill our mother. We are ready to kill and get killed.” This was a statement by Sakshi Maharaj post the Dadri lynching.

“Hindustan is for Hindus”. And, “They (Indian Muslims) are free to go anywhere. They can stay here (in India). If they want to go to Bangladesh or Pakistan, they are free to go.” Both the above statements were made by the Assam Governor, P B Acharya.

“Muslims should stay, but they will have to give up eating beef”

<http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Haryana-CM-denies-saying-Muslims-have-to-give-up-beef/articleshow/49402529.cms>
because “the cow is an article of faith” for Hindus, while Muslims wouldn’t “be violating their religious beliefs by giving up beef,” said Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar while debating beef consumption.

“Balasaheb Thackeray had made a demand that Muslims should be stripped of their voting right. This is an appropriate demand”, said Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut.

Since May 2014, when NDA Government was sworn in, such intolerant statements are touching new heights in four regards: Firstly, the frequency of hate speeches has drastically increased; secondly, the sting and intensity of hatred is much more vicious without any fear of law; thirdly, persons making such statements full of hegemonic ideological assertion are highly place constitutional authorities, who have taken oath to uphold the Constitution, including the Governors, Union Ministers, Chief Ministers, MPs and MLAs, – all belonging to the BJP or subscribing to Hindu Nationalist ideology; and the statements are accompanied by mob lynching and street violence in an unprecedented manner. Footloose hoodlums and goons having no fear of law are freely intimidating people critical of NDA Government and their policies – on streets as well as in social media. The Prime Minister has not once publicly rebuked such elements; let alone taking any penal action as per law. These hate speeches are polarizing the society and reducing religion to identity marker and wholly determining conduct of individuals.

The statement of the Prime Minister taking pride in its diversity in India then sounds utterly hollow and mere lip service to please foreign Governments. Diversity entails space for different cultures to co-exist.  No one can be allowed to thrust their culture on others. Such statements full of hate creates an intimidating environment wherein culture of the dominant elite alone will prevail and the rest would have to perish. Expression of every dissent is tarnished as a political conspiracy and sought to be silenced by attributing political motives, howsoever highly respected, decorated and accomplished the dissenter may be. The writers, artists and scientists returning their awards met the same allegations. Dissent with the government is equated with being anti-nationalism and unpatriotic. Yogi Adityanath, a BJP MP, had the gumption and timidity to ask Shahrukh Khan, an accomplished actor to settle in Pakistan where his soul lies and compared him to Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of 26/11 Mumbai attack. Arrogating to themselves the arbitrary right of determining which Indians have a right of residency in India, the Hindu nationalists have been ordering Muslim community who chose to be Indian citizens during partition to now go to Pakistan, where, according to them, they belong. By repeatedly associating Indian Muslims with Pakistan, the Hindu nationalists want to fuel the myth that the loyalty and allegiance of India Muslims lie with Pakistan and thus they belong to Pakistan. Such orders are to intimidate and silence dissenters, so that voices for democracy are stifled and way cleared for creation of Hindu Rashtra.

The statement of 5 times BJP MP, Sakshi Maharaj, threatening to kill humans to protect cows was not a stray response to the Dadri lynching incident. Sangh Parivar has always sought to whip up emotions over cow slaughter. Narendra Modi, the Prime Ministerial candidate of BJP, had hit out against the Congress for promoting “pink revolution”- export of beef from India to other countries. Further Maneka Gandhi, Union Cabinet Minister stated, without substantiating, that the money received from the pink revolution was used to fund terrorism in the country. Interestingly, people consuming beef or protesting against the beef ban are derided and asked to go to Pakistan as suggested by union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. PM’s exhortation after a long painful silence after the Dadri killing, “Some politicians are making irresponsible statements for political interests… Such statements should end… Do not pay attention to such statements, even if Modi himself makes any such statement. India is the land of Buddha and in our society, we don’t accept unconstitutional things. The law will deal with these severely”, did not spell out whose and which statements he was referring to. Those who were making such hate speeches, which are offense as per Indian Penal Code, were rewarded by the PM in various ways.

India sold meat and meat products worth $3.3 billion during April-November 2014 compared to $2.8 billion in the same period the previous year, registering a 16.74% jump. Buffalo meat constituted about 97% of the total livestock products exported from the country. One can hope that pragmatism got better of the PM and thus the volte face and no change was made in the export policy. It is only very well documented how beef formed a part of the diet of 120 million Hindus and none other than the Hindutva icon Savarkar endorsed the consumption of beef.

Hate speeches are made by constitutional authorities are dismissed as those made by fringe elements by the BJP. The elected representatives are morally and legally bound to protect the people they represent which include marginalized constituencies like women, Dalits, religious minorities, the socially and economically disadvantaged. The Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all its citizens and one of the pillars of the Constitution is equality before law. These statements essentialize religious identity of the citizens and pit religions as irreconcilable binaries leading to increasing intolerance for any pluralism or dissent from the mega narratives designed by Hindu nationalists. All acts, phenomenon and institutions are looked from the lens of religion.

“Hate speeches made by the political and religious leaders destroy the social fabric of the society. That is why we need to take steps so that in some way these things can be checked,” the Supreme Court had observed (The Indian Express, April 29, 2013). What is perhaps the most disturbing is the silence of the PM and complete inaction to bring those spreading enmity and hatred to justice in spite of laws in place to punish the guilty. Sections 153- A, 295 and 295 A are in place to punish hate speech.

While section 153-A deals with promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony, Section 295A penalizes deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage reli­gious feelings of any class of citizens by insulting its religion or reli­gious beliefs.

By not invoking such laws to punish those promoting communal hatred, there is a measure of impunity and emboldening afforded to state and non-state actors. The argument of the BJP for not taking punitive action is that the some party members make “irresponsible” statements and they have been warned. Law casts duty on the Government of the day to bring hate mongers to justice.

Sadhvi Prachi, a BJP MP went to an extent of calling some non-NDA MPs as terrorists! This is a new low in parliamentary democracy where one representative of the people can’t respect the views of another. The trend of claiming and labeling only one party and one ideology to be nationalists while the others are termed as terrorists is producing narratives of divisiveness and iron clad homogenization of thought and ideology. Parties and individuals speaking in favour of legitimate rights of minorities are accused of “appeasing the minorities”. But this systematic targeting of some vulnerable community is going unquestioned and few who protest are called agents of the opposition undermining their credibility and concern as free thinking citizens of the country.

The Government is duty bound to uphold the law of the land and the Constitution, particularly right to life with dignity of every citizen. PM’s deafening silence and inaction, and even encouragement of motor-mouths has compelled many to suspect his determination to uphold diversity and the Constitution. He rightly pointed out that diversity is the strength of the country. Many communities have coexisted in peace in India and together contributed to the culture, economy and polity. This was firmly at the back of the mind of the visionaries who drafted our Constitution, guaranteeing equal rights to all citizens irrespective of their gender, religion, caste, place of birth. Any individual working outside the framework of the Constitution should be brought to justice and moreover if it is those who have been vested with Constitutional responsibility. No person or organization can be dismissed as fringe element and their actions pardoned or worse, justified. Their actions have repercussion in shaping the socio-political discourse and influencing a right ward shift in the social common sense. These conflict entrepreneurs must not be allowed to violate the fundamental rights of citizens. The Prime minister must take action to restore the faith of the citizens in the rule of law and plural nature of our society and polity.

By Neha Dabhade & Irfan Engineer




Are You Hindu First or Indian First???

India Razed Mosque AnniversaryIndian Hindus, more specifically Hindutvavadis are fond of asking Muslims: Are you a Muslim first or Indian first. This question is obviously asked as a test of their loyalty to the nation. To them, if they think they are Muslims first, they are not patriotic. I now ask Hindus, again particularly the Hindutvavadis: Are you Indian first or Hindu first? And then I ask them:

  • When Godse killed Gandhi, was he a Hindu first or Indian first? When you declare him a “brave” man and want to build his temple, are you proving to be Hindu first or Indian first?
  • When you destroyed Babri Masjid leading the country to worst ever social and emotional division since Partition, were you being Hindu first or Indian first? When you still hope to build Ram Mandir on the ruins of Babri Masjid, are you Hindu first or Indian first?
  • When you reserve Hindu Dalits, Hindu OBCs in the name of backwardness (about half of your population), and call any attempt for giving reservation to Muslims “appeasement”, are you Hindu first or Indian first?
  • When you call for making Gita and other Hindu scriptures part of educational syllabi, are you Hindu first or Indian first?
  • When Prime Minister Modi gifts Gita instead of a book on Gandhi or Indian History to foreign heads of state on his official visits, does he prove himself to be Hindu first or Indian first?
  • When Hindutva organisations try to equate “Hindu” with “Indian” giving fallacious grounds causing severe anguish to majority of Indians, are they trying to be Hindu first or Indian first?
  • When they raise voice only against terrorist attacks committed by Muslims and not against much greater number of Hindu terrorist attacks and much greater violence in riots, are they Hindus first or Indians first?
  • When instead of demanding severest punishment to Hindu leaders involved in communal riots, you honour them, are you being Hindu first or Indian first?
  • When they campaign for Hindus producing more and more children (so that they retain their demographic domination) are they trying to be Hindu first or Indian first?
  •  When the Government declared Yoga Day and tried to present it as a national practice, was it Hindu first or Indian first?
  • When political parties like BJP and Shiv Sena endeavour to consolidate Hindu votes by promoting communal polarisation, do they behave as Hindu first or Indians first?



‘‘सरकार आत्मविश्लेषण करे उन बच्चों को लेकर जिन का आज भी स्कूल में दाखिला नहीं हो पाता’’ः अशोक कुमार पाण्डेय

Ashok Kr Pandey - Principal Ahlcon International School, Delhi

Ashok Kr Pandey – Principal Ahlcon International School, Delhi

ऐसे समय में जबकि दिल्ली के निजी स्कूल उच्च न्यायालय खंडपीठ के आदेश के पश्चात नर्सरी में प्रवेश खोलने के लिए कमर कस रहे थे और ऐसा समझा जा रहा था कि शिक्षा विभाग और दिल्ली के स्कूलों के बीच चल रहे विवाद का हल निकल आया है, शिक्षा निदेशालय की ओर से निजी स्कूलों को मिले नये निर्देश ने जिसमें प्रवेश प्र्रिक्रया को उस समय तक प्रांरंभ न करने को कहा गया है जब तक उच्चतम न्यायालय का फैसला न मिल जाये इस विवाद को फिर से तूल दे दिया है। शिक्षा निदेशालय को अधिकार है कि वह उच्चतम न्यायालय से गुहार लगाए परन्तु जब तक वह ऐसा नहीं करता निजि स्कूलों को प्रवेश प्र्रिक्रया जारी रखने से रोकने के आदेश को उच्च न्यायालय खंडपीठ के निर्देश के उल्लंघन के रूप में देखा जा रहा है।

उच्च न्यायालय खंडपीठ से मिले आदेश के पश्चात निजी स्कूलों की शीर्ष एसोसिएशन ‘एक्शन कमेटी’ एवं अन्य संघ जैसे नेश्नल प्रोग्रेसिव स्कूल कांफ्रेंस नर्सरी में प्रवेश के दिशा निर्देश तैयार करने में लगे हैं। ऐसे में शिक्षा निदेशालय ने स्कूलों को आदेश दिये हैं कि वह उस समय तक दाखिलों की प्र्रिक्रया प्ररंभ न करे जब तक उच्चतम न्यायालय से इस संदर्भ में कोई निर्णय प्राप्त न हो जाए। गौरतलब है कि उच्चतम न्यायालय सर्दियों की छुट्टियों के पश्चात 5 जनवरी को खुलेगा। शिक्षा निदेशलय से मिले नये निर्देशों के पश्चात निजि स्कूल इतने दिनों तक दाखिले प्रारंभ नहीं कर पाएंगे।

ऐसा प्रतीत होता है कि शिक्षा निदेशालय ने पिछले वर्ष के हालात से कोई सबक नहीं सीखा जब प्रवेश प्र्रिक्रया को अपने नियंत्रण में करने के उसके प्रयास के चलते मई में दाखिले प्रारंभ हो पाये थे और जूलाई से ही शिक्षा प्रारंभ हो पाई थी।

दिल्ली के प्रख्यात अहलकान इंटरनेश्नल स्कूल के प्रधानध्यक्ष अशोक कुमार पाण्डेय जो दिल्ली सरकार की सलाहकार समिति के सदस्य भी हैं का कहना हैः ‘‘लगभग चार लाख छात्रों ने पिछले वर्ष नर्सरी में दाखिले के लिए आवेदन किए थे। जिसमें से सारे निजी स्कूल संयुक्त रूप से केवल 1 लाख छात्रों को समायोजित कर पाए थे। शेष तीन लाख छात्रों को या तो गैर मान्यता प्राप्त स्कूलों में दाखिला लेना पड़ा या शहर से बाहर जाना पड़ा। अन्य बहुतेरों ने अंततः सरकारी स्कूलों में दाखिला लिया जिन की हालत अब तक निदेशालय सुधार करने में असमर्थ रहा है। शेष तीन लाख छात्रों की कठिनाईयों को अनदेखा कर शिक्षा निदेशालय निजी स्कूलों की स्वायत्ता लेने पर उत्सुक है जो बड़ी संख्या में बच्चों को अच्छी शिक्षा प्रदान कर रहे हैं।’’

पूरे मामले की जानकारी देते हुए पाण्डे कहते हैंः ‘‘पिछले वर्ष सरकार ने एक अधिसूचना जारी की जिस को स्कूलों ने संविधान द्वारा उन्हें दी गई स्वायत्ता का उल्लंघन महसूस किया। पर यह अस्ली मुद्दा नहीं था। अस्ली मुद्दा यह था कि यह दिशानिृर्देश छात्रों और उनके माता-पिता के हित में नहीं थे। पहले दिशानिर्देश के अनुसार शून्य से 8 किलोमीटर तक रहने वाले दाखिले के इच्छुक सब छात्रों को बराबर अंक मिलने थे। दूसरा विवादास्पद मुद्दा हस्तांतरण से संबंधित मामलों में उचित परिभाषा का अभाव था। यदि किसी को महाराष्ट्र से गुजरात स्थानांत्रित किया जा रहा था और उसके परिवार का कोई सदस्य दिल्ली में था वह भी स्थानांत्रण के अंकों का दावेदार बनकर अदालत चला गया। इन मुद्दों को अदालत में चुनौती दी गई जिसके चलते दाखिले की प्र्रिक्रया में 5-6 महिने की देरी हुई। मई में स्कूल दाखिले की सूची जारी कर पाए और जुलाई में कक्षाएं प्रारंभ हो सकीं।’’

पाण्डे आगे कहते हैंः ‘‘पिछले वर्ष से यह मुद्दा अदालत के समक्ष विचाराधीन था। 28 नवंबर के अपने फैसले में न्यायालय ने हमारी सभी मांगों को उचित करार देते हुए फैसला सुनाया।’’

उच्च न्यायालय की खंडपीठ के नवीनतम आदेश के बाद जिसमें अदालत ने निजी स्कूलों की स्वायत्ता की मांग को सही ठहराया था, यह स्कूल दाखिले के दिशानिर्देश तैयार करने और प्रवेश लेने के कार्य को आगे बढ़ाने में लगे हैं। इस बात से असंतुष्ट कि स्कूलों पर उसकी पकड़ ढीली पड़ रही है शिक्षा निदेशालय चाहता है कि पिछले वर्ष जो कानून थे वह ही लागू रहें।

पाण्डे कहते हैंः ‘‘उच्च न्यायालय ने स्वयत्ता की हमारी मांग को जाएज ठहराया है लेकिन इसका यह मतलब नहीं कि हमें कुछ गलत करने का लाईसेंस मिल गया है। हमको अच्छी तरह पता है कि हमारी जिम्मेवारी बढ़ गई है। दिशा निर्देश तैयार करने के पीछे हमारा उद्देश्य था कि हम उनको सरकार को सौंपे ताकि वह चेक रखे कि उनका पालन हो रहा है कि नहीं। सरकार का चैक और बैलेंस बनाए रखना का हक उससे नहीं लिया गया है।’’

आर एन आई समय समय पर चेताता रहा है कि शिक्षा निदेशालय जो निजी स्कूलों को अपने अधीन रखने को आतुर है दोषियों के खिलाफ कार्यवाई करने में पीछे नजर आता है। मीडिया और अभिभावकों की ओर से कई शिकायतें सामने लाई गईं परन्तु कोई कार्यवाई नहीं हुई ,जिसके कारण ऐसे स्कूल कानून तोड़ने में अधिक साहिसक हो गये। पिछले वर्ष शिक्षा निदेशालय के दिशा निर्देश जारी रहने के बावजूद शिकायतें आईं कि कुछ स्कूलों ने एडमिशन के लिए पैसों की मांग की। जिस समय न्यायालय में इस मामले को सुना जा रहा था कुछ स्कूलों ने रोक के बावजूद नर्सरी में दाखिले लिए और कक्षाएं प्रारंभ कर दीं। अभी तक दोषी स्कूलों के खिलाफ कार्यवाई नहीं हुई। कानून तोड़ने वालों पर कार्यवाई करने के स्थान पर ऐसा प्रतीत होता है कि शिक्षा निदेशालय चाहता है कि वह स्कूलों की स्वायत्ता छीन ले या उन पर नकेल डाल दे।

पाण्डे भी इससे सहमत हैंः ‘‘यदि आप सारी स्वायत्ता छीन लें फिर भी जिन्हें उससे बाहर निकलकर दूसरे रास्ते पर चलना है वे रास्ता ढूंढ ही लेंगे। जो स्कूल कानून से बाहर निकल कर काम करना चाहते हैं उन्होंने पिछले वर्ष भी ऐसा किया। हम केवल स्वायत्ता चाहते हैं। सबके लिए फेयरप्ले सुनिश्चित करने की सरकार की जिम्मेदारी सरकार के साथ बरकरार है। अपने स्वयं के बनाए दाखिले के मानदंडों में यदि हम कुछ भी गलत करते हैं तो मैं उसकी जांच के लिए हर समय तैयार हूं।’’

आर एन आई न्यूज ब्यूरो/अजीज हैदर




“Govt should introspect about the large no of those who fail to get a school”: Ashok Kr Pandey

Ashok Kr Pandey, Principal-Ahlcon International School, Delhi

Ashok Kr Pandey, Principal-Ahlcon International School, Delhi

While the private schools in Delhi were gearing up for admissions after the High Court Bench order and it was being thought that the ongoing dispute between the Department of Education (DoE) and Delhi’s private schools has been resolved, the directorate has asked the private schools to hold on to admission process till it moves the matter in SC, thus leading the situation back to square one. While DoE has all the rights to seek the decision of a higher court, until it does so, its new dictate to stop the private schools from going ahead with the admission process is being seen as an infringement on the Bench’s order.

At a time when the apex association of schools known as the ‘Action Committee’ and other associations like National Progressive Schools Conference were going through the process of preparing the guidelines for admissions to nursery, in the light of Bench’s order, the Directorate has asked the schools yet again not to initiate the admission process till the time this matter is placed in front of the special leave petition in the Supreme Court and a final decision is reached. The letter sent to schools say: “As the honourable Supreme Court is under vacation till January 5, 2015 and the matter will come up for hearing after the winter vacations, it is, hereby, informed that the private recognised schools may not initiate and may not go ahead with the admission process in the entry level classes for the academic session 2015-16 in their schools till the matter is decided by the Supreme Court so as not to prejudice the outcome of the said special leave petition.”

The Directorate, it appears, has not learned the lessons from last year when its attempt to control the entire admission process in private schools delayed the admissions to Nursery so much so that classes could start only in July.

Ashok Kr. Pandey, Principal Ahlcon International School who is also a member of Government’s consultative committee says: “Nearly 4 lakh students applied for admissions in Nursery last year. Out of which all the private schools combined could only accommodate about 1 lakh students. The remaining 3 lakh students ended up studying in unrecognized schools or had to seek admission outside the city. A lot many ended up taking admissions in Government schools whose condition the Directorate has been unable to improve until now. Not bothering about the remaining 3 lakh students, the Directorate is only keen on taking the autonomy of the private schools who are as it is rendering education to a significant number of children.”

Elaborating on how the entire row shot up, Pandey says: “Last year Government issued a notification which schools felt was an infringement upon the autonomy that has been granted to them by the Constitution. That per se was not the irritation. The irritation was that the guidelines were not helpful to the parents. The first guideline, for example, was related to neighbourhood. If everybody from 0 km to 8 km got same points, what was neighbourhood then? The second contentious issue was related to transfer cases as the order lacked proper definition. If somebody was being transferred from Maharashtra to Gujarat and if one member of the family was in Delhi they too claimed transfer points; that created litigation and parents went to the court. Every point was challenged. Whole process was delayed by 5-6 months. List could come out only in May and classes could begin in July.”

Pandey further says: “Matter remained in the Single Judge Bench but it didn’t give the stay last year. The Court’s stand was that new guidelines were not doing any irreparable damage so the hearing went on. Hearing has been completed and single judge bench gave decision on 28th of November and upheld all that we were saying.”

Other private schools that we talked to too harbour the same grudge as Pandey. Asking not to be named, Principal of another school told RNI that till 2013 the Schools were taking admissions in accordance of the 2007 guidelines of Ganguly Committee, which were duly approved by DoE. It was in 2014 that the DoE decided to strangulate the private schools further. The guidelines clearly said that private schools will frame the admission procedure and parameters like neighbourhood, sibling, alumni, shall be available to everybody without discretion.

It was only after the latest order of the High Court Bench has restored the autonomy of Schools that the Schools were preparing the guidelines and gearing up to take admissions. Discontented, as if its hold over schools has been taken away, DoE still wants last year’s order to be restored.

Says Pandey: “The High Court has restored us autonomy to execute admissions but we have not got the license to do something wrong. We are doubly aware that we have a responsibility to uphold. Moreover we upon making guidelines will submit to Government with the purpose that it will keep a check on it. Government’s power of checks and balance has not been taken away.”

Pandey further says: “Though each school won’t have exactly same guidelines, all will have similar guidelines. Parents will have to look for two things while seeking admissions: any guideline violating the principle of non-discrimination and fair play and even if they are non-discriminative and fair, whether there is any loophole and whether any school is violating its own guidelines.”

RNI has been highlighting time and again that Government, keen on making stringent rules, has found to be lacking when it comes to taking action against the defaulters. Several complaints came up by media and parents against schools but not much was done, making some school managements bolder than ever. Even if all the autonomy is taken away, schools which wanted to find a way out will do so. Last year too, despite DoE guidelines in vogue, there were complaints of schools asking for money in cash or even proceeding with admissions while the matter was being heard in court. Little or no action has been taken against such schools. Instead of checking the defaulters, it appears the DoE thinks that by just strangulating schools, by taking away the autonomy they would be able to regulate schools.

Pandey too agrees to this: “Even if you take all autonomy somebody would find a way out of that. Schools which wanted to find a way out did that even last year. Government’s responsibility of ensuring fair play remains intact with Government. I am willing to stand for any kind of scrutiny against any wrong that we do in our own admission criteria.”

RNI News Bureau/Aziz Haider