Bengaluru: In a shocking incident, a 15-year-old Muslim student was punished and humiliated by the principal for not worshipping ‘Ganesha’ a deity worshipped by many Hindus at a school in South Bengaluru.
This academic year, the school adopted a few controversial Sanskrit shlokas as its official prayer for the morning assembly. When Padmaja Menon, the principal of the school noticed that Abdullah (name changed) and some of his other Muslim friends weren’t singing “Vakratunda Mahakaya, Surya Koti Sama Prabha…,” she asked the group to come on stage and sing loudly.
“I was humiliated in front of 1,200 students and my constitutional right was violated. She made us go on stage and forced us to sing the prayer in front of everybody. She scolded me in front of everyone on the mike when I mispronounced a few Sanskrit words,” said the boy, who is in a state of shock since the July 27 incident.
The boy said the incident has deeply hurt him. “I am on the school debate team and was elected as the head boy unanimously. I have studied here since I was in kindergarten. The teachers love me and my classmates respect me. I felt like all that was lost when I refused to sing the prayer that day,” he said.
“I feel a little awkward now to discipline other students. They look at me as though I don’t have the right anymore. Being the head boy makes me uncomfortable now,” he complained. However, Abdullah is happy with the fact that many of his Hindu friends have been by his side!
The boy’s mother, along with activists of the Association for Protection of Civil Rights, approached the principal and sought clarification. However, the principal acted like she did not understand what the fuss was about and kept saying that the prayer was important to instil values and discipline in students.
The principal even suggested that the boy was turning into a fundamentalist Muslim since he was from Bhatkal (a Muslim-dominated area in Karnataka).
The only thing they managed to achieve was an exemption for Abdullah who can now sit in his class while the assembly is on. “But that is not good enough. Why can’t they go back to the old prayer which had no religion in it? Fourteen of the 32 students in my class are Muslims. There are people from other religions too. At least 30% of the school is Muslim. Why should I sit separately?” he asked.
The principal however defended her stance saying that there was nothing wrong with the prayers, one of which invokes the Hindu gods Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. She was quoted assaying: “But Brahma is the creator of the universe. What is wrong in invoking his name?”
On the other hand, Jessy Joseph, the former principal of the school, says the development is “very sad” and points out that Hindu prayers were sung only during festivals. “We also had a tradition of conducting all faith prayers for special occasions,” said Joseph.
“He worships the Creator of the creators of an Idol!”
Family members of Abdullah, who are preparing to take their fight further, say that the boy never agitated against a Hindu prayer song. “He just remained silent during the morning assembly because, he always worships the creator of the creators of an idol,” said one of the family members of the boy.
She said that the first two lines of the prayer song itself is an act of worshipping an idol (O Lord Ganesha, of Curved Trunk, Large Body, and with the Brilliance of a Million Suns / Please Make all my Works Free of Obstacles, Always). “We are Muslims and we seek guidance and help only from the Creator of the universe and not form a creation of the man,” she said.