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Updated: December 16, 2014 00:05 IST
Preparations for conversion event kept under wraps
A day after the Aligarh administration banned their religious conversion programme on December 25, Hindutva groups leading the campaign seem to have rethought their strategy.
The venue of the Ghar vapsi programme may be shifted at the last minute to places such as Hathras, Eta and Bulandshahr, and the ban may be legally challenged too.
The Dharam Jagaran Samiti, an Agra-based RSS affiliate, had last week announced the “biggest ever” religious conversion of about 4,000 Christians and Muslims in Aligarh. Following the ban, most of the office-bearers of the samiti, including its area chief Rajeshwar Singh, have gone underground and the preparations have been kept under wraps. Organising the programme has become a matter of prestige and a rallying point for Hindutva groups which have come together and dared the local administration to stop it. Office-bearers of the Bajrang Dal, Hindu Yuva Vahini, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and Dharam Jagaran Samiti met here on Sunday.
A new set of office-bearers have been announced as the existing names are on the intelligence radar.
The Hindutva outfit is ready with hundreds of affidavits which will be signed by people converting to Hinduism. The volunteers of DJS told The Hindu: “As a precautionary measure, we are ready with affidavits stating that the person is converting to Hinduism out of his/her own will and no inducement of any kind has been offered.” The final decision about the venue and further details are likely to be finalised in a week.
Amid the controversy, nobody has any idea who will be converted. Even the office-bearers of the DJS are tight-lipped about the identity of the people who will come into the Hindu fold.
According to Abhiram Goyal , convenor DJS, Aligarh, the volunteers are visiting villages on the outskirts of Aligarh, Agra, Bulandshahr which have minority Christian and Muslim population. “We will have some idea how many people have signed up for our Ghar vapsi programme in a week. By December 22, we will have the list of people and you can talk to them and find out for yourself that we are not forcing anybody,” Mr. Goyal maintained.
|Basant Kumar Mohanty
If they still want to take part in an online essay-writing contest, they are welcome to.
The government today climbed down from its move asking the centrally controlled CBSE and the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS) to organise a host of events and observe Good Governance Day on December 25 that would have meant keeping schools open on a holiday.
In a press note, the HRD ministry pared down the list of activities - that included quiz contests, online and offline essay-writing competitions on topics related to good governance and screening of documentaries - to just online essays and even made that "completely voluntary".
The note also said December 25 would remain a holiday.
"This online essay competition is completely voluntary and the students if they so desire can participate from their homes.... There is no requirement for any school to remain open that day and the school vacations will be adhered to," the note said in response to media reports.
The climbdown came amid a raging controversy, with several academics and activists criticising the earlier decision to keep schools open on a day the world would celebrate Christ's birthday.
According to the now-scrapped decision, the NVS, which runs 600-odd free residential schools (JNVs), was to screen documentaries and films highlighting good governance and problem-solving on Christmas Day.
Students of schools affiliated to the CBSE - the country's largest school board - were expected to take part in essay-writing and one-act play contests on December 24 and 25.
The CBSE had not issued any circular to affiliated schools, but a letter from NVS commissioner G.S. Bothyal on December 10 made it clear what the activities should be.
"You are requested to ensure that Good Governance day is celebrated in all JNVs under your region. A consolidated report specifying activities carried out in all JNVs is to be submitted by email along with photographs/video recordings to this office on 25th December 2014," the letter to regional deputy commissioners and principals of nearly 600 JNV schools said.
Since NVS schools are affiliated to the CBSE, the letter also touched upon the activities the CBSE would ask its affiliated schools to do. The events were open to students of other boards too.
In a fresh letter today, Bothyal asked NVS officials to wait. "Since the CBSE has not yet issued any circular so far regarding the activities to be undertaken on (the) 25th of December, 2014, you are requested to await the issuance of the CBSE circular before taking any further action," the letter said.
Sources told this newspaper the letter followed instructions from the HRD ministry. Bothyal was not available for comment.
The ministry's note said the JNVs would observe December 25 as a public holiday. But since these were residential schools, they would function "because children (would) continue to remain there". Thus children, the note added, "will have the opportunity to participate if they wish to in (the) essay competition".
The note is silent on whether the JNV or CBSE schools would conduct any other activity. Sources in the ministry said there was no clarity on this.
Kiran Bhatti, a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research and a former member of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said expecting students to voluntarily take part in essay-writing contests on Christmas Day was "uncalled for".
"They could have asked the students to participate in any competition on any other day during the winter break. Why on that specific day? One does wonder whether such a competition would have been held on Diwali," she said.
Ravi Sagar, an educationist working for the promotion of education among minorities in Assam, said holding any event on Christmas, although voluntary, amounted to depriving Christian students.
"Whether you write essays online sitting at home or in a classroom, it is a school activity. If the activity is for a good cause, every student should get an equal opportunity to participate," Sagar said. "But here, one religious group is being kept out."
Source: Telegraph India
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