Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Goa: Principal suspended for taking students to mosque as part of communal harmony initiative

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The principal of a private higher secondary school in Goa was suspended after a police complaint alleged that he took a group of Class 11 students to a mosque as part of an initiative to promote communal harmony.

The principal of Keshav Smurthi Higher Secondary School, Shankar Gaonkar, had taken the students to a mosque in Dabolim at the invitation of the Student Islamic Organisation of India as part of their campaign to promote communal harmony.

SIO Zonal President Usman Khan said the incident happened on 09 September. Soon after the images of students visiting the mosque went viral on social media, the Hindu nationalist outfit Vishwa Hindu Parishad filed a police complaint alleging that Gaonkar forced female students to wear headscarves and perform Islamic rituals.

“We have been organising such activity for several years. The ‘Visit Masjid’ program of SIO tries to do just that, bridging the gap between communities and promoting better understanding,” said Khan.

“A total of 21 students from our school, including three girl students and a teacher, were taken to the mosque. Students were shown where the prayers were conducted and entry-exit areas at the mosque. Some students may have covered their heads out of respect. The claim that students were forced to wear hijab or perform rituals is false,” the now-suspended principal said to Indian Express.

The principal said that in the past, the school had also taken students to temples and churches as children from all faiths studied there.

Following a complaint from the Hindutva group, Vasco police have summoned the suspended principal, Shankar Gaonkar, and the Vasco unit secretary of the Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO), Abdul Rehman K, to record their statements.

Meanwhile, SIO urged civil society to stand with “such initiatives which are aimed at creating a positive environment in the society”. They appealed to the management of Keshav Smruti Higher Secondary School to revoke the Suspension of the Principal.

Maktoob reached out to Gaonkar who responded that he is currently unavailable as he was at the police station.

Shaheen Abdulla
Shaheen Abdulla
Shaheen Abdulla, an award-winning journalist, is the Deputy Editor of Maktoob.
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