Friday, May 24, 2024

Mumbai: School principal expelled after being targeted by Hindutva portal for liking pro-Palestinian tweets

Parveen Shaikh, the principal of Somaiya School in Mumbai, has been fired for liking a pro-Palestine post on social media.

The management on Tuesday expelled Ms. Shaikh, after OpIndia, a Hindutva website, infamous for spreading misinformation and hate, published a report vilifying her for political views on Social media.

A report claiming to expose Shaikh’s “disturbing social media behaviour” was brought out by OpIndia on April 24. Based on tweets she had “liked,” it described her as a “Hamas sympathiser,” “anti-Hindu,” and a supporter of “Islamist Umar Khalid.”

Since then, the journal and its editor have been urging Shaikh’s removal on a frequent basis on the internet, claiming that her political beliefs are harmful to the “thousands of unsuspecting children” that she is responsible for caring for as an educator. On Twitter, this has also triggered a hate campaign against Ms. Shaikh.

Following the campaign, Shaikh was asked by the school management to resign on April 26, but then she had no intention to do so. Emphasising her freedom of speech in a democracy, Shaikh refused to resign, citing her true commitment to the school’s development in the past. The management then sought a written explanation from Shaikh on May 4.

In a statement issued Tuesday evening, Somaiya Vidyavihar, which runs the school, stated, “Recently, it has come to our attention that the personal social media activities of Ms Parveen Shaikh, who holds a leadership position at The Somaiya School, have been starkly misaligned with the values we cherish… We strongly support the right to freedom of expression, yet we recognize that it is not absolute and must be exercised with responsibility and respect for others… Given the gravity of concerns, and after careful consideration, the management has discontinued Ms. Parveen Shaikh’s association with Somaiya Vidyavihar to ensure that our ethos of unity and inclusivity is not compromised…”

The statement added, “We believe it is crucial to safeguard the impressionable minds of our youth, and ensure that they are nurtured in an environment that upholds the highest standards of integrity and inclusivity.”

Shaikh told Scroll that she had received a termination notice on Tuesday and she was disappointed that the management had chosen not to support her in the face of a “vitriolic public vilification campaign”.

“My termination notice is completely illegal and based on defamatory lies peddled against me by OpIndia and its editor Nupur J Sharma. My work as a school principal has been exceptional and my termination for such a reason is wrongful and unjust,” Shaikh added.

Shaikh worked at the private school in the city’s Vidyavihar locality for 12 years and was its principal for over seven years. Besides teaching, Ms Shaikh is also involved in school audits.

According to her Linkedin profile, she has over 30 years of experience in the field of education. Her expertise lies in coaching, mentoring, designing curricula and creating effective classroom layouts.

Shaikh rarely posts any content on social media, and most of her tweets are related to education. However, she has “liked” several posts in support of the besieged Gaza , where Israel has been carrying out a genocidal onslaught since October, killing around 35,000 Palestinians. Shaikh also liked several posts that were critical of PM Narendra Modi and the BJP-led regime.

“This action appears to be politically motivated. I hold firm belief in our legal system and the Indian Constitution and I am currently considering my legal options,” she told The Indian Express.

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