Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Rajasthan: Muslim teachers suspended following Hindu group’s campaign, students protest against suspension

Several students from Higher Senior Secondary School in Khajuri village in Rajasthan’s Kota gathered outside the Sub-District Magistrate’s (SDM) Office on Monday, February 26, demanding the revocation of the arbitrary suspension of three Muslim teachers from their school.

The students submitted a memorandum to the concerned authorities, listing 17 individuals, including the Sarpanch, from the village. They accused these residents of wrongfully implicating their teachers in the case of ‘religious conversion and jihadist activities.’

The signed memorandum was handed over to the Tehsildar and SDM. The students called for the dismissal of all accusations against the suspended teachers and the withdrawal of the suspension orders.

The students walked several kilometers from their village school in Khajuri to the SDM office in Sangod town to register their protest.

They also demanded action against the students who made false allegations against them.

Three Muslim teachers, Firoz Khan, Mirza Mujahid, and Shabana, from the Senior Higher Secondary School of Sangod, received a suspension order from the Education Department on Wednesday, February 21. The order, sent by the District Education Officer of Kota, suspended them.

This decision was based on a memorandum presented by Sarv Hindu Samaj (SHS), a local confederation of Hindu right-wing organizations in Kota, during the visit of the State Minister of Education on Tuesday, February 20. The memorandum alleged the involvement of these teachers in ‘Islamic Jihadist Activities,’ ‘Religious Conversion,’ and ‘Love Jihad.’

The allegations against the three teachers revolve around the inter-religious marriage of a female Hindu student who, in 2020, married a Muslim boy and left the village ‘of her own choice.’ The SHS is now attempting to connect this incident with the Muslim teachers in the school to falsely frame them.

The girl enrolled in the school in 2019 and graduated in 2020, as per school records seen by the school charge. Now, the family of the girl student is pointing out that these three Muslim teachers were behind her inter-religious marriage and alleging ‘forced conversion.’

Upon receiving the official orders, the Principal (Incharge) Kamlesh Kumar Berwa relieved the three of them on the same day he received the suspension orders.

“False allegations”

However, the acting Principal (in charge), along with the teachers, denied the allegations made by Sarv Hindu Samaj.

As part of the investigation around the issue, the Kota District Education Department had asked the teachers and the school principal to send written applications addressing the allegations made by the outfit.

Twelve out of 15 teachers, who are Hindu, have written to the district education department refuting the claims. Each teacher, in a separately written letter, has maintained that no activity such as ‘religious conversion,’ ‘love jihad,’ or ‘Namaz’ was ever done by the suspended teachers.

The teachers have also stressed that only ‘educational activities are rendered’ in the school, and no ‘religious activities’ take place.

Kamlesh Singh Berwa, the school Principal, told Maktoob, “All three teachers are very efficient; Mujahid Mirza is a PT teacher, Firoz Khan is a level-1 primary teacher, and Shabana Madam joined the school in October.”

“I joined the school in 2021, and since then, I have not noticed any unusual behavior or misconduct of the teachers who are suspended. They are teachers, and they teach their subjects very well without any bias,” he said.

Berwa said that it is very unfortunate, and he is amazed to learn about such accusations against these teachers.

Students’ protests

Earlier, on February 24, Saturday, scores of students protested against the suspension of three Muslim teachers outside their school in Khajuri village of Sangod Block in Rajasthan’s Kota District on February 24, Saturday. The students who protested in support of the teachers were wailing and agitating upon learning about the suspension of the said teachers.

In videos of the protest, accessed by Maktoob, some students were heard telling their teachers, “We are here willingly and will go back to study after the suspension orders of our teachers are revoked. We want our teachers back at any cost.”

The students also said that these teachers have been teaching them for more than 2 years now, and they don’t have any complaints against them.

They can further be seen asking their teachers who will teach them for the upcoming examinations and that they are protesting because these teachers have been falsely framed by an organization that spreads hate and is against education.

One of the students in the video accused those who gave the memorandum to the Education Minister against the teachers of tricking some students into giving false statements against the teachers and falsely framing them.

Forced testimonies against teachers

Praveen Gauchar, a 10th standard student in the same school, told Maktoob that he was forced by two people to give statements against the Muslim teachers, and out of pressure, he did that.

In a video interview given to a news channel, seen by Maktoob on February 24th, Gauchar said that the suspended teachers used to conduct conversions and prayers inside the school. However, later, he came up with a clarification that he was forced to say so.

Gauchar recalled that he was approached by two people he didn’t even know to accuse Muslim teachers of conversion and jihadi activities inside the school.

“They were continuously telling me that you are a Hindu and told me things to say in the interview. I got trapped in their words and committed a mistake I should have never done. These are ours, and how can I lie against them? What I am today is because of them,” said Gauchar.

He said, “My parents and teachers have always taught me to speak the truth, and all I did was the opposite of it. I realized my mistake and accepted it.”

Gauchar said, “The teachers are suspended because some people, including the parents of the girl who fled, incited hate against them. Otherwise, they are very good teachers, and their conduct with all the students is friendly and fair.”

The student also maintained that some people of the Hindu community from the village are still telling him to change his statement and once again give it against teachers, but he said, “I know that the path of truth is difficult and it comes with a cost, but I will never side with false and wrong ever. I have realized my mistake.”

However, he is scared about the repercussions and said, “I am afraid if someone files a case against my family or me because that’s what usually happens when people choose good over bad.”

“We impart education and not politics”

Berwa said, “The students love these teachers immensely, and they started crying when they got to know that they will no longer teach them. I and other teachers had to explain to them that they will come back with an investigation, and we all have written in their support.”

“They have been tremendous teachers, and there is no truth to what people are saying, which is the reason that everyone from teachers to students is in their support,” he added.

The teacher in charge stressed that the job of the teacher is to impart education above everything, and “we, along with all our teachers, do that only. We are not political people, and we don’t do that here.’

When asked what could be the reason behind such an act by the Hindu outfit, Berwa first refused to respond, citing that he is a teacher and he does not know anything beyond his expertise, which is teaching, but added, “There are some anti-social elements, and their motive is to create a rift between people for their gains. That might be the driving factor behind such a move.’

About the case of the Hindu female student who allegedly fled the village and married a Muslim boy, the in-charge said, “I don’t know if she went on her own or was forced because I was not posted in this school. As per the records, the said girl left the school in 2020 after completing her intermediate.”

However, he said, “The parents of the said girl came to school a few days ago and made Firoz Khan, Mujahid Mirza, and Shabana responsible for their daughter’s alleged religious conversion and inter-religious marriage, which I have been informed by other villagers that she was not forced by anyone and went on willingly.”

When asked what they said, Berwa said, “The parents started shouting at them and said things like you’ve forced our daughter, and it is because of you that she fled and married a Muslim guy, and you all used to propagate her Islam. The teachers didn’t respond to their words and went back.”

“The matter surfaced again when we received the orders of their suspension, following the departmental orders, I have relieved them,” he added.

“Ready to accept punishment if found guilty”

Firoz Khan, one of the suspended teachers who is currently on leave, has been teaching level-1 (Primary) students from standard 1st to standard 5 for the last 8 years.

While speaking with Maktoob, he said, “I don’t even know who this girl was because I teach primary level students, and I have been told that she only studied in the school for a year, and I never taught her or any higher standard student.”

“I don’t know why we got suspended, but it is certainly because of our identity as there are only 3 Muslim teachers, and the rest 12 are non-Muslims. All the teachers and students are in our support because they also know that we all only do one thing in the school, that is teaching,” said Khan.

He added, “We will follow what the department will ask and cooperate with the investigation, and if allegations get proven after it, we will accept it.”

Another suspended teacher, Mirza Mujahid, who just got discharged from the hospital due to health complications, also denied the allegations.

He said, “These are just allegations, and we don’t know the intentions behind it. We have faith in the education department’s decision. If they have taken any decision, we will abide by it.”

Raising a question on the procedure followed by the Education Department to suspend them, he said, “The only complaint I have with the Department is that they should have done the investigation before taking action. How can they suspend us merely based on some outsider’s allegations.”

Mujahid said, “They should have talked to our students, fellow teachers, and villagers before the disciplinary action was taken, but they didn’t. We will, however, follow the order. If we are found guilty, we are ready to accept any punishment.”

“We are certain that the inquiry will be fair and just,” he added.

For now, all three teachers are suspended as per the departmental orders and are asked to appear at the education department’s headquarters in Bikaner. They will report to the department during their suspension.

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