Chronicle Reporter, Ratlam
The decision of a convent school to bar entry to a group of students in a town in Ratlam district in has evoked controversy, with rightwing groups claiming that the students were punished for chanting Bharat Mata ki jai. Hindu groups, including the Bajrang Dal, called for a ‘voluntary’ bandh in the town of Namli on Monday to protest the action of the St Joseph’s Convent School and seek the institution’s decrecognition.
The incident reportedly occurred on January 11 after the morning assembly at the school. While the rightwing groups claim up to 20 students have been barred from entering the school until further notice, the school claims only seven students were punished.
Refuting allegations that the students were punished for chanting Bharat Mata ki jai, a Catholic Church spokesperson claimed that after the national anthem was sung during the assembly, a group of students from class 9 started chanting Vande Mataram and were dancing.
The school said the students were punished for showing disrespect to national symbols. However, they have not been rusticated or barred from writing their exams, the school explained.
A police official said initial investigations suggested the school was not at fault, but added further investigations were continuing. Nuns and schoolteachers have been advised to take precautions due to the protests.
In a related development, the Madhya Pradesh Catholic Diocesan Schools’ Association has appealed to the High Court for protection to its affiliated institutions, following protests by the ABVP. The association has accused the ABVP of creating communal tension.
On January 4, hundreds of ABVP activists attempted to enter the St. Mary’s PG College to chant Bharat Mata ki jai on January 4 but were barred by police. In December, a group of Christmas carol singers were arrested in Satna district and a priest’s car set ablaze for allegedly being involved in forcible conversions.