In yet another example of authoritarian policing, the Uttar Pradesh Police have registered a first information report against the principal and a part-time teacher after the local unit of a supremacist organisation claimed that “madrassa-type prayers” were being recited in a government school at Bareilly.
Reports in the media stated that students had only recited Mohammad Iqbal’s iconic Urdu poem ‘Lab pe aati hai dua‘. Iqbal is the writer of the famous song ‘Saare jahan se achha’.
The principal of a local government higher primary school, Nahid Siddiqui, located in Faridpur, has been suspended. A police investigation has been ordered against the part-time teacher Waziruddin, PTI has reported, quoting the local Basic Shiksha Adhikari Vinay Kumar. Waziruddin is a shiksha mitra or a ‘para teacher’.
Police have slapped sections 298 (deliberate intention to wound religious sentiments) and 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot) of the Indian Penal Code against the two persons. It was some members of the local unit of Vishwa Hindu Parishad accused Siddiqui and Waziruddin of hurting “religious sentiments” of people in “a Hindu-dominated area by reciting madrassa-type prayers in the school,” Kumar told PTI.
Times of India has reported that VHP activists took exception to the line, ‘Mere Allah burai se bachana mujhko (‘O Allah, protect me from evils’)’ and claimed students were being compelled to sing/recite it. VHP members also claimed that the accused were also trying to convert the students and that students who protested against such prayers were threatened.
Police said they are in possession of a video of students reciting the prayers. Based on the complaint letter of VHP’s city president Sompal Rathore, an FIR was registered against the principal and the shiksha mitra on Wednesday.
This is not the first time that VHP has targeted the tradition of reciting Iqbal’s poems in schools. In 2019, students of a government school in Uttar Pradesh’s Pilibhit, in fact, protested against the suspension of their headmaster who was removed from his position after the VHP complained that he had made them recite a “religious prayer” – ‘Lab pe aati hai dua’. UP’s basic education minister Satish Chandra Dwivedi had at that time told reporters that this action had been hasty.
In addition to the fact that the poem is written by a Muslim, a bete noir for the supremacist VHP, uses the word ‘dua’ – the Urdu word for supplication – and ‘rabb’ and ‘Allah’ for god.
The English translation of the song is below:
My longing comes to my lips as a supplication of mine
Oh God! May my life be like a flickering flame
May the world’s darkness disappear through the life of mine
May every place light up with the sparkling light of mine
May my homeland through me attain elegance
As the garden through flowers attains elegance
May my life be like that of the moth be oh Lord
May I love the lamp of knowledge oh Lord
May my life’s work be to support the poor
And to love the suffering and the elderly?
My God! Protect me from the evil ways
Show me the path of righteousness.