A school in Kanpur has recently been in the news in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict. On December 9, Huddard High School, which is located in the Kanpur district of Uttar Pradesh, organised a Hindi debate competition. The participants engaged in a debate on the theme “Which is preferable: Violence or Non-Violence?”
According to Maktoob Media’s ground report, the topics were divided into for and against the motion. Those “for” the motion the topic was, “How many Israeli babies did terrorist Hamas kill and what Israel’s right to throw missiles on Hamas.” (“Hamas terrorist ne Israel ke kitne nav shishu ko mara hai aur Israel ka haqq hai wo Hamas par Missile dale”)
The argument “against” the motion was structured as “Look at how Israel is dealing with the terrorist attacks by Hamas when Hamas has wiped out generations of Israelis.” (“Israel ko dekho wo kaise Hamas k terrorist attack ko jhel raha hai jahan Hamas ne unki peedhiyan khatam kardiyel”)
The report details that the students engaging in the debate, who were mostly from non-Muslim backgrounds, justified Israeli violence against Palestinians and engaged in Islamophobia. However, according to Maktoob Media, many students were present who expressed their discomfort with the ongoing events.
Students expressing discomfort with ‘being compelled to justify a position against humanitarian principles and international law’ were reportedly labelled as terrorists and Pakistanis by teachers and fellow students. They even faced threats of expulsion from the school.
“We felt pressured to advocate for a position that nobody should support, and the debate topic went against our moral beliefs. The motive of such a debate did not only violate the principles of free and open discourse but also contributed to fostering an environment that promotes discrimination, hatred, and violence.”
Students have stated that they were called “Pakistani” when they expressed this discomfort, and were also threatened that they would be failed deliberately by teachers in their board exams.
A group of students sought to address to this issue and approached the school’s principal, Sunny Verghese. They asked for an apology from the teacher who was responsible for organising the debate competition and selecting the topic. However, their plea was met with no apology or corrective action. The students waited for a few more days, hoping for some action or words or apology, but nothing came. Following this, they decided to protest.
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Anticipating a response from the principal or the school authorities regarding the incident and any measures taken, the students were disappointed to find no mention of the matter the following school day. Furthermore, according to Maktoob Media, students got to know that their classes were suddenly suspended, on the excuse of giving students preparatory leave for exams.
According to NavBharat Times, the school administration has stated that there is no need for an apology and that the views belonged to the students themselves. Principal Verghese further said that the opinion that it is the personal opinion of one student. According to the report, the students protesting against this have asked the Principal to counsel the student who made the statements.