“Education Jihad;” Indian School Under Fire for Interfaith Prayers

"Shiksha Jihad," or the Jihad on education, has become an issue in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. Florets International School, an English Medium Co-ed Institute, is at the center of the controversy. Parents and Pro-Hindu groups have registered a case against the private school. The school is accused of spreading Islamic teachings through its daily prayers.

In India, even educational institutes are at a risk of facing huge setbacks due to the rising Hindu-Muslim communalism in the country. In the latest case, a private school in Kanpur has come under the fire of religious scrutiny. The Florets International School was accused of corrupting its students by teaching them "Kalma," a form of Islamic Prayer. Parents claimed that the school had forced the students to chant the Muslim prayers.

The matter was instigated with a tweet. On Sunday, July 31, a man posted a video from his Twitter account, tagging the UP Police and the Chief Minister of the state, Yogi Adityanath, urging the government to take action against the school teaching the Islamic prayers. The video went viral on various social media platforms.

The parents of the children and some local Hindu organizations protested about this whole matter and lodged a complaint with the police. The Hindu organizations demanded that the school and its other branches should be shut down. The police have registered a case against the school's directors under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) under Section 5(1) of the UP Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act 2021. The complaint lodged with the Sismau police station states that "an attempt is being made by the school to pave the way for religious conversion of the students." ACP Nishank Sharma confirmed that an investigation had been started on the claim that the school is promoting "Shiksha Jihad" as students are being taught Islamic prayer.

According to the reports, the alleged prayer book contains prayers from many religions without favoring any. The prayers include the Hindu, Gayatri Mantra, and the Sikh Guruvani, among others of the four major religions of India. In a video statement, school principal Shraddha Sharma said that since the school's inception in 2003, multi-religious prayers were part of the morning assembly. Since some parents objected to Islamic prayers, the management has decided only to recite the national anthem. She added, "We followed prayers of all religions and not any one particular faith, and this has been the case for the past 12-13 years."

Hindutva activists also allegedly conducted a "purification ritual" at the school as a part of their protest. Mahendra Shukla and Dheeraj Sahu, local BJP leaders, claimed that the school premises were "purified" by using Ganga Jal (Holy Water).

Hindutva activist and district president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Yuvraj Dwivedi, stated, "We met the parents yesterday evening; the parents stated that their children had been reciting Islamic prayers, and they were deeply worried. After the protests, our complaint has been taken into account, and an FIR has been registered. We feel there is a bigger conspiracy at play here."

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