UP: VHP complains about school poem by Iqbal, Pilibhit headmaster suspended

Asad Rehman
Furqan Ali’s right leg is polio-affected and he got the job under reservation for the physically disabled.

The district administration of Uttar Pradesh’s Pilibhit has suspended the headmaster of a government primary school in Bisalpur area following a complaint by local VHP workers that the teacher made students recite a religious prayer, usually recited in madrasas, during morning assembly.

According to an inquiry by Bisalpur’s Block Education Officer (BEO) Upendra Kumar on Tuesday, the suspended headmaster, Furqan Ali, 45, made students recite the poem “lab pe aati hai dua”, written in 1902 by Muhammad Iqbal.

Iqbal, also known as Allama Iqbal, also wrote “Sare jahaan se achccha”.

Pilibhit DM Vaibhav Srivastava, who was unaware of the findings of the BEO’s inquiry, said, “The headmaster was suspended because he was not getting the national anthem sung, and was making students sing a religious prayer.”

Read in Bangla here.

Denying the allegation, Ali maintained that the national anthem is sung “every day”.

On findings of the inquiry by BEO Kumar, the DM said, “If he (headmaster) gets a poem recited and not the national anthem, then there is an offence against him. If he wanted do something different, he should have taken the government’s permission...”

BEO Kumar and Bisalpur’s Basic Shiksha Adhikari (BSA) Devendra Swarup told The Indian Express that regular inspections have found that the national anthem is sung at the primary school. They also said the original complaint — by the VHP members — did not question whether the national anthem is sung or not. BSA Swarup said: “The BEO has told me that the national anthem was being sung at the school. That was not the issue. The complaint was regarding a prayer sung at madrasas, and not about the national anthem.”

Ali said the poem by Iqbal is part of the Urdu syllabus for classes I to VIII. “VHP and Hindu Yuva Vahini workers held protests outside the school and at the Collectorate, demanding my removal. I only got a poem, which is part of government school syllabus, sung. My students also raise patriotic slogans such as ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ every day during the assembly.”

VHP district chief Ambarish Mishra said he opposed a “madrasa prayer” being recited at a government primary school. “We gave a written complaint to the BSA demanding action against the headmaster for getting a different prayer recited at government school,” Mishra told The Indian Express over telephone.

On Monday, an order issued by BSA Devendra Swarup states (translated from Hindi): “As per a viral video on social media, it came to our knowledge that at Primary School, Ghayaspur, students are being made to sing a different prayer other than the commonly accepted one. School headmaster Mohammad Furkan Ali prima facie has been found responsible for this and thus he has been suspended...”