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Finding fault with prayer

R K Sinha |

Is following Hindi, Hindu culture or being a Hindu a crime in this country? The latest example has come in the form of a petition filed by a person in the Supreme Court of India questioning the prayers recited in Kendriya Vidyalayas on the ground it promotes Hindutva.

This prayer has been recited in all Kendriya Vidyalayas for decades, since about the 1960s at least. When Kendriya Vidyalayas were established, the great grandfather of Rahul Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru was Prime Minister of India. It was on 15 December 1963 that Kendriya Vidyalaya was established during the life time of Nehru. Now this prayer is being described as ‘unconstitutional’. Surprisingly, no student or teacher objected to the prayer in the past.

When Kendriya Vidyalaya was established, noted educationist and lawyer Mohammedali Currim Chagla was Education Minister of India. At that time there was no trace of a BJP or NDA government in the country. But now the so called secular forces are after this prayer.

The prayer is, “Asotoma Sadgamaya. Tamsoma Jyotirgama. Mrityormamritamgamaya” (Lead me from untruth to truth, from darkness to light, from death to eternity).

One wonders what is Hindu or Hindutva in this prayer? But a Vinayak Shah of Madhya Pradesh sees evidence of Hindutva in the prayer. I spoke to some students, guardians and teachers of Kendriya Vidyalaya before writing this article. Nobody told me that any student or teacher had ever objected to this prayer. It is also not as if the many students who passed out from Kendriya Vidyalaya and became doctors, engineers, judges, journalists, teachers and scientists had any difficulty in understanding the meaning of the prayer. Then why is this objection to the prayer being raised now? If anyone has any objection to the prayer he or she is free not to send his ward to Kendriya Vidyalaya.

A sentence is written in the logo of Kendriya Vidyalaya – “Tatva pushan apavrinu”. This sentence is taken from the 15th sloka of Ishavasyopanishad in Yajurved. The full sloka is – “Hiranyamen Patreyan Satyasahapihita Mukham Tatvapushanpravinu Satyadharmaye Drishtiye”. It means “O the protector and preserver of all, Lord. The truth that is covered in the pot, lift the lid and show me the truth”.
One purpose of setting up of Kendriya Vidyalaya was to infuse nationalism and Indian-ness in students.

More than a million students study in Kendirya Vidyalaya. Will the petitioner tell us how many of them belonging to other religious faiths have after reciting the prayers embraced Hinduism?
The Supreme Court has admitted the petition and issued notice to the Government on this matter. The petitioner has argued that the prayer goes against Articles 25 and 28 of the Constitution of India. The prayer, it is alleged, is against the spirit of the Constitution. Schools being run by with Government funds cannot be allowed to promote any particular religion or faith, the petition says.

This is the result of an overdose of secularism. There is one uniform and common curricula in all 12 lakh schools of Kendriya Vidyalaya. Students have passed out from the school and have occupied high positions in society after reciting the same prayers for years.

Days are not far off when objections would be raised over citations of slokas from Veda. People may also demand to declare the slokas of Vedas as unconstitutional.

In 2005 there was a demand for removing the word ‘Sindh” from our National Anthem. Instead of Sindh there was a demand to include Kashmir. The argument was that since Sindh is no longer a part of India, the word should be removed. Such attempts to change the words of the National Anthem are made time to time.

Sometime back, in a convent school of Allahabad, there was a ban on singing the National Anthem. When a complaint was lodged with the administration, the local police arrested the managing official of the school. The manager, Ziaul Haq objected to the words “Bharat Bhagya Vidhata”. How can Bharat be preserver of all living in Bharat, it is against Islam, Haq argued.

There has been demand in the past to change the words of our National Anthem without any rationale. You will not get any example of this nature in any other country of the world.

The Supreme Court of India had dismissed the petition filed by Sanjeev Bhatnagar demanding removal of the word Sindh since Sindh was not part of India after partition of the country in 1947. Justice R C Lahoti who was chief justice not only dismissed the PIL but also chided Bhatnagar for bringing such a frivolous petition before the apex court and imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on him.

The writer is a BJP member of the Rajya Sabha