Just a few days before the Republic Day of India, on 19 Jan 2015, Mr. LD Desai, officer of the school board, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, issued a circular directing municipal schools to perform Saraswati Puja for Vasant Panchami festival.
Before we discuss the Great Day of Nation – The Republic Day, it would be propitious to learn more about SARASWATI and SARASWATI POOJA. She is the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom and learning. She is a part of the trinity of Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati. According to Hindu mythology, all these three forms help the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva to create, maintain and regenerate-recycle the Universe respectively. She is referred in Rigveda. Many Hindus celebrate the festival of Vasant Panchmi (the fifth day of spring) in her honour, and mark the day by helping young children learn how to write alphabets on that day.
There is no need to reiterate that she is purely a Deity of Hindu Religion which is the dominant among all the other prevailing faiths in diverse Indian landscape.
The preamble to the Constitution which contains the ideals and aspirations or the objects which the Constitution makers intended to be realised clearly proclaims that the people of India have solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC.
The expression “Socialist Secular” was inserted in the preamble by the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976. The object of inserting this expression was to spell out expressly the high ideas of socialism and secularism and the integrity of the Nation. In short, the object of the Government, in making this amendment was to make explicit what was already provided in the Constitution.
In Kesavanada V State of Kerala (AIR 1973 S.C. 1461) and in Indira V Rajnarain (AIR 1975 S.C. 2299) the Supreme Court has observed that by secularism it is meant that the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on the ground of religion only and that the State shall have no religion of its own and all persons shall be equally entitled to the freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.
The right to freedom of religion is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution of India. Article 25 reads as follows:-
25 (1) Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.
(2) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law-
(a) regulating or restricting any economic financial political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice;
(b) Providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus.
This Article guarantees that every person in India shall have the freedom of conscience and shall have the right to profess, practise and propagate religion, subject to the restrictions that may be imposed by the State on the following grounds, namely:-
(1) public order, morality and health;
(2) other provisions of the Constitution;
(3) regulation of non-religious activity associated with religious practise;
(4) social welfare and reform;
(5) throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes of Hindus.
The freedom of religion conferred by this Article is not confined to citizens of India alone but extends to all persons including aliens and individuals exercising their rights either in their individual capacity or on behalf of some church or institution. Freedom of conscience connotes a person’s right to entertain beliefs and doctrines concering matters, which are regarded by him to be conducive to his spiritual well being.
A person has freedom to believe in the religious tenets of any sect or community. The right is not only to entertain such religious beliefs as may be approved by his judgment or conscience but also to exhibit his sentiments in overt acts as are enjoined by his religion. According to this Article, he may ‘profess, practise and propagate his religion’.
Saraswati Pooja is a practice and tradition of Hindu Religion only.
The circular states, ‘All municipal schools are hereby informed that the festival of ‘Mahusud Pancham’ or ‘Vasant Panchmi‘ is celebrated in worship of goddess Saraswati – the goddess of knowledge and learning. Life is nothing without education. With a view to instil the importance of learning among students, schools should perform ‘Saraswati puja’ and ‘Saraswati Vandana’ (incantation) during the prayer session. Information on how ‘Vasant Panchami’ is celebrated in different States should also be given.”
Ahmedabad has around 60 Urdu medium schools in the city, attended chiefly by Muslim children. How this Dhramik Diktats conform to the Constitution of India which every Indian is supposed to abide and respect. The parents of kids have raised concerns about the diktat for being incongruous with their faith. According to teachers “We know that goddess Saraswati is deity of knowledge and we can only inform the students about it.”
There is a atmosphere of fear and the Principals of many schools are not even ready to comment
“There is no way that we will do the pooja as our religion does not allow it. But if there is a regulation, it is not such a big issue. You can just remain present as a mark of respect,” said the mother of a class eight Urdu school student.
The Ahemadabad Municipal Corporation says such circulars were issued every year. “Our aim is very clear. We wanted to send a message about the importance of education.”
Where are we heading towards ?
By: Naim Naqvi