Ahmedabad: Amid protest by Congress councillors, 'Saraswati Vandana' was organized on Saturday in more than 450 schools run by the Ahmedabad municipal corporation (AMC) which termed it as a "huge success".
The civic body-controlled School Board claimed that all schools run by it, including Urdu medium ones, took part in the programme, which had invited accusations of being part of an attempt by ruling BJP to promote its Hindutva agenda.
A row erupted after the Board issued a circular asking schools, including Urdu medium ones (which have mostly Muslim students), to organize 'Saraswati Vandana' (a prayer for the goddess of knowledge & wisdom) on Vasant Panchami today.
The Board said the programme was an attempt to inculcate moral values among children and make them understand the importance of education by remembering goddess Saraswati. During the event, students were to recite prayer for Saraswati at the morning assembly and perform puja.
However, opposition Congress termed this as an attack on the rights of minorities and claimed the Board is forcing Muslim students to perform puja, which is prohibited in Islam.
Congress councillors, including opposition leader in AMC, Badruddin Shaikh gathered at Juhapura this morning and burned the copies of the circular.
"Around 1.5 lakh students of various religions are studying in about 457 schools run by the Board. But, the BJP- led AMC as well as state government are promoting their Hindutva agenda through such diktats. We strongly condemn this attempt," said Shaikh, who was accompanied by some parents during the protest.
"They are making it compulsory for our kids to take part in the prayers. If our children refuse, they may face action from authorities. School is a temple of education not a platform to push a political agenda," said a parent.
However, the Board claimed not a single school opted out of the event which its officials termed as a "huge success".
"All schools, including 64 Urdu schools, took part in the programme. We have not received any complaint. We had made it clear that it was an educational programme, not a religious one. We have not come across protest from any of the schools," said Board administrator LD Desai.
The Board runs around 450 primary schools, including 64 Urdu medium ones, most of which are in areas like Shahpur, Jamalpur, Gomtipur, Kalupur and Juhapura. Around 16,000 Muslim students study in these schools.