Kolkata, March 10: The increasing danger of rising Islamic fundamentalism and violence notwithstanding, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government of chief minister Mamta Banerjee gave shut down notices to as many as 125 schools run and managed by Vidya Bharati- an RSS inspired educational organisation.
The schools are run and managed by the trusts affiliated to Vidya Bharati that has its headquarters at Lucknow.
According to the Times of India report, the Mamta Banerjee government has put up on notice these 125 schools for “fanning religious intolerance: and deviating from the state syllabus”.
The schools can face closure on these allegations as they are very serious in nature.
The three trusts – Sarada Shishu Tirtha, Saraswati Shishu Mandir and Vivekananda Vidya Vikas Parishad—run these schools. The total number of schools run by them in West Bengal is around 350 with combined student strength of 60,000.
The closure of the 125 schools would mean that the education of thousands of students will be directly affected.
It was reported that the chief minister Mamta Banerjee handed over the list of the schools to the state education minister Partha Chatterjee.
“We have asked these 125 schools to explain why they have deviated from the state curriculum. We have decided to withdraw their affiliation and will shut them down if there is no satisfactory explanation,” he said.
The assembly announcement threw Bengal politics into a tizzy and could indicate the contours of a larger anti-BJP axis in the state. Significantly, the issue was raised in the assembly by CPM MLA Manas Mukherjee, who alleged that 350 schools were fanning religious intolerance that went against the state's multi-religious and multi-cultural ethos. Minister Chatterjee, as if on cue, brought out a list of 125 of these 350 schools, which he put on notice.
The report also says that the issue of these specific schools was raised by CPM MLA Manas Mukherjee and “as if on cue” education minister Chatterjee brought out the list of 125 indicating an anti-BJP axis in the state.
In its rabid hatred for the BJP, Trinamool Congress has been opposing all the policies of the Central Government, including demonetization and Aadhar-linking schemes.
Such has been Mamata’s febrile opposition to the Modi government that under her rule, the shahi imam of Kolkata’s Tipu Sultan Mosque Maulana Nurur Rehman Barkati issues a fatwa against the Prime Minister and death threats against liberal writers such as Tarek Fatah.
West Bengal has over 2000 unregistered madrasas. Radical teachings are imparted in many of them. The madrasas are reportedly funded by sources in Wahhabi countries of the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia.
Students in the madrasas are taught a very fundamentalist version of Islam which goes directly against the secular ethos of the Constitution.
But Mamata turns a blind eye to all of that and instead takes no action against fundamentalist who terrorises schools in the state.
Mamata Banerjee has also been criticised for paying (and increasing) stipends for the Islamic clerics from the taxpayers’ money but failing to honour the martyrdom of soldiers from the state.
Schools in Bengal last came under the scanner for their ideological bent during the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee regime. The Left government in 2002-2003 ordered intelligence agencies to look into the curriculum and funding of non-registered madrassas, primarily in Murshidabad, Malda and North and South Dinajpur districts.
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said 350-odd schools in the state are run by Vivekananda Vidya Vikas Parishad, a registered body, and follow the curriculum set by Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan.
“They are mostly in remote places, providing education to more than 60,000. They have been running in Bengal since 1975 when the first Sharada Sishu Tirtha was set up in Siliguri. They mostly follow the state school syllabus with some additional impetus to develop the student's physical, moral and spiritual values. This is an accepted practice in the country and also the state. I think they are sniffing politics everywhere. If they do anything legal we are prepared to battle it out,” Ghosh said.