March 17, 2017

India: 125 RSS affiliated schools put on notice by West Bengal Govt

The Times of India

Shutdown threat to 125 schools with saffron link

| Updated: Mar 9, 2017, 08.07 AM IST

KOLKATA: The Bengal government on Wednesday put on notice 125 schools, run by three private trusts perceived to be close to RSS affiliates, for "fanning religious intolerance" and "deviating from the state-mandated syllabus".

All these 125 schools are run mostly by three trusts, Sarada Shishu Tirtha, Saraswati Shishu Mandir and Vivekanada Vidya Vikas Parishad, which proclaim themselves to be affiliated to the Lucknow-headquartered Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan. These organisations have a network of over 350 schools in Bengal, with a student strength of over 60,000.

State education minister Partha Chatterjee singled out 125 of these 350 schools citing a "list" handed over by chief minister Mamata Banerjee, in her capacity as the state home minister.

"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.

There is a great deal of ambiguity about the status of the other 225 schools, many of wh-ich teach only up to Class VIII.

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 ruling Trinamool and principal non-BJP opposition parties—CPM and Congress—recently came together to oppose the central BJP government's stand on linking Aadhaar to the school mid-day meal scheme.

Schools in Bengal last came under the scanner for their ideological bent during the Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee 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 Vidyabikas 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.

Minister Chatterjee said the state was examining the 125 identified schools and would revoke their NOCs if needed. "We will not allow spreading religious intolerance in the name of teaching students," he said. Of the 125 schools, 96 run without NOC. While 10 are affiliated to the state board, 19 have provisional NOCs. Chatterjee said many of the private schools get affiliation from central boards and take NOCs from the state, making it difficult to act against them.