West Bengal to Ignore Center's Guidelines on Celebrating Independence Day

"The feeling of patriotism cannot be forced down someone. It is a sentiment that is already there in all Indians."

New Delhi: The Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government has instructed its schools and other educational institutions to think nothing of the central government’s instructions on celebrating Independence Day and instead continue with the way they usually celebrate the occasion.

According to Indian Express, the Union HRD ministry had on August 7 written to all states asking them to organise activities revolving around the theme of Independence Day from August 9-30 to create a “patriotic mood”.

The West Bengal Sarva Shiksha Mission (SSM) department issued its counter-circular four days later on Friday, August 11, asking schools to ignore the Centre’s instructions.

The state’s schools have also been asked to pay no heed to the BJP-led central government’s instructions on building “mass fervour” around the prime minister’s ‘New India Mission’ and organising an oath-taking ceremony, where students and teachers pledge to rid the country of poverty, corruption, terrorism, communalism and casteism by 2022, Times of India reported.

“The feeling of patriotism cannot be forced down someone. It is a sentiment that is already there in all Indians. Schools in Bengal celebrate Independence Day every year by hoisting flags and holding various programmes. This year, too, they shall follow the usual practice,” state education minister Partha Chatterjee said.

According to a Scroll.in report, the central government had also asked schools to organise Prabhat Pheris, marches, film screenings, quiz and debates on the freedom struggle along with patriotic slogan writing competitions.

The HRD ministry even stated in the circular that a quiz competition centred around the country’s independence movement would be available to students of class XI and XII, accessible through the Narendra Modi app and the MyGov website.

Labelling the West Bengal government’s move as an “unfortunate” one, HRD minister Prakash Javadekar on August 13 said, “The language used in the memo is strange and unfortunate. I will talk to them. What we have proposed is a secular agenda, not a political party agenda.”

A senior Bengal school education department official who declined to be identified told the Times of India that the state was forced into issuing the memo on the instructions of the chief minister to counter the central government’s attempts to “force patriotic sentiments down people’s throats when it already existed in their minds”.

“What does the Centre want to say, that we have been celebrating Independence Day wrongly all these years, or schools have not been celebrating this day till the BJP came to power?” the official demanded to know.

A senior HRD ministry official, however, said the central government’s circular was only meant to provide suggestions for the schools and was not binding in any way.

According to Indian Express, the West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh alleged that the state was indulging in “anti-national activities” by opposing the central government’s directives. “Is West Bengal out of India? The Union government provides a major portion of the funds under the SSM and hence it has the right to enquire whether the funds are utilised properly or not,” he said.

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