For Modi’s Birthday, Gujarat Schools Ordered to Celebrate 'Success' of Article 370 Decision

"We organise something or the other on the prime minister's birthday every year. The BJP members visit our schools and help us arrange the programme," a district education official told The Wire.

Jaipur: The Ahmedabad district education department has issued a circular to the principals of schools falling under Ahmedabad (Rural) areas, instructing them to organise special lectures, debates, essay and elocution competitions, group discussions and other similar exercises on the subject of the government’s decision regarding Article 370 in J&K. The occasion? Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday on September 17.  

“It [Articles 370 and 35A] touches [the] subject of social sciences in secondary and higher secondary education. Therefore, it is [a] subject of education and our prime minister’s birthday is on September 17. So, all the schools should conduct programmes like – elocution competition, debate competition, group discussion and essay competition along with other competitions in the morning assembly session. Experts can provide knowledge so that the students get to understand Article 370 and Article 35A,” reads the circular. 

The circular also states that the Modi government’s move to read down Article 370 has created “a global identity of the nation”, whatever that means.

“This is to inform you that the Indian parliament has taken an excellent and people-oriented decision which has received unprecedented welcome,” it reads. 

Given this characterisation, it is not clear if the ‘debate’ competition envisages students putting forward arguments critical of the government’s decision.

Children protest the Centre’s decision in Srinagar, on August 12, 2019. Their Gujarat counterparts will be celebrating the move as a success on the PM’s birthday. Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

The note makes no mention of the communication clampdown in the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir and the detainment of the state leaders and protesters, let alone the difficulties faced by the public there.

The state education department’s plan of talking about Article 370 in schools on Modi’s birthday implicitly aims to register in the minds of students the act as one which spells the Modi government’s success.  

Speaking to The Wire, Rakesh R. Vyas, district education officer of Ahmedabad (Rural) said, “The decision to discuss Article 370 in schools was taken because it was an act that cannot be taken by a state government or municipal corporations, only the Central government could have done it. So it was decided that the prime minister’s birthday would be the perfect day on which to organise it [the discussions on the J&K move].”

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“Since, there is something special about prime ministers’ birthdays, like the way former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s birthday is celebrated as Children’s Day, we planned a similar thing relating to education for our current prime minister,” he added.

On being asked as to why the move, which is still under legal scrutiny, is being hailed as a ‘success’ of the current dispensation in the circular, the district education officer said, “We went by the news reports that have termed it successful. We know it’s still disputed but we just wanted to bring out the facts as this is a part of the social science curriculum in the schools. Students might have to face questions in interviews over this, so we want them to prepare from this stage only.”

Asrar’s father Firdous Ahmad Khan showing a picture of his deceased son’s injuries. Asrar death is the first acknowledged one in the aftermath of the August 5 decision which will be celebrated as a success in Gujarat schools. Photo: Mudasir Ahmad

“The programme is not going to be very elaborative; our teachers would speak about the central government’s decision to read down Article 370 for 5-10 minutes during the morning assembly, a time when students say their prayers.”

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“The move has also reorganised the states in India [the state of Jammu and Kashmir is now divided into two Union Territories, namely, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh] which means, the textbooks will also undergo changes to implement the necessary corrections. In that case too, we will have to educate students about this move. There is nothing political about the programme. It’s just an educational decision,” Vyas told The Wire

The circular has further directed all school principals to submit details of the event, along with photographs, to the office of the director of secondary education by September 18. 

While at the moment, the circular has been issued only by the Ahmedabad district education department, other districts have been contemplating the same.

R.H. Junkia, the Mehsana district education officer told The Wire that on Saturday, district education officers were called for a meeting with the district collector to discuss the programme for the prime minister’s birthday. “We organise something or the other on the prime minister’s birthday every year. The BJP members visit our schools and help us arrange the programme. This time, they have [scrapped] Article 370, so, it’s a new thing that we could celebrate on his birthday this year,” said Junkia. 

As per the statistics available on the website of the Gujarat’s education department, there are 3,25,241 students enrolled in the 1,245 secondary and higher secondary schools in Ahmedabad and 28,09,908 students in a total of 11,958 schools across the 33 districts of Gujarat.