New Delhi: On Friday, students of a government school in Pilibhit protested the suspension of Furqan Ali, their headmaster who was removed from his position after the VHP complained that he had made them recite a ‘religious prayer’. The students were, in fact, singing a song by Muhammad Iqbal, who also wrote ‘Sare Jahan se Accha’.
According to the Indian Express, around 30 students at the government primary school in Pilibhit district’s Ghayaspur area raised slogans saying, “Desh ki Raksha kaun karega? Hum karenge (Who will protect the country? We will)” and “Kaise karenge? Tann se karenge, mann se karenge, dhan se karenge (We will do it with our mind, our body and our wealth).”
After sloganeering for ten minutes, several students, none in uniform, walked out of the school, the newspaper reported. One student, in Class V, said, “We will come back the day our headmaster is allowed to return and teach us. No teacher can replace him and what is happening to him is wrong and unfair.”
Previous reports said that headmaster Furqan Ali was suspended after the VHP claimed he was forcing the students to sing a “religious song” that is used in “madrassas”. Pilibhit district magistrate (DM) Vaibhav Srivastava claimed that the headmaster was suspended “because he was not getting the national anthem sung”, but the block education officer (BEO) and Bisalpur’s basic shiksha adhikari (BSA) both refuted this claim.
An inquiry by the BEO, Upendra Kumar, found that the song that was sung was ‘Lab pe aati hai dua’, written by Iqbal.
UP’s basic education minister Satish Chandra Dwivedi told the Indian Express that the BSA and DM acted hastily. “The suspension should not have been done without collecting all the facts,” he said, adding that it would be revoked soon.
According to the newspaper, Ali did not force or even initiate the idea to sing the poem. One student said that the students had read the poem in their Urdu book and liked it. “[We] asked our headmaster permission to recite it. Both Hindu and Muslim students had asked him. He does not say no to us. And he allowed us to sing this poem on alternate days,” said the student.
Another student told the Indian Express that if the headmaster was suspended for the students reciting the poem, “it is also the government’s fault for making it part of our syllabus. Does that mean this government should be suspended?”
According to the BEO, the school’s attendance has dipped after Ali was suspended. Parents also said that their children were sulking since learning about their headmaster’s suspension. One parent said that Ali spends money out of his pocket to improve the school’s facilities, a claim that the BEO also supported.
“He bought a projector worth around Rs 65,000 and started a smart classroom. He regularly contributes from his salary to improve school infrastructure. If the department gives him Rs 5,000 for some work and if the work requires Rs 7,000, he adds the money from his own pocket,” the BEO told Indian Express.