After receiving flak and a series of protests last year over a diktat for holding morning Saraswati prayers even in Urdu medium municipal schools on the occasion of Basant Panchami, the city civic body this year has decided not to enforce such order on these schools.
On January 24, 2015, The Indian Express had reported how the diktat for holding morning Saraswati prayers in all local municipal schools on the occasion of Basant Panchami had stoked a controversy with Muslim parents and opposition Congress questioning the intention behind the move.
As per the circular, issued on February 2 to all 456 schools run by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) school board, regarding celebration of Basant Panchami on February 12, Urdu medium schools would organise a talk and speech session on the “importance of education and knowledge in life” during the morning assembly.
There are 63 Urdu medium municipal schools in the city with over 20,000 students and 450 teachers. Administrative officer L D Desai, who issued the circular, said, “We do not want to attract any unwanted controversy. So, we have exempted Urdu medium schools from the ‘Saraswati Aradhana Parv’. Also, those who wish to celebrate will do it on their own.”
“There was no meeting between the heads of Urdu medium schools and the school board regarding the February 12 celebrations, but due to the controversy last year over the order for Saraswati Vandana and puja in the morning assembly, Urdu medium schools this year have been exempted from the mandate,” said a Urdu medium school principal.
However, for the remaining municipal schools, irrespective of the medium, the circular stated that those schools would have to perform Saraswati puja, including Saraswati Vandana and an oath on attaining knowledge, in the morning assembly. “On February 12, it is Mahasud Pancham or Basant Panchami. It is a day to worship Saraswati, the deity of education, art, knowledge and music. On this day, the deity of knowledge is to be worshipped who spreads the light of knowledge in our lives,” the circular stated.
It stated, “In order to make students understand the importance of education through which they can achieve all the success in their lives, Saraswati pujan will be organised in the morning prayer session that will include Sawarswati Vandana and an oath taking ceremony.” The last line read: “On this day, Urdu medium and zonal schools will organise a talk and speech on the importance of education and knowledge in life during the prayer session.”
When contacted, AMC school board chairman Jagdish Bhavsar said, “There is no other intention in celebrating Basant Panchami, but with the only objective raising the importance of education among students.”