A government-aided school in Howrah district was shut down on Monday for an indefinite period due to “religious tension”, two days after police imposed Section 144 (unlawful assembly) of the CrPc to bring the situation “under control”. The move has left parents of around 2,000 students of Tehatta High School, Uluberia, quite worried, with class X and XII board examinations just round the corner.
According to sources, a group of the school’s students were allegedly denied permission by local police to celebrate ‘Nabi Diwas’, the birthday of Prophet Mohammad, last month. The incident sparked unrest, which escalated on January 27, when preparations began for Sarawati Puja in the campus on February 1. As a result, school property was allegedly vandalised, forcing local police to impose section 144. On the same day, the school’s teacher-in-charge, Utpal Mallik, submitted his resignation.
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“Yes, there is some religious tension and hence the school has been closed from Monday for an indefinite period until the next order. The teacher-in-charge submitted his resignation on Friday, but it has not been accepted yet,” a member of the district school authority told The Indian Express. However, an order issued by the district inspector of schools (secondary education), Howrah, stated that classes had been suspended due to an “ongoing administrative problem”. Sources claimed that the order was issued to avoid any “conflict” in and around its premises. The state school board has also allegedly asked police to look into the matter and “restore peace as soon as possible so the school can be reopened”.
Niharkanti Bhuiyan, president of the school’s sponsor managing committee, told Express that “outside elements were influencing students and disturbing the environment”. “It’s not a one day thing. We had allowed them 15 minutes of prayer on December 29 for celebrating Nabi Diwas. But they gathered around 10,000 people from the area, set up a stage and made religious speeches using loudspeakers without informing us. A group of students has been threatening teachers. Every now and then they organise a religious programme inside the school without permission. A school is a place of academics. Celebrations are allowed but anything that disturbs the environment should not be tolerated,” he added.
Sumit Kumar, Superintendent of Police (Rural), said, “On January 28, Section 144 was imposed. The situation was brought under control by police. No untoward situation has been reported.” A source in the police department elaborated, “On December 12, Nabi Diwas was celebrated across the state. As per state government policy, no new religious customs are permitted to maintain peace and harmony in the state. The school had never celebrated Nabi Diwas in the past. Hence, permission wasn’t granted. Since it wasn’t allowed, some people tried to give it a communal colour, creating tension in and around the school premises. Seeing the law and order situation, Section 144 was imposed, and later withdrawn. The situation is peaceful now.”