February 14, 2020 12:40:30 am
CHIEF MINISTER Vijay Rupani flagged off the Tiranga Yatra, 2020 — a rally in support of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), from the Race Course ground in Rajkot on Thursday.
However, around 60 per cent of the participants were students of private and government schools and colleges. Ogranisers justified their mobilisation by calling the rally an event of “national unity”.
Several students were spotted carrying a two-km long cloth in tricolour, while others wore saffron caps bearing the message, “We support CAA”. Some students danced to patriotic songs — on stages set up along the three-km long route of the rally — and others carried placards in support of the CAA.
The rally was organised by Rashtriya Ekta Samiti and attended by Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama and prominent BJP leaders of Rajkot city. Chairman of Gujarat Municipal Finance Board, Dhansukh Bhanderi claimed that 35,000 people participated in the rally. “Of them, 8,000 were students of Class 11 and 12,000 college students. We reached out to private schools’ management associations, seeking their support to project national unity and students enthusiastically participated,” Bhanderi told The Indian Express.
However, teachers of many schools said that they had brought students of Classes 8 and 9. A few of them opined that their students were not of the appropriate age to participate in such events. “But then the management wants them to, so we brought them here,” said the teacher of a private school.
One Raghvendra Gondaliya, a student of Shubham School, said he was studying in Class 8 and didn’t know the full form of CAA. A teacher said that the school’s owner, Avdhesh Kangad, a relative of BJP leader Uday Kangad, wanted the students to participate. “We have the consent of parents of students for bringing them here,” claimed the teacher.
“My school told me this morning that we will go participate in the rally and I came here despite our preliminary examination being around the corner,” said Dev Sonsetra, a Class 11 student of Utkarsh School.
“Our class representative posted a message in our WhatsApp group, saying that we are supposed to participate in the rally,” said an engineering student of Marwadi University. He said that there was no “force” to participate. “I wanted to participate…Modi says Hindus from other countries will get citizenship and live in India. It is good only, “ said the student, who said he was “yet to learn the full form of CAA”.
Registrar of MU, Naresh Jadeja, claimed the varsity had not instructed students to participate in the rally and that regular classes were not affected.
Chairman of Rajkot Municipal School Board, Narendrasinh Thakur said that students from 15 municipal schools participated. When asked if students of primary schools can understand the implications of the CAA — the contentious citizenship law, which has sparked protests in several parts of the country, and that protesters call discriminatory — Thakur said, “This was an event of national unity… Why will school students not be able to understand it?”
Rajkot Commissioner of Police had issued a notification on Tuesday, prohibiting the entry of vehicles on some stretches of Race Course Ring Road in view of the Tiranga Yatra.
When asked if students were in the right age group to be mobilised for an event in support of the CAA, Bhanderi insisted that they had invited students of only Class 11. “Students of Class 11 can be called adults… It is important for them to know the kupratha (bad customs) of the country. He is tomorrow’s voter…,” said the BJP leader.
In his speech, the CM targeted Congress, Mamata Banerjee and those protesting against the CAA, saying that they wanted to weaken India.
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