DEFYING A directive issued by the CPI(M)-led government in Kerala, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Tuesday hoisted the national flag at a government-aided school in Palakkad district.
In a written order issued late on Monday night, Palakkad District Collector P Marykutty informed V Sreekumar, headmaster of the Karnaki Amman Higher Secondary School, that “there is a direction from the government that only office heads or elected people’s representatives should hoist the flag” on the occasion of Independence Day.
Stating that they had “received information that representatives of a certain organisation” would hoist the flag at the school, the district administration told the headmaster that the “above direction should be strictly adhered to.’’
But Bhagwat defied the order on Tuesday morning, as he unfurled the flag at the school and delivered a speech.
When contacted, Marykutty claimed that as per the flag code, either government officials or elected people’s representatives should hoist the national flag.
“We had given general instructions to all departments in this regard. The school not only violated that instruction, but also did not ensure that the national anthem was sung after hoisting the flag. After singing Vande Mataram, everyone left the school. The national anthem was
sung later, when very few were around. Hence, the police have been asked to register a case against the school headmaster,’’ she said.
Superintendent of Police, Palakkad, Pratheesh Kumar said: “We are examining the issue… We haven’t decided on registering any case so far.’’
Director of Public Instruction K V Mohan Kumar said his office had issued directions to all schools in the state, saying that their headmasters should hoist the flag at 9:30 am. “In Palakkad, the headmaster did not hoist the flag. It was Bhagwat who hoisted the flag at 9.30 am. The headmaster hoisted the flag later, at 10:30 am. I have sought explanations from the school headmaster and the deputy director of education in Palakkad. The headmaster has given a one-line explanation, that he did hoist the flag, which is not satisfactory,’’ said Kumar.
Countering the district administration, BJP Palakkad district president E Krishnadas said the order that only officials and elected representatives should hoist the national flag has no legal backing. “Every citizen of the country has the right to unfurl the national flag. To cover up the awkwardness after issuing the order, the district collector has now instructed the police to register a case against the headmaster,’’ said Krishnadas.
Kailas Mani, a member of the school management trust, alleged that the controversy was politically motivated. “To mark the school’s golden jubilee celebrations in 2015-16, we had invited Bhagwat and several other dignitaries. Bhagwat had then promised to visit the school on his next visit to Palakkad. Recently, we got to know that Bhagwat was attending an RSS function in Palakkad, and so we invited him,’’ said Mani, denying any violation of the flag code.
Meanwhile, RSS Prachar Pramukh Manmohan Vaidya criticised the state government, claiming that “no other school had been given similar information”.
“We condemn such brazen attempts by the CPI(M)-led government of Kerala to deny the basic citizen rights of celebrating Independence Day, and their continuous attempts to poison the state of Kerala with divisive politics,” said Vaidya. “The school authorities decided that they would proceed as planned and that Sarsanghchalakji must exercise his constitutional rights,” he added.
Accusing the RSS of politicising the issue, CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said this was an example of “RSS-isation” in educational institutions controlled by the RSS.
In its invitation to Bhagwat, dated February 28, 2015, the Karnaki Amman Education Society wrote that its “trust members” are “all swayamsevaks of Moothanthara Shakha, which is one of the oldest in Kerala”. Inviting Bhagwat for the school’s golden jubilee celebrations, the society said that “we are blessed with the presence of all former sarsanghchalaks to our school… attending such programmes”.
— With ENS, New Delhi
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