The AIADMK joined the Congress and the Left Monday to protest in Parliament the issuance of a circular by Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti asking its schools to celebrate the birthday of Madan Mohan Malaviya and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and “in its true spirit” by holding activities like declamation contests, quiz competitions and screening of documentaries related to good governance, besides an online essay competition on Christmas Day.
The issue created a storm in Lok Sabha with Congress and Left members trooping into the well during Zero Hour demanding that the CBSE “circular” be revoked. For a change, even AIADMK members joined the protest, though they only stood up in their slots and did not dash towards the well. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan adjourned the House for lunch as they were still protesting.
Quoting HRD Minister Smriti Irani, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu clarified in Lok Sabha that the CBSE had not issued any circular telling schools to remain open on December 25 to observe a “Good Governance Day”. He said Navodaya schools were already on a Christmas-break. The students of residential schools, which would be open, were free to participate in the online essay competition on December 24, he said.
The Opposition protest came after Congress member K C Venugopal raised the issue. While Venugopal contended he had no problem with the government commemorating the birth anniversaries of Madan Mohan Malaviya and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the “decision” to keep schools open on Christmas day “hurt the sentiments of the minorities”. “Even Vajpayee would not approve of this,” he said.
In a statement, the CPM termed the move to ask schools to observe Good Governance Day on December 25 “offensive and unjustifiable”.
“This is a crude interference in the schedule of schools which go on Christmas vacation from December 24 and is an assault on the religious right of the Christian community,” it said.
In Rajya Sabha, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said reports appearing in a section of the media about Christmas holiday being cancelled in schools for observance of good governance day was “factually false”. He was responding to CPM leader Sitaram Yechury citing the report to endorse the Congress clamour for a discussion on conversions.
“The report is factually false… Sir, I may clarify; the HRD Minister just told me that there is no instruction. No school is functioning on Christmas day. There is only an online essay competition which is on. That is all,” Jaitley said, challenging Yechury to authenticate the news report.
An adjournment was forced soon after and Yechury tabled a copy of the news report.
He also reasoned with Jaitley that there is a government order which the Finance Minister denied.