In a drawing competition at Bandra Hindu School, founded by RSS members, the winner of the first prize is 15-year-old Sohail Shaikh, for his crayon drawing of Narendra Modi. The compulsory competition, held at the school on Gandhi Jayanti, saw each of the 350 students draw the face chosen for them, the Prime Minister’s.
Founded in 1992, the school is run by the Bandra Hindu Association and three-fourth of its management staff are Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh workers. But 75 per cent of the students, who come from the slums of Behrampada and Bandra’s Garib Nagar, are Muslims. Most of their parents are uneducated and work as labourers or hawkers, said Ajeet Manyal, the secretary of Bandra Hindu Association.
“I was asked to draw a picture of Narendra Modi and, since he is the Prime Minister, I drew it,” said the nonchalant winner Sohail Shaikh, a class 10 student.
The competition and prize distribution on Gandhi Jayanti ended with a mandatory poetry recital by students, now the school’s anthem. “Loot ke le gaya dil-jigar, Modi jadugar” (He has stolen our hearts, the magician Modi), reads the first line of the jingle.
“Modi thinks like a rishi and executes like a corporate leader. His commitment to Indian ethos and his love of education makes him like Swami Vivekananda and greater than Jawaharlal Nehru,” said Manyal.
The central hall of the school is watched over by framed portraits of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, Swami Vivekananda, Subhash Chandra Bose, Maharana Pratap and Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi. The school also lets BJP workers use the space to hold meetings.
“For all these poor children, Modi is a perfect icon because he has led a similar kind of life, full of hardships. Every child in this school should think, ‘I also want to be Modi’,” Manyal said.
A big day at the school last month was September 17, Modi’s birthday. The children and staff attended a havan at the school and prayed for the PM’s long life. The school also had a fancy dress competition after the havan where the management supplied Modi masks to children.
“Modi is approachable at all times. We send him pictures of our school activities through social networking websites and he replies,” said Aarti Khurana, an administrator.
Irshad Shaikh,14, seems well pleased. “He (Modi) shares a lot of information about the country,” he said. “We keep listening to his speeches in the school and he is very motivating.”
In between class rooms are huge walls, highlighting Modi’s quotes, alongside his framed photographs. “Don’t dream to be something, but rather dream to be something great,” reads one panel. The fan-like visuals are interrupted at some spots, by a photograph of Mahatma Gandhi and his word in one place.
A teacher in the school said although the school celebrates all kinds of festivals, prominence is given to Hindu ones. “Every auspicious day like Makar Sankranti and Maha Shivratri is celebrated in the school. On the eve of Shivratri, students had dressed up as various deities like Saraswati and Shiva,” a teacher said. “We also held a workshop, Mann ki shanti, where we called spiritual gurus to talk to students about reducing stress in their lives.”
The school has also started thinking on activities centred around Modi for celebrating Children’s Day on November 14. “We are expecting the Prime Minister to address students again like he did on September 5. We are also thinking of more activities related to Modi,” Manyal said.
The school played Modi’s Teachers’ Day speech twice, once on September 5 and again to celebrate his birthday.
The communication lines with Modi are active, says a staff member. On behalf of the school, administrator Khurana wrote a letter to Modi on October 2 with details about the “cleanliness campaign” undertaken in their school on the lines of Swachh Bharat.
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